Your brand is much more than merely product or service related features and benefits, or a logo. Brands are an experience—the relationship between your business and your customers. In the words of Simon Sinek “people don’t buy what you do, they buy ‘why’ you do it and what you do simply proves what you believe.” In other words people buy what your brand stands for, something that has meaning – which is both personal and important to them. And in order to create an exceptional customer experience, underpinned with strong meaning, your brand must have an irresistible personality.
Typically, customers choose one brand over another because they’ve made an emotional connection with that particular brand because it means something important to them and they trust that brand. While that connection may sometimes be the brand with the lowest price, more often than not it’s due to the distinctive personality, characteristics, values and behaviours of a brand – the emotional experience and meaning that association with that brand gives them.
Martyn Newman, PhD, consulting leadership and emotional intelligence psychologist and best selling author of ‘Emotional Capitalist – The Ultimate Guide to Developing Emotional Intelligence for Leaders’ is one of the leading speakers at Europe’s largest EQ Summit in London in March 2015. Newman talks about emotional capital; the asset on the balance sheet you can’t afford to ignore. In short without sounding cynical, “there’s money in emotion”, “trust is fundamentally built on an emotional experience and emotions are involved with everything a company does. Emotions determine whether or not people will work well with you, buy from you, hire you, or enter into business with you. For this reason, the value of these emotions eventually shows up in financial performance.”
“In the new economy it is no longer sufficient to view a company or a brand simply as a commercial entity and its assets cannot be fully accounted for by inventories of financial capital and not even human capital.” “Ultimately, the only way to create real profit is to attract the emotional rather than the rational customer by appealing to their feelings and imagination.”
Image via www.eqsummit.com
“In the information age and globalised economy where values and meaning matter more in the market place, the value of emotional capital increases. This creates brand value and goodwill and results in repeat sales through customer loyalty, lifetime relationships and referrals. In other words, the brand is more than a name or a logo; it creates trust and recognition and is a promise and an emotional contract with each customer.”
Brands that compete on price alone fight in a commodity driven arena where only those with the deepest pockets win. Brands with strong, compelling personalities are able to rise above this lowest price, dog fight and command premium pricing, greater market share, and an expanded base of loyal customers.
Brand profiling is the systematic process of creating, developing and implementing your brand character and personality through shaping its brand promise, values, the do’s and don’ts of its behaviours, story, emotional benefits, its culture and what it stands for and so forth. It’s this humanized entity that gets your brand message out into the market, cuts through the noise and gets the attention of your primary customers in a way that matters to them. It gives you a clear understanding and expression of what your band offers and what that means for your customers, partners, and key audiences.
When creating and developing the profiles for our clients’ brands we use our bespoke Personality Profile Performer™, a systematic approach which underpins the commercial, rational, and holistic aspects of successful brand profile building. The following six key elements are representative of some of the core ingredients included within this branding process, used to create and deploy a compelling personality for your brand.
1. Know Your Market
Market research is crucial for any successful brand. You need to be absolutely clear on who your target market is in terms of things like their needs, wants, loves, dislikes and aspirations. Where they live, their life stage, what they do in their leisure time and work life, what matters to them, their interests, education, holiday preferences, what other brands they like, buy or aspire to owning etc.
Essentially you need to develop a ‘pen portrait’ or ‘buyer persona’ of who your ideal customer is so that you can create a compelling brand that meets their needs emotionally and rationally. And you need all this information as the basis on which to develop your brands’ profile or personality.
As part of your knowing your market you also need to research your competition. Where are they most successful and why, where do the untapped opportunities lie and what simply doesn’t or hasn’t worked in your market sector and so forth. You also need to find out and evaluate what your existing or potential new customers think about your competitors together with their perceptions. Remember 60% of branding is about perception and only 40% about the product or service.
It’s only then when you have all this groundwork covered that you can create and actively shape your brand the way you ideally want customers to perceive it. Make no mistake, customers are very intelligent and perceptive so whatever you do, or whatever approach you take, you must do it with good intent, authenticity and integrity if you want to be successful. Brands that ‘mislead’ or behave ‘dishonorably’ are always ‘found out’ and invariable suffer the consequences, particularly via social media.
You can gather this market research information through a variety of ways e.g. desk research, surveys, one-to-one interviews etc. Your choice of methodologies is often driven by what is most appropriate to your sector, market size, business or organization size and resources, but usually involves a combination of some of the approaches mentioned.
Customer surveys are a great strategy for gaining some of this important information and insights. You can design longer, more formal surveys for use in email marketing or on your business website, or use your social media channels to post quick, informal surveys. Some helpful survey types may include:
- Give customers a list of personality adjectives, and ask them to rate your brand or multiple brands on each one, using a scale (1 to 5 or 1 to 10)
- Display photographs of individual people and ask customers which brand(s) in your product category they believe each person would use, and why
- Ask customers to perform free association with your brand name or slogan—list the first words or phrases that come to mind when they envision your brand
- Provide a list of brands (including your own) and ask customers to relate them to other types of items such as cars, animals, movies, or books—for example: “If this brand was a movie, which one would it be?”
By using these direct-to-customer types of research methods, you’ll not only generate large amounts of information that will help you define the parameter of your brand personality—you’ll also increase customer engagement and interest in your brand.
2. Define Your Brand Personality
In addition to evaluating your market, you must also develop the parameters of your brand in the context of what is relevant to your primary target audience. This means determining a brand personality that will be authentic and believable for the customer, accurately reflect your brand values and brand promise, and is consistently represented across your entire brand platform, and throughout all your brand collateral.
Remember, your brand personality is a set of emotions and characteristics, rather like a real person, it’s a humanized entity that’s underpins your total brand experience. Brand personalities are often reflective of the target market—for example, brands aimed at Millennials may be fresh, energetic, innovative, or “fast,” while brands focusing on an older demographic base may embrace characteristics like tradition, nostalgia, and reliability.
As a basic start to determining your brand personality, consider which of the Big Five Personality Traits your brand falls under. Originally categorized as openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, in relation to brands they are: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness.
These Big Five traits are traditionally used in personality tests, and virtually any brand can be related to one of them. Choosing a broad brand personality category can help you to refine this choice further in your brand profiling.
3. Create Distinction for Your Brand Profile
Once you have an overview of your brands’ personality, you need to refine your brand profile in order to differentiate from the competition. Take certain aspects of your brands’ character traits and amplify them to create increased distinction and memorability. There are many ways to accomplish brand differentiation, ranging from subtle yet continually reinforced messaging to truly stand-out separation. Regardless of the level of your brand differentiation strategy, it all begins with the essentials of your brand profile.
As an example of subtle distinction, major U.S. based department store brands Walmart, K-Mart, and Target share very similar operations and strategies. Yet the Target brand distinguishes itself by focusing on different elements of the brand experience compared to its competitors. Where Walmart and K-Mart typically focus on more affordable pricing, Target infuses its brand collateral and customer-facing content with style, design, and lifestyle choices. The fact that they are competitively priced and offering ‘value’ (which is not just price related) is assumed.
Some brands achieve distinctive personalities through a massive departure from convention. One example we’ve previously discussed is FMGC brand PooPouri, a bathroom odour control product that inverts the traditional discretion and euphemistic elegance of the industry by embracing the idea that poo stinks—and their product stops the stink.
4. Develop or Refine Your Brand Story
Brand storytelling is another powerful strategy and important part of your brand profile. A great brand story should fully incorporate and reflect your brand’s personality with compelling, memorable elements that help reaffirm, explain and exemplify what it stands for, its brand values and brand promise, how it sees the world, its humour type, tone of voice, what it likes and doesn’t like and so forth.
Image via www.hootmarketing.co.uk
There are several methods for approaching brand story creation – ranging from actual brand origin stories that are emotional, compelling, interesting or engaging, to brand stories that restate your brand values in creative ways, to brand stories that revolve around a symbol such as a brand mascot—think the Keebler Elves, the Pillsbury Doughboy, or Tony the Tiger.
FMCG brand OXO created a powerful brand story through their series of commercials aired through the 1980s and 1990s, starring the “OXO Family.” These adverts showed the family growing up and progressively evolving through various stages of life, held together during each stage by a mum who cooked meals using OXO stock cubes. The brand story proved so effective that when the lead actress, Lynda Bellingham, passed away in 2014, more than 150,000 people joined a Facebook campaign to resurrect the advert series.
5. Develop a Strategic Direction
In order to use brand profiling effectively in your brand communications plans, you must have a well-planned strategic direction for infusing the personality and characteristics of your brand into your all brand collateral and various touch points. It’s essential to find creative and engaging ways to communicate your brands’ personality congruently to your customers across multiple platforms, including physical presentation in retail stores, online media and marketing channels, and internal branding with your employees and leadership team.
Online channels like your company website and social media channels can provide excellent opportunities to reinforce your brand personality. Use things like your company’s “About Us” page to creatively reflect the main characteristics of your brand profile—replace stiff images and droning corporate copy with carefully selected content and brand image collateral that conveys the personality you want to communicate. Engage your customers on social medial with posts that reflect your brand’s chosen qualities and characteristics.
Image via www.papajohns.com
Pizza chain Papa John’s employed a smart strategy when expanding their U.S. based market into the UK—translating larger-than-life chain owner John “Papa” Schnatter’s sports enthusiasm into an association with the UK’s Football League and weaving this association heavily into their social media channels. As a result, Papa John’s market share in the UK has risen dramatically over the last 12 months.
6. Maintain Brand Consistency
Consistency is critically important in every aspect of your brand strategy, and this applies to your brand’s personality as well. The more consistently your brand’s personality is reflected across every platform, every customer touch point, and every piece of brand collateral, the stronger and more established your brand becomes.
Brand consistency must apply to both the tangible and intangible aspects of your brand—everything from your logo and corporate colors, to your packaging, to your employees’ attitudes and customer experiences and engagement strategies.
With a compelling brand personality, applied consistently, you can establish a strong brand profile that increases your market share—and ultimately your profits.
So, what do you think?
• How well do you understand your brand personality as it’s perceived by your customers?
• Do your brand’s current market perceptions reflect the embodiment of the brand personality you’d like to achieve for your brand?
• What distinction or distinctions separate your brand’s personality from your competition?
• How does your brand story tie into your brand profile? Could it be better aligned?
• What is your strategic direction for reinforcing your desired brand personality?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!