When I think of the products and services I use time and time again, the branding does not immediately stand out as a reason why I buy them. Let's talk deodorant for a moment, shall we? It's very important that my deodorant keeps me dry while I'm working out. I also appreciate that it was not tested on animals and that my kids can pronounce each of the ingredients on the list. It's not the branding, it's the benefits"¦ right?
How many other natural deodorants do you think also have similar ingredient lists? How many are also not tested on animals? How many come in pretty packaging? There are six others in my store alone. Yet, something about this product caught my eye and convinced me to put it in the cart that first time.
Now when I go to the store to buy deodorant, I purchase deodorant on an almost-subconscious level of recognition. Push cart down isle. Pluck product from shelf. Move to next isle. I rarely even look at other options. The competitor's deodorant doesn't stand a chance in my house.
This product recognition would not be possible without successful branding.
Branding at its core
As business owners, we should brand our entire business for customer recognition in the same way as we brand individual products or services. Business branding communicates volumes to your customers about who you are, who you serve, and why your business exists. Unfortunately, many small business owners are often uncomfortable promoting the years of training they've put in, the research they've done, or the passion-driven stories that make them and their products so unique.
I personally think it's because many of us are too close to our own business. If you're a personal trainer, you probably hang out with other personal trainers. You went to school with other personal trainers. You pay attention to personal trainer competitors. All personal trainers know how beneficial your training sessions can be. For you, the benefits are old news.
For your customers, they are the reasons they buy.
Recognizing your unique product and service benefits is the first step. Turning those benefits into a comprehensive business brand however, is not quite as easy.
One of the most important factors to consider when creating, (or recreating) your brand is known as brand personality. Think of it like giving human emotions to your business. Psychologist and Stanford professor, Jennifer Aaker, conducted several studies on the dimensions of brand personality and found five common core emotional traits connected to most major brands.
- Sincerity – domestic, honest, genuine, cheerful
- Excitement – daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date
- Competence – reliable, responsible, dependable, efficient
- Sophistication – glamorous, presentation, charming, romantic
- Ruggedness – tough, strong, outdoorsy, rugged
What's my brand personality?
When reviewing these personality traits with your business in mind, remember that the large majority of buying decisions are based in emotion, not logic. So, when telling your brand story through colors, fonts, images, logos, etc., appealing to one of these five personality traits will create a much more successful brand – and ultimately, bottom line.
You'll notice that each brand personality also includes several sub-personalities. You might feel that one of these sub-personalities better defines your business. That's absolutely fine! As long as you have an idea of which category your business fits within, you're on the right track.
Another important thing to consider is the type of customers you want to attract. Not surprisingly, your customers' personalities often match your brand's personality.
Does selecting only one personality feel too restrictive? It is possible to brand each of your products individually within your business brand, as long as they continue to work together.
For example, if you're a personal trainer and you specialize in total-body wellness, your studio may choose a core brand personality of Sincerity. However, if you introduce a triathlon training option, you may want that program to identify more with Ruggedness. As long as you keep an element of Sincerity throughout all of your branding, it's absolutely fine to mix in sub-personalities.
Just like with people, the layers are what make your business unique.
Branding against your competition
Another tip when choosing your core brand personality is to take a look at your direct competitors. If your top competitor has chosen a brand personality of Excitement, you may want to consider choosing Competence instead. With this one shift in branding, you immediately attract a different group of customers, appeal to different personalities, and lessen your direct competition.
Let's take, for example, Clif Bar and Taos Mountain Energy Bar. Both are companies that specialize in energy bars.
If we look at Clif Bar, they have a much more family friendly, something-for-everyone vibe. They focus on high-energy movement and promote outdoor adventure. Their brand personality leans toward Excitement and Ruggedness.
Taos Mountain Energy Bar, on the other hand, is very much focused on the fact that their bars are artisan crafted and made with real-food ingredients. They lean much more toward Competence and Sophistication. They aren't showing you what you can do with your new-found energy – mountain biking and hiking. They're showing you where your new-found energy comes from – healthy ingredients and tradition.
Both have exceptional products, but with a simple shift in brand focus, their customer base and direct level of competition changes.
Now let's talk social benefits. It's no secret that people identify with strong, confident brands. They like to recognize their own personality traits within a successful business. A refined, confident brand sends the message that you're secure and stable in who you are and how you represent yourself.
If you consistently represent yourself with confidence, your customers will also represent you with confidence.
In this day of massive social media sharing, that's exactly what you want. Having a confident, sharable, and identifiable brand gives you a huge advantage over many other small businesses. Your loyal customers become brand ambassadors and will end up doing an incredible amount of marketing for you.
By enabling your customers to share, like, tweet, and post, using your brand, you start to add an audience of hundreds of thousands of new prospects each day.
So that's it! A consistent brand personality can be an amazing tool for any business that plans to be around for a while. Be thoughtful when selecting a brand personality. Stay true to what makes you unique as a business and as a business owner. Consider your competitors and your customers personalities. And above all else, be consistent and be confident.