Brand Character Development – Ep. 18

Nothing looks worse than going to a branded Facebook page or Twitter account with high amounts of fans or followers, and seeing posts that are dull and monotonous  and two or three comments.If you’re going to spend the time to drive to your social media channels, it’s important that you engage these people. Not waste their time.

I’ve touched on it when I said brand persona was the #1 secret to brand marketing in social media.I was hinting at it when explaining the importance of being useful.

If you want to stop wasting people’s time and start getting them interested in you… keep reading…

Understanding Brand Character

In the last episode we talked about Destroying Images to make way for new media and how that’s improved sales and engagement for other businesses. Before that, we talked about Why Customer Satisfaction matters with Stephen Allen of Zappos.

Today, we’re going to talk about something that is near and dear to my heart, which is Brand Character, the core of your online presence.

Now the way most people go about starting an online business is like this…

You build a website,
Fill it with content
Jump into the social web

Then go uhhhhh….

and your customers go Uhhhh

(cut back and forth between uhhhs)

Until somebody gives up…

(whispers) it’s usually the business…

See most people are so wrapped up in just getting their online business launched that they get lost in the technical details. Technical details like creating the blog, finding a theme, writing content, creating a product, doing keyword research. BUT, The thread that ties it together, makes it cohesive and brings it home for customers tends to get lost in the mix and becomes an afterthought, at best.

And it’s not just small businesses either. Brands like cisco & cheetos have seen this happen before too… more on that in a second.

It’s time to bring Brand Character to the forefront. Brand Character stems from understanding your market so well that your brand starts to actually embody the traits that your customers hope to see in you.

Brand character is an evolution of brand identity. It is more than your logo, typeface, and tagline. It’s what turns a brand into a living, breathing, entity that is allowed to co-exist and interact with real people in a social setting. It is what makes your company “likeable.”

It’s about playing to a particular emotion in your customer and being able to invoke that whenever they see you.

To really assess your own brand character, look at your ideal customers & start asking questions like:

  • How old are they mentally? How do they view themselves?
  • How do they dress?
  • What kind of music do they listen to? Who do they read? Do they read books, magazines or nothing at all?
  • Where do they work? Where do they go to unwind?
  • When do they go online? How often? What websites, other than Facebook, do they visit.
  • How educated are they? What is their highest level of schooling?
  • Are they free-spirited? Do they need to be comforted?
  • What life stage are they in?

The goal of asking and answering questions like these is to create a fleshed out archetype of you’re talking to. In the beginning, It might even be worth clipping magazines to give yourself an actual visual.

If your existing brand character is weak or appealing to the wrong crowd, you can -and must- change it to be relevant again.

Olson Zaltman and Associates had a similar problem when Cheetos needed help redeveloping their Brand Character.

Throughout its 60 year history, Cheetos had advertised to kids and families. Chester Cheetah introduced in 1986, was a real cool cat as long as he had his Cheetos, otherwise he became depraved and a little crazy, and would go to enormous lengths to get his cheetos snacks.

Everything was great until 2007 when other cheese snack competitors started spending more on their ads and the company lost 2% in their household penetration. Their parent company Pepsico signed an agreement that said they would no longer advertise “unhealthy” products to children under 12.

This forced the company  to re-evaluate its 60 year growth strategy and appeal to a new demographic if they wanted to stay relevant.

To say that the risks were enormous would be an understatement.

To up the ante just a little more, the company also had to increase their sales by 6.4%, to make up for lost time.

Olson Zaltman, the firm in charge of re-defining Cheetos brand character, set out on this risky quest by doing something novel: they started talking to the customers.

They interviewed parents, adult non parents, and children aged 10-13  who all ate cheetos at least once a week, to discover what exactly the “Cheetos Experience” was all about.

What they discovered was that both groups felt relatively stressed and anxious in the face of life’s demands but “Consuming Cheetos snacks gives them moments of escape and refuge by inspiring playfulness and mischief.”

Ask yourself questions about your brand like:

  • If my brand were a celebrity, who would they be most like?
  • How would my brand dress?
  • If my brand were a rockstar, what genre of music would they play?
  • How old is my brand mentally?
  • What is my brand’s sense of humor? What comedian would my brand most resemble?

Do these questions seem familiar?

Developing this character gives fans an idea of what to expect and how to behave, not only when interacting with you but with other members of the community. Having a distinct voice sets the tone.

In the case of Cheetos, Olson Zaltman & Associates found that “adults were looking for permission to not act their age and not conform to the expectations of adult behavior.”

That smiles and orange fingers were brandished proudly, like a badge of honor.

The result? :

According to IRI, Cheetos’ sales increased by 11.3%, almost double the target rate of 6.4%

And… their core product, The cheetos you see in the commercial had an increase in sales by 14.4% !

The reason I share this with you is in world where there are 60 hours of youtube video uploaded every minute, 290 million tweets per month, and 4 billion items shared on Facebook every day, your ability to connect with people on a one to one level is the most powerful outlet that you can use to connect with your market and really stand out to them.

Your brand character will influence every aspect of your online marketing strategy, from blog topic ideas to  landing page copy and landing page design.

So tell me, what would an embodiment of your brand look like?

Will you fall into the ranks of the status quo, or are you an innovative alternative?

Please leave your creative or interesting responses in the comments below, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus.

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  1. Heidi says

    Your info has always been excellent and in addition you are beginning to get presence . I noticed you slowed down and are much more deliberate with your presentation and it is a very good choice!

    • Tommy says

      It’s true, with the old pacing, I was noticing my retention rates were at a steady 70%, but after one of the episodes where I slowed it down it went up to 80%. Even though these videos trend on the longer side, more people are staying on them longer, and I think that means you can get more out of it too :-)

      Thanks for noticing!

  2. LBaish says

    Tommy, this is seriously so weird you wrote about voice and personality because I just posted the same thing today. I couldn't agree with you more, and love how you talk about if you envision your brand as a person, you'll be less likely to sound like a hokey advertiser or like you're trying to sell something. There is a brainstorming exercise I talk about in my post (…) that really helps people start thinking about their online presence as a person, not a faceless entity. I call it “A Brand Walks Into a Bar.”

    Man, were we on the same wavelength or what? We should be talking more!

  3. says

    Woah our profile images are almost the same!

    You're absolutely right! I had discussed this with Graham Jones on linked in and is the major point of discussion on the “How to: be useful” post on here.

    Knowing a “triangulated” version of peoples needs is a huge factor in developing the character, that way you know the best way to deliver the solutions to their issues.

    Thanks for such an insightful comment!

  4. says

    One additional question I try to think about when considering my audience is, “what keeps them up at night?”

    Knowing what they care about…what really, really matters to them… can't always be seen in their outer shells. Sometimes it's so hidden they might not even know it's there. And that's the place I want to touch them. (heh) That's the place that will make me innovative.

    Great post, Tommy :)