Managing Brand Personality To Target The Right Customers

[adsense float=’left’] Brand personality and prospect personality are intricately linked. There is a definite connection between what a prospect feels about the brand, and whether or not they are going to buy it. In this article, I’ll let you in on a secret that know ones knows about brand personality, and what you can do in your business to save you money when trying to develop a personality style for your brand or for a particular product and/or service.

Brand personality is what your customer associates with your brand. It is very hard to pin down, and big companies spend an enormous amount of money to try to figure out the psychographics of their customers. For small companies, this amount of market research is often far out of reach. So what can you do, if you don’t have the money for expensive market research?

When you study brand personality, it can get pretty complex. I found one web marketer that says their are five dimensions to brand personality:

  • Dimension ⇒ Traits associated with this dimension
  • Sincerity ⇒ Domestic, honest, genuine, cheerful
  • Excitement ⇒ Daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date
  • Competence ⇒ Reliable, responsible, dependable, efficient
  • Sophistication ⇒Glamorous, pretentious, charming, romantic
  • Ruggedness ⇒ Tough, strong, outdoorsy, rugged.

The important thing to not here, is that when we’re talking about a brand’s personality, we’re ascribing human traits to it. In other words, we’re taking an inanimate object, and treating it like a living person.

Why do we do this? Because we relate to humans. The key is the word “relate,” as in “relationship.” You don’t have relationships with a product. You “use” a product. You don’t “use” people, not true friends anyway. If you use people, they’ll leave you. But you do have relationships with people because you want them in your life.

That is the purpose of creating a brand personality. It is to create a persona about the product or the company that makes it likable to the prospect.

Who do we relate to and have relationships with? That is the million dollar question that companies are trying to find out with their expensive marketing research. They question their prospects to find out what traits they have, and then try to ascribe those traits into the brand.

However, this is mostly backwards.

Whether you like it or not, your company’s brand or the product’s personality is already set before the prospect discovers it. They discover it, because something about the brand catches their reticular activating system.

This goes back to evolutionary behavior. Because humanity has evolved to fight and survive wars, we constantly scan our surroundings to answer this question: “friend or foe?”

Those things that we consider foes, we stay away from, or attack. Those things we consider that are our friends, we make alliances with.

How do we determine who is friend or foe?

It is not about traits and attributes. It is about “values.”

People that have similar values to you are considered to be safe. In other words, they can be your friend. People that value things that are different from you are not safe. They are your enemies. Need an example? Just look at your political leanings. What makes you a Republican or a Democrat? Is it because of the color of your hair? Nope. It is because you have similar values to those of other people in the political party. And the people in the other party, the Democrats, are your enemy because they have different values than you do.

How Do Prospects Find Your Brand/Company?

They find it through through their peripheral vision. As they are walking through their day, they catch a glimpse of your brand. It may be through an advertisement, or it my be because one of their friends mentions it. Their brain immediately classifies it as either friend, foe, or unimportant.

For your brand to stick in their brain, it must be classified as “friend.” And if it is, they’ll move to it and investigate it more. This is where they are comparing the brand personality with their own personality. If they trust that the brand personality (it’s values) match their own values, they’ll take an action towards the brand.

Everything has a personality. Can you identify it?

Everything has a personality. Can you identify it?

What if Your Brand Doesn’t Have A Defined Personality?

This is what many marketers are thinking about. They don’t know if their company has a brand personality. So they do expensive marketing research to find out what their customers think the brand personality is.

I’m going to save you all the money you’d be wasting by doing this type of marketing research. Because your company already does have a brand personality. And you don’t need to survey the customers to find out what it is. You only need to survey one person!

Who is the one person you need to survey? It is the CEO of the company.

Here is the secret: “The brand personality” always matches the personality of the CEO.” At least, it matches the personality of the original CEO of the company.

Why is this?

Because the CEO of the company has the ultimate decision on the direction of the company. And they will be most comfortable in taking the company in a direction that matches their own values.

  • They will veto a marketing campaign that goes against their own personal values.
  • They will fully fund a campaign that promotes their own personal values.

A company’s brand personality always takes on the same personality of the CEO. ALWAYS! The CEO will make sure of that by the people that he/she hires and who they promote. Why the are promoted is no mystery… it is because they exhibit the values that match the CEO of the company.

And this is the image that leaks out for the world to see. It is the brand personality that the very very first prospect sees, and why they decide to be a customer of the product. And it then perpetuates from that point on.

The point is, you already have a brand personality for your company. And it is the same personality of the person that started the company.

That is the good news. Why? Because if you accept this, you just saved yourself millions in market research. The personality of the customers is the same as the personality temperament of the founder of the company.

Changing the Brand Personality

Changing the brand personality is difficult to do. Why? Because the brand’s personality is directly linked to values, not traits.

For example, a person can change their hair color, but it doesn’t change their values. So if you want to change the personality of a brand, you have to change the values that people associate with it.

And what do you think this will do? Right, it causes confusion for everyone. Not only is the current customer base confused, but the new prospects for the brand are confused too.

I link it to when a new president takes over the helm of leading the nation. The United States has a brand personality too. What does it stand for? It stands for liberty, prosperity, and industriousness. These were written into the constitution. Remember, the personality brand takes on the personality temperament of the founders of the institution, whether it be a company or a country.

So what happens when a new CEO takes over and tries to change the brand personality? As an example, think of what Barak Obama is trying to do when he wants to “fundamentally change” the country. In other words, he wanted to change the way other countries see the United States. Instead of the value of liberty, he proposes “shared-sacrifice.” Instead of prosperity, he proposes “fairness.”  Instead of industriousness, he proposes “conservation.”

Why would he choose those values? Because they are HIS values. He has the Myers Briggs personality type of INFP, which gives him the Morale Officer personality temperament. Those values of shared-sacrifice, fairness, and conservation are the values of Morale Officer types. Remember, the CEO always uses his values when determining the direction of the organization.

What does radically changing the brand personality do? 

As mentioned, it causes confusion with current customers. Like the polls for Obama, the numbers tank. The longer he confuses the brand personality of the United States, the lower his poll numbers go. People don’t like him because change is seen as an attack on their personal values. This is why when a new CEO takes over a company, there is often an exit of personnel from within the company. The values changed, and they no longer match the values of the current employees.

How do outsiders think of the new brand? The external friends of the brand are confused too, and relationships are strained because they don’t know what to expect in the future. For an example of this, “does Israel think it is being treated as friend or foe today with the Obama administration?” They used to be a friend, but now they aren’t so sure.

What is equally important, is what the foes think. In terms of your industry, what do your company’s competitors think when you start changing your brand’s personality?

I’ll tell you what they are thinking. They are thinking you’re crazy, and that there is turmoil in the company. In other words, there is “chaos.” And that is important, because there is one personality type that associated chaos with “opportunity.”  This are the people with the Warrior personality temperament.

They see an opportunity opening up when they sense your company is lacking a true identity. The next logical step, is that your competitors (foes) will start attacking you, because they see you as weakened because of the disarray. Just as the Russians and the Chinese governments have attacked the secrets of the United States under Barak Obama administration, so will your competitors attack your company when you attempt to change your company’s brand personality. The least they will do is point out to your current customers that your company is struggling and now might be a good time to switch suppliers.

Companies are tempted to change their brand personality because they feel that they need to change in order to attract more customers. They want to appeal to more people, right? But in fact, the opposite happens. They lose current customers, prospects see a mixed message, and the competitors become more emboldened.

Clean it off and remove the dirt.

Clean it off and remove the dirt.

Don’t Change Your Company’s Brand Personality. Sharpen it!

My advice is to resist the temptation of radically changing your company’s brand personality.  But, if you are going to do market research, find out the values of the core customers. Better yet, find out the values of the original founder of the company, and stay on that message. That is the brand’s personality as your customer’s see it.

Sharpen the current brand personality and image that your customers currently associate with you. Why? Because over time your company’s brand personality may have gotten soft and fuzzy. In a sense, moss may have grown over it, and prospects are having a hard time figuring out what values to associate with it. Instead of retooling the brand personality, scrape off the moss so that prospects can see what you stand for. Your old customers will love you for this, and your competitors won’t have ammunition to use against you.

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