Five steps to a winning brand personality

Brand personality is important. Here's how to define it, bring it to life for your customers and help protect your brand from competitors.

Competitors can't copy your brand personality

Nowadays, even breakthrough product features are copied by competitors in a few months, or even weeks.

It is much harder for them to copy your unique brand personality. Brand personality is the secret weapon of all strong brands.

So, spend some time making your brand personality distinctive and bring it to life in everything you do to help customers remember it.

To inspire you, here are the five steps taken by an opento client recently. (For confidentiality, we'll call them ES Partners.)

ES Partners and their brand personality

ES Partners is a medium-sized B2B consultancy with a successful track record in helping businesses become more customer-focused.

As they grow internationally, they are finding it challenging to make sure that new hires present the same personality to potential clients as the original co-founders.

Using opento's online brand strategy workshop for teams, they explored their brand associations and we mapped their existing brand personality.

It was clear that their existing personality was somewhat inconsistent and needed to be sharpened.  On the one hand their brand was seen by customers as charismatic and assertive; on the other hand it could be dogmatic and fairly cautious.

ES Partners new brand personality

We developed three options for them that built on their strengths but were each much more tightly defined and distinctive.

The team evaluated the options and chose one that was closest to their original reason for creating the business. That was the one that matched customer needs well, 'just felt right' to the team and inspired them most.

For a brand with exiting customers, it is important to refine a brand personality rather than completely reinvent it. A big change in personality could confuse or worry customers. It would be like meeting an old friend who has suddenly changed character completely.

The new ES Partners personality keeps the charismatic and assertive aspects of their brand today and adds 'ambitious' as a third trait. This fits a brand that makes things happen quickly, creates powerful change in businesses by getting rid of things that don't work and replacing them with better ways of working.

Adding 'ambitious' counteracts the 'cautious' trait that was undermining their aim to be associated with change. We also advised ES Partners to dial down the 'dogmatic' personality trait.

The rule of three

Ambitious, charismatic, and assertive: using exactly three personality traits works well. It's enough to allow richness and variation without losing consistency.

We were impressed by how quickly ES Partners brought this new personality to life. Within a few weeks, they had used it to inspire new language and visual identity, changed how they behave with customers and started to redefine their product and services offer.

Here are the five important steps to bring your brand to life quickly:

1. Name your brand's role

Taking into account not only the personality but all six elements of their brand hexagon, ES Partners created a name for their new positioning. This makes it easier for the whole team to remember without constantly referring to a list of descriptors.

It is important that you choose a name that reflects what the brand does for the customer, what role it plays in the customer's life.

For ES Partners, this is all about transforming their customers' business culture. To capture this, they chose the name 'Change Master'.

2. 'Steal' some treasures from other brands

A big advantage of this approach to brand positioning is that, as soon as you are clear on your brand role, you can 'steal' some ideas from brands that perform the same role in completely different categories.

ES Partners looked at a number of other brands that have a transformational role, including some alcohol brands like Absolut. They used these brands as inspiration for visual identity and briefed their designer to create an 'Absolut' look and feel for them.

3. Try it on for size

When you are comfortable that you have a well-defined character and some good ideas for bringing it to life, try it on a few times in a low risk environment to make sure it feels comfortable.

ES Partners tested a new way of running client workshops based on their 'Change Agent' positioning and tested it during a pro bono project for a local charity. They explained to the client team that they were trying a new approach and adjusted the workshop approach based on the client feedback.

4. Take the whole team on the journey

All ES Partners' employees participated in the initial brand positioning project. Using the team version of our brand srategy workshop, team members  in different locations and time zones could contribute to discovering and selecting a new route forward. The experience of being involved helped everyone align quickly around the final direction chosen.

Make sure you have a way of keeping the whole team involved. Of course, we'd be delighted if that means you use our products to help you but, whatever approach you use to developing your brand positioning, or whichever brand consultant you use, ensure wide team involvement.

5. Protect your brand's personality

Make it impossible for anyone to copy your brand personality by managing it with discipline and keeping it as tightly defined as you can. Map out how you want your employees and your marketing partners to use it and what they mustn't do.

For example, to get rid of the unhelpful 'dogmatic' aspect of their personality, ES Partners got rid of 'White papers' from their online resources and replaced them with 'conversation areas' on each topic that are kept up to date with opinions and views from client experts as well as ES Partners' own experts.

If we've convinced you that personality is important for your brand, try our FREE personality interview to explore it.