What makes us love (or hate) some brands or cultural objects, and be indifferent to others?

Why can one smartphone maker, car marque, song, book or box-set fire our passions, while other, broadly similar brands and products leave us cold? Part of it is our own cultural baggage; each of us brings with us a huge range of experiences, expectations and beliefs – frequently rational, often not – that define who we are and how we like others to see us.Those campaigns, brands and products that provoke an emotional reaction do so because they tap into our own personal belief mechanisms. For better or ill, they make us care. This emotional connection sits at the heart of all polarising cultural artefacts, and it is essential to great brands.

Justify my love – shaping brand loyalty 

But there is another factor that helps shape our love of and loyalty to a brand…As well as establishing a positive emotional connection with us by demonstrating a genuine belief and purpose that chimes with our own, the brand must express its character and personality in a way that resonates with and brings that purpose to life.Character provides an essential motivator that fuels and justifies our connection. But beware, if you bypass the emotion and jump straight to the character of the brand, it risks a lack of authenticity – and savvy consumers will see right through it.

Heart and soul – the why of a brand

Instead, imagine two concentric circles. In the centre circle is your emotional connection, in the circle around that the elements of your brand’s character and personality.

Most brands start at the outside and work inwards. We learn about what they do and the way they do it, and through this we see elements of their character and personality. But if the brand isn’t clearly built on a core belief (ideally one that we share) then our connection with it is impaired.

The great brands, the ones that truly create a lasting and honest emotional bond with their audience, start at the centre of the circle and work their way out. They begin with the ‘why’, the purpose, the emotional heart of the brand. Then they add personality and character, expressing their (and our) central belief in ways that are unique to their brand and that reinforce the connection with us.

The time is now – brand differentiation

Adding personality and character to the emotional heart of your brand is more important than ever for differentiating you from the competition. We live in a world that is undergoing seismic political, social and environmental changes. And our lives and our relationship with brands are changing in response.

What were once sharply defined boundaries, for example work-life balance, are increasingly blurred by technology, education and expectation – fundamentally shifting how people interact with employers and other companies. We have also evolved from very formal, one-way relationships with brands and companies to empowered activism.

In turn, brands have moved from fixed campaigns to more reactive and responsive interactions with their increasingly empowered, proactive audience of content creators.

Number nine dream – building brand personality

So how do you build personality and character into the heart of your brand?

We believe there are nine methods to add persuasive personality and rich character to a brand. These include storytelling; being more human; creating memories; putting iconic people front and centre; and having brands that are multifaceted rather than monolithic.

As examples, the Dyson company understands the connecting power of having founder and iconic inventor Sir James Dyson as the spokesperson for its technically cutting-edge products. Similarly, the baker Warburtons uses Chairman Jonathan Warburton to front its brand communications and enhance its trusted, family brand essence.

Guidance on implementing all nine of the elements will have to be a story for another time*. But the bottom line is that by leveraging one or more of these drivers in a way that is unique to your brand and its core belief, you’ll enhance your emotional and rational connection with your audiences and strengthen brand loyalty.

All together now – discover the solution

We’ve recently run the first of several planned Discovery Sessions digging into the nine ways of putting character at the heart of brands. It was a fantastic workshop, with attendees from a wide variety of backgrounds enjoying a very lively and informed discussion, and considering how to begin applying the learnings to their own brands.

Head here for more info and to let us know your interest in this and other upcoming Discovery Sessions.