Brands don’t come from nowhere. They come from us. They look like us, and they sound like us. If you see a brand that does not sound like you, you will probably move along until you find a better fit.
I read a photo-listicle recently called 12 Types of Party People on a site for Loop Earplugs. First of all, I thought it was a brilliant piece to pair with an earplug maker, especially as the images used in the listicle seemed almost to bass-boom off the page. The next thing I noticed was that this article serves to prove the exact point that I wanted to make: our brands resemble us.
The earplug manufacturer, Loop, shows a casting call for “party people” of 12 different varieties. In each case, they show people that we probably all know and can even name (if we were so inclined) acting up at a party like a Superstar, Table Dancer, or a Crier – types that are so familiar to us that we have to laugh as we read. But not once do they mention earplugs. It is implicit that earplugs would help us like all these people a lot more.
What’s more, these 12 types of party people are also 12 types of brands. By capturing the way people behave, we also set the model for how our brand would behave if it were a human, the “relationship” field of Bernard Dubois’ identity prism.
Not convinced? Let’s look at five brands at a party.
1. The Superstar
This is the brand that overacts and tries to steal the show from everyone around them. The superstar at a party might be someone we make fun of but in branding, we add a sprinkling of irony to carry it over.
Example: Terry Crews, Old Spice
In 2010, Old Spice did a series of ads with Terry Crews. Crews’ over-the-top performance, taking himself seriously and overacting each of the lines, showed how Old Spice wanted to loosen up its image. Old Spice had been a superstar back in the granddad days, and, by making fun of itself, made a superstar comeback.
2. The Overly Drunk Person
In the listicle, they say that this is the one who “crashes way too fast.” For a brand this would translate into over-indulgence. An example of this is branding comes from foods aimed at children. Starting in the 1960s, Coco-Puffs cereal featured a coocoo bird called Sonny who could not resist the cereal.
At the party, the overly drunk person is very quickly annoying, but can you imagine dealing with Sonny for any amount of time?
3. The Drunk Paparazzo
We’ve all seen them. They walk around with their phones up, ostensibly taking pictures of everyone at the most embarrassing moments at the party, but in fact all the pictures end up being selfies. In branding, this would translate into status brands. Luxury cars, designer wardrobes and shoes, or handbags and accessories that call out to the world for attention. One example of a showy status brand is Rolex.
4. The Aggressive Shot Pusher
It seems like a lot of this list is about drinking. This one is about the enabler, the one who always calls for another round of shots until everyone either falls down or gives up and drifts away. The Shot Pusher actually tries to dare or shame everyone into taking the shot, chanting shot, shot, shot.
What would that be in a brand? A brand that keeps after you to try something, to indulge in something, and something that will make you feel good? This is exactly what Coca-Cola does in all of their ads. They want you to Taste the Feeling, Open Happiness, Have a Coke and Smile, Coke adds Life, and so on and so on!
5. The Babysitter
Admittedly, after these drinkers, the babysitter at the party is a killjoy. They are watching over everyone and making sure nothing bad happens to people who are determined to have bad things happen to them.
A brand that watches over you is one that you rely on, that you trust at your most vulnerable moments. There are many brands that use this personality type: insurance companies, medical or pharmaceutical brands, but also car brands such as Volvo. Volvo carefully curated its brand to make sure that it was always thought of as the safest car on the road. Volvo’s text:
“Sometimes we all need someone looking after us. The Volvo #XC60 with safety features like Lane Keeping Aid helps keep you and your family safe on the road. #ForEveryonesSafety”
Every personality of each and every one of us has very likely already been used as a template for a brand. The remaining seven on the list of party-goers all have their corresponding brands.
The reason for this is simply that we use branding to make a product, an object made of steel and iron and sugar and water and cotton and leather or anything else, into a relatable human entity. The brand and its personality become something we can care about, even love, and as a result, we choose it over and over again.
We love our favorite brands, and it is for this precise reason that they are just like us. We fashioned them in our own image. We made them to love.