Think about your favorite three brands. Just close your eyes, and allow your top three brands to pop into your head.
There are, undoubtedly, a host of reasons you’re attracted to these brands. But whether you realize it or not, one of the things you’re likely most attracted to are their personalities.
I meet a lot of small business owners who believe that logos, colors and fonts drive brands.
When we first begin to “brand,” these are the things we focus on. I hear entrepreneurs say, “I just hired a designer to do my brand,” or “I just branded my website.”
This approach leaves a tremendous amount of unfinished business on the table. And one of the juiciest pieces it overlooks is brand personality.
I challenge my clients to answer this question: If your brand was a person, who would it be?
For many of us, the answer is: me. I’m branding me. But that’s not the case for all brands. Lots of businesses are branding a product, or a service, or a company. And even if it’s true that you’re branding yourself, it’s critical that you understand the nuances and elements of your own persona, so you can present them consistently for your clients and followers.
I always find these conversations most useful if I can present examples from the big boys.
So let’s talk about Nike.
Wanna hang out with the person that Nike is? I do. I love this person. Nike is the friend who encourages me to run an extra mile. The coach who won’t let me off the hook. The trainer who tells me the truth. The enthusiast who sees every game as a test of wills, a challenge of the spirit.
You won’t find Nike lying on the couch. You won’t find Nike making excuses or taking the weekend off. Not whining or whispering or encouraging you to give yourself a break. Not Nike.
The Nike brand has a powerful, direct, forceful, competitive, no-nonsense personality.
Nike, after all, challenged the entire world to, “Just do it.” They didn’t say, “Just try it.” Or “Think about it, if you get a chance,” or “We believe in you! You can do it!” Nope. There’s no pussyfooting around with Nike. They tell us what to do. They tell us how it is.
In fact, Nike declares, in no uncertain terms, that it is the brand for athletes. But Nike goes further. Nike provides a definition for the word athlete: “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” So if I’m a fan of Nike, I don’t get to hold back because I’m a beginner or because I’m overweight or because I’m 49. Nike tells me, unabashedly, that I have no excuses.
Nike presents bold photos of athletes in various states of challenge. They use big, bold words in big, bold letters, in big, bold colors. They show sweat, hustle, drive and perseverance.
Nike shouts at me. And you know what, I listen?
And here’s another thing about Nike’s personality (and any great brand personality): it never wavers.
You know those people in real life who are like tofu? The ones who take on the flavor of whomever they’re around? The ones who don’t know who they really are? Man, I hate hanging around with those people. They drive me nuts. I like to know what I’m getting.
And when Nike shows up at a party, at a race, at a tennis match, at the swimming pool… I know just what I’m going to get. I doesn’t matter WHOM Nike hangs around with, either. Nike talks the same way to an 18-year-old female cross-fit competitor as it does to a 50-year-old male golfer. Nike isn’t two-faced. Or four-faced.
Nike shows up and delivers, in the same voice, with the same views, wearing some form of the same outfit, every single time.
I can’t tell you how disappointed I would feel if I showed up at the Nike website and they said, “We’re honored to provide a safe space where you can explore your deepest feelings and fears around running. We want to facilitate a process that helps you get in touch with your anxiety and destructive thoughts. And we want you to know it’s OK. It’s OK to be a beginner. Everyone has to start somewhere. So take time, and be gentle with yourself.”
Seriously? I would sh*% my pants.
So how do you create a personality for your brand? How do you ensure that every time you show up, you present yourself to the world in the same way? You engineer that personality. Carefully, deliberately, with serious consideration and thorough planning.
You ask yourself the question: If my brand was a person, who would it be?
How old is your brand? Is it a man or a woman? Is your brand loud or quiet? Forceful or gentle? Does it speak with an accent or a local dialect? Is it sassy or sweet? Formal or casual? Sporty? Booksmart? Elegant? Irreverent? Where did it come from? What does it believe? What are its pet peeves? Its soapbox rants?
Google the phrases: “personality attributes” and “personality traits.” You’ll find massive lists of elements that comprise any personality.
Create an inventory of the attributes and traits your brand possesses.
Keep this list by your side when you write, speak, design, present or show up anywhere on behalf of the brand. Give the list to the designers, writers, agencies or PR firms that work on behalf of the brand. Remain consistent, day-in and day-out, to your brand’s personality.
Develop a consistent voice and tone for your brand, based on its personality traits.
How would your brand invite someone to a party?
“Hey, ya’ll… get up and get down here! We’re about to party our faces off and raise a ruckus! And it won’t be the same without you!!”
Or would it say…
“We’d like to cordially invite you to a holiday soiree. Join us as we ring in the New Year with the friends and faces we hold dear.”
Or would it say…
“Girlfriend, it’s ON!! No joke. You do NOT want to miss this.”
Or would it say…
“Potluck. Saturday. Lincoln Park. Bring a dish and whatever you’re drinking. We’ll bring the music and Frisbees.”
I find that a lot of businesses skip this personality aspect of branding, all together. The personality is accidental. It grows over time. And in doing so, it misses the flavor, the intensity, and the specifics that make it… well, a personality.
Here’s the best part about developing a persona for your brand: it’s a blast.
Take it all the way. Create that list of attributes. Then a list of “power words” associated with your brand. A list of key phrases. A color palette. A set of iconic photos. A life story. A mood board (a wardrobe), if you so choose.
Don’t skip the personality step when you’re branding your business. It’s critical for several reasons.
First, people don’t identify with companies. They identify with people. And the more your brand behaves like a person, the more apt you are to connect.
Second, your followers will come to count on you, and to trust you. Familiarity breeds trust. And people need to bump into you, again and again, and encounter those traits with which they’ve become familiar.
Third, the key to branding is standing out – not fitting in. You need to rise up out of the crowd. You need to be seen and heard. And you do that with an interesting, engaging, unique personality.
Last, your brand needs to be authentic. And authentic people are consistent. They’re true to their values and their own “ways.” If you waffle back and forth – if you change your brand’s personality based on the audience or the situation – your followers will feel it. And they’ll lose faith in you.
What’s your brand personality all about? Share some of your traits or attributes in the comments below. I’m dying to meet you.