Brand Personification is an interesting research technique for understanding how a Brand is perceived.
As detailed elsewhere in this weblog, Brands are multi-faceted… They’re a collection of many separate perceptions about a company or product. These perceptions may include attributes like quality, reliability, value-for-money, trustworthiness, prestige, etc.
Asking people to detail their perceptions of a Brand is fraught with risk. For starters, many people have difficulty putting into words ethereal concepts. And if you ask them to rate a Brand on a pre-determined set of attributes, you’re pre-supposing – possibly incorrectly- that those attributes factor at all in their perceptions. You may also potentially miss other key perceptions you didn’t think to include in your list.
Brand Personification leverages the fact that people usually find it far easier to talk about something they have words and images for – such as people, or makes of cars – than ethereal concepts like Brands.
It’s a simple technique to employ. Essentially, you ask your constituencies: “If (Company X) were a person, what type of person would they be…? Can you describe them to me…?”
Responses to these question will often reveal – by proxy – the attributes of the Brand. For example, if Company X is described as a kindly 50 year old father figure, wearing a well-worn cardigan and slippers, we can deduce that Company X’s Brand attributes will include maturity, comfort and familiarity, perhaps unfashionable, etc. But if Company X is described as a trendily-dressed, attractive 18 year old female, then we can infer that the Brand is fashionable, youth-oriented, etc.
To use these inferences further, we can consider whether constituencies will be attracted to, or distanced by, their personification of the Brand. For example, banks would likely be delighted if certain segments of their customer base personified them as “a kindly and mature father figure”. However, a clothing label targeting cashed-up fashion-forward 18-year-olds would have a very different reaction to such a personification!
A variation of the personnification technique is to ask consitutencies to describe a Brand as a make of car, or some other set of products with which they are familiar. The Brands they respond with can be just a revealing. For example, if a Brand is described as being “like a BMW”, we can infer the Brand has attributes which include performance, precision, prestige and quality.
As a research technique, personification is useful, but it does have its limits. While it sheds light on Brand attributes now, it doesn’t help us much in understanding what a Brand’s attributes should be.
The answer to that question is more likely to be found in Purchase Driver research amongst customers and prospects.