BRAND PERSONALITY: HOW TO IDENTIFY AND INFLUENCE

Branding

Have you ever noticed that even though two brands sell similar products or provide the same service, you seem to relate to one better than the other? This is down to brand personality. What about your own brand? Have you thought about its personality and with whom it resonates most?

If you’re reading and this thinking “but I don’t have a brand”, if you have a website, professional social account or blog – you’re wrong; you have a brand whether you intended to or not.

A brand is not something that you, as the owner, can simply write down upon conception and say, “this is what we are” – not quite anyway. Instead, a brand is down to how your company/product is interpreted by the consumer. You can, of course, manage this interpretation by displaying certain characteristics through your branding and pretty much everything your company does.

WHAT IS BRAND PERSONALITY?

Whether we’re aware we’re doing it, or not, we attribute human characteristics to brand names. These characteristics combine to form brand personalities. It is these unique personalities which deem the success or failure of a brand’s connection with its key demographic.

Brand personality can be established and influenced by any contact we, the consumers, have with said brand. Of course, the branding, imagery and advertising contributes greatly towards building a brand personality, but it’s not only marketing; all of the following can have an effect:

  • Product-related attributes
  • Industry
  • Price
  • Distribution channel
  • Employees, Directors, CEO etc.
  • Endorsers
  • Characteristics of a typical user

It is a brand’s personality that determines the emotional reaction to a brand by the consumer.

THE FIVE DIMENSIONS OF BRAND PERSONALITY

In 1997 J.L. Aaker – then Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Anderson School of Management, University of California – defined the five dimensions of brand personality. Today, this is still the most common method by which brand personality can be defined.

These five dimensions each possess different facets, which in turn possess individual traits, as shown below:

Sincerity

Excitement

Competence

Sophistication

Ruggedness

 

Aaker’s research asked participants to give different brands scores of between 1 and 5 for each of the traits (in fact there were 114 traits in total before they were narrowed down) where 1 equalled ‘not at all’ descriptive of the brand and 5 equalled ‘extremely descriptive’. So, for example:Apple might score highly for traits such as ‘intelligent’, ‘up-to-date’, ‘young’ and ‘leader’. It would score low however for traits like ‘outdoorsy’, ‘wholesome’ and ‘sentimental’. Added together, Apple would score highest in the ‘excitement’ dimension, followed by ‘competence’. If I left it at that, you might think that these results are more influenced by the industry or niche of the brand, and not by the brand personality. Yes, that’s always going to affect the scores because it does affect the brand personality itself.How about we look at three different brands all in the same industry: vehicles/motoring? Score the following three brands 1-5 for each of the facets:

  • Land Rover
  • Mini
  • Porsche

STOP! If you’re going to have a go at this yourself, try not to read my results beforehand, come back after to see if we got the same!Have you done it?OK, here’s what I got…Land Rover – RuggednessMini – ExcitementPorsche – Sophistication. Of course these results are representative of my feelings towards the brands alone. To get a more accurate idea of each brand’s personality, multiple people representative of a wider population would need to be tested and an average score for each trait would be taken. Though I scored these three car brands similarly high for several traits such as ‘exciting’ and ‘Western’, and similarly low for ‘wholesome’ and ‘sentimental’, the results differed drastically for other traits like ‘glamorous’ and ‘young’. These differing results demonstrate that, although a brand’s personality will be influenced in some way due to its industry, it is not decided by this factor alone.

PERSONIFICATION OF A BRAND

When thinking about a brand’s personality, we’re usually thinking about the ‘type of person’ we believe to be a regular user/owner of the brand. So Porsche may represent a good looking, upper class and successful woman. Whereas Land Rover could represent a rugged, hard-working man.I think a good example of this is to consider our different supermarkets. In the UK we have a number of popular stores with varying levels of expense and therefore varying customer demographics. Waitrose, for example, could be seen as middle/upper class, and dare I say, perhaps even ‘snobby’. People feel differently towards different personalities, whether it’s the personality of an actual person or whether it’s a brand. Some people would therefore identify with, and even aspire to, the Waitrose personality and the subsequent image of its clientele. Whereas others would feel it to be too pretentious, preferring a more ‘down-to-earth’ supermarket brand.

BRAND PERSONALITY AS SELF-EXPRESSION

Some brands so successfully portray a particular personality that the brand itself is used by consumers to express their own identity, or at least a facet of their identity. Consider Fitbit. This new brand reached the market at the perfect time to benefit from a noticeable rise in consumer interest in health and fitness. Consequently, Fitbit has become a way for consumers to express their interest in fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Owning this brand communicates that you are up to date, tough and a leader, as well as other niche-related personality traits such as fit, active and even sexy! A second brand which immediately comes to mind is Starbucks. Who are you if you don’t have a picture of a Starbuck’s cup with your name on it somewhere in your various social media accounts? I’m joking, of course, but you’ve definitely seen them!I think that people who advertise that they go to Starbucks wish to signal that they’re mature and sophisticated. As with Fitbit, it demonstrates a sense of belonging to a big group or movement. I’ve been to Starbucks countless times and seen groups of young teenage girls and boys who inevitably all buy a Starbucks juice. Are these kids there because Starbucks sells the best juice? Or is it because they feel more mature engaging with a popular coffee brand?

CONSIDER YOUR BRAND PERSONALITY

Once established, a brand personality is long-lasting and difficult, although not impossible, to change. So think carefully about the personality portrayed by your brand because it could be difficult to change consumers’ minds once established.

Affiliate Manager