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Get in Character: Using Archetypes to Breathe New Life Into Your Brand

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 1/04/2016 Laura Tarbox
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A brand is brought to life by its character. It guides how the brand speaks, looks and behaves, and should be consistent across all communications. Below are some tips for winning with brand character to ensure consumer appeal and competitor distinctiveness.
Think beyond the obvious
Every category has its dominant archetype - whether that's Nurturer in baby care, or Ruler in banking. Character offers you a way to think beyond category norms to truly differentiate. Take Oscar, the new insurance start-up that aims to simplify the entire health insurance experience. The brand is operating in a Sage-dominant category and creates disruption with its dual use of Regular Guy and Innocent. Regular Guy: It's Oscar: he has a name, he talks to customers in a down-to-earth, straight-forward way. Innocent: he has a simple playfulness that makes him instantly likeable. That's character well done.
Live the character
When it comes to your brand, you should always be in character. It should guide the way you talk about and execute things. Take The North Face, for example. The brand is named for the coldest, most unforgiving side of a mountain and the notion of 'extremism' is implicit. This idea however, could be dramatized in many different ways - all determined by character. The brand's choice of an Explorer/ Ruler duo keeps North Face's interpretation of this idea in the realm of the radical and deliberate, and away from a more Innocent expression which could lean further towards, say, wonder.
Dial up dial down
Just like human beings, each character is myriad. For example, there's not one way to be a Lover - just look at Axe and Tiffany. Axe has typically (although this is definitely changing) pivoted on the physical attraction and passion angle of the archetype, whereas Tiffany (by virtue of their product line) leverages its romantic, commitment-orientated qualities. The lesson? Archetypes give you the ability to pull on different elements of character to create your own unique identity.
Appeal to attitudes
Character can help you appeal beyond demographics to the attitudes of your target. What does your audience look for in the things they interact with? Are they drawn to disruption? Or do they seek the secure? In what context is that true and how might it differ when it comes to your category? Take these learnings and feed directly into your character definition process. You won't regret it.
Another lens on the competition
Last but not least, character can also serve as another lens to keep tabs on (and ahead of) your competition - and indeed the most vibrant/ powerful brands in the market. How do they present themselves to customers - visually, verbally, in terms of the things they do? How can you differentiate in a positive way? You might say brand character is like a competitor radar OS.

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