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Branding Strategy ; It’s All About Personality – Stupid!

In increasingly competitive markets, standing out from the crowd is not just a question of what you say but how you say it. It is about branding.

Line up a row of unbranded beers on the bar; how many of us can really tell the difference based on taste? And how many of us can really name the brand? Very few and even fewer we suspect. This therefore highlights the importance of branding.

Origins of branding

While beers offer benefits such as sociability and refreshment, the range of possible benefits is relatively limited. This makes it hard to stand-out via the benefit message alone. While branding started out as the addition of a maker’s name or marque to convey trust it is now much more. Nowadays products offer multiple benefits, and there are an infinite number of ways of expressing a benefit through tone of voice. For example through authority or charm, being down-to-earth, or through humour in advertising. Many beer brands also assume personality traits that match their provenance. Examples include Australian beers Fosters and Castlemaine XXXX which assume stereotypical ‘Ozzy’ male personalities. Both are laddish, blokey, witty; thus they suggest having a good time and male bonding.

If products are people, then brands are friends or lovers

The Marketing Director’s Handbook

Let’s look at this another way. What do you look for in a partner, a mate? Beyond the flippant, “And Mrs. Daniels, what attracted you to the multi-millionaire Paul?” what really attracted you to your partner? In addition to physical attributes it mostly comes down to personality. Most likely the answer will be a very specific and distinctive combination of personality traits. Thus you need to design in personality traits to help your brand attract and engage.

Build in a distinctive combination of personality traits to define brands

In humans, the range of personality traits is almost infinite. So apply the same thinking process to your brand. To start to grasp the range of variables just imagine ….. : Spiderman – young, flawed and broody, a superhero; Ruby Wax – a comedienne, self-deprecating, game-on for a good cause; Fagin (in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist) dirty, a thief, miser, teacher, carer ……?

Use archetypes to aid recognition

Archetypes are forms, images or myths which occur all over the earth. Originally advanced by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, archetypes have been present in folklore and literature for thousands of years. Jung originally identified five archetypes including the Anima (feminine image in a man’s psyche), Animus (the masculine image in a woman’s psyche) and the Shadow (the opposite of the ego image). Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson expanded Jung’s range of archetypes, and outlined twelve basic archetypes in their 2001 book – The Hero and the Outlaw – Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes.

The strongest brands tend to clearly reflect single archetypes. For example, Nike has a ‘hero’ brand personality; it takes its name from the ancient Greek goddess who personified victory. Think heroes overcoming monsters, such as St. George slaying the dragon, and then apply this to competitive sport. Think beating an opponent, or the monster within, your inner self, frailty or lack of confidence. Applying archetypes to brands therefore helps them tell a brand story, better stand-out and connect with customers. So conduct archetypal market analysis to design your brand; it may also help you spot ways to challenge category conventions.

Create communication stimuli to express what to say and how to say it

To help explore and define brand personalities and brand positionings we often create mock-up advertisements, like mini press ads or posters. We do this because it is familiar, clear and comprehensible to customers. Creating and using mock-up advertising as research stimuli also provokes, intrigues and engages. Thus it helps consumers express what is interesting and appealing and why (or why not).

In addition, creating a vast number of mini adverts, allows exploration of a very large range of brand positioning ideas. Including both rational and emotional benefit messages and also style and tone of communication.

Branding stimuli, brandcepts

Brand personality analysis and definition

So use qualitative research to explore what is interesting, different and persuasive to customers. Analysis reveals what is working and why, and also what is not working and why. Thus helping to focus on hot ideas and which merit further development. Then use quantitative analysis to reveal the sweet-spot for communication – the most appealing and persuasive combination of benefits, and ways of speaking.

As a result, this will give clear brand positioning guidelines. Specifically both messages, and visual and language tones that can be understood and acted upon by communication teams, product developers and front-line staff. We equate this with creating a railway track on which to put your creative engine.

Myers Briggs personality assessment

Some proprietary, personality indicators, for example, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator analyses personality types in terms of four pairs of dichotomies such as thinking – feeling and extraversion – introversion. While largely the domain of human resources, this is also potentially useful in applying brand personality concepts to organisation cultures. Thus informing people recruitment and reward procedures. And ultimately helping better shape and deliver a consistent brand experience. Through multiple encounters from advertising, to websites, to call centres, retail stores and beyond.

Brand personalities mapped to Myers Briggs
Example personalities mapped by Myers Briggs indicator

Marketing Inspiration

Great branding means making sure a distinctive brand personality is at the heart of your brand positioning. It can enable more effective communications and also stronger relationships. If you are #2 or #3 in a category it could therefore transform your brand and help you get and stay ahead.

However, what branding strategy is right for you depends on your starting place, competitive context as well as nature of your challenge. Brand positioning and brand personality models also come in different shapes and sizes yet have different applications. Consumer brands may better suit one model yet corporate brands another.

Guy is a leading UK marketing consultant with a background at major brands and in the media. He is Founder of The Marketing Directors, a successful research and marketing consultancy working with aspiring and global brands in the UK and beyond. He is co-author of The Marketing Director's Handbook with Tim Arnold.
  1. melmenzies Reply

    Fascinated to read of skewing brands to your MBTI personality type. I blog on Creative Writing, as well as relationships and personal growth, and link all, at times, to MBTI. I also have a psychometric personality test on my website.

    You might think, however, from the bright jewel colours on my website that I am an extrovert. I’m afraid you’d be wrong! The warmth and attractiveness of the colouring reflects a strong F – Feeling – when it comes to making decisions. My scatter-gun approach to blogging (my niche is complex and broad) reflects the possibilities of my iNtuitive personality, and the irregularity in frequency to my P – Perceptiveness – dislike of structure.

    I’d love to hear what yours are – and anyone else who happens by.

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