Personality is the forgotten ‘P’ in the marketing jigsaw

The Daylight Agency's Chris Mitchell argues most brands suffer from a personality bypass, as proven by the saccharine Christmas messages flooding in from brands at this time of year.

Most marketers worth their salt believe there are five Ps in the marketing mix that are needed to grow their business – product, price, promotion, place and people. These five Ps are business activities that aim to build a brand and business in a consistent way.

This is true to a degree. But there is one fundamental P missing.

Personality. Brands devoid of personality are just like fruit stalls in a marketplace. Take your pick.

Brands, countries, celebrities, people – what sets them all apart? What makes them appealing or unappealing? Why do we want to associate with them or not?

You can trace the patriotism of a nation the same way that you can trace the success of a friendship. The same applies with brands as it does with how we see ourselves, our self-image.

I’m talking about personality.

According to the American Psychological Association, ‘Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving’.

Your personality is what makes you different from everyone else.

Today, unfortunately most brands suffer from a personality bypass.

It’s not surprising, because most marketers seem to have forgotten the important role that a consistent brand personality has to the overall success of their brand.

Creativity, leadership, integrity, attendance and cooperation are related to personality.

It’s why we love the Queen, think of Cate Blanchett as an actor’s actor and remember the The Beatles as the Fab Four. It’s why French films are different to Indian films and it can explain why we find our politicians so unrepresentative of who we are as a ‘doer’ nation.

Brands are like people and people are attracted by personality.

And just like people, brands that act with consistency, an engaging tone of voice and with a clear understanding of who they truly are, create a more favourable personality in the minds of us all.

Brands that pay lip service to their personality run the risk of alienating not only their audience but also their staff and stakeholders.

Ross Sims, boss of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said recently, that “many well-known and respected major Australian companies have breached our competition and consumer laws. These same companies regularly (claim) to put their customers first.”

People aren’t shmucks. They can smell a shallow marketing pitch as easily as a dog’s fart. But that is the message many brands are sending to their customers.

It’s one of the reasons why the banks are disliked.

This insincerity only adds to the skepticism that people have towards legitimate brand claims.

We see it everyday, brands trying to be something that they are not, and mostly trying too hard. Finding a popular ‘purpose’ to latch onto to gain some sort of cheap cache. Just look at the saccharine Christmas messages flooding us at the moment. Messages that seem to come from out of nowhere and are at odds with the other 11 months of their marketing activity.

It’s easy to see why. A new CMO arrives, has a crack at some ‘rebranding’, discovers there is something ‘missing’ in the mix that will elude their expected ‘overnight’ success, and so quickly moves on, the whole process usually taking less than 18 months.

What is missing is a well-defined and nurtured brand personality.

Tooheys had it. Toyota had it. Coke had it. Ikea has it. Aldi has it.

It’s not so much the ‘how’ and ‘what’ that is important in making a friend. It’s not even the ‘why’ – as Simon Sinek will tell you. It’s the kind of personality you are that makes the impression.

Similarly, company culture and behaviour must start at the top. It’s something that shouldn’t be palmed off to a management consultant who is good with numbers. It needs to be carefully considered and protected at all costs. Steve Jobs was Apple and Apple was Steve Jobs. Likewise with Richard Branson and Virgin, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Atlassian co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar.

Defining the true essence of brand personality and realising that consistently across all marketing touch-points is what creativity is all about.

Archimedes once said: “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth. Give me a fulcrum, and I shall move the world. Give me a firm spot on which to stand, and I shall move the earth.”

He needed a fulcrum, or what I call a ‘pivot’ – something strong and sure to gain leverage.

Once you nail the essence of who you are, you have something strong and sure to gain leverage and the other Ps start to fall into place.

I can tell you how to find your brand pivot, but that’s another P story.

Chris Mitchell is executive creative director at The Daylight Agency.


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