Brand personification is a concept which is rather new in our market as the rate of oblivion is surprising when especially you try to do some research on this topic. It’s a concept prevailing in the Western market since the 1940’s and 50’s, however, marketers over here have started making good use of it recently. Many of us would have read ‘The Happy Prince’ by Oscar Wilde in school to start of with what personification actually is. Ahhh! Good old memories of school . . .
Today we see personification as an emerging concept, whether it is the form of Ufone advertisements or M&M’s that we had been consuming since our childhood. The colours of M&M’s show different genders. Perry and Wisnom in their book, ‘Creating the Unique DNA of an enduring Brand Identity’ have described it as an experiential identity, that is, the point of contact with the brand over time that paves way to people forming their opinions about a it. Now post purchase dissonance would have a complete negative personification altogether depending alot upon the recency effect.
Many companies also try to enhance their identity making use of aspirational positioning, such as cigarette companies and those dealing with luxury goods. However, the disgusting product image of the former has invited great opposition from parents internationally as the macho and strong images they show of smokers are naturally not possible as a result of smoking. While, on the other hand, having endorsers for luxury goods, and then reaching out to the target market is a message put across making people feel that it is what they would eventually aspire to be.
Now brand image and brand identity are totally different concepts. Brand image is what perceptions people have regarding a particular brand and it is then what shapes personification, while brand identity is what the company wants it’s brand to be, therefore, marketing is all about playing with the minds of consumers and making them think the way you want them to think which could be impossible at times. For example, Zong has emerged with a number of quick witted advertisements however, the question is whether whatever image it was trying to shape in the minds of consumers has it helped in making people switch?
There are various forms of personification existing around us. One of them is the owner being the brand personality such as Richard Branson for Virgin but what would happen to the company once he is gone? Another form is having an endorser for your brand and communicating the image through a strong and renowned personality like what is commonly done through athletes such as Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhter for Pepsi and Tiger Woods for Gillette. However, as appearances ,the level of endorsements change as well becoming more and more interesting, an example is of Junaid Jamshiad now endorsing Lays, I believe it sounds funny than pursuasive . . .
Furthermore, there is a concept of a strong endorser, a weak endorser and then an endorser going bad altogether. Pepsi dumped its celebrity endorsements in America in 2003 saying that they were too strong and overshadowing the brand, while on the other hand, having Shoaib Malik to endorse Gillette is what could be assumed a weak endorsement.
When we talk about the endorser going bad . . . well now we do have a great local example ! Yes, Ali Zafar! He was friends with the brand manager of Telenor, hence, he was endorsing the brand, now when the same brand manager moved on to Mobilink, he took the gentleman along with him to endorse Mobilink . . . Now what? Ehh nothing . . . For Ali Zafar it wouldn’t make much of a difference because he was dancing away endorsing Telenor, probably, he would do the same at Mobilink, however, Telenor lost some of it’s differentiation in terms of it’s aspirational positioning but hats off to the brand manager for having such persuasive skills . . .
Recently, the bad publicity of Tiger woods has urged quite a few companies to either limit their endorsement with him or to cancel them altogether. The upset Accenture has called off his six year old sponsorship altogether saying that he is no longer the right person to personify their attributes based on integrity and high performance, Gillette on the other hand is claiming to have limited it mentioning that there were no upcoming advertisements featuring him in 2010 any way, while, Gatorade seems to be slipping away too. Thus, one wrong move not only tarnishes a person’s reputation but also that of the company’s he is endorsing. This could be termed as a side effect of celebrity endorsement. Bad days for you Mr. Woods . . .
Brand personification is something more often related to FMCG’s, however, it’s quite rare for services both internationally and locally. Dalda, is personified as a sixty year old lady which means the company needs to focus on both BTL and ATL activities to work on it’s positioning and the image it’s creating.
Companies often use the words, ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ as part of the brand name to indicate a starter as personification; Mr. Clean, Mr. Muscle are few of these examples. The Michelin logo helps in personifying it’s product range with the use of personifying advertisements.
As part of the emerging marketing wars it is important that marketers realise the importance of such a topic and start working on it.