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Brands: They’re Just Like Us

People use the term “personality” to describe the amalgamation of qualities and traits that make up the character of a person. Although we normally associate the term with a living being, the concept of personality can be used to describe brands as well.

Although brands are not human, they are very much alive and undergo a life cycle just like any other living being. They may change over the years, mature and, in some cases, even perish. Strong branding may evoke associations and personify a brand in our heads.

For instance, when I think of Apple, I can’t help but picture an impeccably dressed, fancy, minimalistic, petite, resilient, clean, creative, bright and imaginative individual. As consumers we are moved by these descriptors and we may be swayed toward purchasing said product if matches our personality or the traits that we aspire to have.

Why is brand personality important?

Branding extends beyond the traditional concepts of a logo, brand colors or slogan. A well-executed brand evokes emotions and adds meaning and value compared to a generic equivalent (brand equity). Brand personality may help to differentiate the product in the market, ease communication, make the product stand out and encourage long term loyalty of clients.

Taking into account the power that branding has, we must carefully manage it so that associations and brand image stay positive. A negative brand image or personality has the potential to tarnish the brand for years to come and diminish revenues in the long run.

Why should we think about brand personality?

When executing any message in marketing, we must know who we are talking to and tweak the message, product, and service accordingly. Modern technological advancements make it so that we can engage in continuous conversations with consumers and adapt to match their preferences.

If we wish to attract a certain market, it only makes sense that our brand personality matches the personality of said audience.

Brand personality is something that is continuously constructed and that may evolve over time. In order to do so, we must examine how the brand is presented in front of customers. The brand should be attractive and welcoming, appeal those individuals who match its offerings a repel those consumers that don’t (dissociative groups).

In 1997, psychologist Jennifer Aaker developed a model used to describe brand personalities. The five dimensions she described were those most commonly seen in existing brands and include:

  1. Sincerity:
    1. Family oriented, real, wholesome, friendly.
    2. Hallmark, Cadbury, Disney.
  2. Excitement:
    1. Trendy, cool, young, unique.
    2. Red Bull, Nike, Tesla.
  3. Competence:
    1. Technical, corporate, secure, successful.
    2. Google, Intel, Microsoft
  4. Sophistication:
    1. Fancy, glamourous, feminine.
    2. Rolex, Gucci, Saks Fifth Avenue.
  5. Ruggedness:
    1. Manly, tough, western, outdoorsy.
    2. Timberland, Jeep, Marlboro.

As marketers, we can use these descriptors to analyze our own brand and better understand where we stand. A good starting point would be to rate our brand on a scale from one to five in each of these categories and see what stands out. We may be score highly in more than one category and if nothing pops, it’s likely that our brand may be seen as insipid by consumers.

This can be an interesting exercise to complete with both internal and external stakeholders and compare how the brand personality perception varies. We may have lost vision of our brand by working so closely to it. This activity can challenge our existing views and make us reevaluate our messaging to better fit the brand personality we wish to convey.  The exercise may also be helpful when redesigning and reinvigorating our brand if need be.

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