How does a brand get a personality?

A brand should have a personality – just like a person. You can imagine this epiphany being celebrated by a Don Draper figure in the 60’s.

Your brand is like a person. It needs to persuade, delight, evoke trust and be liked. A boring brand is a boring person – they get forgotten about, instantly. Do you want your brand to be a boring person? Who is your brand? What does it say? Who is it friends with? What is your brands personality? It can be built, shaped, it can evolve – slightly. It can be edgy, say the wrong things for the right reasons, but it can be sickly sweet too – if it’s consumers are.

Don Draper, Mad Men (not really – I made it up)

It’s easy to sell this concept to businesses, because it’s so obviously right – but how difficult can building a brand really be?

Individuals create the best personalities.

These days it’s very common for a business to have a brand guideline or brand assets at least – with fonts, a logo, colours, icons and image treatments. A design team could have contributed to these, and that works well. A sense of the brand’s personality can be taken from that, but not the whole thing. The people responsible for the visual identity are often not the people who add the third dimension in terms of tone of voice and content.

A business which has put no further thought into this may have several people contributing to the external facing content. Each person will have their own style, their own writing tone, a way of doing things – and this can make for a muddled brand identity.

The best brands will usually have had one individual at the marketing helm who set the example and laid down the blueprint. They most probably did this without much effort. Why? Because the best personalities are natural.

This is when it’s time to extend your brand guidelines to cover tone of voice, video style, social media content examples etc.

The organic touch.

People relate to humanness. We can all pick up on a faker pretty quickly, and people who are forcing their persona too much. With this in mind, if the personality you give to your brand doesn’t ‘feel right’ then it won’t come over right either.

Someone who isn’t at all funny shouldn’t be put in charge of the social media feed for a brand who’s ‘thing’ is humour. Someone who hates science would probably struggle with writing blogs for a science museum. These are all obvious points, but we should realise that the brand and the people / person controlling it needs to match. If they don’t – your brand is a faker.

How do I get a brand personality again?

In my opinion there are two ways. In a nutshell, do it organically or do it technically.

Number one: Let someone who ‘feels right’ (bit hippy, but a lot of this stuff has to be done on feel if you’re a startup) nurture the brand and shape the personality / identity organically. They will ‘find’ their voice and this will have an authenticity that is hard to buy! This tends to work the best when the product or service is pretty obvious in terms of who your audience are.

But remember – if brand personality is to have any integrity, it really has to chime with the values and the personality of the owners or the people running the business. So if you’re getting someone else to do build and manage the brand, they have to be on the same page. Otherwise – it’s the responsibility of the business owner to do all of this, but the ongoing work involved in this sometimes falls to the bottom of the to do list when there are clients to manage, orders to fulfil etc.

Number two: Go down the marketing 101 route and do some customer persona work, find out who you’re actually supposed to be talking (selling) to, see what language they speak in… then decide what your brand says and does.

A marketing person will usually do this for you, and then you’ll either have to pay them to continue doing it or take their work and bring it in-house for someone else to run with. This approach would be likely if, for example, a corporate business were re-branding. It’s quicker that the organic approach and is better if you need to use this research work to quickly engage an audience with things like PPC advertising.

Case study.

My role at Lick Yogurt was to nurture and grow the brand’s identity. I was good friends with the owners of the business and so our values were in line. The brand turned into a product of our genuine interests, our real voice and a complete lack of inhibition in our efforts and ambitions. The city we were in, Brighton, also had a large influence in how our brand developed.

We had several agencies approach us to pitch for the ongoing management of our brand, social media, design work, PR etc – but we knew that relinquishing control over that would effectively be changing Lick’s personality.

Sometimes you need to remember what made people like you in the first place.

Call to action.

Get in touch with Huxley if you want our honest thoughts about your brand. We made our own, and make them for other businesses too. When we make them for clients, we involve the business owners as much as possible to ensure the result is a product of their ‘Why’. If you want to know what your ‘Why’ is – stand in the mirror and ask yourself why you’re doing this. If you answered honestly, that’s your Why.

Five brands or things I like.

  1. Innocent Drinks. Dan Germain (best mates with Innocent’s founders) changed the rules a bit for food and drink marketing.
  2. Hiut Denim. The owner Dave is a brand master. He is also responsible for the birth and success of Howies and The Do Lectures. When I ran a bouncy castle in Tenby, Wales, I let his son on for a free bounce.
  3. The Beano. Mainly because of their fan club, which i’ve often used as inspiration.
  4. Clarks: The badge you got with shoes in the 80’s was incredible. And, how cool is this TV advert.
  5. Blue Peter. The Blue Peter badge. So shit yet so effective.