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What is Brand Personality

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What is Brand Personality

The brand personality construct has deep origins in consumer behavior. In particular, consumers tend to project their true or aspirational selves through their brands, and likewise, they tend to humanize brands to describe their differences beyond product attributes. The most common example is the personification of brands through celebrities, which is, of course, at the same time, a way for consumers to make sense of brands but also a way for brands to signal to consumers a certain sense of belonging. In this sense, brand personality is at the core of celebrity endorsement and influencer marketing.

We could define brand personality as the “set of human characteristics associated with the brand.”

The key to understanding brand personality is understanding how it is formed in consumers’ minds. While our perception of human nature is based on behavior, the brand’s equivalent is based on contact with the brand. So brand architecture, naming, design, communication, promotional efforts, distribution channels, and type of behavior in a crisis are all factors shaping our view of brand personality. This also entails that once we define a brand’s personality strategically, the design, communication style, and choice of distribution channels and promotional efforts must fit the personality construct.

The traditional view of Brand Personality

The traditional – and American-centric – framework from the end of the 90s posits that there are five dimensions sufficient to describe the humanization of a brand. Each one of these characteristics can also be declined through a limited set of attributes:

  1. Sincerity: Down-to-earth, Honest, Wholesome, Cheerful.
  2. Excitement: Daring, Spirited, Imaginative, Up-to-date.
  3. Competence: Reliable, Intelligent, Successful.
  4. Sophistication: Upper class, Charming.
  5. Ruggedness: Outdoorsy, Tough.

More recent global research proposes a newer, more international take on the five dimensions:

  1. Responsibility: Down-to-earth, Stable, Responsible.
  2. Activity: Active, Dynamic, Innovative.
  3. Aggressiveness: Aggressive, Bold.
  4. Simplicity: Ordinary, Simple.
  5. Emotionality: Romantic, Sentimental.

As usual, the choice of the framework has to do much more with the users’ confidence in the result than the framework’s efficacy. In other words, choose the framework you think is most suitable for your case.

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Why is Brand Personality significant?

In a nutshell, many marketing and commercial KPIs are connected with personality.

Trust and affect depend on this construct. In particular, sincerity and ruthlessness define a brand’s trustworthy potential, whereas excitement and sophistication determine how well consumers might emotionally connect with a brand.

Conversely, Brand Personality is also strongly linked with Purchase Intention. In many developed and emerging markets, there is a direct correlation between Excitement and consumers’ propensity to buy a product or service.

Of course, brand personality is an essential component of brand equity, but not the only one. It is critical as it sets the tone of voice and the look and feel of the brand. In this context, it helps build an emotional connection, which is essential in creating a long-term relationship with brands.

What factors influence Brand Personality?

While the industry or the category does not shape personality – suffice to think of Lamborgini and Volvo’s opposite personalities – the country of origin usually plays a role. This effect is not different from our cultural biases towards people from other countries. So, in a culture where the Swiss are perceived as precise and organized, a Swiss brand will likely share those same perceptions. With France and Italy being the countries of Fashion, good food, and wine, French and Italian brands often share a foodie, if not sophisticated, personality. This phenomenon is valid unless the brand’s look, feel, design, and execution completely clash with those cultural preconceptions, as in the case of FIAT, whose brand is neither sophisticated nor luxurious and not based on enjoyment. This is also the example of IKEA, which has a quintessential Swedish personality, but not the case of the royal luxury bed Hasten, from Koping in Sweden, which is perceived as super-sophisticated and whose products cost as much as 100,000 EUR!

Examples of Brand Personality

  • Coca-Cola is most often considered an exciting brand by its loyal consumers and a dishonest and unreliable one by its detractors.
  • Nike is a spirited, remarkable, and innovative brand that dares to push all athletes’ boundaries
  • Apple is an innovative and creative brand that empowers people through technology.
  • Versace: is an edgy, and sophisticated,
  • Louis Vuitton and Giorgio Armani are traditional and sophisticated, whereas Versace and Dolce & Gabbana have glamorous and edgy perceptions.
  • Harley Davidson has a rebellious character, whereas Ducati is more sophisticated and innovative.
  • Amazon is about competence, although the brand suffers at the level of trust.

In conclusions

Brand Personality is crucial in establishing the emotional connection between a brand and its consumers. It affects all parts of the design, communication channels, and other aspects of the route to market. In this sense, Brand Personality is a delivery mechanism for the Essence of a brand.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can small businesses or startups develop a strong brand personality with limited resources?

Small businesses and startups can develop a strong brand personality by focusing on their unique strengths and values that differentiate them from competitors. Start by defining the brand’s core values and mission, and then determine how these can be communicated through a distinct personality. Leverage storytelling to convey the brand’s background, mission, and the people behind it, which doesn’t require a large budget but can significantly impact audience connection. Utilize social media platforms to consistently showcase the brand’s personality, engaging directly with the audience through content that reflects the brand’s voice and tone. Collaborations with influencers or other brands that share similar values can amplify your brand personality without extensive resources.

Can brand personality evolve, and how should a company manage this evolution to maintain customer loyalty?

Yes, a brand personality can and often does evolve to reflect company strategy changes, market trends, or customer expectations. To manage this evolution while maintaining customer loyalty, it’s crucial to keep the core values and Essence of the brand intact. Any changes to the brand personality should be gradual and purposeful and communicated transparently to the audience. Engage customers in the evolution process through feedback and co-creation opportunities, making them feel part of the brand’s journey. Consistently reinforce the connection between the brand’s roots and its future direction to ensure that changes are seen as growth rather than a departure from the brand’s identity.

How do digital platforms and social media influence the perception of a brand’s personality, and what strategies should brands adopt to ensure consistency across these channels?

Digital platforms and social media significantly influence the perception of a brand’s personality by providing audiences with direct and interactive communication channels. These platforms can amplify certain brand personality traits, making consistency crucial. Brands should adopt a unified voice and tone across all digital channels, reflecting their defined brand personality. Content should be tailored to each platform while maintaining this consistent voice to engage different audience segments effectively. Regular monitoring and engagement with the audience can help manage and adjust the brand’s online presence. Social listening tools can provide insights into how the brand’s personality is perceived, allowing adjustments to ensure alignment with the intended brand image.

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