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What to do when you think your Brand is the Princess Bride and your consumer thinks your Brand is the Bride of Frankenstein!

Brand Character:  The Path to Passion

How can this happen?  We find ourselves working feverishly to find a unique benefit or selling proposition that helps our brands stand apart amidst competition or the one-of-a-kind reason-to-believe our brand delivers the benefit, but we often give lip-service at best to the brand’s personality or character, which for some brands, is often the only thing that allows it to stand apart. Today, it is often the most neglected part of a brand communication strategy.

What you think your brand character is may not be what the consumer perceives it to be.  It is important to know because the character of your brand allows you to bond at an emotional level with your consumer in order to develop a relationship that is unique and, what can ultimately be the driving force behind his or her purchase decision. So it becomes extremely important to pay extra attention to this part of your strategy so your consumers sees and relates to your brand as you intend her to see it and relate to it.

Image involves distance. Character involves dialogue. It’s personal and human.  It allows you to connect.

The Difference between Image and Character:

Image is the way others view you. Image is also how you view yourself. Image is generally your physical appearance combined with your personality that is portrayed to others. A character or personality is the sum total

of the physical, mental, emotional, and social characteristics of an individual that we get to know intimately.

So, while Image is perception, Character would be the true essence of the individual – his or her “Soul”.  What is the “Soul” of your brand?

Think Nike, Target, Gap, Bud Light, Apple, ESPN, Axe or Geico.  The character or “Soul” of these brands has been instrumental in driving their successes.  Consumers relate to these brands not only because they

“deliver the goods” but they do it in a way that resonates not only in the mind of the consumer but, importantly, in their hearts. Nike is about authentic athleticism. ESPN is the fun sports authority that doesn’t take itself

too seriously.  Axe is unapologetically sexist. Target is fun, hip and cool and always surprising.

It is becoming harder to deliver a winning brand in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Creating a powerful brand character can increase your brand’s relevance to your consumer and can make the difference for

success. Your brand character can sometimes provide the only basis for your target consumer’s relationship with your brand.  This is especially important if you’re competing in a parity or commodity category.  It could be your only real point of difference!

So what is the purpose of your Brand Character?

It serves as a general guideline in establishing how the brand is portrayed in all marketing and communication efforts – and can be a sustainable point of differentiation.

  • It provides a personal extension of who the consumer is and how they express themselves and create an identity.  Some consumers wear a brand as a badge.
  • It therefore provides the emotional connection with your target.
  • It also inspires your creative partners to come up with visuals and drama (music, casting, settings, etc.) that grabs consumers’ attention and over time builds a relationship.
  • It not only guides the creatives’ work, it also guides the line manager’s evaluation of the advertising.

The Best Character Statements are: 

  • Clear, without too many ideas.
  • Distinctive in your category.
  • Emotionally provocative
  • Inspirational to your creatives.
  • Communicated in every piece of marketing communication.

But remember, the character of your brand is not the character of your target audience, it’s not just a set of adjectives. It is a single-minded statement which reflects the unique personality which your brand brings to the category.  These are subjective impressions that allow the consumer to connect to your brand on an emotional level. Think of your brand as a real person!

An example: an energy bar described its character as a “passionate leader that is goal oriented and athletic”. Not bad, but it could be translated into many different characters.  Think LeBron James or Kobe Bryant.  Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.  Tiger Woods or Phil Mickleson.

All the adjectives can be used to describe these individuals.  But you have to ask yourself: Am I Phil or Tiger?  Lebron or Kobe? Tom or Peyton?  A more specific description might be better.  Something like this:

The Guy whose passion for competition is contagious, inspiring all around him to play harder and dig deeper within themselves to be the best.  He’s the person friends seek out because he knows how to win and enjoy life.” 

Or it can also be as simple as: “Scientist in a black t-shirt” for a brand like Porsche.  In any case, we should get a clear idea who this person (brand) is without ambiguity so it is crystal clear to the creative team what the character is so they can bring it to life.

How do we get there? 

Accumulate as much data about your target consumer as possible, particularly their psychographics – i.e. what they like to do, who they admire, what they aspire to be.  What is their attitude about life, what movies do they watch, what kind of cars do they drive, what kind of sports/leisure activities do they indulge in or are spectators of? Digging deep into your consumer research or conducting additional research will help you determine what kind of personality they would most relate to.  

Determine the character real estate in your category.  Define the characters of your competitors and put a stake in the sand as to where you want to reside.  You must differentiate and find an ownable character.

Many firms specialize in helping brands develop or uncover brand character.  It would behoove a brand to get help to investigate who their brand is in the mind of the consumer and how unique it is within the category.  If it’s exactly where you want to be, write it down without ambiguity.  If it’s not where you want to be, start digging.  Dig into your consumer data, dig into the category character real estate and dig a stake in the ground and start writing!

You don’t want the consumer to just like your brand.  You want them to have passion for it.  Brand Character is the path to passion.