Does your B2B brand have personality?

October 14, 2016

If your organization magically transformed into a person, what would he or she be like? Would they be the kind of person you’d like to go out for coffee with? Would they be helpful or interesting? Would you trust the things they said?

It may seem odd to think of your company as a person, especially in the world of B2B. But this exercise is key to discovering your brand personality—a set of human traits closely associated with your brand. It’s a roadmap for adding a vital, relatable dimension that helps engage with customers.

The consumer world is bustling with big brand personalities. There’s energetic, adventurous Red Bull; positive, feminine Dove; cool, intuitive Apple; and the list goes on. These brands convey a distinct personality across every touchpoint, from website and advertising to packaging and sponsorships. Consumers identify with what these brands stand for, and make decisions accordingly.

Granted, B2B marketing is a different beast altogether. A business decision to invest millions in manufacturing equipment is hardly an emotional one. But we B2B marketers can still benefit from the use of brand personality. Because people power all those businesses you’re targeting—and a clear, consistent brand personality will better engage them.

Of course, unlike people, brands aren’t born with personalities. They need to be created from scratch to connect with certain audiences and stand apart from the competition. So don’t worry if your organization has zero personality today – you can start crafting an effective one for tomorrow.

Get a personality

Put simply, brand personality is the way a brand looks and sounds—it sets the tone of all communications, and shapes audience perception. A typical brand personality is a set of adjectives—E.g. “bold,” “sophisticated” and “approachable”—that, together, create a unique point of view. Here’s how you can start making one for yourself.

Step 1: Make it relevant

Before you start the personality journey, consider the following:

  • Your audience
    What are they like? What matters to them? Why do they turn to your brand? The more you define your audience, the easier it will be to think of personality traits that appeal to them. For example, if your industry is characterized by down-to-earth people, then a genuine and grounded personality might be best received.
  • Your competition
    What do they look like and sound like in the market? How might you set your brand apart? Say you’re a technology provider, and all your competitors use technical language and cold imagery. Your personality could stand out from the crowd by being simple, or playful.
  • Your culture
    What are your people like? What are your organization’s guiding principles? If “above-and-beyond” customer service is part of your company’s DNA, then a vibrant, helpful personality would bring that to life for the wider world.

Step 2: Identify words and themes

Creative exercises are a great way to come up with brand personality traits. Most importantly, they’re fun and yield a wide variation of ideas. So arm yourselves with flipchart paper, caffeine and snacks, and try these on for size.

  • If my brand were a dog
    Associations are a great way to think differently about your brand. What would your brand be if it were a car? A superhero? A famous actor? A plant? A color?
  • Meet Mr. Brand
    Go back to imagining your brand as a person. What does it look and sound like? How does it dress? Where is it from, and where is it going?
  • Today vs. tomorrow
    Write down adjectives that describe how your brand is perceived today. Next, list adjectives that say how you want to be perceived 10 years from now.

Once you have all your words on paper, start grouping them together. Similarities and themes will emerge. Rank them according to importance and/or relevancy.

Step 3: Choose words you can draw

With your top themes outlined, choose three to five adjectives that best encapsulate them. Brand personality traits guide the creation of touchpoints like web copy, ads, graphic design, and business collateral. So it’s important that your personality traits are “words you can draw.” For example, “passionate” comes to mind because your team is so enthusiastic. But how will you design a “passionate” banner ad? Turn to the thesaurus and explore synonyms like “lively” or “vibrant.” These words are more visually descriptive; you can picture a vibrant design or lively web copy.

You have personality. Now what?

Creating a brand personality is just the beginning—bringing it to life is an ongoing pursuit. In the short term, it can act as a checklist for your communications. Hold those words next to any email, copy, or design to make sure they align. Keep true to it, and your brand personality will naturally shine.

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