The Personality of Brands -Using Effective Brand Personality to Grow Your Business

The Brand Personality

Brand Personality is – A set of human characteristics that are attributed to a brand name. A brand personality is something to which the consumer can relate, and an effective brand will increase its brand equity by having a consistent set of traits. This is the added-value that a brand gains, aside from its functional benefits.

Joseph Plummer, a former research director of Young & Rubicam, indicated that there are three components to a brand image: attributes, consequences, and brand personality.

The task of creating a brand image often needs to move beyond attributes or feelings, to include the ultimate consequences of product use and the relationship of product use to people’s life-styles, needs, and values.  A positioning strategy that focuses only on attributes or feelings can be shallow and less effective than one that is based on a richer knowledge of the customer.

Social Media and Brand Personality

Branding is not just for the real world – but also for the virtual world – particularly in Social Media Marketing.  What message does your brand convey to socially engaged customers?  Companies can no longer afford the luxury of  trying to create top-down messaging.

As social media channels have increased, so has the need to communicate simultaneously.  To market effectively, companies need a consistent, compelling brand personality—one that doesn’t  mumble

It is better to think of a brand’s personality image as encompassing all the  associations that a consumer has for that brand: all the thoughts, feelings, and imagery that are mentally linked to that brand in the consumer’s memory.

Brand personality associations create a composite image of a brand that is not very different from the image that we have of other people: they make us think of a brand as if it were a person.  Just as a person will have certain characteristics that define his or her personality, so will a brand.

When we think of a person, what do we think of?  First, of course, there are the obvious demographic descriptors  eg. gender (male or female), age (young or old), .  Similarly, a brand can often be thought of as masculine or feminine, modern or old-fashioned, and everyday blue collar or elegantly upper class.  Such a characterisation is often made not just of particular brands but of certain product categories or segments of them.

Brand personality, just like real peoples personalities, goes beyond just demographic descriptors.  People can typically characterise each other on hundreds of personality trait adjectives.  Thus we may describe someone as being warm, stupid, mean-spirited, aggressive, etc..  Psychologists who have studied personality descriptions typically subscribe to a “trait” approach to studying and measuring human personality and believe that every person can be calibrated on the extent to which he or she possesses certain traits (such as being aggressive, warm, etc.). This approach is widely attributed to the psychologists Gordon Allport, H. J. Eysenck, and Raymond Cattell, who developed it from the late 1930s to the early 1960s.  While people could potentially be measured on infinite trait adjectives, personality researchers have generally reduced the various adjectives to five basic underlying dimensions or factors:

1.         Extraversion/introversion (example adjectives: adventurous-cautious, sociable-reclusive)

2.         Agreeableness (examples: good-natured-irritable; gentle-headstrong)

3.         Conscientiousness (examples: responsible-undependable; tidy-careless)

4.         Emotional stability (composed-excitable; calm-anxious)

5.         Culture (artistically-sensitive-insensitive; intellectual-unreflective; refined-crude; imaginative-simple)

Similarly, a brand could be characterised as adventurous, headstrong, undependable, excitable, and somewhat crude.

There are five main types of brand personalities: excitement, sincerity, ruggedness, competence and sophistication. Customers are more likely to purchase a brand if its personality is similar to their own. Examples of traits for the different types of brand personalities:

Excitement: carefree, spirited, youthful
Sincerity: genuine, kind, family-oriented, thoughtful
Ruggedness: rough, tough, outdoors, athletic
Competence: successful, accomplished, influential, a leader
Sophistication: elegant, prestigious, pretentious

A brand could acquire such a personality profile through advertising-created associations with certain types of users (the kinds of people depicted as using it) or the kinds of people used to endorse it in the advertising.  Of course, other sources of such associations might be more important than advertising, including direct observations of typical users, culturally ingrained stereotypes, word-of-mouth, and news media reports or publicity.  Indeed, these avenues should be considered in tandem with advertising as ways of developing or enhancing brand personalities .

In addition to being characterised on these personality traits, brand personalities like human personalities-imply associated feelings.  Thus, just as we can think of someone (or some brand) as being adventurous and excitable, we are likely also to associate with this person (or brand) feelings of urgency, excitement, or fun.  Alternatively, the act of buying or consuming some other brand might carry with it associated feelings of security and calmness

Further, a brand’s personality also creates an association of that brand with certain important life values.  A “value” can be understood perhaps as an “enduring belief which guides actions and judgments across specific situations.

Examples of values are the pursuit of an exciting life, the search for self-respect, the need to be intellectual, the desire for self-expression, and so on.  Individuals differ in the extent to which they hold different values as being central to their lives: while one person may highly value the pursuit of fun and excitement, another may be more concerned with self-expression or security.  A brand that acquires a distinctive personality may get strongly associated with a certain value, and strongly attract people who attach great importance to that value.

The value preferences of a key target segment ought to be researched and used in the development of a personality for a brand.

The concept of brand personality combines inside-out and outside-in; identity and image.

A personality has it’s roots in the identity but is strongly externally focused. For marketing, it is not ‘be who your are’. Personality is: Become who you should be.

Carl Jung said “Personality is the supreme realisation of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being. It is an act of courage flung in the face of life, the absolute affirmation of all that constitutes the individual, the most successful adaptation to the universal conditions of existence, coupled with the greatest possible freedom of self-determination.”

Like any real person – personality is what you (want) to project in various situations.  You will behave differently when in different situations.  Thus you will have more than one personality.  In marketing you will try to project brand personalities that best fit specific (target segments/markets).

Like real people, it is not just what you want to project personality wise -, it is more about how others will percive you.  The same applies to marketing, but here it is the target market that determines what the brand means to them.  Companies will try to develop the brand personality and image, but as in all good marketing, it is the customer who is the most important element.  What the customer perceives and decides is what matters to them – and then to the company.

Thus it is important to work with the target market (include them) in developing an effective, working brand personality

In psychology, three elements are defined as a part of personality:

-private personality (thoughts, feelings, fantasies, ambitions, talents)
-public personality (how you want others to see you)
-attributed personality (how others see you)

The private personality overlaps identity; the public and attributed personalities indicate the external aim and nature of personality.

What often matters more than the specific personality attributed to a brand is the question of whether a brand has any clear personality at all.  A brand that over the years acquires a distinctive, well-known personality becomes like an “old friend;” consumers feel familiar and comfortable with it, it offers a sense of security and reassurance, and most consumers would rather pick it up rather than a newer brand from which they feel more psychologically distant.

One of the reasons that market-leading brands tend to stay that way (is that they acquire this “good friend” personality.  However, such a personality can also become a liability, if the brand slowly becomes perceived as being old fashioned and out of step with the times, and consumers (at least a sizable segment of them) begin to prefer a more contemporary, new-and-different brand.  It becomes vital in such situations to “contemporise” and “freshen” the brand personality over the years.

This concept of brand personality, of a “brand as a person,” has been used by various advertising agencies.  It has proved especially valuable in studies of corporate image.

Is Brand Personality Important?

For the advertiser, the development and reinforcement of a personality for a brand serves to differentiate the brand from competition.  At a time when many brands are at or near parity in terms of technology (or are perceived to be so by consumers), the only difference between brands is often the personality that is associated with them.  By creating a favourable and liked brand personality, a marketer can set his brand apart, which often enables the marketer to gain market share and/or to charge a higher price (or, at minimum, to avoid losing share to competitive brands that charge lower prices or run frequent consumer or trade promotions).  Further, a brand personality is often unique and non-pre-emptible: while competitors can match your brand’s features and price, they usually cannot duplicate your brand personality (and, if they try to do so, they may end up giving your brand free advertising).

There are other, longer-term, advantages to building a distinctive brand personality.  If advertising is not simply to be a short-term expense, but a longer-term investment, a brand’s advertising should not merely lead to immediate sales but should also lead to the long-term enhancement of the brand’s “equity” or “goodwill.” Companies that create advertising which enhance such brand equity treat the value of a brand (or brand name) as an asset, much like a bank deposit.  Advertising that creates or reinforces a brand’s personality serves to increase the asset value of that brand; advertising that lacks such character serves to depreciate this asset value.

Why care about this hard-to-quantify asset value?  There are several reasons.

First, a brand-like other assets-can be bought or sold.  Much of the growth of the consumer product giant corporations has been achieved by a strategy of acquiring valuable brand names as assetts from other companies, often at huge prices that vastly exceedes the valuation of the plants and machinery (the so-called “hard assets”) that went with these transactions.

Second, a brand’s asset value can command such high prices because of what it gives the company that owns it: access to a distribution network, with shelf facings in the stores; high consumer awareness and loyalty, leading to a stream of repurchases (and therefore income) in the years to come; and economies in terms of marketing expenses, especially in the costs of launching new brands.  “Line extensions” bearing an already known brand name do not require the huge budgets otherwise required to launch a new brand name.

Brand personality is important to the consumer for a rather different set of reasons.  Knowingly or unknowingly, consumers regard their possessions as part of themselves; people acquire or reinforce their sense of self, their identities, in part through the goods they buy and what these material goods symbolise, both to themselves and to others they come into contact with and care about.  What is “me” depends, in part, on what is “mine”; we define who we are not only by our physical bodies and our occupations, but also by our possessions (such as the watch we wear).  That is why a loss of material possessions-such as in a robbery or a natural disaster-leaves us feeling as if a “part of us” is gone.  Of course, the extent to which we “invest ourselves” in products and brands varies: more, for example, in automobiles and clothing, less (perhaps) in the brand of paper towel we buy.

It is also plausible to suggest that individuals in society define their self-worth in terms of material possessions and their symbolic associations, their “social value.” Further, in such an “outer-directed” society our sense of belonging to peer and other groups can depend significantly on a sense (and display) of shared brand ownership.  We use our possessions not only to define ourselves as individuals, but also to define which groups we belong to-and do not belong to.

As part of this “self-defining” process, consumers select those brands that have a brand personality that is congruent with their own self-concept.  That is, a consumer who does not think of himself as “flashy” is likely to feel uncomfortable in a car that is extremely attention grabbing and different from the norm; there is a lack of congruency in such a situation. In one study, it was found that automobile consumers sought out cars whose product image was similar to their own image, on various personality attributes (such as exciting/dull).  Importantly, there is some evidence that the type of congruency that is important in such brand choice is not that between a brand’s personality and a consumer’s actual personality but rather that between a brand’s personality and a consumer’s “ideal” or “aspirational” personality, though the evidence on this is not unequivocal.

Next article – developing and Implementing Brand Personality

Please tell me what you think of these ideas.  What would you add?

One thought on “The Personality of Brands -Using Effective Brand Personality to Grow Your Business

  1. Pingback: Niche Blog Post 1 | ebethhome

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