One concept in marketing that has really fascinated me in the last 3 years is the brand personification concept. Brand personification, which is simply about making your business human in the eyes of your potential customers, is slowly becoming a key concern for brand marketers. The concept explains how a brand will live, play, and work if it were a human being.

For many people, the craze around brand personification is fueled by such propositions as “people buy from people”, which explains that, regardless of industry and product, being personable is the surest way to gain consumer trust and patronage.

Data shows that customers don’t trust companies. According to the Customer Revenue Optimization Benchmark study, only 36% of customers trust the advice of employees in the company, and 59% trust that of peers in other companies.

To manage this, business developers and marketers are attempting to use “relationship selling” to drive deeper connections with their audiences, which will provide a great environment for trust to grow and patronage to happen. Even when businesses are automating their processes they still pay enough attention to add aspects of authentic human experience to the automated system, because “people buy from people”.

With brand personification, brand strategists and marketing executives are taking it a notch higher to clearly construct a distinct and compelling tone of voice, visuals, and even customer service policies, well-bordered by a defined set of traits.

So, if people buy from people, it’s not enough to be empathetic and create a sense of tact in communicating with customers, it’s important to make the brand as human as possible so when consumers look at the business, they are not merely seeing a giant corporation just out for profit and hiding under the guise of empathetic marketing, but a being that truly understands and feels.

Personality development – the Coca-Cola case

Using the archetypal framework made popular by Carl Jung or David Aaker’s Brand Personality Framework, brand builders are given human traits to brands in alignment with the business vision, purpose, and core values. The constructed personality is used to design brand experience and drive brand engagement.

For example, the Coca-Cola brand is believed to run on the Innocent archetype. This explains why it is focused on depicting moments of simplicity, encouraging consumers to find fulfillment in the everyday moments that matter (like spending time with family and friends). Fabrik.com viewing the Coca-Cola brand personality from the prism of the David Aaker brand personality model explains that, “This soft-drink brand is the perfect combination of sincerity and excitement, funneling the cheerful joy and honesty of sincerity through its social media campaigns and advertisements”.

This personality design would inform the development of such campaigns as “Share a Coke” by Coca-Cola.

The impact of the Coca-Cola brand personification design has been increasingly felt in product design, where they created shareable bottles, brand campaigns (the most popular of which is the “Share a Coke” campaign), and their recent real magic platform design. The personality is weaved into every action, inaction, silence, and words for and by the brand.

Tech and brand personification – the rise of chatbots

As businesses become more automated, it becomes even more important to preserve the human touch of the business so that consumers can feel warmth even when they are interfacing with a machine. Brands are expected to pour their personality into the intermediary technology and align communication technology with core brand personality.

One way most brands have automated the customer engagement process is the development of chatbots to serve as on-the-go, customer-assistance agents by simulating human-like conversations via text messages on chat.

According to Chatbot.com, The first chatbot (Eliza) dates to 1966, which makes it older than the Internet. Yet the technology had to wait a bit to flourish at scale and it was not until 2016 that Facebook allowed developers to place chatbots on Messenger, which triggered the chatbot frenzy.

In the past few years, many reports have been published on the impact of chatbots on business and marketing effectiveness. Many believe that the chatbots frenzy is slowing down because of the lack of human touch most chatbots are built with.

According to a survey by Tidio, It is observed that, if the chatbot interaction goes smoothly, 73% of consumers are likely to convert and a brand’s positive perception is influenced by how chatbots reply to unrelated questions. It also found that 53% of consumers build positive associations around brands whose bots use quick-witted comebacks and robotic replies positively influence only 38% of consumers.

Regardless of the tech, brand personality must be the driver for customer engagement. This essential truth will influence differentiation and increase effectiveness.

Future tech and the future of brand personification

Brand personification has gone beyond the construction of a unique tone of voice and colors to be used in communication and storytelling, to actually designing a being with a name, face, and even fashion style, that embodies the personality, purpose, and positioning of a brand. Brand personification has moved from a one-dimensional construct to a 2, 3, and even 4-dimensional structure.

UBA’s Leo
In August 2018, United Bank for Africa launched an AI personality that works both as the brand’s official mascot and chatbot personality. The bank gave a name and face to its chatbot and created stories and experiences around it. This chatbot is the embodiment of the bank’s brand. Leo – as it’s called – is not just a chatbot, it’s the brand personified. Leo has two signature outfits, a gray suit and black turtleneck dress, and a white t-shirt with “Leo” crested on the chest.

Driving its personification further, the brand uses the first person pronoun to introduce the character “I am Leo, your Virtual Banker. You can find me here and ask me anything. I’m sure to respond, I’m your 24/7 chat buddy and the coolest thing is I can help you with your banking services, too.” Leo is designed to feel like a natural idea, an attempt at a deeper level of personalization of a brand, bringing the brand into the world of its audience.

Trevor and Sara’s Miquela
In 2020, my friend Tosin Balogun shared an Instagram profile with me and told me that the personality I was looking at, Miquela, is a fictional character and it was almost difficult to believe. Miquela likes Blawko, and Shudu is a CGI avatar built to simulate human existence. She’s been given a name, a face, and a reality. She has demographic information and assumed psychographic structures.

She’s been sponsored by the likes of Chanel, made out with Bella Hadid, and graced the covers of Esquire. This year, Lil Miquela signed with CAA and is projected to earn over $10M. These created beings have been given a life and a role and they are playing it beautifully so much that they have real humans engage them like they would engage a real person.

The possibilities of a metaverse

The metaverse technology is creating a new reality where people can live, play, and work like in the real world. With the metaverse, people can have locations, experiences, and actions in the virtual world as they would have in the real world. This holds endless opportunities for driving brand personification.

For example, imagine that you can know how the UBA character Leo shops, where he lives, what kind of cars he drives, and what place he likes to hang out. Consumers will better connect with a brand character and, consequently, a brand when they have a deeper understanding of its personality nuance.

What this means for the future of personification is that we may finally get to interact with brands as beings. Imagine a world where you can actually build a friendship with Google or attend an event sitting beside Apple. A world where these corporations are no longer giant buildings with glass finish but are digitally built to look and function like their target audiences, enjoying shared experiences and connecting authentically.

The ideas and ideals of Carl Jung and David Aaker will not just be a textbook idea, but we’ll see corporations living out their archetype and personalities, living and coexisting among their target audience. Since “people buy from people”, this will greatly impact sales and customer trust.

This future will affect the rising influencer marketing industry because the brands can build themselves into an influencer and, for the first time, there will be perfect harmony between the personality of the brand and the personality of the influencer.

To prepare for this future, brands must start thinking like beings and not things. Brand strategy must highlight brand personality, and brands must become clear on their personality, as well as begin to deploy that personality consistently and cohesively.

In a world where reality is reimagined, brands can take advantage of this seamless existence to build deep connections with their audiences.

Cover image source: Phil Shaw