Interacting with brands is analogous to personal relationships: We are attracted to intriguing, self-assured, reliant, and one-of-a-kind people. These are the type of brands that people choose to have a relationship with. We find those who lack such characteristics and who do not showcase a distinct point of view to be somewhat tedious and uninspiring.
Often, as in personal relationships, an engaging first impression is the ultimate test as to whether one continues exploring or moving on to the next. Today, businesses still struggle with how to look, speak, and act differently. The first impression rule is usually an afterthought. Maybe it’s the social phobias that we have inherited: The fear of being left behind, the need to belong, the striving to win a popularity contest. Whatever it may be, establishing a strong brand personality is the most valuable factor in fostering trial and increasing brand engagement through brand attachment.
Establishing an authentic brand personality starts with an authentic name and visual identity. This critical combination sets the stage for the brand experience and subsequent behaviors consumers are expecting. Without an authentic name and identity, a brand personality will not have a runway to take off from and soar (take shape) in the marketplace.
The most valuable and effective names have a mixture of sound and meaning that sets them apart from their competitors. It’s not so much that they’re descriptive of the product or service they identify—but how they seemingly magnify the brand’s intended personality. And when a name is paired with a compelling and original visual identity, a brand can set a course for success. Icons like Virgin, Wii, Puma, and Haagen-Dazs all possess unique and leveragable brand personalities because they each have a striking name and visual identity. Their value and performance in the marketplace is further proof of this approach.
The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung first advanced the notion that a personality could conceal itself behind a persona—or mask—in the early part of the twentieth century. Through an on-going process Jung referred to as individuation, Jung encouraged his patients to work through their personae so that they could project their true personalities to the outside world.
There are natural tie-ins with Jung’s theories to brand personality in the marketplace. Modern brand personalities (differentiating, disruptive, and relevant) engage us both consciously and unconsciously. They are structures but at the same time they are very much about illusion. They appeal to our emotions as well as to our reason. A strong modern brand personality can take these contradictions and reconcile them at the point of purchase.
When we need to make shopping decisions quickly, we yield to our emotions. If our initial favorable emotional response to an item on the shelf is reinforced by a familiar confidence-inspiring brand identity (name + visual), we will have all the more reason to make the purchase. For this sort of synergy to occur, however, a quality product/service and brand identity must converge, allowing the brand personality to “breathe” and make an impact. Anything less and the brand will be persona non grata.