When consumers think of any brand, what attributes come to mind? How do consumers relate to a product or service, and what impressions have formed around what the brand offers, with or without the brand intending to form such impressions?
Presenting a well-developed brand persona based on targeted audiences is a crucial investment in the future of any company. A brand persona offers a compelling display of the traits the consumers value most, thus creating a connection to the brand on a personal and emotional level.
In simple terms, a brand persona is a fictionalised personification of a brand; the creation of a character with human traits that most closely represents the brand. Although typically in the form of people, animals and entities may also be used.
The objective is to develop a humanoid or anthropomorphised non-human entity that embodies the core values of the brand and presents them in a way that helps create a feeling that connects more powerfully with consumers on a personal level.
For the purposes of branding, a persona is a fictional portrayal of someone’s character as it is presented and perceived by others; it’s crafted through research to be appealing, believable and identifiable to a broad (or at times, narrow) market segment and resonate with consumers at a deeper, more visceral level.
To avoid brand identity crisis! Much like individuals, companies, whether big or small, need to reconsider who they are as they grow up. Ultimately, how we create a brand persona shows how much we care about our business at every level and in every detail — from the big things like mission and vision, to our people, our customers, and every interaction anyone is ever going to have with our brand.
A brand is basically a promise. It tells customers what to expect from the product. Consumers are more likely to choose a brand they recognize over something unfamiliar, unbranded, or generic. Successful companies consciously build their brands in their consumers’ minds much before their competitors do. Effective brand personas create a “first mover” advantage in almost any business category, or subcategory.
“Consumer psychology is all about getting into that uncharted territory where people are being directed to make purchases for reasons they are not clear about.” — Michael Fishman.
As part of brand persona development, it is useful to consider the concurrent development of buyer personas. While brand personas reflect a brand’s associated values, mission, purpose and point of differentiation, buyer personas are a reflection of the consumers who purchase and use their products and services. A buyer persona is meant to represent the typical consumer from a segment of a business’s overall consumer base. The persona is not meant to be an abstract concept but rather a composite living, breathing entity complete with a name, hobbies, ambitions, and values. Buyer personas are created by analysing quantitative data, such as age, occupation, income or gender, and qualitative data gleaned from open-ended responses, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews.
Whether a company has a brand persona or not and whether it has buyer persona profiles or not, no brand ad can exist in the market without having an appeal. So you’d want to make your ads to tug on heartstrings or provoke some kind of feeling that makes consumers want to take action!
There are two main categories of advertising appeals that will achieve the above:
1. Emotional appeal
2. Rational appeal
This appeal depends more on feelings and perceptions than logic or reason to provoke action. Appealing to your audience’s emotions can be achieved through strong imagery, impactful text, or powerful music.
A famous razor brand (Gilette) appeals to personal concerns of fathers. The ad states that research shows how important skin-to-skin contact is for infants, and questions what kind of razor-smooth finish they want to share. While the ad is directed at new fathers, those without children will still understand the message.
Humour can bring relief to what might otherwise be a mundane and expected ad. The right type of humour will grab attention for organic engagement from your audience. An example is this Center Fresh ad which keeps you hooked — you don’t know where it’s going, until the comical reveal at the end!
Using strong visuals, ads can draw on hidden fears. Some ads draw on personal fears, while others draw on a sense of loss. Dettol, Lifebuoy, Santoor, etc., use fear of COVID-19 infection to make consumers use their sanitisers and hand-wash. The ‘Quit Smoking’ ads are notorious for their graphic imagery which is sure to induce fear in viewers.
One of the best known advertising facts is that sex sells. People use alluring models and arousing product shots that will make the viewer emotionally excited. For a long time, brands have used unabashed sex appeal to sell products and services. Durex is a great example for its numerous tongue-in-cheek ads.
A sense of romance can take people back to a nostalgic moment that evokes emotion. Romance does not necessarily have to do with relationships, but rather a powerful feeling that is inspiring and idealised. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Silk is a great example of this — they have always designed ads displaying pure and chaste love that makes people of all ages swoon.
Celebrities, athletes, and big-name influencers are used quite often to endorse products in order to stir popularity despite having nothing (or little) to do with their creation, direction, or knowledge of the industry. An actor endorsing automobiles is perhaps the most classic example of this.
Music can make or break an ad by setting a tone and mood just as quickly as imagery. The right music can add to the emotion of an ad and encourage a faster purchase decision. The most popular ad campaigns that used original and catchy tracks are Nirma (everyone who grew up in India knows their title track) and Airtel with their ‘Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hotha Hai.’
Travel companies, adventure equipment brands, and car companies often focus on a sense of adventure to highlight what their products or services can really bring to the table. But even something as unrelated to adventure as carbonated drinks have capitalised on this factor; Thumbs Up’s ‘Aaj Kuch Toofani Karte Hai’ is a great example for this.
Many ad approaches are based on objective facts, logic, and reasoning. Rational appeal can be very useful even with emotional subjects, helping target audiences identify the value of a product in an indisputable way. Rational appeals are more authentic and can create a sense of authority around a brand.
People are most strongly motivated when they have a problem that needs to be solved that causes them regular and noticeable pain. Rather than focus on the product they are selling, brands focus on the solution they provide. Moov’s straightforward advertisements are an example.
Brands highlight what sets them apart with a stark comparison between their product and their main competition. Contrast can be a subtle way to prove their brand is a level or two above the alternative. One of the most hilarious and blatantly ‘on the nose’ ads is the Jaguar vs Mercedes Benz ad.
Automobiles, apartments, furniture stores, fashion brands and many other companies lean on a level of an exalted status to appeal to consumers concerned about where they are at, how they are viewed, and where they are headed.
The real message is rooted in statistics. Use of proof and statistics can appeal without question to those who are more rational in their approach. Financial product brands often back up their emotional appeal by good old statistics.
There are many products and services that depend on beauty for a rational purchase choice. Companies have catalogs that feature beauty shots of every item — perfectly staged, lit, Photoshopped, accessorized. Food photography cannot be the widely popular trend that it is without this.
On the flip side, being real and authentic can help people connect with a message. Cosmetic or fashion brands can get a lot of attention for focusing more on reality and less on the promise of perfection.