Developing and Implementing Brand Personality

Brian Monger

Brand Personality describes brands in terms of human-like characteristics.

Brand personality is seen as a valuable factor in increasing brand engagement and brand attachment, in much the same way as people relate and bind to other people.

Just like people, all brands have a personality. Many have more than one personality – depending on the situation and the specific market.

Understanding and accordingly developing this personality is very important. To market effectively, companies need a compelling brand personality – brand image and brand voice.

Brand personality is intangible and exists in a subjective emotional realm. A recognisable and well-defined brand personality is a key part of a successful brand’s appeal. As brands become more familiar to customers, they tend to take on these human qualities and characteristics

Brand personality will come through even if you don’t intend for it to. It pays to develop a well thought-out brand personality description as part of the brand-development strategy

Personality is often used interchangeably with terms like brand character. Generally, it’s expressed in personal or character terms such as, trustworthy, energetic, assertive, unpretentious, arrogant, friendly, helpful, and so on.

Personality comes from many cues around the brand experience. Ultimately, nearly every interaction (touchpoints) with a customer or prospect shapes the brand personality.

Implementing a brand personality strategy

There are three steps to implementing a brand personality strategy:

  • researching the symbolic associations that currently exist with the product category and competitive brands,
  • deciding which brand personality is going to be of greatest value with the target consumer segment, and
  • executing the desired brand personality strategy (creating, enhancing, or modifying the brand’s personality).

Researching brand personality

There are various ways to learn about the brand personalities that consumers associate with the different brands in a product category, as well as with the product category itself.  Some are more direct and quantitative, while others are more indirect and qualitative.

Among the quantitative techniques available, perhaps the simplest is to have consumers rate a brand, and/or users of that brand, on various personality adjectives.  Thus a consumer might rate a brand, as being relatively high on scales for the adjectives of being competitive, aggressive, and so on.  Different brands in a product category could then be “profiled” (compared) on these personality adjective scales.

While easy to do, a method of using scaling and adjectives suffers from at least two disadvantages: the list of specific personality scales used might be incomplete (or some of them might be irrelevant), and consumers may be unable or unwilling to give their true opinions about a brand’s personality through such “direct” elicitation techniques.  The qualitative, projective techniques attempt to get over this second limitation.  The hope is that they will be more able to get at some of these “unconscious” (or difficult-to-articulate) personality perceptions that a consumer may have about a brand.

One way to obtain qualitative insight into the personality associations with the typical users of the product is to use “photo sorts.” Consumers are given photographs of individuals, asked to pick which ones they think use particular brands, and then asked to describe these individuals.

Another of these qualitative methods is the use of free associations: the subject is given a stimulus word (such as the brand name or advertising slogan) and then asked to provide the first set of words that come to mind.  Since such free association tasks can yield a large number of associations, consumers can be then asked (for each key association) how well it fits the brand (on a scale of “fits extremely well” to “fits not well at all”).

A variant of word association is sentence completion.  The respondent is asked to complete a partial sentence: “People like X because . . . ” or “Y is – . . ” and so on.  Again, the respondent is encouraged to respond with the first thought that comes to mind.’

Another approach is to have consumers interpret a scene presented visually in which the product or brand is playing a role.

Ernest Dichter, used a psychodrama” technique where he asked people to act out a product.  “You are Ivory soap.  How old are you?  Are you masculine or feminine?  What type of personality do you have?  What magazines do you read?’

Finally, another frequently used qualitative approach is to ask consumers to relate brands to other kinds of objects such as animals, cars, people, magazines, trees, movies, or books.  For example, if this brand was a car, what type of car might it be?

The result of such techniques is a rich description of the product that suggests associations to develop and ones to avoid.

Deciding and targeting a brand personality

The personality scale ratings or associations obtained through marketing research can now be compared to the target consumer’s ratings of his or her own personality, both actual and aspired-to, and inferences can be drawn on which aspects of a brand’s personality need to be reinforced or changed through advertising.

The process of selecting a “target” brand personality requires a good sense of judgement, for one must choose a personality that corresponds to the “ideal” personality for a brand in that category, given the relevant use-setting and context, keeping in mind the personality strengths and weaknesses of competitive brands.  It also goes without saying that the targeted personality must be consistent with the functional or psychological benefit that the brand is promising..

In this judgemental process it is often useful first to create a detailed target market profile

Executing a brand personality strategy

Once a brand personality has been researched and targeted, advertising must be developed that creates, reinforces, or changes that target personality.  It is important to note that every element of the marketing and communication mix plays a role-especially packaging, pricing, sales promotions, and distribution.  e. Key advertising elements that contribute to a brand’s personality are the following:

Image associated with real people

The choice of a real person (or persons) to be associated with the image of the brand is important, because the image of the people involved  can get transferred to the brand with enough repetition.  The image does not have to be even human.  Animals have been used effectively for many brands”

User Imagery

The kind of imagery user portrayed in the ad can also be very important to create a personality reference.  .

Executional Elements

Elements such as the choice of music, visual elements, pace and nature of editing, colour schemes used, r, layout, and typography can all contribute substantially to a brand’s personality.


Predictability and consistency in advertising is very important in executing a brand personality strategy.  A brand personality can only develop successfully if the important symbolic aspects of the brand-such as those just described-remain consistent over time.  Brands that change these elements risk diluting their personalities, or end up having no brand personality at all.

Other marketing elements communicate brand personality as well

Decisions about other marketing elements-especially pricing, promotions, and distribution-must always support and reinforce a brand’s basic personality, not reduce its character.

Questions to ask when developing brand personality

How would you prefer your brand is seen?.

How do I want my clients to see my brand?

Be aware that your branding should address the needs and desires of your target market. It doesn’t really matter what you want at the end of the day. What you should always consider is what your customers want or need.

How do my clients presently see us?

If you have no idea how your clients presently see you, you need to do some research

You should have a number of questions to ask them so you can clearly understand what your clients want from you as a brand.  You may need to get some help for good research (and what is the point of research that isn’t good?)

Is there a gap between how I want my brand to be seen and how my clients presently see us?

What could you use to show your brand personality?

What human characteristics do I see in my brand?

Does the brand have a story that the target market will like to hear?

You may think the story is interesting – but why will they?  Can you tell a story well?  If in doubt, it is best to hire someone

What might you suggest or add to this topic?  Let me know

More soon on this topic – Stay connected by subscribing to this blog.

Dr. Brian Monger

CEO MAANZ International

Contact me

For more marketing articles; individual digital short courses and details of Marketing Events, Visit us at MAANZ International – and stay in touch with more marketing ideas and specials by connecting to us via Twitter @smartamarketing


One thought on “Developing and Implementing Brand Personality

  1. Pingback: Takeaway Part 2 | IWC Takeaway Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s