An Introduction to Brand Reflections

Brand Reflections is an approach to developing, measuring and refining a brand’s identity and characteristics to ensure that they are only consistent but that they are also believable and recognisableBrand Reflections was developed from an initial curiosity into whether there is any overlap between the work we have done on measuring the formation and development of team relationships and group culture and how the perception of brands varies amongst consumers and brand managers. In other words, how important is the consistency of the perception of a brand’s “personality”.

At first glance there don’t appear to be too many connections between these two areas, however, scratching beneath the surface reveals some key psychological commonalities.

As with personal and workplace relationships and with our relationships with brands and organisations, we form perceptions and opinions through the prism of personality traits and characteristics. It may sound strange, but for any brand that we come in to contact with, even at a very superficial level, we develop a set of characteristics or views that we believe we can apply to the brand. This often takes place on a subconscious level but is without doubt one of the many factors that influences our relationship with the brand.

Brand Reflections and Brand Personality

Brand personality is important because it provides us with a cognitive shortcut for helping form an opinion about a brand and by extension, the reality of the world around us. For example, through constructing a set of characteristics we can decide whether a brand is trustworthy or competent. Such considerations are not derived in an explicit manner such as a brand constantly saying how trustworthy they are, instead, these views are built up though a series of more implicit signals, messages and interactions.

Such perceptions then act as a useful framework to guide our interaction with the brand or organisation. Above all, assigning certain human characteristics helps us quickly build up a mental picture of a brand. The difficulty facing brands in such situations is that we are often prepared to sacrifice some accuracy or detail in our perceptions for the speedy development of a broader picture. This means that the challenge for brands that want to differentiate themselves and communicate an element of nuance or subtlety is that they have to do this very carefully and unambiguously, otherwise the message can easily be misinterpreted. This effect can also apply to brand managers and owners, who may hold often quite differing views of the key characteristics of the brands that they are responsible for.

This is also true for our our personal relationships where we are drawn towards those whose behaviour is predictable and stable and where this resonates with our own internal dialogue. As individuals we do not like situations where behaviour is inconsistent or unpredictable and where we struggle to maintain a positive relationship with those whose actions are considered inconsistent or misaligned with our previously held beliefs about that person. The same is true for brands, where we are likely to reassess our relationships with the organisations who fail to act in a predictable manner or fail to do as they say.

Brand Personality and Authenticity

It is also worth noting that brands often project a “perfect” personality, one without flaws or obvious weaknesses. It is quite natural that brands would want to highlight their best side, however the downside of this is that in the minds of some consumers, such characteristics can appear fake or contrived. Instead, it is important for brands to project a personality that has some foundations in reality, in other words it is believable, recognisable and authentic.

The other interesting area worth further investigation is the extent to which our own personalities influence how we perceive brands. In the workplace whilst we all may hold similar perceptions about a colleague’s personality, this does not mean that we will all share similar relationship dynamics with that individual. Some elements of an individual’s personality can be attractive to some people, whilst being problematic for others. Do the same principles hold for brands and if so, what should brands do about this?

The Aim of Brand Reflections

Brand Reflections is an approach to developing, measuring and refining a brand’s identity and characteristics to ensure that they are only consistent but that they are also believable and recognisable. Therefore the emphasis is likely to be on using the Brand Reflections framework to achieve the following:

  • Measuring the variability of perception of brand identity
  • Articulating and defining a clear and recognisable brand identity
  • Understanding various perceptions of future brand identity and what the brand might be in an ideal world
  • Understanding competitor brands and highlighting the potential for differentiation
  • Providing a structure to refine brand communication, narrative and storytelling

Questions to Answer

At this stage, we believe that the most effective use of Brand Reflections is likely to be in helping brand owners develop a coherent set of characteristics and behaviour and by extension, manage communication and storytelling in a more consistent manner. Amongst the questions that Brand Reflections can answer, we consider the following to be the priority:

  • How consistent is the perception of a particular brand’s personality?
  • How effective do brand managers communicate the identity of their brand?
  • Can inconsistent messages lead to a negative perception of the brand?
  • To what extent do brand owners and managers understand or even agree on their own brand’s personality?
  • To what extent do brand owners and managers agree on the trajectory and development of their brand’s identity going forward?

Over the next few blog posts we’ll be looking to expand some of these ideas and go in to a bit more detail about the Brand Reflections methodology and insights.

Image from Robby Tiakka

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