Interesting interview of Ogilvy’s Rohit Bhargava on Sun.com back in June in which he explains the role that personality plays in growing powerful brands. The questions are a bit sophomoric, but Rohit’s answers are solid. Here are some highlights:
Question: What is the first step in creating a brand personality?
Answer: One thing that many people are talking about is the role of social media in creating a brand personality. Though it may be tempting to launch an online social network, or a brand new shiny blog, personality is not just about social media.
The real first step is to focus on what I call the three core elements of personality: being unique, authentic, and talkable. This means making it okay for your employees and customers to talk about you. It also means crafting a back story and taking advantage of your “personality moments.”
What is the error message users get on your website when the reach a broken page? When you send your customers products, what message does the packaging provide? Focusing on the details is what personality really means. And it is the way to go from having something decent to having something that people can’t help spreading the word about. For an example of this phenomenon, check out Amit Gupta from Photojojo’s contribution to The Personality Project about how he dealt with a major ordering screw up last Mother’s Day.
Question: Should a company design and craft a personality or simply let one develop naturally?
Answer: Many companies are focusing too much on branding/messaging and too little on personality. There is a difference. Personality is what brings a brand to life. To a degree, this does need to happen naturally, but there is a set of techniques and ideas that any company can follow to use the power of personality to help their company stand out.
Dyson vacuums stand out not just for the design of their products and great customer reviews but because the personality of the brand is all about invention and people respond to that. I may love the way my vacuum sucks–pun intended, but what I’m likely to tell people about is how James Dyson went through more than 2000 prototypes before getting the design right. That’s what people remember and talk about.
Question: If a brand personality isn’t sticking, how do you know when to try another one versus sticking it out?
Answer: Having a personality for your brand cannot help you if you don’t have a good product or service to sell. It can’t replace having something worthwhile. So if you find yourself trying to have a personality, and it’s not sticking, it’s likely because people don’t see the authentic connection between how you are interacting and your brand. Authenticity is about truth, and the best way of knowing if you need to change course is by actually asking your customers.
Question: What is the role of the agency in creating a brand personality?
Answer: Others may not agree with this, but I have never liked the idea of using an agency as an outsourced group to develop the vision for your product or service. I’m a longtime agency guy and as a result have worked on lots of different campaigns and brands in many different agencies.
The thing that makes a great agency-client partnership is when a business already has a good sense for what they do, and the help they need is in strategically figuring out how to communicate that value and stand out among their competitors. A key part of the value that an agency can add at this stage is helping a brand to bring that personality out of the organization.
Hence the advent of specialized identity companies (and of course brand development practitioners like yours truly and many of the folks in my blogroll).
Buyer beware: While most (advertising) agencies and marketing firms offer brand development or “branding” services, only a very small percentage actually have the expertise, insight and focus to deliver on that promise. Don’t get ripped off. Take your time finding a brand specialist who will both understand your business and actually fix your brand woes (not just sell you “services”).
Question: What are the steps to fixing a broken brand personality?
Answer: There is one common factor that nearly every company which has a broken brand personality will share, and that is that they have an “employee silencing policy.” When you keep your biggest potential evangelists from talking about your product or service, you are stifling your personality. To get past this, you need to let them share their voices.
In case you’re not the boss–or even if you are, this means convincing your organization to focus on fixing the brand personality. Ultimately it just comes down to building a more human and authentic connection with your customers. That’s a universal principle that just about every brand should be focusing on.
When the only people allowed to share their enthusiasm about their company are a) the legal team, b) the CEO or CMO, or c) whomever in PR’s job it is to issue press releases, you’re probably looking at a brand in trouble.
Have a great day, everyone.