Strategic marketing consultancy | Brand marketing consultancy | The Marketing Directors logo

Brand Positioning; Transform Your Brand into a Super Brand by Adding Brand Personality

Superman has a distinctive brand positioning amongst comic book heroes

Standing out from the crowd is tough! It is common to find products, services and brands making the same claims. In other words, occupying the same brand positioning spaces. For example, almost every business service claims to improve business efficiency. Further, in consumer goods, almost every washing powder washes clean. Most food also tastes good, and nearly every feature film entertains. These are examples of ‘basic’ or ‘generic’ category benefits; they match the most basic or prevalent consumer needs.

This is where the idea of brand personality has a role to play. Brand personality can transform your brand into a super brand. Through how the brand communicates not just via what is said.

So what is brand personality?

Brand personality confers human characteristics on a brand; physical characteristics, beliefs and behaviours – these guide how the brand looks, speaks, what it thinks, believes and also how it behaves.

While there are usually few benefits to express, there are almost limitless ways to express the benefits. For example, with candour, authority or through humour.

A brand personality helps engage

A great deal of psychological literature suggests that people have a tendency to perceive those they like as more similar than those they dislike. People also have a tendency to perceive themselves in a positive light and seek congruence (1).

Thus a brand personality helps attract and engage. So consider the criteria involved in selecting a mate. Other than physical attributes it mostly comes down to personality and the consequential benefits of a personality.  Beyond the obvious, “And Mrs. Ecclestone, what attracted you to the multi-millionaire Bernie?” other potential benefits include reinforcing self-knowledge, self-consistency and also self-esteem (2).

Brand personality also enriches differences and helps attract and cement relationships. There are three main strategic applications or benefits of a brand personality (Figure 1) (3). To:

Influence of brand personality
  • express or enhance either functional or emotional benefits (these are essential criteria for strong brands). Mr Muscle adds strength to a cleaning brand, Fairy suggests a delicate touch or care, while Nike suggests those who wear their sports-wear are winners (4).
  • reflect consumer types/enable self-expression. BMW creates stylish automobiles (this is aspirational to non-owners and confers ‘cool’ on owners), Fosters imbues macho and comedy to beer drinking (and thus confers self-esteem and sociableness on the drinker), while Apple suggests high style, easy communication (and confers cool and feel-good in belonging to an ‘elite’ group).
  • strengthen consumer-brand relationships; Starbucks attracts as a ‘cool’ place to chill while John Lewis is trusted as a place to shop (because of their clear and consistent trading and returns policies). The passion and success of Manchester United not only generates extraordinary physical and emotional support but the club shirts are also labels (and convey self-image benefits).

Archetypes add meaning to brands

Applying archetypes to brands helps further distil and define a brand’s personality. An archetype is a collectively inherited unconscious idea, a pattern of thought, behaviour, image. They are also universally present in myths, legends, literature and art. Archetypes came to popular consciousness through the work of Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Carl Jung – the founder of modern psychology.  However, archetypes are neither good nor bad, they simply exist. Further, while the number of archetypes is limitless, there are a few notable, recurring archetypes, “the chief among them being” (according to Jung) “the shadow, the wise old man, the child, the mother … and her counterpart, the maiden. Also, lastly the anima in men (the feminine side in a man’s psyche) and the animus in women (the masculine side in a woman’s psyche)” (5).

Humans automatically inherit archetypes and enrich them based on our own experiences. Archetypes also reflect basic human needs and motivations. Mark and Pearson (6) summarised these needs along two axes: belonging/enjoyment versus independence/fulfilment and stability/control versus risk/mastery (Figure 2).

The strongest brands are clear and familiar archetypes

Figure 2 shows the twelve main archetypes mapped on two axes, together with examples of well-known brands that fit each archetype. Some are easy to understand while others may trigger subliminal thoughts.  For example, Virgin is a familiar Outlaw brand cf. Robin Hood. A challenger to authority, taking from the rich and ‘evil’ (as they have variously portrayed established national airlines, banks and railway companies) and giving to the ‘poor’.  Think also Zorro and Rebel without a Cause. This is archetypes is particularly useful to position pioneering brands or those taking on the establishment.

Creating brand personality using archetypes: Twelve Master Archetypes

Archetypes also add meaning and convey messages that verbal and written information cannot.  Thus they help bring brands alive. They are also powerful in stimulating new ideas to help brands challenge category conventions, stand-out and reconnect with consumers. Thus understanding the archetypal nature and power of a brand is the first step to realising the strategic benefits outlined in Figure 1.  Once you determine your archetype and understand how it works, the more easily you can express it, use it and also avoid career-limiting mistakes! Brand marketing activity that correlates most strongly with archetypes tends to be more successful and value enhancing (and vice versa) (6).  

The right brand positioning, personality and archetype depends on the market in which you compete, your customer segments and also their needs. In addition, the brand positioning spaces occupied by competitors, as well as your own strengths and weaknesses.

Marketing Inspiration

  1. As search engine marketing relegates brands to a few keywords, avoid dumbing down your brand. Strengthen your brand strategy by investing in a colourful brand personality to be seen and heard.  
  2. Understanding and optimising brands transforms the ability to compete.  If you are #2 or #3 in a category, this could give you an edge to overtake a competitor. So search for and express the distinctive and engaging combination of personality traits to build consumer-brand relationships. If products are people, then brands are friends or loved ones.
  3. Investing a distinctive brand archetype will also strengthen your brand positioning. In turn making it easier to understand and manage.
  4. For service or digital brands, that customers meet through people, such as in call or service centres, a brand personality or archetype ‘blueprint’ will also guide staff to converse and behave consistently. Further if you have a service glitch, customers will be more forgiving.
  5. A good place to start is with a competitor brand positioning assessment that encompasses personality and archetypes.


  1. Sirgy, M. J. Self-congruity: Toward a Theory of Personality and Cybernetics, United States. Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 14, (1986).
  2. Sirgy, M. J. “Self-concept in consumer behaviour: A critical review,” Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 287-300, (1982).
  3. Ahmand, Anees and Thyagaraj, K.S. Understanding the Influence of Brand Personality on Consumer Behaviour (2015).
  4. Nike is the Greek goddess of victory. The figure of Nike also appears on the bonnet of Rolls Royce cars, ‘the best cars in the world’.
  5. Jung, Carl. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Second Edition (1996).
  6. Mark, Margaret, Pearson, Carol S. The Hero and the Outlaw – Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes (2001).

Photo credit: Warner Bros. Batman vs. Superman 2016.

Political Branding; Scottish Independence vs. Better Together

Scotland brand positioning

Battle of the nation brands

The Scottish electorate voted on the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ on Thursday 18th September 2015. The UK Government stated that if a simple majority of the votes cast were in favour of independence, then “Scotland would become an independent country after a process of negotiations”. If the majority voted against independence, then Scotland would continue within the United Kingdom (1).  In addition, further powers would be devolved to the Scottish Parliament as a result of the Scotland Act 2012. This article looks at some of the drivers and barriers from a political branding and also marketing perspective.

Salmond vs Cameron, political branding figureheads
What are drivers and barriers to Scottish Independence?

The Scottish electorate

Scottish residents over the age of 16 were eligible to vote, and according to the National Records for Scotland, 4.1m people registered to do so (2). Though of nearly half a million EU citizens living in Scotland just 94k registered. 16-17 year olds also voted for the first time. This is as a result of a political bargain or trade which suggests different benefits to the different political sides.

Influencing process

Influencing starts with awareness of an issue or opportunity. Appreciating or rejecting an idea, engaging (and potentially interacting with other influences or influencers) then follows to reinforce or change voting intention and behaviour. Research in political science has traditionally ignored non-rational considerations in theories of mass political behaviour though a growing literature suggests that affective states (i.e. emotions or feelings in contrast to cognition) are both beneficial and biasing (3). Further research (4) also found that anxiety and enthusiasm encourage more evaluation and consideration of political choices. In addition that events such as the outcome of football matches (5) and the weather (6) can stir emotions and affect voting decisions.

Political influencing process
Steps involved in the political influencing process

How does the electorate perceive the question?

The ‘Yes’ camp framed the question as Scotland vs. Westminster and painted Westminster, and the likes of David Cameron, as the enemy. Meanwhile, the ‘Better Together’ team argued that the question is not about choosing between two states but about choosing between one or both. Though through the electorate’s eyes there is a greater spectrum of options from Scotland the brand, to both Scottish and British brands. However, exactly where perceptions lie is key to electoral success.

Nation brand architecture options
Some of the Independent Scotland vs. alternative brand architecture options

What are the benefits of Scottish Independence?

Establishing the benefits or disbenefits of Scottish independence is difficult as much is unknown. Financial management was centre-stage, with the ‘Yes’ campaign playing up the benefits of the oil reserves. Equally ‘Better Together’ stressed the ability of the UK to offer longer term financial stability. Both sides also espouse the benefits of their causes, and the negatives of the other. For example, while the ‘Yes’ campaign manifesto claims to have a costed and credible plan, ‘Better Together’ disagree.

At the most rational level, some studies suggest that voters vote for what they do not want to lose, as much as what they hope to gain (7). Which is why spreading fear, uncertainty and also doubt is a strategy employed by both sides to ‘diss’ the other.

Features and benefits of Independent Scotland
Features and benefits of Independent Scotland vs. Better Together

Our experience is that emotional arguments are more likely to hold sway. These are more deep-rooted than price/value arguments. For example, that Scottish independence gives Scotland greater control. Thus the ’Yes’ campaign challenge is to make this a meaningful benefit and convince the electorate that they can be relied on if granted ‘more’ control.

A distinctive Scottish voice?

A distinctive Scottish voice or personality is another feature of independent Scotland. Though the challenge is also to make this compelling. Historical evidence suggests ‘Scottishness’ is reasonably clear (Burns, bagpipes, whisky, golf, scenery etc.) though future ‘Scottishness’ is harder to comprehend.  The Saltire, for example, is more ubiquitous in Scotland, than the flag of St. George in England. It is possible that a distinctive Scottish voice could raise Scotland’s profile and status on the world stage. It could also raise self esteem. All are particularly powerful emotional benefits. Thus this perhaps explains why a lot of effort has gone into defining Scotland the brand (8) and promoting Scottish iconography. Though one suspects the electorate are unaware of the underlying strategic nation branding effort.

Nevertheless, all things Scottish instill pride in being Scottish as much as the white rose, Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and Yorkshire Dales instill pride in Yorkshire folk. Pride is a powerful emotional benefit and is rooted in history as well as personal experiences.

A key issue is whether voters prefer ‘Scottishness’ over ‘Britishness’

Or the best of both. While the concept is ‘Britishness’ is harder to define, the Prime Minister recently attempted to do so (9), and the London 2012 opening ceremony illustrates some elements.

Marketing Inspiration

Scottish Saltire - brand logo
The Scottish Saltire signals welcome to Scotland the brand
  1. Brand promotion is a precursor to brand recognition and engagement whether in politics or not. So use multiple means, and all available relationships to promote your brand and identity in places where it has positive and credible associations.
  2. Abstract ideas are hard to understand yet alone agree with so clearly articulate goals to tangibilise an idea and foster support.
  3. Persuasion requires the winning of hearts and minds. Though different customer segments have different agendas; some are more cerebral, some more sophisticated, and some more emotional or cost driven. Thus by understanding the needs, and hot buttons of all, it is easier to devise messages and policies that resonate and persuade. And also avoid alienating.
  4. For those competing in high risk and high reward markets, be ready for ever-increasing scrutiny and challenge.
  5. And what’s our opinion? Make emotional benefits centre stage to your political branding strategy. Further, in the run up to, during and beyond the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games brace yourselves for even more emotion!

Post election update; as the ‘nayes’ won, we’re delighted to retain our Scottish cousins …. though there are maneoverings for #indyref2 – return of the big beasts.


  1. About the Scottish Independence Referendum, UK Government, May 2014
  2. National Records for Scotland May 2014
  3. Andreadis, I; Chadjipadelis, Th. (2005), Differences in Voting Behaviour, pp. 1-13
  4. Kyogoku, J; Ike, N. (1960) Urban-Rural Differences in Voting Behaviour in Postwar Japan, pp. 167-185
  5. Marcus, G; Neuman, R; MacKuen, M. (2000), Affective Intelligence and Political Judgement, University of Chicago Press
  6. Healy, A; Malhotra, N; Hyunjung Mo, C. (2010), “Irrelevant events affect voters’ evaluations of government performance”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences if the United States of America 107 (29); 12804-12809
  7. Kahneman, D.; Tversky, A. (1984), “Choices, Values, and Frames”, American Psychologist 39 (4): 341–350
  8. Scotland the brand aims and characteristics.
  9. Cameron, D. Stop being bashful about Britishness, June 15 2014, Mail on Sunday, as reported by the BBC.

Brand Personality; How Kulula Stands-Out in South African Skies

Kulula brand personality

Investing brand personality is an under-estimated way to set brands apart and engage customers. is an airline that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Its humorous brand personality is clear through all aspects of the brand experience. So how did this all begin? And also what lessons can we learn and apply to your brand?

Having identified a gap in the market for a low-cost airline to bring air travel to the South African masses, launched in July 2001. It operates on major domestic routes out of Tambo International Airport and Lanseria on the outskirts of Johannesburg. As building a business based on price alone risks vulnerability to attack from more established airlines, it has hewn a positioning based on ease, inspirational service and safety. This is summed up in its name which means ‘easy’ in Zulu. Though most distinctive is its brand personality. Being totally honest, straight-forward and helping people lighten-up.

Convey brand personality through inventive advertising

Launching with a budget of just 3m rand (c. £200k) demands cut-through communication. The brand launched with a super heroes campaign. The  jingle espouses “Now Everyone Can Fly” (and there isn’t a plane in sight).

Convey personality through product and service appearance

Similarly to easyjet’s bright orange in the UK, Kulula has a distinctive lime green livery.  The unconventional markings include ‘this way up’ and arrows pointing to parts of the plane, including rudder, nose cone, sun-roof. Also to where ‘the big cheese’ (‘captain, my captain’) sits.

Amusing public relations

When South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup and in 2010 it ran a campaign describing itself as the “Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What”. This took place “Not next year, not last year, but somewhere between”. Another advert announced “affordable flights [to] everybody except Sepp Blatter” (the FIFA president), who was offered a free seat “for the duration of that thing that is happening right now”. Obviously, oblique references to the World Cup which FIFA intervened to stop. Thus creating even more publicity for Kulula.

People are key to brand personality

Kulula flight crew are encouraged to let their natural talent show through. Here are some examples heard of or reported from in-flight “safety lectures” and announcements :

“In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks descend from the ceiling and provide free oxygen. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are with more than one small child, pick your favourite.”

“There are 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane.”

“Your seat cushions float; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and then take them with our compliments.”

“It is with pleasure that Kulula Airlines announces that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!”

“We’ve reached cruising altitude and will now turn down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance your flight attendants’ appearance.”

Here are some comments heard after a few extremely hard landings

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City. Please stay in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!”

The airline has a policy which requires the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exit, smile, and say “thanks for flying our airline”. In light of a particularly bad landing, he had a hard time looking passengers in the eye, expecting a smart comment from someone. Finally a little old woman walking with a cane disembarked the aircraft saying;

“Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Why, no Ma’am,”
said the pilot. “What is it?”
“Did we land, or were we shot down?”

Part of a flight attendant’s arrival announcement:

“We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to blast through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you think of Kulula Airways.”

“As you exit the plane, please gather all of your belongings. If not, we’ll then distribute anything left evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.”

“Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.”

“Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”

Marketing Inspiration

  1. Brand personality, i.e. characteristics, beliefs and behaviours, should be a key component of any brand strategy. Use it to enhance the ‘stand-out’ of your brand.
  2. In a world awash with corporate grey, a rich and clear personality, injects colour and breathes life into brands. Executed effectively this maximises impact and engages. It also fuels a strong emotional connection with customers.
  3. When problems occur or disasters strike, as often happens in the service industry, self-deprecation and humour defuses issues and alleviates stress. So allow your people to let their natural personalities shine through. Also recruit people to match your personality and build your brand.
  4. And great ideas also make budgets go further. As Kulula says “smiles and jokes are free” (1).
  5. A humourous brand message and personality entertains. It also creates a talking point and inspires social media and email sharing.
  6. And leave readers to question whether or not this is an April Fool’s joke ….


  1. Kulula Airlines

Marketing Christmas with Music

Using music for marketing

SFX: Christmas Bells

Ring, ring. Ring, ring!

Music has long been associated with Christmas, and Christmas with music. The first specifically Christmas hymns (carols) for Christians appeared in the fourth century. Music is also a terrific gift; the size of the market increases in the run up to Christmas and record labels battle to win the coveted #1 single and album slots. Marketers are also catching on to the power of marketing Christmas with music.

For the last three years, John Lewis has been top of the pops in using music to market their business. The Gabrielle Aplin cover of ‘The Power of Love’ used in John Lewis’ 2012 Christmas campaign by Adam & Eve/DDB knocked Olly Murs off the top of the official UK singles chart on 10 December. You can watch it here.

John Lewis’s sales for the week ending Saturday 8 December rose 15% year on year to £142m. John Lewis is attributing this to the success of its “omnichannel strategy”. It says sales were driven by customers looking for that special Christmas gift, including gloves, cashmere, lingerie, handbags or jewellery. The strong performance of gloves as a gift coincides with the Christmas ad showing a snowman making a long journey to get a pair of gloves for his snowwoman.

In 2011, John Lewis used the Slow Moving Millie soundtrack, ‘Please, please, please’ to promote its Christmas offer. This has amassed nearly 5m You Tube views.

Ellie Goulding’s haunting cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ was used in its 2010 Christmas ad. But can you recall the ads pre 2009?

Seasons Greetings to you!

Since we founded our marketing consultancy in 2005, we’ve included lyrics from Christmas songs in our Christmas cards. Finding lyrics that convey the right sentiments is a tough task! Matching words and pictures is equally difficult. This year we’ve selected lyrics from a song written by Leigh Haggerwood called ‘My Favourite Time of Year’. Disappointed at the high-jacking of the Christmas charts by likes of X-Factor, Leigh wrote this song to reflect the true values of Christmas. Also funded without the backing of a record label, and promoted only by social media, it charted at just 40 in December 2010. You can watch it here. ‘There is goodwill in the air tonight’.

Marketing Inspiration

1. Music elicits powerful emotional responses and influences behaviour. It’s also powerful in rekindling memories. Thus if used correctly the sound of sleigh bells can have a powerful effect on tills.

2. Remember the narrative. While many John Lewis ads pre 2009 also used music, for example, Taken by the Trees version of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ in 2009, Virginia Labuat’s version of ‘From me To You’ in 2008 and Prokoviev’s Romeo and Juliet in 2007, none are arguably as emotionally engaging and heart warming as the more recent ads.

3. Ensure consistency in marketing communications (through different channels and over time) to help get the message across, be understood and acted upon.