Take a moment to think of some of your favorite brands. For example: retailers you’ll visit whether or not they’re having a sale. Or restaurants you’ll drive out of your way to eat at. Or service providers you’ll always call, even if they’re a little more expensive than someone else.
Now think about what they all have in common. It may not be obvious at first. You may love the customer service experience with one company, but it’s the products at another that keep you coming back. Or maybe one of your favorite companies is your local donut shop, but another is an online-only clothing retailer. It may not seem like they have anything in common at all. But they do! The common denominator is that they each make you feel good, albeit for different specific reasons.
When we have good feelings about a company, that’s an indication that the company’s personality is one that resonates with yours. As customers, when we truly love a brand, not only do we continue to trust them with our own dollars, but we usually also tell our family and friends, turning them into customers as well. At Modmacro, we understand how important it is for a business to allow its personality to come through so that people can make that strong emotional connection, which is why helping you build and express your company’s brand personality is a big part of what we do as digital marketing experts.
What is Brand Personality?
If this is all sounding a little abstract, it may help to begin by thinking about the different personality traits people have. How would you describe some of your close friends? Light-hearted? Sincere? Determined? Generous? High-energy? These are all characteristics that brands can have as well, and often times, we are drawn to brands whose personalities either match our own or match what we look for in friends.
Just like people’s personalities help us determine how we want to interact with them, brand personalities work the same way. By understanding what it is about a certain brand that makes us feel a certain way, we can learn what to expect from them. Expectations and consistency are vital for customer loyalty. Think about the last time Starbucks or McDonald’s messed up your order; it’s so frustrating because you naturally expect that it will be correct. When you’re expecting a sweet, chocolatey mocha, it’s a shock to take a sip and realize you have a cup of black coffee in your hand. Or maybe worse yet, you have the right drink, but it’s not hot enough, or there’s the wrong amount of chocolate in it. Those kinds of things stick with you, and it’s amazing how often a negative customer experience is simply a case of unmet or mismatched expectations, and how often these kinds of experiences keep us from going to back to a certain location.
As a business owner, think about your own brand. What character traits would you use to describe its personality? How would customers describe your brand? If you’ve never thought about this before, these can seem like big, abstract questions, and finding the answers is a process. To get started, it helps to look at brands you already know well, so consider a few examples:
If you’ve ever been to California, you almost certainly have heard of In-N-Out Burger. The company was founded in the Los Angeles area and has remained local to the area for many years. As of 2017, it is still primarily known as a California restaurant, but the chain has expanded to areas of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Oregon, and Texas, with plans to open in Colorado as well.
So, what is it exactly about this place that makes it so attractive and iconic? Is it the food? The food is definitely good, especially compared to other fast food restaurants, but that’s not the only reason people drive out of their way to eat there. Good food alone would not make people list a meal at In-N-Out as one of the highlights of their California vacation. It always sounds something like this: “We went to the beach, we went to Santa Monica Pier, we hiked Griffith Park, and of course we ate at In-N-Out!”
In addition to the consistently fresh, high-quality food, In-N-Out restaurants feel like clubs you want to belong to. The decor and employee uniforms evoke a sense of nostalgia, and the almost shockingly simple menu is inviting and unintimidating for first-time visitors. And then, of course, there’s the “secret” menu you’ve probably heard about. It’s not so secret in the sense that In-N-Out has posted the most popular choices on their website, but by choosing to not add those choices to the actual menu boards, they maintain a sense of intrigue and exclusivity, while also allowing customers to be creative and come up with their own combinations with any of the ingredients the restaurant has on hand. Customers may not consciously realize it, but that feeling of “belonging to the club” is exciting!
One of the likely reasons In-N-Out has been able to cultivate such a strong personality is that their expansion has been slow and gradual, which has allowed them to focus on the two main priorities they have had since the very start: quality and consistency. They were founded in 1948, and didn’t even expand outside the Los Angeles area until the 1970s, and they have remained family-owned since the beginning. They’ve learned that rather trying to make a bunch of changes and updates to keep up with trends in the fast food industry, sticking to the basics that customers have always loved is their key to creating fierce customer loyalty.
Chick-fil-A is another example of a fast food restaurant that has cultivated an extraordinarily popular brand personality. Like In-N-Out Burger, Chick-fil-A does also have excellent food. It always tastes fresh, and customers can reliably expect a certain quality standard. But also like In-N-Out, the food is not the only reason people return to Chick-fil-A over and over again, sometimes driving out of their way to do so.
Walking in the door of any Chick-fil-A restaurant, it’s hard not to feel like an honored guest. Even if an employee does not greet you right away, you will see them scurrying around, checking in with customers at tables, tidying up the restaurant, and making sure everyone has everything they need. Once you get to the counter, the person who takes your order will undoubtedly be knowledgeable and friendly, and will say “my pleasure” any time you thank them. It seems like a silly thing at first, but over time, it becomes apparent: It really is their pleasure. They are enjoying serving guests because when guests are happy, employees are happy.
That level of customer service at a fast food restaurant can only be explained by a genuine passion for serving and for community. When S. Truett Cathy founded the company in 1946, he determined that he did not ever want to sacrifice his belief system for business success. As such, he incorporated his values, many of which came from his Southern Baptist faith, into his business model. For example, Chick-fil-A always has been, and always will be, closed on Sundays, as well as on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Taking a business risk to only be open six days per week has paid off. Chick-fil-A has had the highest sales per store of any other fast food chain for almost a decade now.
In keeping with the tradition of dedication to service, many Chick-fil-A stores are also heavily involved in their local communities. Many host local events and birthday parties, which are generally free of charge (apart from the cost of the food). Most stores also partner with various local nonprofit organizations and sponsor fundraisers to help the organizations they support.
As if all that isn’t enough, they have a sense of humor, too. A quick look at their “Eat Mor Chikin” ads starring the cows, and you get the sense that even with their serious dedication to tradition, they don’t take themselves too seriously. They incorporate a lot of fun and light-heartedness into their brand personality.
Finding Your Brand Personality
Now that you can see what brand personality looks like for some other companies, it’s time to take a look at your own. For many small businesses, the owner is the business, and therefore the brand personality for those businesses will closely resemble the owner’s own personality. In the same way S. Truett Cathy thought about his personal values and which ones were the most important to him when he founded Chick-fil-A, you can do the same for yourself. How would you want customers to see your business? The answer to that question will be a large component in developing your business’s personality.
But what about companies that are larger than just one person? Or companies that are going through a transition? The founder’s personality may not be enough to go on in creating personality traits that speak for the brand as a whole. At Modmacro, guiding small business owners through this process is one of our favorite things to do. This is where we really get to know our clients, and where we are able to figure out how we can truly make a difference for them when it comes to creating a digital marketing strategy for their businesses. When we work with clients in this way, it is a highly individualized process, but we’ve learned that there are some basic questions you as a business owner can ask yourself that will help you start down the path to discovering your business’s personality, even before you reach out to a marketing expert.
The first question to ask yourself is, “Who is my business’s target audience?” Here’s a hint: The answer cannot be “everyone.” When you think about your ideal customers, meaning, the people who truly need the products and/or services you are offering, who are those people? Where do they come from? What are their budget ranges? How would they find out about your business? When you start to build a fairly specific target customer profile, you’ll see some patterns. By understanding the people you are trying to reach and the kinds of characteristics they will be looking for in a business, you can start picking out traits your business should have.
Another question to ask is, “What sets your business apart from competitors?” We work with BM Windows, a local San Diego replacement window business, and they have two main differentiating factors: They do not use high-pressure sales tactics, and they leave every customer’s home as clean as it was when they found it. Of course, there are other great things about that business, but those two factors distinctly set them apart from other San Diego replacement window companies. When you figure out what makes you different, you can start to emphasize those things more and more in your marketing and in your general business practices.
Finally, ask yourself what’s important to you. Are there any traditions or values that you want to make sure your company adheres to? Another one of our clients, Long Beach architecture firm M. Grisafe Architect, is passionate about community involvement. Owner Mark Grisafe routinely participates in projects that support his local community, and he partners with various organizations in and around the Long Beach area. In fact, he recently received the 2017 Tess Wohlstatter Hinini “Here I Am” Award from the Alpert Jewish Community Center (AJCC) in Long Beach after donating his time and skills to help them with some major building renovations and construction projects. Because of his dedication to his local community, clients know that when they work with Grisafe, they are working with someone with a generous heart who truly cares about improving people’s lives.
One thing that’s important to understand as you are figuring out and developing your business’s personality is that not everyone is going to love it. Again, when you think about people, some have personality traits that are attractive to you, while others aren’t. Companies are similar. Some people may love the “in the club” feeling you get at In-N-Out, while others don’t care much about that and would rather eat somewhere more convenient. Some people love the level of customer service at Chick-fil-A, while others find it intrusive and off-putting.
The point is, you cannot please everyone, and you wouldn’t want to. Customers are fiercely loyal to companies they love. But if your brand personality is strong enough to generate love from customers, it’s probably also going to turn some away. There is nothing wrong with that. Being willing to risk losing some potential customers in order to go the extra mile for people who will come back again and again (and bring their friends) is a sign of brand maturity.
Communicating Your Brand Personality
Brand personalities are only effective if they are felt by employees and customers alike, so once you feel confident in what you want your business’s personality to be, it’s time to look at the best ways to communicate it.
It may seem obvious, but the process starts from the inside. Take some time to think about the day-to-day practices at your business. Are you and your employees living, breathing examples of your brand personality? For example, if one of the cornerstones of the brand personality you’re trying to develop is fun and light-heartedness, do you have fun at work? Do your co-workers and employees? If yes, what specifically brings fun to the office? What can you do to incorporate more of it without damaging productivity? If not, how can you change that?
Time and time again, customer service surveys have shown that customers enjoy their experience with a business more when they feel like the employees are happy to be there. And employees are generally happiest when they understand the company’s mission and when they’re “bought-in,” meaning they feel like they’re part of something meaningful to them. If the daily routine at the office is in step with your brand personality, customers will feel it, and the opposite is also true.
Next, you have to look at the public face of your business. How are people finding you? Do you have billboards around town? Commercials on TV or on the radio? Is your website the primary point of contact? Do you have walk-in traffic? Anywhere potential customers may cross paths with your company is an opportunity to show your company’s personality.
This also extends to the finer details of marketing: email outreach, website copy, your company’s blog, social media, e-books, and any other content your company creates. With any piece of it, whether it’s the design for a billboard in a prime spot in your city, or whether it’s a single blog entry, the key is consistency. No matter what avenue you are using to communicate your personality, you need to ensure that potential customers are hearing the same message.
Working with a Marketing Partner
With the rising popularity and effectiveness of content marketing, it can be a lot of work to not only create a constant stream of new and relevant content, but to make sure it all matches in message, tone, and voice. As a busy business owner, it’s hard to fit that in (and do it right!) while also running your business. That’s where a digital marketing expert like Modmacro can come in and be an enormous help.
At Modmacro, we work side-by-side with small business owners to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy, and more and more, we’re finding that the best return on investment comes from content marketing. Our content creation team works hard to make sure our clients are sending out a consistent message across every platform, and our hands-on approach ensures that as your company grows, your marketing message grows and gets refined right along with it.
Looking again at the example of Long Beach architecture firm M. Grisafe Architect, one of the ways we’ve used content marketing to help owner Mark Grisafe communicate his company’s personality is through his company’s blog. When he won that award from the AJCC, we helped him create a blog post about it. In fact, anytime he partners with an organization in the community or does any kind of pro bono or nonprofit work, there is a blog post that goes with it. This way, any potential customer who comes across his website can read his blog and very quickly understand that community involvement is a huge priority for him. His blog is also an excellent way for him to share his process and his approach to design and customer service. You feel like you get to know him every time you peruse his blog.
With San Diego replacement window company BM Windows, we’ve helped them create a website like no other. You get a full education on replacement windows when you visit their website. They make a commitment to never use high-pressure sales tactics with their customers, and instead, they empower their customers by giving them as much information as possible for free. On their website, you’ll find tons of resources, a helpful blog, two e-books, and even a design center where you can simulate how different styles of replacement windows will look in your home.
Once you start building a cohesive marketing strategy that effectively communicates your brand personality, you will see a difference in the quality of customers that want to do business with you and in how they interact with you. You’ll start noticing that your leads are panning out more and more, and that is because you’ll be strongly attracting the specific people you’re looking for.
You’ll also notice more positive reviews. With your brand personality coming through all of your marketing channels, people will have clear and realistic expectations, and the people who will love what you do will gravitate towards you. Likewise, fewer of the people whose personalities don’t resonate with your company’s will become customers in the first place, thereby avoiding the “mismatched expectations” problem so often seen in negative reviews.
We love working with clients on building and communicating brand personality. After all, creating your company’s personality is one of the most fun parts of being a business owner, and it’s so fulfilling to us when one of our clients starts to see positive results from doing this well. If you’re not sure what your brand personality is or how to communicate it, contact us today to get started. We can’t wait to hear about your company and why customers love it!