What if your company were a person—someone you can sit down with, take out to lunch, and let babysit your kids?
Would you like them as you would a best friend, or would you screen their calls?
Often we think of our brands as a foreign identity, a corporate brick-and-mortar presence, without recognizing that its external reputation is like that of a person's.
People by nature humanize things. From "I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER?" to creepy mops with faces, we give personality to things that likely have none, because doing so makes them relatable.
But when attempting to define, understand, and promote our brands, we often have an orthodox, impersonal way of doing things. We define our brands through the colors we use, our value proposition statements, and target market. Yet, in the end, we market to humans—and humans, by nature, do not care about what you are... they care about who you are.
By building our brands from the inside out, we can connect with our values, goals, and customers even more. A brand (as many of us know) is more than just a mission statement. It's an overall reputation.
That's where brand personification comes in.
Brand personification can be defined as "a Projective Technique that asks people to think about brands as if they were people and to describe how the brands would think and feel," according to mktresearch.org.
It is a compelling and intuitive method for taking a step back and gaining clarity on who your brand is and what kind of impression you're making on the world.
It's a powerful approach not merely in the case of big corporations that minutely study consumer behavior; it's also applicable to nonprofits and small businesses, where a reputation is a crucial and fundamental part of your business.
A company's reputation (i.e., external personality) dictates the success of the brand.
Luckily, you can take fours steps right now with your business development and marketing team to better understand your brand, so let's get started.
Step 1: Explore your brand's personality
We begin by exploring our brand's personality. Start the process by discussing a series of questions such as these and writing the answers down on a whiteboard:
- Would your brand be a male or female?
- Is he street-smart or book-smart?
- Is she social or an introvert?
- Does he have compassion or is he an authoritarian?
- Would you trust her?
These questions are just a baseline. Feel free to explore further.
Questions should be about personality traits. Don't just look for positive traits; that's not the point of the exercise. Like all people, your brand will be flawed. Dig into her flaws and embrace them. If, for example, you often fall behind on deliverables, how would that reflect in your brand's personality?
Step 2: Ask why
Follow up with these questions by asking your team (or yourself) "why do you think that?" Exploring why you answered the questions the way you did will allow you to understand whether you're holding true to the brand's values or whether the brand is being misrepresented in the marketplace.
Perhaps your team thinks the brand's personality is a bit introverted. Is that because you're not active in social media or you're somehow lacking in client relations?
Or maybe your team thinks your brand is male. Is that because of the colors you use, or the tone of voice used in your communications?
Step 3: Visualize your brand
You've explored who your brand is and why—now it's time to meet. On the whiteboard, write a name. It doesn't have to be the name of your brand; give him a name that fits his personality.
Now that you have a name, give him a face. A powerful method is to have everyone bring in a picture of someone they think represents the brand's personality. Pay attention to subtleties, such as clothing and cleanliness. Is he well-dressed or kind of a slob? Does she look tired or is she full of energy? Such small details can say a lot about who your brand is.
If you're selling grunge rock apparel, maybe laid back is a good thing. If you're selling high-end scientific equipment... maybe your brand needs a makeover.
Step 4: Evaluate who you are and who you want to be
By understanding who your brand is instead of what your brand is, you can begin to formulate effective marketing strategies and company values around "him" or "her." Ask questions such as "Who are his friends?" "If he's kind of an introvert, should he be more social?" "If we can't bring him home to mom, who will?"
If you like what you hear, then you know you're on the right track. If not, maybe it's time to re-evaluate.
Have you met your brand? If not, go ahead, give it a shot. It's waiting to meet you, too.