Branding – It’s All About Personality – Stupid!


In increasingly competitive markets, standing out from the crowd is not just a question of what you say but how you say it.

Line up a row of unbranded beers on the bar; how many of us can really tell the difference based on taste? And how many of us can really name the brand? Very few and even fewer we suspect. All of this goes to show the importance of brand positioning and communication. While beers do offer different benefits such as sociability and refreshment, the range of possible benefits is still relatively limited. This makes it hard to stand-out via the benefit message alone.  Yet, there are an infinite number of ways of expressing the benefit message. For example, though humour, being down-to-earth, authoritative or charming. Several brands assume personality traits that match the provenance of beers. Fosters and Castlemaine XXXX both assume stereotypical Australian male personalities. Both are laddish, blokey, witty – they suggest have a good time and male bonding.

If products are people, then brands are friends or lovers

Let’s look at this another way. What do you look for in a partner, a mate? Beyond the flippant, “And Mrs. Daniels, what attracted you to the multi-millionaire Paul?” what really attracted you to your partner? In addition to physical attributes it mostly comes down to personality. Most likely the answer will be a very specific and distinctive combination of personality traits.

Search for and express, a distinctive combination of personality traits to define brands

In humans, the range of personality traits is almost infinite. So apply the same thinking process to brands. To start to appreciate the range of variables just let your imagination go; Spiderman – young, flawed and broody, a superhero; Ruby Wax – comedienne, self-deprecating, game-on for a good cause; Fagin (in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist) dirty, a thief, miser, teacher, carer ……?

Brand personality mapped to Myers Briggs

Archetypes provide familiar constructs

Archetypes are forms, images or myths which occur all over the earth. Originally advanced by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, archetypes have been present in folklore and literature for thousands of years. Jung originally identified five archetypes including the Anima (feminine image in a man’s psyche), Animus (the masculine image in a woman’s psyche) and the Shadow (the opposite of the ego image). Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson expanded Jung’s range of archetypes, and outlined twelve basic archetypes in their 2001 book – The Hero and the Outlaw – Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes.

The strongest brands tend to clearly reflect single archetypes. For example, Nike has a ‘hero’ brand personality. It takes its name from the ancient Greek goddess who personified victory. Think heroes overcoming monsters, such as St. George slaying the dragon, and apply this to competitive sport. Think beating an opponent, or the monster within, your inner self, frailty or lack of confidence. Applying archetypes to brands helps them stand-out and connect with customers. Conducting archetypal market analysis can also help spot opportunities to challenge category conventions.

Create communication stimulus to express whatto say and howto say it

To help explore and define brand personality and positioning we often create mock-up advertisements, like mini press ads or posters. We use advertising (sometimes called brandcepts) because it is familiar, clear and comprehensible to customers. Creating and using mock-up advertising helps provoke, intrigue and engage. In turn this helps them express what is interesting and appealing and why.

By creating a vast number of mini adverts, allows a very large range of brand positioning ideas including both rational and emotional benefit messages and style and tone of communication to be explored.

Brand personality stimulus

Brand personality analysis and definition

Through qualitative research it is then possible to explore what is interesting, different and persuasive to customers. Analysis reveals what is working and why, and what is not working and why, helping to focus on the small number of hot ideas for further exploration. Quantitative analysis helps reveal the sweet-spot for communication – the most appealing and persuasive combination of benefits and ways of speaking.

Brand positioning outputs include messages, and visual and language guidelines that can be understood and acted upon by communication teams, product developers and front-line staff.

Some proprietary, personality indicators, for example, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator helps analyse personality types in terms of four pairs of dichotomies such as thinking – feeling and extraversion – introversion. These are understood by human resources colleagues and potentially useful in helping apply brand personality concepts to organisation cultures and to inform people behaviour, recruitment and reward procedures. All can help deliver a consistent experience through multiple encounters from advertising and websites to call centres and retail operations.

Marketing Inspiration

Make sure a distinctive brand personality is at the heart of your brand positioning. It can enable more effective communications and relationship building through all encounters that customers have with your brand. If you are #2 or #3 in a category it could transform your brand and help you get and stay ahead.

Brand positioning and brand personality models come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of complexity. What’s right for you depends on your starting place, competitive context as well as the size of the potential prize.

Read more about transforming brands into super brands by adding brand personality.

Read The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants’ brand positioning success story.

One Reply to “Branding – It’s All About Personality – Stupid!”

  1. Fascinated to read of skewing brands to your MBTI personality type. I blog on Creative Writing, as well as relationships and personal growth, and link all, at times, to MBTI. I also have a psychometric personality test on my website.

    You might think, however, from the bright jewel colours on my website that I am an extrovert. I’m afraid you’d be wrong! The warmth and attractiveness of the colouring reflects a strong F – Feeling – when it comes to making decisions. My scatter-gun approach to blogging (my niche is complex and broad) reflects the possibilities of my iNtuitive personality, and the irregularity in frequency to my P – Perceptiveness – dislike of structure.

    I’d love to hear what yours are – and anyone else who happens by.

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