Unlocking key traits for success and value
Every brand has a personality.
It’s part of how consumers perceive the brand and how the brand differentiates itself from the competition. Accurately understanding brand personality is important to brand success. That’s why we created a vocabulary for quantifying and describing brand personality. Recently we’ve added a related visual language called Brand Toys.
Being able to measure something as important—but as intangible—as brand personality enables brand owners to ask important questions that can strengthen competitive advantage:
- What is the brand’s personality?
- Is it unique and can it become more unique?
- Is the personality consistent worldwide? If not, how does it vary?
Understanding brand personality also helps select the most appropriate message and media, or more effective and suitable sponsorships or partnerships. Ultimately, understanding a brand personality enables the brand owner to deliver a consistent brand experience that connects with consumers and leaves a deeper and more sustainable impression.
Brand personality characteristics often suggest a brand’s latent appeal. When identified and cultivated they can effectively guide the creative tone of communications. For example, Mercedes is relatively “assertive” and “in control,” while BMW is more “sexy” and “desirable.” The brands have different and differentiating personalities. Mercedes confidently plays on its heritage with the fitting tagline, “The Best or Nothing.” In contrast, “The Ultimate Driving Machine” accurately captures the BMW personality.
As part of our extensive and on-going global BrandZ™ research, we measure the personality of thousands of brands. We base the research on authoritative psychological personality profile testing. Adapting the results to be relevant for brands, we ask, if the brand were a person what kind of personality would it have?
We begin with 20 personality characteristics. Then we combine the characteristics into 10 brand personality archetypes (Please see the illustration). For example: The related personality characteristics “generous” and “caring” combine into the brand personality archetype “Mother.” Similarly, we use the brand archetype “Hero” to represent brands that are “adventurous” and “brave.”
Then we take one more step. After combining brand personality characteristics into brand archetypes, we show how the archetypes relate to each other by lining them up along two axes: the polarities of one axis are stability and change; the other, well-being and challenge. For example: The archetypes “Dreamer” and “Joker” are associated with change, while “King” and “Wise” are more about stability. Similarly, the archetype “Mother” represents a mix of stability and well-being, while a “Seductress” is both challenging as well as a potential driver of change.
Archetypes and success
Brand archetype doesn’t by itself determine success. And successful brands can fit anywhere on the spectrum of archetypes. But inevitably some brands are just more compelling. The recent BrandZ™ Strength of Character analysis of over 14,000 brands worldwide identifies several archetypes that, in diverse ways, are associated with brand success.
The “Wise” archetype (particularly trustworthy) is most unequivocally correlated with brand success. “Wise” brands include Google, China Mobile and Visa. The Seductress brand (sexy and desirable) is more of a specialist but revels in being distinct, different and attractive. It describes L’Oreal, Louis Vuitton and Zara.
In contrast, the “Maiden,” “innocent” and “kind,” is not as strong. Many retailer own brands fit this brand archetype. “Friend” brands are “friendly” and “straightforward”, and usually very well known. They include Airtel, the Indian telecom, Home Depot and KFC. But “Friend” brands generally are declining in equity.
Archetypes and equity
Brand archetypes correlate with brand equity. Brands with these archetypes— “Seductress”, “Wise,” “King” and “Mother”—typically have strong brand equity. In contrast, brands with “Joker,” “Rebel” and “Maiden” archetypes have lower equity. There are exceptions, of course, but the rule is useful.
On average, the BrandZ™ Top 100 most valuable global brands fall in the middle of the Strong Equity quadrant of the Strength of Character map, between the “Wise” and “King” with a strong dose of the personality characteristic “desire,” which is an aspect of the “Seductress” archetype. In personality, the Top 100 brands are on average, significantly more “in control, “assertive,” “trustworthy,” “wise” and “creative.”
In terms of brand archetype, the Top 100 can be summarized as “Wise Kings.” This summary is especially true of the B2B leaders. IBM, is a “King” because of its high levels of “trust” and “wisdom” together with its “idealistic” positioning. Exxon Mobile is also a “King” but less “idealistic” and much more “assertive,” while Royal Bank of Canada is an “in control” “King.”
As noted, there are exceptions to the rule and they include some of the most valuable brands that define their category. As the approachable “Joker,” Facebook is “fun,” “playful” and “friendly.” The “Dreamer” Apple is “creative,” “adventurous” and “desirable.” Red Bull, the “Rebel,” is “adventurous” and “brave,” if a bit “arrogant.” Being “straightforward,” which implies honesty, is a key characteristic of the “Friend” archetype, which describes Amazon because of its great service, range and recommendations. Being seen as “generous,” “kind” and “caring” makes Colgate the ultimate “Mother” brand archetype.