The success of a brand is ultimately determined by the way that consumers respond to it. While marketers and business owners can curate an image and develop a set of traits that instills some personality into their brand, they have no control over how consumers will react to their creation. Of course, this is why good brand developers do their homework and find out what their target audience is looking for. After careful research and planning, businesses execute with a brand that they feel will increase their odds of selling products. The absolutely essential element of any modern brand is the infusion of a personality through attributes that consistently connect with the market. But a brand personality isn’t just about selling products; it’s about building equity through a name that people learn to trust.
A brand needs a personality
According to branding expert Michael Hand, “Without a clear personality, brands become just a series of words and images. They become empty promises stacked on grocery store shelves, in the pages of a magazine, or wherever else they are placed.” (Perspectives on Marketing, 103) A clear, intentional personality is what helps a brand to get noticed.
In some ways, creating a brand is almost like creating a person from scratch. If you could pick out some ideal characteristics, you would want this new person to be honest, likeable, direct, empathetic, motivational, talented and so on. A brand needs these positive human elements because brands are meant for humans. Branding as we know it today is about creating a strong emotional bond. It used to be that you could explicitly list the reasons that your product was superior and hope that this logical appeal somehow made a connection. While this simple strategy can work in some instances where the market space is not competitive, it is not adapted to the knowledgeable consumers of the 21st century. With so many businesses fighting for a loyal audience in a competitive online markets, a brand needs a personal vehicle to deliver the facts through an emotional appeal.
The flipside: the overbearing personality
If we are going to keep thinking about the similarities between the ideal brand and the ideal person, let’s look at the other side and think about what traits you wouldn’t choose to add: abrupt communication, dishonesty, overbearing nature, erratic behavior, etc. That’s a forceful personality, and it will drive people away. You don’t want your brand to be like the person who tries way too hard to convince you to do something that you have no interest in doing. When a brand’s personality is too domineering, it comes to the forefront and makes consumers hyper-aware of the strategy that is being used to get them to connect. Instead of attracting them like a well crafted brand personality should, it actually repulses them. This doesn’t mean a brand can’t be bold, but if you are going to go that route then make sure it’s a tasteful or noble kind of bold that doesn’t put people off. The personality of your brand should be unique, but being unique in and of itself is not a good thing. You want your brand to stand out because it does a better job of engaging with your target audience than the competition, not because it’s loud and obnoxious.
Striking a balance
Imagine a new men’s clothing brand for a moment. The brand represents a company that specializes in creating durable work clothes for men in the trades. The company wants their brand to have a strong, confident personality. This is the right personality to connect with the target audience of working men, but if it is pushed too far it will come off as proud and arrogant. Instead of being compelled to buy into the ethos of the brand, the target audience will recoil from the assumption that all people who identify with this brand have an arrogant streak. “Your brand personality shouldn’t be a stereotype of your customers,” writes Aaron Agius of Business2Community.com, “but people who buy your products should be able to see themselves – or what they aspire to be – in the face of your company.”
Your audience should never feel threatened, belittled or taken for granted as a result of your brand’s personality. At the same time, you need to create a personality that is notable enough to effectively connect with people. Think about the last time you met someone that you genuinely liked and were impressed by. Your subconscious reaction was not only to trust this person, but to tell your friends about them. In the digital age, an effective brand personality needs to be as shareable as it is desirable. If your brand has a strong personality but it hasn’t been as effective as you’d hoped, think about what traits you might need to adjust.
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