Like all of us, your brand does indeed have a personality. And much like our own personality, your brand’s personality can evolve over time. It can become more refined, relevant, smarter and savvy. It can also become safer, overly practical, cynical, and downright boring. Let’s hope the latter never happens especially in these technologically exciting times. And if it does (or has), it’s time to shake things up!
When developing a brand positioning plan for our clients in all industries, one of our discussion items is a brand personality test. As part of this test, we ask our sample of employees, from every level of authority within the organization, a few questions about their brand.
Our first brand personality question is; “If your brand was a car, what kind of car is it today and why?” We follow that up with “What kind of car would you like your brand to be in 5 years and why?” What we’re hoping to gain from this exercise is an understanding of general internal perceptions regarding their brand’s attributes today and what they would like to be known for in the future.
As you know, a brand is built from the inside out. So, getting this information is ideal for marketers in many ways. If there is a general consensus (or close to one) marketers will know if the internal brand perception is one that requires an overhaul or simply a few tweaks. In either case, what are the implications and is senior management prepared to accept this information and take action?
Here’s an example. In a recent brand personality test we gave to a local bank; the consensus of the staff was that “we’re a 1978 Cadillac Eldorado. We’re roomy, comfortable, classic, we have an 8-track tape player with a John Denver cassette stuck in it, we get noticed because we’re a dying breed, you don’t see cars like us anymore.”
So, what kind of car would they like to be in the future? “We would like to be a late model Cadillac Escalade. Roomy and comfortable for all yet tech heavy, with every imaginable bell and whistle. We’d also like it if people wanted to know more about us,” and say “there’s something interesting there. Can I come along for the ride?”
You can easily see the attributes of their current brand’s personality and the aspirations the staff has about how they’d like to be viewed in the future. Interestingly, both cars are Cadillacs, not Ferraris, Lambos, or even Mercedes. Reading between the lines, the staff clearly wants to be that dependable, comfortable and reliable friend their customers know them as, but they also want to be seen as very intelligent, successful, tech-savvy and a bit mysterious and alluring.
If their bank already has the structure and willingness to evolve, it’s now just a perception issue. So, as marketers, if we update the branding message with the desired brand personality, the bank will have to back it up with every touch point. If they say they will but aren’t 100% committed to change, they will remain that classic 78 Caddy Eldorado with the 8-track tape player and watch their competition fly by them in the fast lane.
For this bank, as it is for most, everyone from the Board to the tellers knows they have to reach a younger demographic segment to survive even 5 years. Competition is already lightyears ahead of them with messaging and technology. They’ve figured out a way to attract younger customers while not upsetting their important older depositors. Think of it this way, even the aging account holder likes a big, roomy Escalade. They may take a nap in it, but that’s okay as long as they are happy and comfortable.
Here’s what you can do. As a simple exercise, bring a sample of staff members of every level of authority, one at a time, into the conference room. Shut the door, take 15 minutes and administer this brand personality test. Make sure they know that this is an anonymous test, and that you’re looking to see if there is a general consensus. They may not say exactly the same cars, but it’s more important for you to ascertain the brand’s current attributes, as perceived by your staff, and what they’d like the perception to be in the future.
After you’ve compiled all the answers, and drawn your conclusions, you should see your current brand personality clearly and where you need it to evolve to. This information is exactly the stuff senior management needs to hear for future growth, attracting Millennials, sales, cross-sales, relationship-building and employee satisfaction. If you need some help reading “between the lines”, I’m just a phone call away and I’d be happy to help.