If you own a business, the chances are that you’ll consider branding at some point.
Branding is the process of creating and maintaining a public image. For smaller companies, you can often include your branding efforts into your marketing efforts. However, if you want to really harness the power of branding and increase sales and demand, you need to get it right.
The traditional marketing approach is often geared towards a particular demographic and serves the needs of that target market. This is extremely important, but if you want to ensure your brand isn’t outdated and that it’s sustainable long-term, you’ll need to do things differently. To really set yourself apart, it’s crucial that your brand offers benefits that your competitors don’t.
Imagine you’ve got two companies that sell the same team management platforms. They both post an article about “workforce management definition”. You might think there’s not much room for personality here, but you’d be wrong.
One company might focus on the accuracy of their product, with bullet points like “built-in training” and “algorithmic scoring system”. The other might be more interested in creating a personality around their brand, focusing on “user experience” and “product design”.
When you begin defining your brand’s identity, it’s also critical that you understand the motivations of the people you aim to serve – this isn’t about creating a new market, but rather serving an already-existing one in a way that has never been done before. To do this, you need to fully understand your potential customers, including what makes them tick, what they want, and how they feel about themselves.
Empathy in marketing is incredibly important. People no longer want brands that talk at them. They want brands that listen to them and understand their needs, wants, and challenges.
This is where developing a brand persona comes in.
What is a brand persona?
A brand persona is a fictional character that represents the people your brand aims to serve.
The idea of creating a more personable version of your ideal customer isn’t anything new – it’s been used in marketing for some time now. A lot of companies have “spokespeople” that represent the traits and motivations of their target demographic.
However, this doesn’t really paint a picture of who they are as people. In order to more closely identify with your target market, developing a specific, simplified personality will help you create content and ultimately craft an experience that’s more likely to engage potential customers.
Your brand persona should be developed from research (both primary and secondary research), observation, and interviews with what you might call “your key stakeholders” (business partners, team members, and customers). You can then use this research to create a graphic representation of your ideal customer: the brand persona.
Typically, a brand persona is pictured as an individual and constructed from the attributes that particular target market values and therefore relates to.
The 12 persona archetypes
When creating a brand persona, it’s essential to understand that not all personas are equal. There is no single “right” way to represent your brand. However, some characters may be more effective than others depending on your branding goals and target market.
Renowned psychologist Carl Jung identified 12 basic human concerns that are the foundation of all personality types. These include:
- Ruler: in charge and seeks to prevent chaos by taking control. Examples include Microsoft or banks.
- Artist: this person is a creative type who comes up with new ways to do things.
- Hero: this brand persona is the classic do-gooder who always comes to the rescue or stands up for what’s right.
- Rebel: this persona stands out from the crowd (in a good way) and is always coming up with new ideas.
- Sage: this person is all about imparting wisdom and experience to those around them. An app that provides free live video chat features for online tutors may want to use this brand persona, for example.
- Jester: this persona makes everyone laugh and loves a good joke.
- Caregiver: this persona is always looking out for others and ready to lend a helping hand.
- Explorer: this person values new experiences and is always looking for something new. Osprey is a great example of a brand that uses this archetype.
- Everyman: this persona is for those who are just looking to buy a product without any fuss. If you’re a software company looking to streamline team velocity, you’d likely fall into this archetype because your ideal customer is looking to buy a product that helps them make their job easier.
- Lover: always looking for love and committed to making connections. Companies like Tinder would fit into this archetype.
- Wizard: this persona stems from a desire for wisdom and knowledge and always strives to help others. You’re likely to have this persona if you’re a tech company that sells OMS software.
- Innocent: this persona is the eternal optimist who always believes that things will work out in the end.
Pinpointing which of these archetypes best represents your target market will help you to identify the kind of content that resonates with them.
Tips for creating a persona that will work for your brand
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to creating a persona. However, there are some general tips that will help you avoid creating a persona that is too far outside the target market’s frame of reference.
Consider your branding goals
Your branding efforts should always be driven by your business objectives. In some cases, this may mean staking out a unique position in the marketplace and standing apart from all of your competitors. In other cases, it may be better to take a more conservative approach and align yourself with an existing persona, which you may already have developed in-house.
Understand the target market
The kind of brand persona that will work best for your company is one that people can relate to. In order to connect with your target market, it’s important to consider what makes them tick and what language they might use to describe themselves.
For example, if you’re an HR company looking to bring on a new generation of employees, you might consider creating a brand persona that is relatable to millennials. They’d likely fall into the “Rebel” or “Artist” archetype.
So, they’d be most interested in the kinds of benefits that are important to them, like work-life balance. Articles like “Why every millennial should invest in a Roth IRA” and “The rise of the bring your own device policy” are likely to resonate with this kind of target market.
Don’t force it
As we mentioned earlier, it’s very important not to try too hard when trying to connect with your target market. If you try to create a character that is too far removed from their frame of reference, they may struggle to identify with them, and the whole effort flops.
For example, if your brand monitors the average ecommerce conversion rate of businesses, you’ll unlikely fit into the “Artist” archetype, as that brand persona has a different set of priorities. If you’re unsure about how to proceed, it might be helpful to bring your target market into the thinking process and ask them what kind of person they wish they were like.
Why is a brand persona important?
A good brand persona is the embodiment of everything that your company stands for. It gives employees a clear sense of direction on how to interact with customers and provides insight into the kind of language they should use when creating content.
For example, if you’re looking to position your target audience as imaginative, inventive, and driven, you may want to invest in activities that represent the classic “Artist” archetype, such as writing an article about “How to design a spacious bedroom”.
However, it’s important to remember that you should only serve up the kind of content that is in line with your brand persona. You can’t post creative DIY home project videos if you are trying to market yourself as an adventure travel company, for example.
The most important thing to remember is that a brand persona is not a character. It’s simply a fictional version of one of your target market types, which you will use as a reference point when creating content.
You may want to invest in some branding workshops to help employees understand their place within the broader context of your business and its overall objectives. Some companies find it helpful to create a detailed list of traits and characteristics, which they refer back to whenever they need inspiration for new content ideas or project directions.
Keeping these tips in mind should set you on the path towards developing an effective brand persona that will work for your company.
Just remember that things may not always go to plan. If you try too hard and your persona fails, don’t be disheartened. It’s just part of the learning experience that every business goes through when developing their brand.
Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration and enterprise to small business management. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. She has written for domains like AirDroid and WebsitePulse. Here is her LinkedIn.