The brand personality construct has deep origins in consumer behavior. In particular, consumers tend to project their true or aspirational self 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.
Net, 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 the choice of distribution channels and promotional efforts need to 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:
- Sincerity: Down-to-earth, Honest, Wholesome, Cheerful.
- Excitement: Daring, Spirited, Imaginative, Up-to-date.
- Competence: Reliable, Intelligent, Successful.
- Sophistication: Upper class, Charming.
- Ruggedness: Outdoorsy, Tough.
More recent global research proposes a newer, more international take on the five dimensions:
- Responsibility: Down-to-earth, Stable, Responsible.
- Activity: Active, Dynamic, Innovative.
- Aggressiveness: Aggressive, Bold.
- Simplicity: Ordinary, Simple.
- 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 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 Ruggedness define a brand’s trustworthy potential, whereas, Excitement and Sophistication determine how well consumers’ might emotionally connect with a brand.
On the other end, 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. And in this context, it helps build the emotional connection, which is essential in building a long-term relationship with brands.
What factors influence Brand Personality?
While the industry or the category do 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 an epicurean 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 not sophisticated, nor luxury, 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 which dares to push the boundaries of all athletes.
- Apple: is an innovative and creative brand, empowering people through technology.
- Versace: is an edgy, and sophisticated,
- Louis Vuitton and Giorgio Armani are traditional and sophisticated, whereas Versace and Dolce & Gabbana have glamourous and edgy perceptions.
- Harley Davidson has a rebellious character, whereas Ducati has a more sophisticated and innovative one.
- Amazon is really about competence, although the brand suffers at the level of trust.
Brand Personality is a crucial construct in establishing the necessary emotional connection between a brand and its consumers. It affects all parts of the design, communication and channels, and other aspects of the route to market. In this sense, Brand Personality is a delivery mechanism for the Essence of a brand.