Marketing & Branding Mistake #4: Lack of Character

*A version of this post originally appeared on Kyle Lacy’s blog where I was invited to write a guest post.

If your brand were a celebrity, who would it be and why?

This is a question that is often used to define a brand’s character, which is a critical component of the overall identity of a brand.  Unfortunately, because it seems abstract, this type of question doesn’t get asked and answered enough.  As a result, many brands don’t have a real character.

Up until recently, many brands were able to grow without having a well-defined and compelling brand character.  As long as a brand provided a consistent set of meaningful, differentiated benefits to a target group of customers, it had a reasonable chance of being successful.  This was because the brand could control its messaging, as it consistently talked to its target customer.  It had its key messages, and it could stick to communicating these.

The communication framework between brands and customers is now very different.  Gone are the days of one way communication of a brand’s message to its customers.  A brand now must engage in a conversation with its customers to stay relevant to and be embraced by them.  A conversation means that a brand can’t just keep stating its key messages.  It has to respond to what customers are saying and asking, and sometimes the key messages just aren’t appropriate responses.

So in these cases, what is a brand supposed to say?  How will it know how to answer its customers’ questions and participate in unscripted dialogue?  This is where the brand’s character plays a critical role.  The brand’s character rounds out the brand into something more than just a set of benefits and key messages.  It gives the brand a life that enables it to talk with its customers without the key messages while still staying true and consistent to what the brand stands for.  It is more than just a tone that the brand uses.  It is truly the brand’s personality, defining its temperament, attitude and behaviors.  The brand’s character differentiates it from other brands with common benefits and it gives customers one more way to develop an affiliation and stronger relationship with the brand.  So while perhaps the brand character could have been an overlooked brand element in the past when differentiating benefits and messages were enough, it is now the critical component that supports conversations between a brand and its customers.  Without it, who are the customers really conversing with?

Can you identify the celebrity that personifies your brand?  If the answer doesn’t readily come to your mind (and isn’t matching what everyone else in your organization would say), perhaps you should take some time to more fully develop your brand’s character.  It will make the conversations between your brand and your customers far richer and more meaningful.

One Response to Marketing & Branding Mistake #4: Lack of Character

  1. […] as having a set of compelling brand benefits and a brand character are critical components to a well-defined brand, having reasons for your target customers to […]

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