Consumers choose brands as a form of self-expression so it is important for a brand’s personality to match its consumer persona.
It the past, buying decisions were heavily influenced by location and price. You bought groceries, shopped for clothes and dined out at establishments that were nearby and offered good prices.
In the world of digital commerce, buying decisions have more to do with convenience, value and brand personality. Purchases can be made online and shipped to your door. Products are judged by their value, not just their price. Increasingly, consumers prefer to buy brands with compatible personalities.
Marketer Angela Hausman writes that contemporary consumers gravitate to brands with characteristics common to them. “Basically, consumers think about brands,” she explained, “the same way they think about their friends, celebrities, coworkers and public figures.” That is, as an extension of themselves.
Brands today market, you might say, to their respective tribes. One of the best examples of brand personality tribal identification is the series of Apple ads from a few years ago. The Mac was represented by a casual, hip-looking young guy, while the PC was cast as an older, stodgy guy in an ill-fitting suit. The point of the ads wasn’t to say which computer was better, but which computer “looked” more like Apple’s target consumer persona.
As consumer expectations of corporations and brands have expanded, many companies use marketing to strengthen their association with consumers. Anheuser-Busch paid for an ad during the last Super Bowl showing how it converted beer production lines to produce 3 million cans of water for emergency relief efforts in Texas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and California. Other beverage producers stepped up, too, and Procter & Gamble sent a laundry truck to hard-stricken areas so people could get their clothes cleaned at no charge.
Brand archetypes have been created to express the universe of brand personalities, ranging from conscientious to neurotic and dreamer to seductress. While these archetypes have merit, they fall short of capturing the specifics of a brand’s actual consumer persona. A consumer may buy a can of soup with less sodium because it is healthier or because it comes in a container that can be heated in the office microwave. The soup company should know whether its consumer persona is primarily making a healthy choice or a choice of convenience – or whether they are too lazy to choose something else to eat.
Consumer personas are the most reliable for marketing purposes when they are based on actual consumer contact. Even though it doesn’t take a magnifying glass to see loads of families go to Disneyland, it is still useful for Disney officials to find out what prompts family trips at specific times to the Happiest Place on Earth.
As we are continuing to discover, social media platforms have become gold mines of personal information that help marketers to track psychographic patterns. Demographics identify who your consumer is; psychographics explain why they buy your product by assembling a picture, sometimes literally, of their attitudes and aspirations. Brands covet that information to direct their marketing – and adjust their brand personalities.
Consumer personas can evolve over time or as a result of technology changes. Women who once loved to shop in their favorite department store now prefer to find what they want online. Instead of using mannequins, stores need to display their apparel on models and in settings that resonate with their target consumer personas. They also need to project an appealing vibe. It’s as if the new challenge is to make consumers want to dress up in your brand personality.
Try as they might, brands can invent their personalities out of whole cloth. Their sense of personality is shared with their consumers. You may see your brand as bright and peppy, but consumers may view it as dull and wimpy. Cadillac has had this problem for years, pushing out cars to compete with German luxury models, but bogged down by a reputation of a living room on four wheels. If brand personalities don’t match with consumer personas, you have a problem.
In previous posts, we’ve encourage companies to picture their consumer (or client) personas, listing their key characteristics and the associations they value. This post urges companies to go further and see if their brand personalities align with their consumer personas. If not, why not? If there is alignment, what do you need to do to maintain the attraction between what your consumers want and what you offer?
Even if there is alignment, what will you need to do to sustain a relationship that extends past location, price, convenience and value to something more basic – do your consumers want to be associated with you. It is not a trivial question. But it can be an energizing one that helps a brand stay fresh, relevant and desired.