Why do you buy your particular brand of toothpaste? Why do you drive the car you drive or wear the type of sneakers you wear?
Part of it, to be sure, has to do with value; you feel you’re getting a worthwhile return on the money you spent. But what about about those brands you still buy even though they’re not the cheapest?
A big factor that keeps consumers coming back again and again is the brand’s personality: its defining set of characteristics (almost like a human’s!) that set it apart from competitors and drive plain old customers into lifelong supporters.
The Strength of a Brand
Brand personality is that hard-to-define factor that leads someone to drive a Ford over a Prius or shop at a mom-and-pop store instead of a big box chain. Defining your brand’s personality helps connect you with your niche. It aligns you more closely with the portion of the population you’re trying to sell to and sets your brand up for longevity.
According to research by advertising intelligence firm Millward Brown, one of the key measures of the strength of a brand’s personality is known as ‘bonding.’ When consumers are bonded to a brand, they feel a meaningful connection to it. In turn, they feel loyalty to said brand and place a high value on it.
A strongly bonded customer is much more likely to stick with a brand over time than one who’s weakly bonded or feels no bond at all.
Additional studies led by Korean researcher Chung Kim reinforce the theory that a strong brand personality is tied with having more loyal customers.
Defining your brand’s personality paves the way for a company that will outlive you. It’s a bit morbid to think about, but for some entrepreneurs their company is so closely tied to them as an individual that when they pass away, so does the brand.
When you consciously define a brand personality, you help give the company a life of its own—one that can be carried on long after you’re gone by successors who execute on the same characteristics that built the brand in the first place.
Setting Brand Guidelines
When you’ve built a company from the ground up, it can feel like a part of you. How can you separate “you” from “the company?” By setting a clear set of brand guidelines.
Brand guidelines not only help define the company, they help your management team make clear decisions without constantly having to come to you for approval. By asking, “does this fall within our brand guidelines?” your leaders will have much more clarity on the many decisions they’re faced with on a daily basis.
You can define your brand’s guidelines by examining three critical areas, which we’ve outlined below.
Who is my target customer?
Renowned marketer Seth Godin is credited for this nugget of wisdom: everyone is not your customer.
What does that mean? Don’t I want as many people as possible to find me and pay for what I’m selling?
Well, yes and no.
A 22-year-old man who just completed his finance degree is a starkly different person than a 42-year-old single mom who never finished high school. They have different wants, needs, expectations and experiences.
The factors that drive customer A to make a purchase are going to be completely different than those that drive customer B. If you try to market to both of them simultaneously, your message is going to fall flat.
In order to accurately define your brand’s personality, you need to get laser focused on your ideal customer. Does this mean no one else can buy what you’re selling? Of course not.
Your ideal customer, though, makes up the largest or most profitable portion of your audience. Therefore, they’re the person you must have in mind when making decisions that pertain to your company.
Here are a few major factors to consider when defining your target customer:
- Familial status
- Key pain points
- Key values
In other words, who is this person, and what makes them tick?
How do I communicate with my target customer?
Once you’ve defined who you’re speaking to, you need to figure out how you speak to them.
This includes not only the medium, be it Facebook or an ad in the newspaper, but also the more nuanced things like language and tone of voice you use when speaking to them.
Is your target audience the over-65 crowd? You’ll likely place a heavier focus on traditional mediums, like print, direct mail and radio to reach them. You’ll also use more traditional language and perhaps a more formal tone.
If your target audience is the college crowd, though, you want to have your finger on the pulse of the latest trends, communicate with them on digital mediums and use the same language they hear when chatting with friends, probably in a more casual style (all of this, of course, only if it’s genuine for your brand).
Going back once again to the decision-makers in your organization, they can easily determine if a decision is “on brand” by asking questions like is this something our target customer would say or talk about? What outcome would our target customer hope to see from this situation?
What relationship do I have with my target customer?
Or, more precisely, what relationship do I want to have with my target customer?
Do you want them to trust you? View you as a source of education? Entertainment?
Do you want to be the brand that makes them feel good after a hard day, or one that makes them feel empowered to make decisions?
The answers to these questions aren’t mutually exclusive, but thinking about them will help you nail down the relationship you strive to have and the experience you provide for your customers. It will guide everything from what you post on social media to whether you offer sale pricing and how you handle returns in your store.
If your goal is to build a long-lasting company that customers strongly identify with and feel loyal to, it’s time to hammer out the elements of your brand’s personality.
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