Brandspeak: Be the Brand You Want to Invite to Dinner

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Brandspeak Joe Pantigoso

The following guest post is by SAP senior director Joe Pantigoso.

Be the brand you want to invite to dinner. I heard this recently at an industry event that reminded me of brand personality and the impact it can have on engaging audiences.

Brand personality—a set of human characteristics associated with a brand—used to be an essential part of any brand platform, providing guidance for employees to apply it consistently throughout the brand experience.

For example: Timberlands are rugged; Cartier, elegant; Mini Coopers, quirky. You can see these brand personalities come to life in communications, in websites, in retail. But formalizing brand personality seems to have fallen out of favor. Here are a couple of reasons to consider bringing it back.

1. People Like People

Humans are inherently social. Every day, we interact with each other, live with each other, fight with each other, love each other. As with other social animals, we are hardwired to engage with others of our kind.

In Aaron Walter’s “Designing for Emotion,” he links this human nature to brand personality and says: “When you present your brand’s personality clearly, your audiences can relate to it as if it were another human.” And if you want to connect emotionally with your audience, he adds, “you must let your brand’s personality show.”

2. Personality Influences Decision-Making

We’ve all heard the expression: It’s not what you say, but how you say it. I’m amazed, for example, how often people assess doctors, consultants or other professionals by saying “I liked them. They were nice.”

This underscores how an emotional connection can take precedent over a logical assessment of expertise—specs and features, if you will, taking a back seat to how people feel.

As Walter describes: “Personality is the mysterious force that attracts us to certain people and repels us from others.” Similarly, in a market filled with comparable products and services, how you feel about a brand can be the deciding factor in purchase decision.

3. Personality Can Differentiate

And brand personality can differentiate. A classic example is Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign where PC and Mac were personified by actors: Mac being cool and young while PC was not. These entertaining personality-focused ads made the difference between the two brands very clear and compelling.

Identifying a brand’s personality can be based on analysis, research or, ideally, both. Desired attributes, for example, can be based on your positioning in the market, choosing to distinguish your brand from other competitors, or it can be based on research that shows where your brand has purchase-driving power or where it needs reinforcement.

So what would your brand’s personality be like? In an example that Walters provides, would it be “serious, buttoned up, all business, yet trustworthy and capable?” or “a wise-cracking buddy that makes even mundane tasks fun?”

Identifying a few traits along with ones you want to avoid can provide the foundation for your brand personality. You can find Walter’s personality approach plus some examples here.

So imagine your brand at dinner. Identifying and defining your brand’s personality and using it to guide your brand experience can help engage audiences emotionally in order to build your brand and business.


Joe Pantigoso is a Senior Director in Global Branding at SAP, a leading enterprise software company and top globally-ranked brand. Follow him on Instagram and read more of his columns here

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