03 December 2015 11:53:00 IST

So, what is your brand’s personality?

Using clearly etched personalities make brands memorable and easy to recall

Just as people have personalities, brands too have personalities of their own. Like you call someone smart, aggressive, dull or impressive, can you similarly associate brands with such characteristics, which differentiate them from competition?

Let us remind ourselves as to what makes a brand successful. Successful brands are relevant to their consumers and are different from their competition.

My submission is that since brands are so similar in terms of attributes and performance, it can be a challenge to differentiate them from their competition. And yet, a brand with a clearly defined personality can stand out from its competitors. Before I get into examples, let me quickly tell you what brand personality is.

Brand personality is a set of human characteristics associated with a brand. Personality is how the brand behaves. Is it a male or female? How will he/she behave?

Now let me share with you examples of brands which have personalities that make them enduring, distinct and admired by customers the world over.

The choice of a new generation

One of the greatest marketing and advertising successes of my life is Pepsi, a global brand; a challenger which has given the market leader, Coke, sleepless nights.

As most people know, Coke is a market leader. But the image was conservative; even stodgy and basically old. But it was very much a part of America and its way of life. Lines like “I want to buy the world a coke” and how it was an integral part of the US way of life like Chevrolet and Apple Pie, made it so.

Pepsi realised that since youth was such an important segment, it would reach out to them. Not only to them but to the “young at heart” folks. Let me take you back in time to a classic commercial, Shady Acres .

The whole commercial is about salesmen accidentally delivering Pepsi, instead of Coke, at a retirement community. Here, you have people in their seventies and eighties jiving to rock and roll, even as they wear funky clothes that you might associate with people half their age. The coke, on the other hand, is delivered to a place with young people. But here, they are sipping it from straws and playing a boring game of bingo — so bored are they that some of them are dozing in their chairs!

As the salesmen realise their mistake, one of them says “Coke, Pepsi what’s the difference?”

The difference is in the brand’s personality and the brand that stands out different is Pepsi. It is common knowledge that in most taste tests, people are unable to differentiate between one beverage and the other even if they have been drinking it for years.

The same applies to beer and alcoholic beverages as well. People drink the imagery of the brands, not the taste. And that is where Pepsi’s brand character sets it apart from its competitor. Even older people would like to drink a brand that is young at heart.

Think different, think young

A brand that has differentiated itself in every possible way has been Apple, initially from IBM and later from Microsoft. Whilst its competitors have been corporate, almost straight laced, Apple has been cool, hep, creative and a non-conformist; a bit like its legendary founder, Steve Jobs, who lived the brand.

Apple, like Pepsi, has been cheeky, irreverent and has never missed an opportunity to take pot-shots at its competition. Windows owners, though they keep using the software, generally have a few things to say about it (non-performance) and the fact that it is constantly a work-in-progress. This is precisely what Apple does in this commercial , where it shows its competitor as someone who generally over-promises and doesn’t deliver expectations.

The brand’s advertising clearly shows Apple user as a young, casual youth in jeans and t-shirt. The Windows user is stodgy and bespectacled. The Apple user is younger, warmer and someone you might aspire to become, unlike the Windows user.

Clearly, we can see how brands like Pepsi, Apple and Nike in another category, are defining their brand character and using clearly etched personalities through a consistent, long-term branding and communication strategy which makes them memorable and easy to recall.

More to personality than advertising

It is easy to believe that brand personality is only about advertising. It is not, although advertising is an important contributor. If a brand is sophisticated, its personality is defined by its showroom, its sales people. Not to forget its website and even the choice of music in the showroom.

Perfume brands have sophisticated packaging that people can experience and the list goes on. The crucial aspect is to realise the importance of brand personality and to have a clear, long term strategy in place.

So how distinct is your brand’s personality?

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