According to Statista, there were 265 car models offered in the U.S. in 2014. Automakers go to great lengths to “personify” their cars for the consumer because they know consumers buy with emotion and justify with logic. Accordingly, people naturally assign certain personality traits to cars based upon their shape, front grills, headlamps, performance, technology and more…traits like “classy,” “tough,” “mean-looking,” “aggressive,” “practical” and so on. Brand personification is what humans must do in order to connect emotionally with a company or product and then justify their decisions to purchase.
People assign personality traits to everything that has a name…whether it’s other people, pets, cars or companies. Why? Because people understand what it means to be human. People don’t understand what it means to be a car, computer or a mortgage company. Yes, whether you consciously realize it or not, you have “personified” your brand. Before you even opened your doors, you determined how you were going to approach the market and attempt to differentiate yourself. Even if you selected “great service” as a differentiating factor, you did that because you know it meets an emotional need of your target audience.
When you selected your logo type font(s) and colors, you knew at the time that there is a psychology behind colors and fonts which is why you selected them so carefully. Personification is why you invest time and money in communications activities and make sure to hire the right people to represent your company. It’s about the emotional connection first, the rates and programs second. Of course, you need to be competitive in your pricing…that’s a given. But you know that people have a preference for working with or buying from those to whom they can easily assign positive personality traits.
Also, those you hire to represent your company are critical brand forces. Their personalities, work ethics, knowledge levels and more will determine what your audience thinks of when they hear your company name or see your logo after their initial interactions with you. Will they view your company name and think “smart” or “helpful,” or instead will they think “disorganized” or “uncaring.”
So, wouldn’t it be fun to know what car make and model your employees might compare your brand to, and why? This could provide great and even actionable intelligence about your brand.
The whole point is to engage your employees in a fun, non-threatening way so they can feel free to be very honest with you.
Start by sending an email to your people and asking them several fun questions following the format below so that you have answers from several different perspectives:
If our company were a _____________, what kind of ______________ would it be and why?
Here are a few thought prompters to fill in the blanks:
Then watch for all the fun, interesting answers you get back! Make sure you allow your people to respond anonymously so that they feel free to be honest. You could suggest they print out the answers and drop them in a box in the break room, for example. The goal of this exercise is to determine where discrepancies currently lie between how you wish to be perceived and how you’re actually perceived by your own people. Typically, internal perceptions are not too far off from external perceptions.
When you start to review the answers you receive, the “why” is the most important part of the question. For example, some view a Mercedes as prestigious, whereas others may view it as snobby. One may view a German Shepherd as “smart” and “friendly,” while another may view it as aggressive and mean depending upon their life experiences.
If the answers come back all over the board, then you can feel certain that there’s some brand confusion that exists within your company…and therefore within your target audience as well.
If you find confusion exists and determine that it is significant, this should be enough to motivate you to take steps to do something about it. Just don’t make the classic mistake of assuming this is a marketing problem and attempting a fix with new messaging, logos, taglines and positioning statements. This type of fix doesn’t work and makes the problem worse because it’s not grounded in a real change internally that starts at the C-level. It could therefore require you to consider re-developing your brand and taking better control of it.
On the other hand, if you find that there is very little if any confusion about your brand, then you should be congratulated. Developing and maintaining a consistent brand image as you grow is only easy when those who reside in the C-suite know what it is and live it daily which affects everyone within the company.
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