Outlaw Al Capone

“Does your brand have a personality type?” Is this the new client pick-up line, or just a question worthy of discussion?

In a just-published Harvard Business School interview with professor Anat Keinan titled, “How Underdog Branding Wins in Tough Times,” Keinan notes how narratives built around an underdog brand personality are “gaining psychological, and real, power in the  marketplace.”

Keinan attributes this rise, in large part, to the current uncertain economic climate, explaining that underdog brand “biographies” speak to the real-world challenges and anxieties today’s consumers face. “Even large corporations, such as Apple and Google, are careful to retain their underdog roots in their brand biographies,” he notes. A classic example of exploiting the underdog brand personality was Avis’s “we’re number 2” campaign, positioning the company as David to Hertz’s Goliath.

In their book, “The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes,” Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson discuss the value of creating iconic identities to bring meaning and profit to a brand. “Finding the soul of your brand and then expressing it in ways that tap into universal feelings and instincts,” they say, can be the key to increasing market share in today’s complex and competitive marketplace.

Brand personality types are not limited to just heroes, outlaws and underdogs. James Archer, Managing Director at Forty design + marketing, recently defined a total of 20 brand archetypes (http://www.fortyagency.com/stuff/post/the-20-universal-brand-types), including the “Maverick” (Harley-Davidson), the “Everyman” (Southwest), the “Sensualist” (Godiva), the “Ruler” (Microsoft) and the “Achiever” (Nike).

Does your brand have a personality type? Post it here.