B2B brands have personalities, too. Learn how to set your brand personality free.
In a 1969 interview, Jim Morrison, The Doors’ lead vocalist, said, “The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are.” Since that’s not only good life advice but good branding advice, we have to ask: Have you given your brand personality the freedom to be what it really is?
If your answer is no—or you’re not even sure you have a brand personality, don’t worry; you’re far from alone.
Brand Personality: Not Just for B2Cs Anymore
Traditionally, brand personality has been seen as the property of businesses that market to consumers. Many of them have taken excellent advantage of that personality to make themselves unforgettable to their audience.
Let’s take mega-retailer Target as a prime example. Target’s brand position, “Design for All,” is what sets them apart from every other retailer in their category. As they say on their website’s Our Design Approach page:
“To us, design means taking the expected and making it extraordinary. Be it products, brands or services—we design every detail to inspire our guests and meet their needs. Our goal is to make every family’s Target Run convenient, relevant, affordable and packed with joyful experiences they won’t find anywhere else.”
Target’s audience isn’t the wealthy high-end luxury shopper (although we’d bet some of them shop there, too). It’s average- and lower-income shoppers who are trying to give their families the necessities and some well-deserved style.
Now, think about Target’s TV commercials. They’re recognizable from the first moment you catch them. Fresh and vibrant. Jam-packed with joy, color, music and energy. A diversity of ethnicities, races, ages and family situations. Just like their shoppers—the heart of Target’s brand personality.
Even B2B Brands Need Love
Just as every human being has a personality, so does every brand. That’s true even if your company doesn’t sell products that are traditionally considered “fun” or “exciting,” like Target. But wait—if you sell decidedly non-sexy products like forklifts for factories, isn’t it harder to get a handle on your brand’s personality?
Not at all! You just need to keep in mind that products and services don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re created, sold and bought by people with feelings, with thoughts, with hopes, with ideas. And those are the people—especially your customers—at the heart of your brand’s personality.
Sure, customers are looking to buy something—usually either to fulfill a want or ease a pain point. But unless you occupy a unique niche, there are dozens, if not hundreds (or even thousands) of competitors who want their business, too.
Because we’re all human, we respond to personalities. If someone bores us or ignores us, we tend to not want them around. But when we connect on an instinctive level with someone—or, in this case, a company or a particular brand? That’s a beautiful thing, and it evokes an emotional response that can translate into strong customer loyalty, even in the face of those hundreds of competitors.
Since we mentioned them, let’s use forklifts as an example. When customers decide to buy a forklift, what are they looking for? Not just a machine that drives on factory floors, lifts things up and brings things down. Heck, if that’s the case, they might as well just close their eyes and pick one, because all forklifts do that.
So, let’s dive a little deeper and look at things through your customer’s eyes.
Ease Their Pain
For the sake of example, we’ll say the forklifts they’ve been using have broken too quickly and easily in the past. As a result, they want a forklift that won’t break the first time—or the fiftieth time, or the hundredth time—they try to lift heavy pallets. Something well-built and proven to be reliable, and backed up by good service. And, of course, an affordable price never hurts.
Where are they likely to find a good replacement? Well, probably not from a garish, multi-font, typo-ridden website called Forklifts-R-Us.com that trumpets, “USED FORKLIFTS CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP OH SO CHEAP!” and sells forklifts that might just be relics from the dawn of the machine age.
They would, however, likely give serious consideration to three leading forklift manufacturers, Toyota, Hyster and Crown, even if they aren’t particularly familiar with the brands. Why? Well, let’s take a look at the following screenshots of their websites.
First up, Toyota:
Next is Hyster:
And here is Crown:
What do all three companies’ messages and websites have in common? How did they manage to reflect comparable brand personalities that draw in customers?
First, they use similar language to cite powerful, trust-inducing qualities like reliability, power, strength, durability and dependability. Next, their websites are all designed to be on the traditional side—streamlined and industrial, anchored by the two most classic colors, black and white.
Why would they all go that route? Call it the dependability factor. That very plainness and traditionality is comforting and confident—in a way, like the dad or mom on whose broad shoulders you used to place all your troubles. Their brand personality leaps from the page every bit as much as Target’s does.
But instead of fresh, energetic and joyful—which you can be when you’re selling home goods and health and beauty aids—Toyota, Hyster and Crown’s personality is solid, reliable and dependable. They know you’re spending big money for their equipment, and they take that responsibility seriously. These companies won’t abuse your trust; they’ll work with you to prove they’re the perfect brand to solve your forklift problems.
Have You Hugged Your Brand Today?
As you can see, brand personality is just as relevant to your B2B company as it is to a business that caters to consumers. It differentiates you in a crowded space, sets the tone for your corporate culture and communications, and humanizes your company in a time when many people long to do business with a real, live person instead of a chat bot.
In these tips from user experience (UX) expert Aarron Walter, author of Designing for Emotion, he talks about getting customers to fall in love with your brand—but with tactics that are appropriate for your audience and your brand experience. That’s a good mantra for the process of giving your brand the freedom to be what it really is. If you don’t take the time to discover your brand’s personality and define it the right way, someone else—a competitor, a customer with a complaint—could define it for you in a less positive light.
So, show your brand some love. Because—to end with another Jim Morrison quote—“That’s what real love amounts to—letting a person be what he really is.” That can go for brands, too.
Could your brand use a little love? Could you use some guidance in defining its personality? Call Sean Hickey, Spry Ideas’ Director of Strategic Growth and Love Doctor for Brand Relationships, at 734-531-7400, or drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.