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. All of this therefore highlights the importance of branding: brand positioning and communication. While beers offer different 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. Yet, there are an infinite number of ways of expressing the benefit message. For example, though humour, being down-to-earth, authoritative or charming. Several brands also assume personality traits that match the provenance of beers. In particular, Fosters and Castlemaine XXXX assume stereotypical Australian male personalities. Both are laddish, blokey, witty; thus they are suggestive of having a good time and male bonding.
If products are people, then brands are friends or loversThe 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.
Search for and express, 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 brands. To start to appreciate the range of variables just imagine ….. : Spiderman – young, flawed and broody, a superhero; Ruby Wax – comedienne, self-deprecating, game-on for a good cause; Fagin (in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist) dirty, a thief, miser, teacher, carer ……?
Archetypes provide familiar constructs
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 stand-out and better connect with customers. Conducting archetypal market analysis can also help you spot opportunities 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 use advertising (sometimes called brandcepts) because it is familiar, clear and comprehensible to customers. Creating and using mock-up advertising as research stimuli provokes, intrigues and engages. It also helps them express what is interesting and appealing and why.
Further, 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.
Brand personality analysis and definition
Through qualitative research it is possible 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 the small number of hot ideas for further exploration. Further, quantitative analysis reveals the sweet-spot for communication – the most appealing and persuasive combination of benefits, and ways of speaking.
As a result, this inspires clear brand positioning outputs. Specifically messages, and visual and language guidelines that can be understood and acted upon by communication teams, product developers and front-line staff.
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.
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.
Read our article about transforming brands into super brands through more powerful brand positioning.