Brand Personality: Not Just Marketing Fluff

Brand Personality: Not Just Marketing Fluff

Brand has changed a lot in the digital age, from complete ownership by the company establishing the brand, now to complete ownership by consumers who engage with the brand. Consumers may start with that initial brand message but ultimately embrace it unexpected ways which ultimately do define the brand. In other words, you can want your brand to stand for something, but it won’t if the people you’re targeting don’t buy into that. JCPenney and Ron Johnson’s attempt to remake the chain appeal to a younger, hipper audience are a now-classic example of how it’s always consumers who win when it comes to who ultimately gets to define your brand.

Since the time when consumers firmly took the reins from companies over who gets to define the brand, there has been the additional complication of Millennials, who want more from their brands than just values or attributes. They want their brands to stand for something. At the same time, their willingness to engage with brands has shifted away from passively consuming advertising to wanting to interact more directly – and they prefer to do that primarily through digital channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Brands now have to operate in this interactive space. To-date, most of them haven’t figured that out, and the old tools of brand and marketing haven’t served them well in navigating the shift. But in the end it’s not about the tools so much as redefining how those tools are used.

The Term “Persona” Has Baggage

In marketing, the term “persona” has been so overused that if it comes up in conversation today it is more likely to be met with groans than with enthusiasm. It was originally applied to consumer segments, as a mechanism for bringing life to what was ultimately a collection of averaged attributes. This was helpful in turning a pile of data into something that people could relate to, but I think part of its downfall was that it created a false sense that the company “knew” its customers, because “Look, my customer segmentations have names and jobs and pretty stock photo images attached to them, so I must know exactly who they are!”

The problem is that averages (even in carefully crafted customer segmentations) hide a lot of variability. I might fit most of the profile attributes of a soccer mom, but if you called me that I would laugh at you. “Soccer mom” was initially most useful to car companies looking to sell minivans – which in turn became such a shortcut way to identify a soccer mom that it became a self-reinforcing attribute…[Read More]