Could your brand personality do with some personality?

10 May

We marketers are fond of saying brands are like people.

They need personalities, or risk failing to engage on any level beyond functional fulfillment – hardly a ringing endorsement.

But here’s the problem with most brands: their personalities make them bland, relentless, positive do-gooders.

I see this all the time in brand expressions: X Brand is optimistic, helpful, professional, smart and resourceful.

This “person” sounds absolutely dead-boring! Would you like a friend like that? Someone who has no flaws whatsoever? How could you relate to such a perfect individual? It’s often our flaws and excesses – or our edge – that make us interesting and unforgettable to others.

So most brands are just caricatures, one-dimensional saints and philanthropists.

Let’s give X Brand a bit of a personality makeover.

What if X Band was: optimistic but experienced enough to be realistic; helpful although quick to admit when bigger guns need to be brought in; professional with a tendency to eat lunch while talking on the phone; smart but realizes it takes a lot of hard work to be smart; and resourceful, although always more so after the first coffee of the day.

Wouldn’t you be more inclined to inch towards it?

This new brand has also given itself some breathing room to have fun in the expression of its personality through advertising.

(Faceless by larafairie)


17 Responses to “Could your brand personality do with some personality?”

  1. Renee May 10, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    I want to meet Brand X…seems like someone is want to work or hang out with!

  2. Renee May 10, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    Oops…someone I want to hang out with.

    Haven’t had my first cuppa yet. Inclined to misspell before my javahhhh.

  3. dougbrowncreative May 10, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    That would make you a real person Renee and not a boring do-gooder brand! 🙂

  4. Dennis van Lith May 10, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    I didn’t realise you knew me so well Doug (first X Brand is a true representation of my personality) and yes perfect is rather difficult. Haha.
    After reading “Married to the Brand” by William J. McEwen I wouldn’t want to marry that first personality.

  5. Amy May 10, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    X Brand is also human and prone to the occasional typo. But that’s okay because I can totally relate.

  6. dougbrowncreative May 10, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    > Dennis when I think of all the brands I have worked on that had only positive, single-word attributes in the brand personality statement (one financial institution has 13 adjectives…try getting all THEM crammed into one ad voice), I realize that brand development has a long way to go in terms of importance within the marketing solution mix.
    PS> I heard you weren’t perfect, but were getting there.

    > We all can relate Amy! That’s the point. We don’t want to have a relationship with someone we can’t relate to. Nice one.

  7. amyj May 10, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    I’m Jack in the Box.

  8. dougbrowncreative May 10, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    Speaking of Jack in the Box, did you notice where Burger King went the past few years with their advertising? The pranks and all that. No doubt the end result of some florid flushing out of the brand voice.

  9. dianajwalter May 10, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    Great description for Brand X! However, are consumers really looking for an imperfect brand past quirky advertising? Man-made products and services were made to enhance our feelings and fill our challenges so would we want to fill imperfection with further imperfection? If I seek a financial institution, would I want to leave my money or receive advice from a place that portrays itself as “resourceful, although always more so after the first coffee of the day”?

    I do agree that brands who have succeeded in making imperfections, perfection such as Dove have risen above the pack in their categories but I do think it is a very fine line to walk. I guess it all depends on the industry you are in and the way the story is told and that where advertising comes in.

  10. Bryan Dwyer May 10, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    When it comes to a brand personality, I believe authenticity matters. The brand that claims to be “optimistic, helpful, professional, smart and resourceful” and nothing else is not authentic.

    If customers want to interact with brands like they do people, brands need to take lessons from what we know about interpersonal relationships. If you are fake or one-dimensional you won’t connect with me in a meaningful way. You need to be yourself; you need to be authentic. And yourself is not just the flawed with the good. I believe it’s also the mundane and trivial.

    If Brand X loved sushi would it help or hinder? Would it matter at all?

  11. dougbrowncreative May 10, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    > Thanks Diana! I kind of agree and kind of don’t. Either we accept the notion of brands as personalities or we throw that out and call every brand PERFECT. In which case we are thinking like clients and not consumers. Naturally you don’t want to hear that your Toyota car functions better after a cup of coffee, so I take that fine line you refer to as meaning that a personality should be appropriate to the response you wish to elicit from your audience. Agreed.

    I do believe if marketers don’t lead the way in creating more human brands (and here’s where social media has led to increasingly human brand expressions), then businesses will continue to present themselves as flawless, something consumers just don’t believe in. There is a fine line, but there is always a fine line and ad agencies walk it everyday.

    > That’s an interesting point Bryan. Does the mundane and trivial matter? Does it matter to your friendships? It’s undeniably a part of life but do we measure and value the people we like by whether they go for Tekka Maki over Ume Shiso? Likely not. It’s part of life, but we engage so rarely with brands that the broad strokes are probably meat enough on the bones.

  12. Petra Franke May 10, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    hi Doug, some people don’t want real. they want a fantasy…they want something that they believe at the time will solve all their problems, make life just great. Thats the facade that some brands build their message on. Smart consumers, smart people eventually realize that a clean ,natural ,real ,message is what will make them happy…and give them the results they seek.

  13. dougbrowncreative May 10, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    Beautifully put Petra. Real brands create realistic expectations too…something that’s easier to live up to. Thanks for the comment.

  14. @lacouvee May 10, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    I agree with Bryan.

    And to your question Doug – “does the mundane and the trivial matter”- I say that the mundane and the trivial, in the long run, allow us to deepen our relationships and open the way to authentic communication.

    All of us – brands, institutions, individuals – are redefining our place/persona in the “new” online world. What makes it truly challenging is that this is “deep” work; it doesn’t happen over night, but only with practice and commitment to ongoing conversation.

  15. dougbrowncreative May 10, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    Thanks Janis. I suppose relevancy becomes a key issue when deciding how much of yourself you want to put out there, true for brands as well as people.

    I have always been drawn to the notion that we connect with brands on an emotional level, so that things like values become more important than chest-thumping adjectives.

  16. lacouvee May 10, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    I’m all for values in business and in life! They allow us to create the framework that all of our actions can be built upon. And each time we take an action, we can begin by asking “is this consistent with my/our values?”

    When the answer is “no” – it gives us pause for reflection.

  17. dougbrowncreative May 10, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    Values are also good barometers for our decisions. We don’t have to agonize over what to do in a particular situation: we simply align our actions with our values. Thanks for your contributions to the discussion today Janis!

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