Brands with personality
In our new social media and social business landscape, the expectations we have of brands and people are changing abruptly.
Brands are becoming more personalised (to the consumer) and also becoming more personable (having more characteristics of a person). At the same time, our personal brands (in many cases largely comprising our consumer brand choices) are becoming stronger and more prominent.
This is eroding the barriers between brands and people. Let’s examine this further, looking firstly at successful personal brands, and then at company brands which have created a value proposition by what buying them says about our personality, and finally by looking at companies which are succeeding in creating personable brands.
Personality that shines through
Let’s start by taking a look at well known people who have developed a strong personal brand (I’m Australian, so my list will reflect this). These people are all famous for some reason, but they’ve gone beyond that by branding themselves in a way which makes them more memorable, meaningful and appealing.
|Dr Harry CooperSteve Irwin
|Richard BransonJamie Oliver
|Julia GillardKarl Sandelands
OK, so most of these people are influential within their sphere. They have money, fame, and/or power. But the reason they are most recognisable is that they have a strong personal brand. Their personality shines through. We can imagine them dressed in their particular style. We know what they like doing, what they stand for and where they hang out. There is a certain way we expect them to behave and it bothers us when they don’t.
Brands Create Value
A strong brand creates premium value. To some degree, a brand is value. Some top athletes make zero money unless they attract a major brand sponsorship. Being good is just not enough – both athlete and brand rely on each other to maintain the strength and value of the brand.
The value of a brand relies on strong positive associations – included in our list of strong personal brands are a few which have eroded their value by behaving in a way which is not consistent with their brand.
“The top people in an industry have become brands, The top brands are trying to become more personal” – Dallas McMillan
Companies with personality
Now let’s take a look at a few companies which have developed a striking, powerful brand.
|King Island BeefBMW
Now these companies have become successful by creating high quality products. But even when there’s a rival product that’s technically superior, these companies garner more loyal followers, command a higher price, and have extra clout in the marketplace.
So what do these brands stand for?
In each case they are mass-producing a product, whether it be cars, watches, furniture or books. They are one of many players in the market, yet they’ve positioned themselves as being superior in value, or quality, or other positive association, and can thus command a higher price in their marketplace.
Does Nike’s brand say ‘sportswear’? Does BMW say ‘car’? Not really! In each case, the brand represents something about the people who buy it, rather than the product itself – maybe that they are ‘cool’, ‘successful’, ‘affluent’ or ‘adventurous’.
The people who choose these brands may tell themselves they want the best quality, or need specific features, but they are really choosing the brand because of what it says about them.
Our consumer decisions are part of our personal brand
Social media like Facebook and especially MySpace (yes, it’s back!) are built around the human desire to facilitate and share these overt displays of taste or affluence.
This tendency to self-publicise looks set to continue as young people grow up in a world immersed in branding and marketing. These digital natives are often acutely sensitive to the nuanced meanings associated with brands in their life. Narcissistic? Yes, but no more so than other generations with their fixations on BMWs, power suits and designer sunglasses. The inclination to define and broadcast our personality through what we buy, use, wear or drive hasn’t changed; it’s just become easier to achieve.
You cannot escape your brand
What this means is that as a business you can’t neglect your brand, and you can’t afford to get it wrong. A weak brand will limit your business success anyway, but with the intense focus and amplification of online marketing and social media, a strong brand can generate enormous value, while digital faux-pas can seriously damage your image.
Great brands make things personal
Great brands succeed because they make it personal. They offer unique value which is only available to their customers – like an exclusive club you canonly be a part of if you buy the product. Brands often achieve this by marketing themselves through brand advocates, people whose opinion customers will trust. Nike pays millions for celebrity sports stars (with a strong personal brand, naturally), always looking for a good match between the person and the brand.