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Some brands instantly make you smile. They seem to take on almost human personality traits we can all identify with. Consumers seem to be drawn to attractive brand personality traits. It’s definitely a personality contest out there. The question is, where does your brand rate on the brand personality scale? And even more important, how do you imbue your brand with the traits you want to communicate to consumers that will compel them to buy your brand?
Creating a brand personality is not a one-shot quick fix. It is a well thought out, comprehensive, approach that involves the whole concept of brand. This includes everything from the brand name, logo, catchphrase and packaging, to all the various advertising materials. You need to carefully orchestrate all of these factors to produce a brand personality that will attract your consumers.
Creating Brand Awareness Thru Brand Personality
Brand personality greatly aids in brand awareness because it creates a vehicle by which the brand builder can appeal to the consumer on terms that the consumer is already familiar with.
If you’re going “cowboy” for instance, with your barbecue sauce brand, it might be everything from “Howdy Partner!” to a cowboy hat on your package, or Old West font types and a neck scarf on your bottle. Your spokesperson speaks like he’s right off the range in a deep friendly voice that adds sincerity and authenticity to the image.
If your brand archetype is high fashion with your cosmetics line, it might be images of high healed models with perfectly coiffed hair and dripping with pearls. But any attempt at creating brand personality around consumer products must focus on each of the facets of physical brand image as it appears in the retail store.
Trying to convey brand personality in the retail environment with rapid turnover consumer products is mostly limited to what you see in the stores. This is unlike personal branding, social branding, and branding of large products like cars, refrigerators, and even houses. Sure, social media can make a difference, commercial advertising can have an influence. But where the customer, the product, the money, and the decision all come together in retail is at the point of sale. This is the place where consumer behavior can be influenced the most.
The Brand Swap
Have you ever gone to the store and seen a single package from a brand placed in a display or on the shelf with products from a different brand? This is not a mistake. This was not done by some store clerk. They’re very keen on organization and category management. They want to keep all the brands together and would never mix one odd brand in a space allocated to another brand. So how did the oddball get there? It’s what we in the industry call a consumer swap.
The consumer already chose a brand. But when they saw the other brand, they reached in their cart, pulled out the original brand they had chosen and swapped it out for the new brand leaving the old brand on the shelf. This happens all the time in retail and bears testimony to how powerful the point-of-sale is. That’s why we believe that building a brand personality has to be done through the physical image of the product.
So let’s examine the five major in-store opportunities to convey brand personality through the physical image of a bricks-and-mortar retail consumer product:
1. Brand Name. Does your name evoke some human characteristic or feeling?
Unless you have a family name that is already well known and has developed its own personality, it’s very difficult for new brands to communicate human characteristics or feelings through a name. If it’s an unknown family name it doesn’t mean anything to the consumer.
Breakfast cereals are a great place to look to see how a brand name itself can convey brand personality. One of the oldest examples is Cheerios. The name is well, “cheery” and “o’s” are the shape of the cereal. Cheery is a compelling human personality trait!
Some brands, like Newman’s Own, makes no bones about their brand personality. Paul Newman’s face is on the brand. When the consumer sees it smiling at her in the store, she identifies the Paul Newman character and the roles he’s played with the product. The roles have been charming leading roles, with a certain amount of integrity. Celebrity brand names can convey the popular perceptions the consumer has of the particular celebrity and transfer those perceptions to the product itself.
What we like about using the brand name to initiate the brand personality is that you are taking advantage of one more opportunity in a very limited environment to get your message across. It’s an element that helps the consumer remember your product, identify it, and look for it again in the future. The retail environment is so harsh, limited and competitive. You, as a brand builder in this space, need to seize upon every opportunity to send your message right from your physical product.
2. Brand Logo. Does your logo have personality?
If a picture is worth 1000 words, a picture that evokes a human response is worth 1000 sales in the retail environment. Logos that incorporate a heart shape, for instance, convey affection, caring, and loyalty. Logos that depict human hands or arms in action can convey security, strength, or power.
For instance, the famous Arm & Hammer baking soda brand logo is a classic example. The logo of a strong arm clutching a large hammer ready to strike reinforces the brand’s archetype of strength, dependability, and effectiveness. Consumers imagine the hammer in their own hands, powerfully helping them complete their job. They identify with the human image and brand personality.
When we started Barefoot Wine, we looked for a logo that our consumer could identify with from a human standpoint. We chose the human bare footprint because it evoked a friendly response in several ways. It’s the way wine was originally made, stomping the grapes with a bare foot. It’s a recreational image because when you are barefoot you’re relaxing, on the beach, and enjoying life. Plus the logo was the same as the name so it gave us a double whammy in the marketplace by reinforcing the name.
3. Brand Label. Does your label communicate the traits of your brand personality?
Retail consumer packaged product labels are relatively small. In most cases, we’re talking 3″ X 3″ max, if you’re lucky. Your label must comply with all the regulations of your industry which can take up to 20% of the space. Add to that the fact that shoppers are viewing them from 4 feet away. Now take that tiny label and put it in a sea of competing labels. That’s when you begin to get some idea of how important the label design must be.
With label design in the retail environment, color and white space are king. Whatever you have to say beyond your name, your logo, and the contents of your package must be crisp, clear, readable, and pop. That, on its face, is a big challenge. Now try to add brand personality!
Borders, background, shape, colors and font types are about all you have to play with. So choose those elements to complement your brand personality. You may have an opportunity for a third-party endorsement from a well-known celebrity. You may have an opportunity for some quality queues like metals, awards, or gold trim, but not much else. If your label gets too busy, all is lost because your consumer can’t find your product in the sea of labels on the shelf.
4. Brand Package. Does your package reinforce the personification of your brand?
Ben & Jerry’s is a great example of how to take advantage of every inch of space on an ice cream carton to convey their friendly, down-home, country-style brand personality. The cartons explode with color, celebrate the product, and identify the brand and content with fonts that ooze brand personality.
Honey Bear honey put their honey in a package that is classically familiar to all of us. It’s a honey bear, of course! Everybody knows bears love honey. There’s no mystery there. We’re sure it was very expensive to develop the first bear-shaped squeeze bottles for their honey. But look how it paid off in the marketplace! Any time you can use your package to express your brand personality, you are way ahead in the marketplace.
The retail market is tactile, meaning people can hold your product. People want to grab that honey bear. It’s not only fun, but it’s a powerful way to convey your brand personality.
Another advantage of packaging is that it’s larger than the label, so there’s more room to get your message across. But only one side faces the consumer. Some products try to create radical shapes to convey their brand personality, but in the end, their goal must include fitting the maximum number of packages in their allotted space. And their packages must be stable and not top-heavy. So the retail environment totally limits creativity in the package design space. There is room for creativity, to be sure, but it must conform to the realities of category management. Creative packaging in the retail space is more of a solution than a creation.
5. Brand Message. Do your advertising materials speak with an identifiable personality?
Unless you’re using QR codes and expect your consumers to have the time and take the effort to scan them and go to your website to watch a video on your product, you’re pretty much limited to the signs and marketing materials that are allowed in the retail store to promote your product. It’s more likely that old-school, two-dimensional print signs and display materials will be what your customer sees before they make their purchasing decision.
This is your last chance to convey your brand personality, so use it wisely. The font, images, and messages you choose must complement and reinforce everything else you’ve done to communicate the brand personality traits you want your consumer to identify with.
The Appeal of a Real Person
If there is a real person behind the brand such as the owner or spokesperson, this is the place for a message from them. Many brands today are identifying their owner, CEO, or some well-known celebrity to pitch their products. They feel it adds credibility with a real person putting their reputation on the line. The danger here is – that real person must maintain a good reputation in order for your brand to prosper from the relationship.
Who can forget the famous Jolly Green Giant, tall and muscular, standing in the green, pastoral countryside grasping fresh bounty of colorful, healthy produce? This is another example of brand personality and, when used in in-store display materials, it is even more impressive.
The Catchy Catchphrase
Probably the most practical and memorable vehicle to convey brand personality is the catchphrase or slogan. It’s short and sweet and meaningful, so it can fit in the compressed retail environment.
“Bring out the Best Foods and Bring Out the Best” reinforces the message that Best Foods mayonnaise is the “real” thing, the top of the category. It envisions you bringing out the best to impress your family and friends. This is an interesting take on brand personality and very effective.
The catchphrase we used to reinforce our fun theme was “Get Barefoot and Have a Great Time” using the double intent for “get” – taking off your shoes and buying the product.
Store shelf signage is usually limited to a 3”X 3”. So catch phrases must be concise and consistent to be effective. They must reinforce the brand personality.
Not all consumer brand builders even attempt to create a brand personality. But those who do create a special, easy to recognize magnetism that attracts their customers and distinguishes their brand from the competition. For them, brand awareness is driven by their brand personality.
They know that consumer behavior is such that customers will identify with a brand personality easier than they will with a rudimentary brand presentation. They know that the brand personality exemplifies and characterizes the unique message they want to drive home in the competitive marketplace. And they want their consumers to say, “I love that brand!”