You’ve Got Brand Personality

Legendary companies like Harley-Davidson and Nike don’t have customers. They have brand loyalists who will spend money hand-over-fist to prove their devotion. Why? Because each company has invested millions in creating its own distinct personality with which its target customers strongly identify. This emotional perspective suggests that brand personality is a potent marketing tool that is richer and far more interesting than functional features-and-benefits marketing. It creates a point of differentiation in product categories where there really isn’t any. There are countless brands of motorcycles and athletic wear, but only one Harley-Davidson or Nike.

Whether you deliberately cultivated it or it just happened, your brand has a personality too. It’s the position you own in your customers’ collective mind. Brand personality often relates to the concept of the brand as your friend. Implicit with this relationship is the promise of shared values. You wouldn’t abandon a trusted friend, and you wouldn’t stay around if that friend treated you poorly.

It might sound elementary, but the best way to determine your brand personality is simply to talk to your colleagues and customers. Start with a basic question: “If my brand were a person, who would it be and why?” This analogy allows respondents to connect in human terms, and the answers can be illuminating. Is the impression you’re leaving with your customers one you want to foster, or do you need to create new experiences and better manage your marketing message to embody a different personality?

How to bring your brand to life.

Now that you have determined who your brand is, bring it to life. The design of your printed materials will evolve from an aesthetic exercise into an integral part of your branding strategy as you create a proprietary visual, emotional and cultural identity.

Give your brand a face. An endorser, whether real or fictional, transfers instant recognition and goodwill to your brand. If your budget won’t support a celebrity endorser, create one. Think of the Michelin Man or Morris the Cat. Experiment with language to find a style that fits your personality. A financial services firm might choose authoritative, English teacher-approved text. An informal, friendly tone, complete with dangling participles and sentence fragments, is more appropriate for a brand aimed at a younger demographic.

Choose design elements carefully. Does your brand personality lend itself to black-and-white photography and calligraphy or cartoons and exaggerated fonts? Should you use earth tones to convey your down-to-earth sensibilities or bright colors to evoke a vibrant, forward-looking image?

Carry your personality through every printed piece. Create a style guide to make sure that all marketing collateral use the same palette, images, typeface and tone of voice.

Whether your brand is old or new, take time to assess the role personality plays in your overall branding strategy. The extent to which personality will influence the purchasing decision varies by the nature of your product, customer demographics and the channels through which you market your brand. Businesses that understand how to best leverage this elusive emotional element gain a distinctive position in the marketplace.