The Right Brand Personality: Aligning Brands with their Target Markets

brand personality
the right brand personality
Image courtesy of Sketch Corp

In a prior post where I discussed hacking brand strategy, I included the image above and briefly talked about brand personality. Today, I’d like to expand on the notion of brand personality by crafting the right brand personality that creates value for your brand.

Why we care about the right brand personality

In a word, profits!

People buy products from brands they like; the brands they relate to from all the options out there to choose from. We see brand personality as an extension of our own personality; that the products we surround ourselves with define who we are to the rest of the world.

An obvious extension of the use of brands to define our personality is that we use a brand’s personality to define ourselves, irrespective of what others may think of us.

Hence, when we choose an iPhone, which we think of as young, hip, and creative, we show the world and ourselves we are like this brand. Meanwhile, when we choose an Android device, we say we’re unconcerned with the trappings of wealth and unconcerned about social status.

Your choice of a brand is often an emotional decision, rather than a logical one, as proposed by economists. Building that emotional connection between consumers and your brand makes them impervious to arguments designed to sway their decision in favor of another brand. Hence, building a brand personality that appeals to a wide swath of consumers acts to eliminate or at least reduce your competition. It gives consumers a reason to choose you.

Consumer personality

Brand personality actually derives from consumer personality and consists of 5 key personality traits. We talked about these in an earlier post on using Facebook to learn about consumer personalities. Just as we’ll see later in our discussion of the right brand personality, there’s a vast disagreement between different schools of academic thought as to how consumer personalities differ from each other, resulting in many different constructions of the key personality traits expressed by individual consumers.

consumer personality
Image courtesy of Slideshare
  • Innovativeness or the degree to which a consumer values new things. Innovators are early adopters whether it’s technology or anything new. This inherently means they’re risk-averse since new often correlates with a higher risk of product failure, of wasting money, or even being physically dangerous such as a new medicine.
  • Materialism or how important is owning things to you. Of course, the opposite is frugality, something much less studied than materialism, despite the fact that frugality is a core personality trait for a significant number of consumers. For instance, people love swap meets and similar events where they can pick up reduced-cost items. Facebook’s Marketplace is a virtual swap meet offering sustainable ways for consumers to transfer ownership from folks who have stuff they don’t want to folks who want stuff.
  • Self-consciousness reflects the degree to which consumers try to manage their image both to themselves and others.
  • The need for cognition reflects the extent to which a consumer likes spending time learning or thinking. Think about consumers who watch the National Geographic channel versus something that’s pretty devoid of cognition, such as the Lifetime channel.

It’s also important to recognize that consumer personality changes over time and in different contexts. Hence, crafting the right brand personality means updating that personality as your market changes.

Brand personality

Brands have personalities that look a lot like consumer personalities, but the archetypes from Sketch Corp’s graphic, shown at the top of this post, seem a better way to think about brand personality than the consumer groupings. Based on the original work of Carl Jung, a psychologist, these archetypes make intuitive sense.

The idea is that your brand personality must fit the personality of your consumers and your brand messaging must adapt to those personalities. Thus, a brand wanting a brand personality that fits the jester theme offers content that’s fun and informal, while a brand trying to project a ruler personality archetype expresses itself with more formally and information. Importantly, since these fit one way of expressing consumer personalities, using this formulation to determine the right brand personality has appeal.

Sketch Corp’s graphic combines several personality traits to come up with their archetypes show above. For instance, generous and caring combine to form the “Caregiver” personality. They then plot the archetypes along 2 axes — order/ freedom and ego/social. These are useful ways to think about brand personality.

Of course, this isn’t the only way to categorize brand personality. Jennifer Aaker, who’s father, David Aaker is a branding leader, created this infographic depicting brand personality types that differ dramatically from those of Sketch Corp. These archetypes are designed to fit the consumer personalities identified in work by other psychologists (and different from the construction of consumer personality shown above). Check out the image below to see how this is dramatically different from the archetypes shown at the beginning of this post.

brand personality
Image courtesy of Endeavor Creative

The key to using brand personalities isn’t in describing your brand personality or aligning it with one archetype structure or another. The key is creating a cogent brand personality that is invariant across different channels and platforms so consumers have a clear idea of who and what you are, as well as ensuring your brand personality fits with the consumer personalities of your target market.

Toward this end, some newer archetypes used to express brand personality combine that of Aaker and Sketch Corp into something that smashes them together along with advertising messages appropriate for each archetype.

But, what is the right brand personality?

If you search the internet and marketing journals, you’ll find various definitions of brand personality. Each builds off the notion that brands are analogous to people in that they have innate traits. Here’s an example from one blogger:

Brand Personalities are the distinctly human traits and qualities that a consumer perceives of a brand. They are consistent traits, evidenced throughout your entire brand; They’re clear from your visual marketing, your social media, your product packaging, website copy, and any other facets of your branding.

So, basically, consumers think about brands the same way they think about their friends, family, celebrities, co-workers, and public figures. They want brands that fit their lifestyles and self-image. And, they consider every public-facing element of the brand in determining its brand personality.

Why having the right brand personality matters

Consumer self-expression

We know consumers buy brands that resonate with them — brands that are “for me” — and brand personality is a big part of determining whether a brand is for me.

I'm a MacA good example is the Apple commercial “I’m a Mac”, currently being revived by the brand. The person representing the Mac is young, hip, and attractive. The actor representing a PC is dumpy, geeky, and generally unappealing. Which image do you think most consumers want to be? Obviously, they want to look like a Mac and express that preference in buying a Mac.

Of course, PC computer brands don’t accept the way Apple presented their brand and adopt a brand personality reflecting their target market of businesses and more serious computer consumers. Consumers then purchase the brand with the right brand personality that fits their own personality.

Sometimes it isn’t a function of what you want to look like, but what your value system looks like. That’s why consumers favor brands that are good corporate citizens. For instance, if I’m gonna eat fast food, I’m gonna choose McDonald’s because they support the Ronald McDonald’s houses and donated generously when I needed help with a fundraising project for the local little league.

Consumers vote with their dollars and they vote their conscience.

Campaign planning

Building the right brand personality helps in planning your marketing campaigns.

Marketers use brand personality to determine the messages, media, sponsorships, and partnerships appropriate for maintaining a consistent personality that resonates with consumers.

According to the Millward Brown agency, who created a graphic similar to the one that started this discussion, the value of brand personality in planning comes from:

Ultimately, understanding a brand personality enables the brand owner to deliver a consistent brand experience that connects with consumers and leaves a deeper and more sustainable impression.

Thus, your desired brand personality informs your planning, messaging, and the image you create for your business.

Brand personality and success

So, which brand personality or brand archetype is the right brand personality?

There is no one brand archetype that is right for every brand in every market. Notice in the image we began with, each of the brands representing the specific archetype is successful. Any archetype can lead to success.

The right brand personality is the one that resonates with your target markets — or market personas.

That said, some archetypes correlate with success, according to Millward Brown’s Global 100 brands (see except below). Over the last year, these brands increased sales by 6% and represent $5 trillion in total value.

Specifically, the WISE brand archetype,. including Google and Visa, reflects many of in the top 100. SEDUCTRESS brands like L’Oreal and Louis Vuitton succeed by being distinct and attractive. FRIEND brands like Home Depot and KFC are well-known to consumers, creating success for their brands.

The MAIDEN brand is the only one that doesn’t seem to resonate well with consumers, maybe because innocence doesn’t resonate well in terms of a brand personality.

global brands

 

 

 

Crafting a brand personality

Building the right brand personality into your brand starts with understanding your market and how customers view your brands. It’s often a huge challenge to redo consumer perceptions of your brand unless you’re building a brand from scratch. Instead, work with the image consumers already possess then work to strengthen your personality to match their perceptions.

Too often, marketers think of brand personality in terms of the logo or other visual branding elements — color, graphics, brand name. While these elements make a big contribution to your brand personality, you need more. Brand personality is much more than these simple graphic elements, although visual identity is important for developing and maintaining your brand personality.

If you’re interested in crafting the right personality for your brand, you need to consider every aspect of the brand including product and package styling, customer service, and other elements related to the product itself.

More important are the mission and values inherent in the parent company. These determine, to a large extent, how consumers view you and contribute greatly to your brand personality. Next, look at your value propositions. Do they match the personality you’re going for?

A key element of the right brand personality is consistency — the logo supports the same personality as product styling and your mission is consistent with your personality.

All that is a very tall order, but if you look at the brands consistently leading as top brands, you find they all have strong brand personalities and maintain their branding while matching their brand to prevailing trends.

Conclusion

Building and maintaining the right brand personality for your market and customers contribute greatly to your ultimate success or failure. Consistently matching your brand personality to fit with your target audience offers a built-in way to attract and retain customers for your brand.

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