Multiple Brand Personality Disorder - SomaticaDo you need to take your brand to a psychologist? I would guess we all know someone, maybe a couple of people, who behave noticeably differently dependent upon the environment they find themselves in. Are brands guilty of this too? 

Do brands have a different and inconsistent face for every marketing/engagement channel they use? Are they diving into the world of social media and confusing people further?

This post would argue that some brands are doing just this, but also outlines some ideas on how this can be avoided. It is time to get back to basics...

Some people behave one way at work and another way when in other social situations. Maybe they change dependent upon who is around them, in groups or in one on one situations - sometimes you like them and sometimes you don't. They may be changing their behaviour consciously (on purpose) or have completely no idea their behaviour changes at all.

I always remember, as a young boy, asking my Dad why he used a 'posh' voice when he was on the phone. He wasn't best pleased with my observation and proceeded to deny that he indeed had a posh voice. Anyway, my point is this, inconsistency in people's behaviour can be confusing and leave a mixed and somewhat negative impression about the individual concerned. Unlike Ronseal, you don't always get what it says on the tin and maybe we're all guilty of it to some degree.

Are brands guilty of this too? Have you ever been drawn in by some great advertising (offline or online); something that was really relevant, it stirred emotion and you associated with it? I have... many times. 

Different channels setting different expectations and can often leave you confused. It would be very easy to wander down the path of saying this is due to multiple agencies managing the different marketing / engagement channels and not being in sync. Or the organisational structure does not encourage cross departmental dialogue to ensure brand consistency. Most probably a mix between the two scenarios... and yes, it would be easy to blame this, but can it be fixed?

In recent times, if anything the situation has worsened. The introduction of the social web at mainstream level, with all of its consumer empowerment, has meant that any brand personality schizophrenia is quickly detected and commented upon (often by many noisy voices).

Does the social media channel offer a kind of Pandora's Box? Providing another face to your brand personality via the social web which offers further inconsistency could be very damaging, and probably more so than any other means of engagement due to the snowball effect it can have with people spreading negativity online. Remember too that these social media sites tend to rank very well in the search engines. Scary stuff.

So, should we be considering going back to basics before dabbling in the latest web phenomenon? I think the answer is a resounding "yes". Why? Because it will benefit all marketing channels and potentially revise the organisational structure for the bigger, more traditional businesses. After all, defining your brand personality is essential to the success of any business.

Personality should be the consistent underlying element for any organisation, covering your values, what you stand for, your culture, your tone of voice, and so on. Having this 'down' and not just decided by the senior executive team, but by including others within the organisation and probably more importantly outside of the business (i.e. your customers) will help you build out from this. The creation of mood boards and tag clouds can help communicate the output of the brand research, and probably help a lot more than the rather dated corporate mission and vision statements. 

I appreciate it sounds quite Utopian, but if this is the personality you wish to portray to the world and ensure everything you do remains 'on brand' why wouldn't you do it? Or at least review it if you think it has been done already, then you can look at the types of people who would wish to engage with you. Try setting some objectives for the various stages of engagement, then look at the various complimentary engagement / marketing channels to use. Benchmark where you're at.

Then again you can always just go and set up a group in Facebook, or even better a Twitter channel...

Karl Havard

Published 29 May, 2009 by Karl Havard

Karl Havard is a Partner at PA Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter and connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Partner, PA Consulting Group at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

"Cool Thing" you're right. We do behave differently dependent upon the situation. And without going into "layers of an onion" I was trying to outline the more central values which should always remain true and underpin any form of behaviour. Then apply this approach to brand personality to draw some parallels. 

I would also never dissuade any brand from portraying their fun side and more personable fact I'd encourage it. The underlying message though is not to stray from the core values. If you're an established brand, and let's use Innocent as a benchmark; they portray a very open and human side to their organisation. But if they were to introduce a "Dirty Sanchez" style of humour or fun, this would definitely be away from their core values. This, for me, would tarnish what they stand for.

Social media makes it very easy for brands to stray, so the point of my post was to stimulate some thought around consistency of brand personality for all channels of engagement, rather than fall into the trap of portraying a schizophrenic brand due to the different personnel and agencies that can be responsible for managing these channels separately. 

about 9 years ago

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