“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.
Doug Duty said:
Very interesting and true. I’m curi0us about your thoughts on a brand like Geico. They seem to launch several different concepts simultaniously (Cave Man, Gecco, The Money Stack with Eyes, the one with the animals turning their heads wide eyed in shock, and the most recent Rod Sterling type announcer) are they trying to develop several personalities or because they are all humorous does it fit under one umbrella?
Greg French said:
Great question, Doug. According to Ted Ward, V.P. Marketing at Geico, each of the campaigns targets a different marketing challenge: The gecko helped with name adoption and recognition and the cave man with ease of doing business. The Rod Serling double is presumed to promote the “15 minutes could save you 15% on your car insurance” message with a “truth is stranger than fiction” wrapper, along with establishing a fun and approachable brand personality. For more on this, you can check out http://bit.ly/cDIUnk and http://www.youtube.com/geico.
In my opinion, these are all brilliant creative approaches, but there could be more creative cohesion among the concepts to promote synergy among the messages. For my part, I didn’t associate all those different commercial creative approaches with the same brand for quite some time. In my mind each commercial promoted a separate brand, which further fragmented and complicated my market perception. Popular? Yes. But I’d like to see the metrics on business results.