Brand Personas: Frankenstein Your Audience’s Best Friend

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Envision your favorite company brands.

Think about the advertisements and campaigns that stood out to you the most and gave you the best understanding of the company’s mission.

Ok, now, come back. What did these envisioned brands have in common? It’s probably no surprise that these brands, advertisements, and campaigns all had something in common: a person.

This person has a face, an attitude, a mission, and an easily understood ambiance. You could nearly smell their cologne, perfume, or general musk. It could the bass-filled voice of Dennis Haysbert from Allstate Insurance rhetorically asking you, “Are you in good hands?” It could be the ruggedly fascinating sex appeal of an older Jonathan Goldsmith, otherwise known as Dos Equis Beer’s “Most Interesting Man in the World.” It may even be the bespeckled cell phone test engineer in the form of Paul Marcarelli asking, “Can you hear me now?” once for Verizon and now Sprint. These are examples of extraordinarily successful brand personifications — aka, brand personas.

The Appeal of a Personified Brand

Putting a face on a brand, whether Matthew McConaughey behind the wheel of a Lincoln or Neil Patrick Harris coming close, but never actually drinking a Heineken Light, has a certain benefit to the consumer.

Ease of Grasp

One of the most challenging aspects of marketing is getting your company's “vibe” across to strike a chord with your target audience. Have you ever seen an advertisement for a particular company and still have no idea what they do, what their mission is, or how they want to be perceived? That question may be tricky to answer because these marketing initiatives are easily forgettable. A person, on the other hand, is approachable, friendly, and capable of emoting discernable character traits. You can get to know them, learn what inspires them, and determine if you want to be friends with them. 

Ease of Empathizing With

There are reasons why politicians aim to be charming, empathetic, and agreeable — they want to be seen as someone who cares about their constituents to earn their trust. When a faceless corporation asks for your trust, it can be difficult to know you can rely on a logo or a billboard. When the ruggedly handsome, yet amiably “sloppy” (if that’s what you call tucking in your shirt with no belt) spokesperson Tim Williams tells you that Trivago can find the best price on a hotel room, you feel like you received an inside tip from a business professional during a happy hour. And who doesn’t want to have a drink with the Trivago guy?

Face Recognition = Brand Recognition

Though we all know that a brand spokesperson is a paid actor, actress, or even animal, a target audience is undoubtedly getting to know the character they portray. When the Geico Gecko, the Aflac Duck, or Smokey the Bear shows up on your screen, you instantly know what they’re all about before they utter a word — or in Aflac's case, a squawk.

Fairly Recyclable

Take it from a marketing company, coming up with new campaign ideas can be time and resource-consuming even for professionals. Though a personified brand still requires new ideas, certain ingredients are already in place. Sonic Drive-In can only harp on their carhop service, their array of slushie combinations, or regionally-inspired hot dogs so much. Still, you know that a chuckle is on the way once you see comedians T.J. Jagodowski and Peter Grosz behind the wheel of a car at the famous drive-in chain. Sonic’s winning marketing recipe kept the chain top-of-mind for hungry consumers for over a decade.

Constructing a Brand Persona

Resonating with Your Target Demographic

Before developing a brand persona, you must first thoroughly understand your target audience. More than the people most likely to buy, your target audience are those most likely to find value in what you have to offer. Your product or service needs to resonate with them and move them to action. To get an actionable idea of your target demographic, it’s in your best interest to develop a user persona — a personification of your target audience.

Once you have developed your user persona, you can begin to build your brand persona that acts as their other half. This needs to be a person that will catch their attention and remember.

Brand Persona Development Via Reverse Engineering

One useful tool for developing a brand persona is reverse engineering your user persona. What would most appeal to them? Who would catch their attention? For a more serious brand, who would they most trust? Who would be most apt to convince your user persona to take the action you want them to take?

Plan to Not Appeal to Everyone

Before you can generate a compelling brand persona, understand that this persona won’t appeal to everyone. And this is ok. 

You may be saying, “But there are brand personas out there aimed at everyone.” As universal as a brand persona may seem, it is still laser-focused on a specific user persona. Everyone else is lightly cooked by the peripheral glow. The Trivago Guy may be aimed at the business traveler who hopes to bump into such a charming and insightful chap at a conference after hours in the hotel bar (after leaving his belt in his room, meaning he's off-the-clock and only gives honest advice). The World’s Most Interesting Man may be aimed at the salt-and-pepper retiree who wishes he has such stories. Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln-loving side may be aimed at the suburban executive who fancies himself a bit of wildcard…and his wife, who may harbor a fierce crush on the obnoxiously charming actor. Yes, there isn’t a person on earth that can claim the love and adoration of absolutely everyone — aside from Dolly Parton or Tom Hanks. Those two can do no wrong.

Happy personifying!

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