Written by Canon Wing

I teach entrepreneurs and organizations the proven action steps to stand out within their market, improve the perceived value of their business, and better connect with their audience through naming, branding, storytelling, and communication platforms.

October 22, 2020

How to Give Your Brand a Stand Out Personality

How to Give Your Brand the Personality to Help It Stand Out 

What is your brand? A product, an emotion, a promise of a greater future? It’s all these and more! A brand needs to have an image, a personality, because that’s what people buy, not just the features. Let’s dive deep into developing a brand’s PQ or Personality Quotient. 

Hey everyone, it’s Canon Wing from Inspiration to Millions.

We all know some brand conscious people – at least that one brand fanatic for whom the label they wear is everything! Heck some of us may be one of those people for whom the label is all important precisely because of its image, its personality. If some of us wear, actually flaunt a Chanel product for instance, what exactly is it we’re flaunting? We don’t just don an outfit or spray on a perfume. We send out the message that elegance, luxury, attention to detail, are important to us. We tell the world that we don’t mind spending money on quality; that we like being associated with the best. We are walking personifications of this one big branding reality: that your product is not just a brand, it is an image, a whole personality!

Like it or not, human beings are image conscious. You can even call it status conscious; but that is how it is. They want to feel part of a community, they want to belong. And they want to be a part of something they are proud to be associated with. This is something that I often explain to my clients. The central fact about branding: if you’re compromising on your brand image, if your brand name, logo, tagline aren’t giving your brand a personality, if your brand message isn’t clear, this could cost you big in the long run. Because people won’t associate with something they don’t understand and appreciate.

A brand is not just a product or an emotion or a promise. It’s all these and more.

Your brand is the sum total of all the experiences customers have with your brand.

Think about the smartphone you own. Why do you have the brand that you do? Sure things such as the operating system, the phone features such as memory, ram, speed, looks are all important. But the brand you buy is important for a host of other emotional reasons. The Apple iPhone has become something of a status symbol – heads of state and celebrities flaunt that subtle but distinctive bitten-into apple logo, the minimalist styling of the product. The brand is about lifestyle, about imagination, hopes, and dreams… it’s about the message that I want the best, this is the best and I can afford the best.

Contrast this with another much lesser known brand; but one that inspires a similarly fanatical devotion among a certain segment of the market: the so-called flagship beater One+. The brand manages to create such a buzz around a new launch that it always manages to attract an enviable response. The brand has become known as the phone for the discerning phone user, the techie, the person who desires speed, functionality and a realistic price point. It is the phone that says I am more sensible (read smart) than status conscious. The brand further upped the desirability of the phone by creating a huge hype around each new launch, by selling it exclusively online in several territories. By limiting sources of acquisition, the phone became even more desirable!

I have to tell you this really interesting anecdote. This will show you just how much impact your logo could have on not just your brand’s but even your product’s perception. 7-Up was testing alternative logos for its lemon drink bottle. Surveys with existing customers revealed something shocking. When they added 15% more yellow to the green on the package, I repeat, on the package… people began to find the drink more lemony than before, and they began to reject it. Mind you, the drink was unchanged. Just the logo, the packaging change made people taste the product differently. The image changed, and customers began to sense it differently. That’s the power of your image, your logo, your personality!

Like people, brands need personality.

So as I always explain to my clients, it’s not enough to have the better product. Your product quality is of course hugely important, but it is not the only thing you need to work on. You need the better image because the brand image sells more than product features. Your brand needs to have a personality. Can you think of one word that comes to mind when you think of a brand? That is the brand personality. This may be a partly accidental process, but make no mistake, that personality, that brand image is painstakingly created, deeply thought out and extremely hard won! Consider how we perceive the Nike brand. We associate it with performance. We associate it with elite athletes. We associate it with beginning, with overcoming obstacles, with just doing it.

Some of the main brand images or personalities that come out at us are (a) sincerity or honesty, (b) excitement, (c) competence or intelligence, (d) sophistication and (e) ruggedness or toughness. Most brands tend to align themselves more or less to one or more of these personalities. For instance, the cosmetics brand Dove has tried hard to align itself to the honest or sincere personality, by bringing out social media videos about how makeup can transform a face, by using real people instead of models in ads, featuring plus size women in ads and so on.

Then there are brands that are oriented upon excitement – fizzy drinks or energy drinks such as Red Bull often depend upon the carefully created brand image – the tagline Red Bull gives you wings, for instance – to make you buy because there is little practical or actual value of such a product. An outdoor-products brand such as North Face will naturally align itself with an outdoorsy, rugged personality; while also presenting itself as reliable, technically advanced and intelligent. Most luxury brands aim for class and sophistication; for exclusivity! We see it in their packaging, in their product design, the choice of stores that carry those products, the models and celebrities that are seen to use or endorse those products. Very importantly we see it in the high price point. Not only does this make a product more desirable; it maintains that exclusive tag by virtue of fewer people being able to afford it!

Make them ‘taste’ your brand image.

If you’re a whisky drinker, you probably have a favorite brand that you enjoy. I am sure that a part of your preference has to do with the taste, color, aroma of the beverage. But I’m betting your preference has to do with a whole lot of other stuff. If you prefer bourbon over scotch it could be the ‘I prefer made in the USA’ mindsets at work. Essentially they are both whiskeys; only bourbon is made in America and Scotch in Scotland! Even within the American whiskey space if you prefer Jack Daniels over, say Old Grand-dad consider why. The latter brand is associated with men-who-like-their whiskey, strong, bold, real! JD on the other hand comes across as smoother, more refined, urbane; something that the ladies also like to knock back.

Do you think you could tell the two apart in a blind test though? Ah! That would be the question wouldn’t it! If you were served both whiskeys out of plain, unmarked decanters could you tell them apart? If you were blindfolded and couldn’t see the color could you still tell them apart? Considering that the brand image is about 90% of what you ‘taste’, probably not! 

The findings of researchers of psychology at the California University suggest that a blind test can fool a lot of discerning palates! Two groups were given distilled water to drink. One group was told that they were drinking distilled water; the other group was told that it was tap water. The first group reported that the water had no particular taste at all; whereas in the second, ‘tap water’ group most people thought that the water tasted bad! It was the same water but the people were tasting so much more than just the water!

Choose, use your words with care – words conjure up the world!

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said these words: “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.” Aphorist and writer Elbert Hubbard is said to have amended this to: “If a man can make a better mousetrap than his neighbor . . . the world will make a beaten path to his door.” It is easy to see how the second quote is clearer, pithier and more direct. It conveys the message more clearly than Emerson’s more descriptive and detailed quote even though the sense of both is the same!

We see 5000 ads a day, make a split-second decision to pay attention or not!  They say 90% of the information we take in comes from visual inputs. Some say this is a difficult number to prove or disprove; but it is certainly true that a great deal of what we know and understand is because of what we see. Yet how much do we actually see? In the words of Amy E Herman, author of Visual Intelligence, “when we walk through the world on autopilot, our eyes might seem to take everything in, but in reality we are seeing far less than we could if we were paying closer attention.”

Remember, your ideal audience judges your brand at every visual touch point. They will decide whether your brand is right for them based on what they see, what they perceive in that split second of incomplete attention. Your brand personality, credibility is decided by certain visual assessments that your ideal audience makes. That is why your brand imagery is so vitally important: it is that all important first impression that carries on to color future interactions.

If a lot of people are selling apples and you’re selling apples too, you have to make your apple stand out.

What image does your brand carry? Is it an image of quality? An image one would feel proud to associate with? Does your brand make them feel like the hero of their own story? Think about this! Here is something that appeals to me personally: Snuggle detergent has an amazing image in people’s minds of a happy joyful person snuggled in – just the name evokes feelings of happy, cozy, comfy! Then there is Oxyclean: which conjures up visions of reliably squeaky clean surfaces. You developed this perception because you’ve found it to be an effective product but also because of the ‘oxy’ in the name, which promised something necessary; which made you reach for the product in the first place!

Now do this to identify the image associated with your brand: Think about your brand. Blink. What is the one image that comes to mind? What is your current blink test result? In 3 to 5 seconds, what is the image that your brand evokes? Ask yourself is it right? Is it the one customers are looking for? If it is, how do I strengthen it? If it isn’t, how do I adjust it?

Your name, design, logo, the entire visual imagery associated with your brand – are the silent ambassadors of your brand. If you’re about to engage in the naming and branding process, do this with a great deal of care and bags of foresight! 

Thanks for joining me today. Craft your brand image with love, because your brand’s image is the biggest determinant of why people will love your brand! Have fun with it, be vivifying. The experience is meant to be fun. Let it be fun. Remember, love what you do and love how you do it.