How to drive sales AND build your brand

Attention-grabbing marketing activity gets headlines and might drive short-term sales but some marketing actions also help build your brand and others don't. How to tell the difference?

Attention-grabbing or brand-building?

As marketers, we are constantly being asked to come up with innovative ways of breaking through the clutter of communications to draw attention to our brand.

But some attention-grabbing initiatives are just that and don't always help with longer-term brand-buildng. How do you decide which activites will be best?

I was reminded of that question when I read this excellent post by Nigel Hollis of Millward Brown.

Beyond core

Nigel highlights some good and less good examples of brands creating value "beyond core purpose", examining Citibike by Citibank, My-Achoo from Kleenex and Green Giant's new 'X-rated' web video.

He makes some clear points about how the initiatives connect (or not) with the brand's core purpose, citing My-Achoo from Kleenex as a particularly powerful example because it offers customers a flu prediction service giving them time to stock up on tissues etc in advance.

We agree and we'd like to offer a simple tool that marketers can use to help find similarly powerful initiatives.

A simple tool: the Hexagon

We use a simple brand hexagon to help marketers manage the most important aspects of their brand. For example, the Personality segment should contain three key personality dimensions so that a brand manager can use it as a checklist to be sure that each new activity is consistent with the brand personality.

All the elements are important but there are two that are central to choosing the right brand positioning: the Brand Role, that describes how the brand improves the life of the customer and the Driving Value that describes the motivation behind the creation of the brand.

Let's use the hexagon to explore the three case examples


My-Achoo from Kleenex is an online service that warns users when flu will be arriving in their area. This is very closely related to the Kleenex brand role of supporting and caring for us when we are poorly. MyAchoo reinforces that and extends the brand's presence usefully to the time before flu hits by providing supportive predictions and advice.

This is absolutely the most powerful place to be with your marketing activities. If you can reinforce your brand role and extend your brand's presence in your customer's daily life you are more likely to achieve short-term sales lift as well as longer-term brand strength.


Citibank in New York sponsors Citibike, a bike-sharing scheme for locals and tourists. This is not directly related to Citibank's financial services role in the customers' lives but it does seem to fit well with their values. Citibank describes it as "for the New Yorker in all of us", reinforcing their commitment to the 'citizen'.

This is also a powerful position but, because it is not directly related to the brand role, it is less likely to have an impact on short-term 'sales' for Citibank. By demonstrating the brand's values, it should however reinforce and create positive associations for Citibank.

Green Giant

Green Giant's new 'X-rated' web video tells the story of a husband who mistakenly thinks his wife is cheating on him when she is actually eating "bigger" vegetables in the bedroom. This is harder to place on our hexagon. It is not obviously consistent with the brand personality although we could argue that it reinforces the brand competence of hunger-satisfaction.

green giant

The video is targeted at young women and I expect Green Giant have good research evidence that it appeals to their target and stands out from the clutter in a highly competitive market. But will it help both short-term sales and longer-term brand-building?

Find your own MyAchoo

Use the brand hexagon as a quick check on any new marketing initiative and try to focus on initiatives that reinforce your brand role in customers' everyday lives and demonstrate your brand values.

After all, if you find your own MyAchoo, that's not something to sneeze at!

What is brand personality?

Sir Richard Branson is right: personality is critical to success - for brands as well as people. Don't leave it to chance!

I've just been reading Richard Branson's Influencer post on LinkedIn about the importance of personality in recruitment. He points out that personality is critical to success of new hires in a business and that it is difficult to measure.

We can say exactly the same about brand personality.

Brand Personality is hard to copy

Nowadays, even breakthrough product features are copied by competitors in months - or even weeks. But it is much harder for them to copy a distinctive personallity.

Research from Millward Brown tells us that strong brands have well-defined personalities and academic research suggests that a combination of an attractive and distinctive personality that allows the customer to express themselves will drive positive word-of-mouth for a brand.

How does that apply to the Virgin brand, created by Richard Branson himself?

Virgin has the 'right' personality profile

Virgin is often described as maverick, rebellious and even a bit edgy - but that is combined with a sense of fun and appreciation of pleasure.  It's that combination of personality traits that has enabled Virgin to challenge and shake up many industries whilst keeping a strong emotional appeal to customers.

In other words, as research suggests, Virgin's clear, recognizable, attractive and distinctive personality ensures it wins - especially in markets that have been stale and stable and stuffy for too long.

We may not be Richard Branson but we can all learn from him how to craft the 'right' personality for our brand.

Don't get bogged down in Adjectivity

The first thing to notice is that the Virgin brand has a very sharp and clear personality that is multidimensional yet very coherent. All the dimensions together define a well-rounded character profile, or archetype.

There is sometimes a temptation for us to try to throw everything into the personality description for a brand. We call this 'Adjectivity' - lots of activity around adjectives that will produce a different result each time a different group of people tries it. It's a recipe for chaos!

Get there faster by using good maps

Personality has been a hot topic in psychology since forever and there are many theories and models to help you think about personality. We use a model based on work by Dr. Jennifer Aaker to give clear guidance and a fast route forward.

Find a good model and stick to it. Richard Branson may seem like a relaxed and informal person but his brand follows a clear roadmap.

So, what is brand personality exactly?

It is simply the way a brand presents itself to the world.

That includes how your brand looks, sounds, feels and behaves.

It's the most immediate way for customer to understand 'who' the brand is and be attracted to find out more.

If you have an authentic brand, the brand personality will reflect everything 'inside': values. vision and purpose.

Brand identity reflects brand personality

The way your brand is presented to the world and how it is perceived needs to be consistent.

If your best friend's personality changed overnight or even from moment to moment, you'd be a bit concerned about them!

That's why the Virgin brand identity is highly consistent across industries, countries and over time: the red color, the upbeat tone of voice and the 'naughty' behavior are all part of creating success for the maverick Virgin and the maverick Branson.

If, like Richard Branson, you think personality is important for your brand, try opento's fun and FREE personality assessment to uncover it.