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Create your organization’s brand personality for more impact

By Kim Harrison

Author and Principal of www.cuttingedgepr.com

My wife Linda and I love travelling, and recently we looked on TripAdvisor and Airbnb for holiday accommodation overseas.

Looking for suitable places requires some care because some of the description provided by hosts can be different from the reality.

For instance, on one of those sites we saw an apartment in a lovely setting in Slovenia in Europe, only to notice at the edge of one of the site photos that there is a railway line situated only a few metres away.

On a previous trip we found a place in Geneva that looked promising. Arriving late at night, we found the bedroom window was about two metres from a busy highway! Too late to move out! Same with a place in Bali, where people rode noisy motorbikes to work from 5.30 am on a road right next to the wall of our bedroom.

Lovely places, but the overall experience was marred. As a result of these experiences, we find it is important to read visitor reviews because they tell the real story (apart from the nitpickers and faultfinders, of course!)

All these experiences point to the importance of the customer experience and brand consistency.

Maintaining a consistent brand presence is vital in the tone and messaging in all customer contacts. This includes direct environments such as retail outlets, events, signage and printed material, and also online environments such as your website, blog, social media channels. Employees are central to this due to their contacts with customers in various ways.

Think of your brand as a person

Brand personality is the way a brand speaks and behaves. It involves giving human personality characteristics to a brand to create a difference in perception by the consumer. These differences are apparent through the behaviour of people representing the brand, especially employees, as well as through marketing activities. In essence, brand personality is the result of all the consumer’s experiences with the brand – their relationship with the brand. It is unique and long lasting.

Brand personality helps consumers distinguish between similar brands. For instance – Toyota versus Mazda.

Brand personality and celebrity endorsement should be complementary. The characteristics of a celebrity associated with a brand ensure immediate awareness, acceptability and optimism towards the brand. This will influence a consumer’s purchase decision and also create brand loyalty.

How to identify your brand’s personality

A brand’s personality can be obtained from keywords that best describe your brand’s character as if your brand is a person. You think about how you want your brand to be perceived by your target audience – how it wants to make them feel. You can conduct a powerful branding activity with your team, which is simple and fun. Follow the directions in the graphic below, which is from the book by How to Launch a Brand by US branding consultant Fabian Geyrhalter.

After compiling your list of keywords, associate each keyword with one or more brand personality archetypes. Archetypes that Geyrhalter likes using are shown below, along with example keywords:

At the end of that exercise you will see which three personality archetypes have the most keywords associated with them. Those are the personality traits your brand needs to fully represent in all relevant communication activity.

This simple yet very meaningful exercise should assist in defining the company name, the brand identity design as well as the brand atmosphere.

Geyrhalter uses Target stores as a familiar example. The three most likely archetypes from the above diagram that relate to Target are as a friend, mother, and a dreamer.

Keywords in other similar brand personality development systems have found Dove as honest, feminist and optimist, and the HP brand represents accomplishment, competency and influence. Infosys represents uniqueness, value, and intellectualism.

Brand character or personality document

To ensure quality and consistency of brand, you should develop a brand character or personality document, which brings together all the elements involved in projecting your organization’s character. The brand personality document should include:

  • Mission statement and corporate values
  • Key messages – organizational and brand
  • Taglines, positioning statements, and boilerplate (standard text describing your organization, and used for example at the end of media releases)
  • Key stakeholders
  • Ideal customers, either real or as buyer personas, which are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers.
  • Tone and voice guidelines. Agree on several adjectives that describe your company. List them and describe how your organization lives them.
  • Qualifying statements – discussed below.
  • Business and industry jargon that can and can’t be used
  • Disclaimers and guidelines for your industry, eg financial and health sector legal requirements

Qualifying statements relate to your organization’s mission and values. They help to show the unique features of your organization’s personality. These statements should look like:

  • We believe _____
  • We always _____
  • We never _____
  • We like _____
  • We hate _____
  • We avoid _____
  • Our customer look to us for ____
  • We are at our best when _____

It will be fun and will create lots of new insights to develop your organization’s brand personality. I’ve done it with my organization and found it very worthwhile for developing our website themes. Make sure you do this valuable activity.