Wednesday

Brand Personality Inspiration

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My dad always said, if you want to get ahead of the leader, don’t
follow his tracks in the snow. If I owned my own jewelry store, this
would be the mantra for everything I did. And my store would be truly
different.
I think the greatest challenge we all face is avoiding
the well-worn track. So, how do we avoid falling into step with
everyone else? The trick is to find inspiration, not from your
competitors, but from brands outside your own category of business.

Let’s
imagine that Apple went into the jewelry business. Now let’s imagine
how the Apple jewelry store might look. We all know Apple – a
fundamental indicator in itself of the brand’s leadership. The Apple
personality is well etched into our collective understanding of the
brand. We could, therefore, imagine that the Apple jewelry store would
proclaim itself in the street environment as a jewel itself. The fa├žade
would be sleek; the staff would be casually elegant, dressed in black
shirts adorned with incisive, white-printed apothegms across their
backs. The jewelry displays would be elegant – simple of line and
perhaps using white as a theme. And the jewelry pieces would feature as
the stars of a coordinated and well-design show. Each piece – and
perhaps there’d be a select few on display, ensuring that the story
behind each work had the space and time to express itself – would be a
paragon of design. You’d be able to see them up close, examine their
well-crafted detail and even touch them to fully appreciate their
seamless craftsmanship. They’d be Apple pieces, sharing design
characteristics that underline the Apple brand’s inherent mission,
personality and values. They’d be individual expressions of each
artist’s creativity yet united in their evocation of the Apple brand
signature. In brilliant paradox, their individuality would reinforce a
recognizable and unifying brand, leaving no doubt about the brand
behind the products.

Let’s step back onto the street, out of that
imaginary Apple jewelry store, and consider jewelry brand distinction
in general. There’s a row of jewelry stores in this shopping district.
Lined up side-by-side, they offer easy comparison. Or do they? They’re
all the same. Where’s the distinction between them? If I were to take a
photo of each jewelry store, I’d use the images to build a matrix to
map brand difference – and lack of it.

The matrix is built around
the four sides of a square. The vertical left-hand side accommodates
all my pictures of stores that are almost uniform with each other. The
opposite side of the square is where I put my photos of stores that are
unique in some way. Along the top of the matrix are photos of stores
that offer an experience – they’re more than retail outlets or places
to display jewels. Finally, along the bottom of the square, are all the
other stores. These are the bland environments – neither expressing
difference, experience, or an environment of any distinction.

Guess
where most of the stores would be on the matrix? Would I be wrong in
assuming they’d mainly be in the bottom left, where the uniform and
bland stores overlap. Many of the remainder would be in the middle of
the matrix, mapping their identities as stores which are essentially
trend followers that provide a pleasant environment but one which is
advised merely by function and habit, not brand expression. There’s a
pretty big gap at the top right where we would map unique, experiential
stores – if we had a picture of one.

Guess what - that’s where I would aim to have a picture of my jewelry store.

My
customers would be willing live billboards for my jewelry products.
Just as the white earphones have become a distinctive icon for the
Apple brand, the proud wearers of my store’s products would be sporting
distinctive pieces that could have come from one place only.

So, how do you identify the right source of inspiration to start building your distinctive brand experience?

First,
you need to carefully consider the values you want your jewelry store
to convey. Should it be cool, courageous, harmonious, sensitive,
humorous, inspiring? Did you notice the values I listed? We’re not
talking about reliability or quality. These are values which consumers
take for granted in a brand that has the temerity to offer itself for
sale. Brand values are personality attributes that set a brand apart
from others. Think of brands as people. Values describe the personality
of your brand, just as people represent values through their unique
personalities. Think Oprah, and you’d possibly identify values such as
compassion and care. Think Steve Jobs and you might associate visionary
qualities with the man. The same is the case with powerful brands. Your
brand’s personality is ultimately what distinguishes it. And the
personality is built on well-defined and consistently expressed values.

Your
brands values should not only underline a distinctive personality. They
allow you to tell your customers a great story. Like people, brands
exist within a personal history. They exist in a community context.
Tell the story of your brand through its expression and the
relationship it builds with customers.
Now you’re ready to
identify the source of your inspiration. Consider brands, beyond your
sector, which embody values to place them in the top right-hand corner
of the matrix. Brands that are unique and which offer an experience in
our encounters with them.

Perhaps you might think of Red Bull.
There’s a brand which might qualify as inspiration for a jewelry store
because of its unique distribution strategy. I’m sure you’re aware that
custom-built Red Bull fridges reside in surf wear stores as much as in
convenience stores, because the surf wear stores are where their core
customer group shop.

On the same theme, Quicksilver, the surf
wear clothing brand, has developed stores that are experiential,
evoking a sense of the beach, of fun and youth. Gather a group of
brands which reflect aspects of your store’s personality and values and
examine how they can inspire concepts and directions for your store.

Your
next step is to consider your story. Branding isn’t all about design.
It’s about creating a powerful story. The story, the values, the
personality all contribute to advising the design. The design expresses
these characteristics to achieve a holistic and integrated, confident
and distinctive brand expression. The fact is, you’re selling a story
first, jewelry as an inevitable consequence. The jewelry pieces are
symbols for the brand experience. My jewelry store would be an
epicenter of storytelling.

Every jewelry piece in my store
would have a unique story to tell. Each piece would express a unique
origin, a unique jeweler behind its creation, unique gems or
craftsmanship. No piece would leave my store without being accompanied
by a booklet exploring the story behind the piece. My staff should be
carefully trained in conveying each and every story. And my website
would extend the experience. On- and offline, my jewelry store would
function as theater. The set would be accompanied by a unique signature
sound – music for the store and website. A signature scent would
pervade the store and would be infused into all my exquisite packaging
materials. Customers would take home the story, the piece and the
sensory experience.

In my book, Buyology, I explore why more than
70% of us touch wood for luck. It’s true! More than 40% of us avoid
walking under ladders and opening umbrellas inside, for fear of
invoking bad luck. Countless rituals like these are engraved into our
social consciousnesses. Individually and collectively we practice
ritual daily. Weddings, engagements, birthdays – they’re all rituals.
And our addiction to them translates into a powerful branding tool. So,
on top of the story, the environment and the sensory experience of my
store, I’d invent rituals for everything: the way staff greet and
attend to customers, the way the piece’s stories are told, the way in
which purchases are wrapped and presented to customers. Every consumer
touchpoint offers an opportunity for brand expression.

Buying
jewelry should give customers a memorable experience. It should be an
experience that’s so distinctive that they can’t help but talk about
it. Breathless stories of the beautiful jewelry store experience would
spread by word-of-mouth to friends and family. This is the marketing
strategy to aim for. Classic advertising rarely works, and it comes at
an outrageous cost. I’d make my store do the talking and let my
customers be the pilgrims who spread the word to the world.

Sponsored By: The Brand Positioning Workshop


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