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Does your brand have personality?

Posted Tuesday, June 5, 2012, at 12:52 PM

Ever wonder why some small businesses become powerful brands and others stagnate? Often, it comes down to brand personality, or lack thereof.

Take ice cream brand Ben & Jerry's, whose owners founded the company on the principle of "If it's not fun, why do it?" That brand personality resonates both inside and outside the company. Employees have fun at work and that sense of enjoyment permeates to the outside world as well. Known for fun flavors like Cherry Garcia, named for the Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia, the brand now promotes a controversial flavor of the month, such as Imagine Whirled Peace, What a Cluster, and Karmel Sutra.

Consumers can be quick to embrace a brand when its personality is authentic. If Ben & Jerry's were run by traditional "suits," few would deem its personality bona fide.

So how well do you know your brand's personality? If you were chatting with a friend about it, how would you describe it? Try likening your brand to a breed of dog or model of car, which can often be easier to describe. How would your customers and prospects describe your brand personality? If you don't know, ask them -- toot de suite.

It's gratifying to see small businesses embracing and finding branding success. Known for sporting a variety of brightly colored wigs, Memphis-based baker and entrepreneur Kat Gordon gets "it." Self titled "manager of awesome," she has developed a brand that is equal parts positive energy and just plain full of life. Recently interviewed regarding the state of her business, her response was "Splendiferous!" That's Kat. Meet her once and never forget her. Engage with her brand, and the same holds true.

Iconic brand Coca-Cola has certainly invested heavily through the years in establishing a brand personality that embraces diversity as depicted in its long running, "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" ad campaign. The ads featured people from across the world coming together -- for the love of both Coke and song. This brand trait holds true, as Coke products are available in one form or another in countries all across the world.

Historically, brands that stand the test of time have a well-defined personality. Levi's brand has stood for rebellion through the years. The Marlboro brand personality is all about masculinity, freedom and adventure. Nike's personality is young, active and adventurous. Apple hangs its hat on its creativity, imagination, innovation and individuality.

If you're struggling to define your brand, you can bet your customers and prospects are, too. And that's a recipe for market complacency.

In the end, brand personality boils down to the simple idea that the quality of your work or product and the degree to which your consumers relate to your brand drive repeat business and brand loyalty. It's just that doggone simple.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover Sales & Marketing in Memphis, TN, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).

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Lori spent over 15 years leading corporate marketing and communications divisions in the financial services, hospitality and franchise restaurant sectors. As Director of Target Marketing for the Hampton Hotels brand of Hilton Hotels Corporation, Lori managed promotional, direct and Web marketing, as well as custom publishing, for the brand's franchise system. In her role as Vice President of Employee Communications and Development for First Horizon National Corporation, she managed the corporation's internal culture initiatives, communications, and employee recognition programs. Other positions held include Sr. Communications Director/Corporate Editor for TCBY Enterprises, Inc., and Vice President of Marketing for First National Banking Company. Lori is a founding sponsor and member of the Board of Directors for LaunchMemphis -- an organization committed to developing an entrepreneurial community in Memphis comprised of investors, entrepreneurs and local organizations. In addition, Lori is on the Board of Directors of the Sales and Marketing Society of the Mid-South and on the Advisory Board for the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County. She is a sought-after speaker in the Memphis area, delivering sales and marketing keynote addresses and workshops to organizations like: the Memphis Chapter of the American Advertising Federation, the Sales & Marketing Society of the Mid-South, LaunchMemphis, EmergeMemphis, the Memphis Regional Chamber, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. Lori holds a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in addition to having completed the University of Colorado's School of Bank Marketing and Management. She is the recipient of numerous industry awards including local and district Addy's, Communicator awards, and a Telly. She received recognition as one of the Memphis Business Journal's "Top 40 Under 40" recipients in 2009. Lori also served as a contributing ghost writer for the renowned "Complete Idiot's Guide to Guerilla Marketing." Beyond her passions for marketing and dogs of all shapes and sizes, Lori is an avid traveler, runner and foodie.