When every option looks, sounds and acts the same, how do customers choose?
All products, in every industry, risk becoming a commodity. Technologies can be copied so quickly that new features and functions – even product quality – aren’t sufficient to grow your business. The same information, suppliers and skills are available to all companies. Competition becomes a race to cut costs and lower prices.
You find a different way to influence buying decisions.
Companies that express a powerful brand personality are able to turn customers into fans and advocates. Unlike changing tech or shifting markets, an authentic, well-communicated brand personality has staying power.
When you put forth a distinctive brand personality, customers begin to self-select. They’ll say, “This is a company I want to spend time with,” and they’ll come to you. By making emotional connections and earning trust, companies with strong brand personalities forge lasting customer relationships.
What Exactly Is “Brand Personality”?
Your brand personality is an expression of your company’s unique story. It’s the humanity behind your business. It’s more than your brand “voice” because it aligns the words you say with your values and actions. It guides the experience you create for everyone interacting with you.
Regardless of the type of personality you define for your organization, there are five essential elements you need to make your brand an influentialone.
The 5 C’s of an Influential Brand Personality
Character is about doing your thing as well as doing the right thing. Define the principles that guide your decisions based on your intrinsic culture, beliefs and vision. Don’t be afraid to tell people what you stand for. This doesn’t mean you need a purely altruistic mission or must press political hot buttons. It simply means having a point of view and finding a way to express it.
“This is a big part of what helps a brand differentiate itself from competition, and what helps to fill the gap between the products companies make and the emotional experience a brand idea can convey,” Google’s Brand Strategy Director says in an article for Wharton. “We’ve seen Cheerios take a stand on racial issues and Honey Maid redefine the notion of what a wholesome family looks like. REI has closed their stores on Black Friday in the name of opting outside, and P&G is dedicated to getting people to think twice about what it means to do something ‘like a girl.’”
Communicate clearly so people don’t have to guess your intentions. Distill information down to its core meaning and ruthlessly eliminate excess.
As an example of simple yet distinctive language, check out Sprint’s Agile Business Manifesto. They show small businesses how to accelerate growth “without losing your soul.” It’s a far cry from the generic, jargon-packed style of many (especially large) tech companies.
When you’re honest and straightforward, you can be persuasive without being manipulative. You want buyers to know exactly what they’re going to get from you, so their experience doesn’t feel like a bait-and-switch, where they’re promised one thing and received another.
3. Customer Context (Okay, that’s 2 C’s for the price of one!)
Your brand can’t only be about what you want to express. It’s also about connecting with customers. When you demonstrate empathy for your customers, you make them feel understood. You give them confidence that their problems can be solved. If you keep your customers’ needs front and center, you’ll be able to craft formidable messaging with the power to convince and convert.
“Empathy has EVERYTHING to do with how our team shows up, both in the experiences we design for our customers and in the interactions we have with each other as the people responsible for creating these experiences,” says Lauren Lucchese, former head of AI content at Capital One. “When we get it right, we demonstrate that we have our customers’ best interests at heart. It helps them believe that we care about them because we do.”
Be sure your products and services do what you say they do. Have evidence to back up those claims, with specifics your buyers will remember.
Social proof, testimonials and your own origin story contribute to your credibility. By sharing your experience meeting the same challenges customers face, you tell them, “We’ve been there. We’ve done that. And we’ve come out the other side.”
For example, cybersecurity company Thycotic designed a customer video page organized by customer type, so readers can hone in on stories that reflect their own challenges. To demonstrate the breadth and depth of their customer relationships, they include Gartner Peer Reviews and share specifics on satisfaction and renewal rates.
Consistency builds trust. And trust builds influence.
You can’t change a brand personality like you’re changing shoes. Let’s say you have a cluttered website full of jargon and complex sentences. Pasting a tagline on top that says you’re “The Easy Way to Get the Job Done” isn’t going to change customers’ opinions of you. Your customers will call you on it.
Empower people to deliver your company’s brand personality across all touch points – on your website, in sales conversations, on a support call, in stores, in your product interface, wherever customers interact with your brand.
Before higher education tech leader Ellucian rolled out its brand to an external audience, the marketing team spent several months aligning the internal organization. CMO Jackie Yeaney explains the importance of internal preparation: “For a brand to be successful, people need to be able to articulate it in a sentence or two. Once people understand what that means, they can make decisions in their own work. We don’t expect everyone to use exactly the same words or do exactly the same things. It’s the idea of the brand that’s important.”
What to Do Next?
Developing your brand personality is a journey of self-discovery.
To start defining your own brand personality, begin by asking questions that define your organization’s unique culture, values and beliefs.
Some of my favorites questions to ask company leadership: 4 tips evergreen content abstract
- Why did you decide to start this company?
- What characteristics make people at your company successful?
- What do you think customers should consider but often don’t?
- What do others in your industry disagree with you about?
Check the answers against what really matters to your customers. Ask them questions that reveal both emotional and tangible objectives, such as:
- What’s the #1 thing you’re struggling with right now?
- How do you make decisions about the partners you work with?
- What does success look like for you?
- How would you solve your problems if you weren’t working with us?
- What do you expect from our relationship over time?
Weave the answers into your marketing messages. Use what you learn to guide your go-to-market strategy, hiring choices and business decisions.
Every organization embarking on a brand journey will end up at a different place. Through the process, you’ll discover hidden strengths and align your organization so you’re stronger and faster. With a well-crafted brand personality, you’ll be able to influence buying decisions, build customer loyalty and leave your competitors in the dust.