Creating a brand identity that consumers identify with can turn a start-up business or relatively modest company into a household name. The problem for entrepreneurs and organizations struggling to gain market share is that there is no step-by-step instruction manual about how to construct a popular brand personality. That being said, a business professional with a clear, concise vision can establish a brand personality by understanding its core nature, function, and key design elements. These are tips that can help you fashion a brand personality that attracts loyal customers.
What is a Brand Personality?
It’s important to understand that a brand personality is not a quantitative element of a company. Rather, it’s an idea or set of ideas that people identify with at a visceral level. In other words, people see your logo or company name and they immediately feel something. That emotional response prompts them to purchase the product or service.
One of, if not the most, successful brand personality successes is that of Michael Jordan and Nike. The sneaker and athletic wear company competed against the more prominent Adidas and Converse brands when Jordan was a rookie by signing him to a brand deal. Nike, who was considered a sneaker outlier at the time, paid the rookie basketball star $2.5 million, triple what any other NBA player received at the time.
Basing the brand personality on his high-flying dunking exploits, Nike created the Air Jordan shoe. As we all know, young athletes and sports enthusiasts wanted to “be like Mike.” Nike sneaker sales surged far beyond expectation. Shoe sales topped $126 million during the first year. In 2022, Air Jordans brought in $5.1 billion, and upwards of $256 million went to now-retired Michael Jordan.
This business relationship was so successful that Ben Affleck recently directed a movie called “Air,” documenting the legendary Nike-Jordan partnership. It all started by linking a sneaker to an exciting basketball player, who had not yet won an NBA championship.
Not every organization has the benefit of syncing its product with, arguably, the greatest basketball player of all time. But it’s important to keep in mind this kind of profit-driving success is not an anomaly. These are tips for establishing a brand personality for your small business.
1. Ensure Brand Authenticity
Your brand personality must be consistently perceived as being in harmony with the organization’s culture. In other words, the ideas and gut reactions consumers experience must be the same way they feel about the company for it to be considered authentic. There are numerous ways to maintain brand authenticity.
In the case of Nike’s signature sneakers, Michael Jordan wore them during his rookie season. Adding to the case, they are authentic athletic shoes reflecting the star’s personality, but the NBA fined Michael Jordan $5,000 per game because the footwear did not conform to league standards. Nike, in a pivotal move to establish its support and authenticity, paid the per-game fines for the entire season.
Doubling down on its product’s relationship with Michael Jordan, the company launched a marketing campaign around star guard wearing “banned” sneakers. These and other marketing decisions removed any shadow of a doubt in the public’s mind that Air sneakers were the shoes of pro basketball’s most admired player.
2. Understand The Mindset of Your Customer Base
For any product or service to be marketable, it must make sense to the target audience. It wouldn’t make sense to create an Air Jordan hiking boot or a cumbersome and bulky iPad. Although these are extreme examples, business leaders typically need to overcome their personal biases about a product or service and get in touch with end users.
To get a clear idea about target demographics, consider using standard market data approaches. You can run online polls to get feedback and data about potential clients. Don’t be surprised if you discover the people most likely to purchase your goods or services are significantly different than you envisioned.
Experienced business professionals understand you follow through with a strategy to connect with the most customers possible. And if the product isn’t being purchased by the people you’d expect, it may be prudent to not push the envelope. Don’t try to sell ice to people living in the Arctic Circle. Identify your customer base, create a brand personality that is attractive to their mindset, and turn a profit.
3. Create An Iconic and Memorable Logo
A branding investment would be a waste of time and money without the right logo. The design and colors need to catch people’s attention and promptly rekindle why they prefer your product or service over others.
In terms of the Nike swoosh, a case can be made that leveraging the brand personality linked to Michael Jordan made the logo memorable, not the other way around. But other logo designs have smartly employed color and graphic elements to burn them into people’s imaginations. The colorful Google “G,” NBC’s peacock, or McDonald’s golden arches are good examples of how color and shape can be effectively used.
If you’ve launched your small business and already have a logo in play, it’s okay to conduct a redesign that merges it with your re-imagined brand personality. Companies such as Apple, Shell gas stations, and Starbucks started with dull, forgettable logos. And not to diminish the success of Elon Musk’s electric car company, the Tesla logo could use an upgrade. The point is that, armed with consumer data and a brand personality opportunity, it may be worthwhile to check out online logo-design applications and make your logo really pop.
4. Define Your Brand Personality Voice
Successful brands present a recognizable voice that speaks volumes about the products, services, and organization. The best marketing experts can craft guidelines about how products and services are articulated to clients and customers.
It’s also not uncommon for companies to develop a particular voice organically, based on advertising campaigns and the known culture of the business. Of course, the latter method leaves your brand to uncontrollable whims that can just as easily backfire.
New businesses would be better served by analyzing their consumer data and building a personality that customers would gravitate toward. These are core voices widely used by successful operations.
- Sincere Brand Personality: This type of voice invites people to view your organization as everyday people. Some brands accomplish this by demonstrating human frailties and doing good work.
- Competent Brand Personality: A voice that indicates expertise and due diligence is perfect for cybersecurity and managed IT companies, among others. The idea is to use precise language and clearly understood graphics to attract new customers. You’re basically saying, “We’re very good,” without sounding brash.
- Sophisticated Brand Personality: Expensive products usually target audiences with the ability to make big leisure spends. Companies like Gucci, Prada, and Rolex are good examples of companies that work tirelessly to portray sophistication. The images they use are simple and memorable, and people associated with their use possess wealth, education, and manners.
- Rugged Brand Personality: When thinking about an iconic and rugged brand, Levi’s jeans immediately come to mind. Early branding showed horses and wagon drivers that evolved into simple white letters over a red or black emblem. Linked to rugged outdoors personalities, the clothing line screams durability.
Another brand personality involves excitement. Using awe-inspiring images, such as Jordan dunking a basketball, or high-energy language, this voice gets people charged up to make impulse buys.
5. Craft A Brand Style Guide
One of the faux pas newly launched small businesses sometimes make is not applying their logo and brand identity consistently. That’s why it’s essential to manipulate the colors and design to ensure it can be used effectively in web banners, social media ads, physical signage, and email blasts, among other actions.
If you’re convinced it can meet all positional needs, sit down and write a brand bible, so to speak. This instruction manual identifies appropriate colors, placement, and supporting language. Consider writing out a list of words that add and detract from the persona you want to convey. The point is to not leave anything to chance when building a memorable brand and organization.
A successful brand personality can capture the public’s imagination and make them feel good about purchasing your products or services. By utilizing these tips and not being afraid to redesign a logo that doesn’t adequately convey your brand personality, there’s no reason why your vision cannot succeed like Nike did by gambling on a rookie basketball player.