A Brand Persona
Most marketing professionals are well aware of the idea of creating buyer personas to define the ideal customers for their brand or a set of products or services offered. Creating these personas is similar to the work screenwriters and novelists use to create their characters, namely defining the gender, interests, profession, and physiology—among countless other traits—of a character to understand their desires. (In addition to years of marketing, I’ve written many screenplays, and my first novel comes out in November 2019, but more on that in another post.) Creating buyer personas is an indispensable tool that helps marketers align their efforts, but it’s not used as regularly as it should be.
All that said, buyer personas are not the focus of this post but rather, I’d like to kick around the idea of a brand persona. It’s a meaningful concept I started to rely upon about 10 years ago. And I thought it was useful to openly discuss a brand persona to help others consciously shape their brand in terms of how it appears to and even interacts with the world. It’s a way of discovering and, yes, regulating who your brand truly is, and who it is not.
I think a brand persona could best be described in terms of a famous person who embodies your brand. In this instance, fame is useful because it’s someone who is readily known by your team and will quickly resonate with them, and guide their efforts. And it’s especially helpful when working with agencies or vendors, so they’ll quickly come to understand who you are. You may feel that your brand currently “is” this person, but it can also be someone you are striving to become. Aren’t we all in this state of becoming? If you want your brand to be Tom Brady but you’re currently a decent high school quarterback, that’s just fine. As long as you’re willing to put in the relentless work to become Tom Brady.
When I was a senior member of the creative team at SureFire, a very masculine, fearless, and aspirational brand, I came upon the idea that we were the soft-spoken, tough-guy actor Lee Marvin. I came up with this persona for an agency partner we were working closely with at the time. When I said his name, I saw their eyes light up with understanding on who we were and how we wanted to be portrayed. We all laughed, and explained who Lee was to younger teammates, but the recognition that this was an on-target persona really guided us going forward. After all, Marvin was tough, humble, self-reliant, roughly handsome, and he was a decorated former Marine too. He was a strong fit for this tactical brand. This was largely an internal tool for our marketing team, but it helped guide and shape our efforts. I suppose the question became, WWLMD?
I recommend putting in the time to see who might personify your brand. Is your brand smart, empathetic, and strong like Meryl Streep – arguably the gold standard – or more agile, fun, and bright like Tom Holland? This is work for you to conduct. I know it'll help you and your team. And, it could even become an explicit driving force in your marketing efforts. A few decades ago, Apple personified itself with a smart, quick, and kind spokesperson who was a Mac computer. This Mac character was pitted against a frumpy, outdated, and nerdy PC character who was always a step behind on an array of issues. This allowed Apple to reinforce its agility and superiority versus the PC. Who knows, you may even adopt persona-driven campaigns like this to enhance your brand awareness.
This exercise could take you 5 minutes or 5 hours to tackle. You might share it widely with your teams or partners, or you may even decide to share it with your fans. It’s always important to know who you are. It was Socrates who said, “know thyself.” I suppose I’m trying to build on that wisdom, which still resonates. And, if you want help coming up with your brand persona, let me know. This is a vital yet fun undertaking. But, just know, that Lee Marvin is taken.