Not, I own a Mac or even I love my Mac, but I AM a Mac! The impact of the simple replacement of a verb has dramatic results in your marketing strategy. Brand identity not only builds strong loyalty to the brand but encourages users to become brand cheerleaders — advocating and defending the brand and celebrating its dominance over the competition. This is the true definition of brand loyalty, not just a brand preference.
Brands, just like people, have an identity and a personality. When you build a strong brand identity, you bind customers tightly to the brand which results in higher sales. Customers will not only buy your brand but are more easily convinced to buy related products.
Think about Apple. Apple has almost cult status, something embraced by its loyal followers and lamented by those who see the company as too closely tied to China, male domination, and other negative cultural tropes. Whatever your feeling about Apple and its products, the company commands a premium on the products it produces and creates huge demand every time it introduces a new product.
Originally the term, the cult of Mac only applied to the company’s chief brand, the Mac computer. But the company has been able to turn the strong identification between consumers, especially younger consumers, and the company to earn staggering amounts of money on every product they produce, such as the iPad, iPod, and iPhone. In my college classes, almost every single student boasts an iPhone, for instance.
A big part of Apple’s success is the company’s ability to build a brand personality and maintain that personality as a young, hip brand in every communication with consumers.
Below, you can see the different brand personalities and examples of companies that represent each brand personality.
Many put Apple in the outlaw personality and its 1984 commercial, which introduced the Mac, set the standard for the outlaw. Below, you can watch the commercial that is built on the famous book of the same name composed of a character determined to fight against misinformation and homogenization of a population based on the authoritarian notion of “Big Brother”.
Brand identity and the construction of self
We use the people and things we surround ourselves with as a way of defining who we are. Look around you right now and you’ll see elements reflecting your construction of self — photos of your family, maybe a potted plant, or a few treasured possessions. The clothes you wear, how you style your hair, and whether you have facial hair (and if you’re a woman with facial hair that’s a different story) are a means to express who you are to not only the outside world but to yourself, as well.
Look at Penelope, from Criminal Minds. She surrounds herself with quirky clothes, those pens topped with silk flowers or novelty figures, and little stuffed things. It defines her as a highly intelligent, socially-awkward Geek. Hence, how we see ourselves informs the products we buy.
I did a study on the construction of self where I interviewed people who’d lost everything in a fire — no, I wasn’t one of those insensitive reporters interviewing folks in front of their smoldering home but a year or so later when they had recovered from the fire. What we found is that these people felt totally invisible, like they didn’t exist in the immediate aftermath of the loss. For one person, it was losing his identification, at first, but later it was losing cherished objects that were attached to good memories. The ones who build a new “self” recovered over a few months, while those who were too devastated to reconstruct themselves didn’t. In one case, the person withered away and died a few months after the fire.
Not only did the victims recover from the devastation of the fire, but, for some, they saw it as a great opportunity to remake themselves as a different person. That’s how important our image of ourselves is and how closely it’s tied to the objects we own. Thus, for some, losing everything was actually cathartic as it allowed the person to construct a different “self” than what they’d been before since they were no longer tied to the things that made them who they were. This is why couples destroy mementos of themselves as a couple when they split and children get rid of their toys when they reach an age where they consider themselves adults (so beware of the adult hanging on to their toys because they’re telling you they haven’t grown up yet).
So, what does brand identity have to do with marketing?
According to Hubspot:
A brand identity is made up of what your brand says, what your values are, how you communicate your product, and what you want people to feel when they interact with your company. Essentially, your brand identity is the personality of your business and a promise to your customers.
Some think of brand identity as the logo, color palette, and other visual elements of the brand. And, certainly, there’s an element of that in creating a brand identity, which is why companies use style guides to ensure the visual representation is the same across all marketing efforts. But, if you really read the Hubspot definition of brand identity, you see it’s much more than just the visual elements. In fact, the visual elements are a simple representation of everything the brand stands for.
Today, more companies come forward every day to take a stand on ethics to share their vision and values in more vocal ways. That’s because consumers want to buy from companies that share their values. as you can see below.
Whether the values are diversity and inclusion, such as evident in Disney’s fight with Gov. DeSantis, or something from the right, such as Black Rifle Coffee Company, companies now much show their values and live those values if they wish to appeal to a group of consumers. According to Forbes, showing and living your company’s values sets you up as unique and special, rather than just one of a number of options available to consumers. Not only do company values matter to consumers, but they form the basis of corporate culture. In their book on corporate culture, Deal and Kennedy say,
If employees know what their company stands for, if they know what standards they are to uphold, then they are much more likely to make decisions that will support those standards. They are also more likely to feel as if they are an important part of the organization. They are motivated because life in the company has meaning for them.
Thus, employees perform better in companies where values are talked about and aligned with their own values.
Creating a brand personality
1. Use celebrities
This creates a halo effect where the personality of the individual transfers to the brand. Use Kim Kardashian as your spokesperson and you create a personality that is attractive, affluent, popular, and carefree. Use Bill Gates and your brand personality is intelligent, successful, and compassionate. In the digital age, microcelebrities emerge all the time and your company can use them in the same way. For instance, Budweiser recently used a trans TikTok influencer to promote the brand. The backlash was swift and negative. Company sales plummeted as the target market for their product was very much transphobic. However, the long-term effect of Budweiser’s decision remains to be seen. At least the company took a stand to make the world a better place during a time when LGBTQ+ people are under fire in many locations.
2. Use symbols
Symbols also create a brand personality. That’s why insurance companies use images like the Rock of Gibraltar as the symbol implies strength and solidity for a product that’s pretty intangible.
3. Use advertising messaging
And this is where Apple comes in. They’ve used their messaging (as well as other marketing elements such as product development) to create an image of risk-taking, innovation, coolness, and independence. Their famous commercial 1984 commercial, shown above, introducing the new Macintosh firmly established the image of the company as a rebel.
If you’ve established a brand personality that resonates with consumers, they’ll identify with it, support it, defend it, spread the word about it, and celebrate its achievements; developing a customer relationship that’s difficult to break.
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