Applying Personalities to Branding

Applying Personalities to BrandingPertanyaan: I have observed a current trend in Nigeria, of some easily recognizable personalities (mis. those in the movie industry) being ascribed one name or another, connected to consumer products. As I am confused about the relevance of such association, please explain the grounds for this, before I attribute it to the “imitation mentality” that has become fashionable around – John Akpe

Your observation corresponds with marketing trend elsewhere. As Nigeria remains a part of the globe, it is out of place to even contemplate attributing this to (in your words) “imitation mentality”. Such inclination sometimes has positive sides to it, hence my present interest in capitalizing on it (becoming “Copy Cats”), to induce Nigerian private sector enterprises to adopt a fast growing concept of poverty alleviationThe Bottom (or Base) of the pyramid (BoP).

Products, services and even organisations are promoted through being tied with personalities who are easily identifiable (for positive reasons). What remains distinct in this regard is associating these persons, who prospective consumers of related brands (being projected) are favourably disposed to. Dengan kata lain, making use of someone who is famous (often during his or her own lifetime) to elevate a brand. Stars or celebrities in the world of entertainment (mis. movies or motion pictures, music, sports, comedy, dan sebagainya), ‘big shots’, household names, popular, and easily recognizable persons of other endeavours of life, clearly fit into this.

Since I adhere strictly to refraining from applying my column as a tool for local “subtle advertisement”, I will completely steer clear of stating brands and well known persons in Nigeria, but will be descriptive enough for easy identification of any subject being referred to. This is not applicable to celebrities or easily recognizable persons or brands of other climes. To avoid any form of ambiguity, since the term “brand” has been referred to earlier, and “branding” stated in this title, it is quite pertinent to provide insight g into what both represent (of course “branding” emanated from the word “brand”). Its interesting origin will be the subject for another day.

Brand is the name associated with one or more items in the product line (or organisation) that is used to identify its source or character. It is an offering from a known source, and carries many associations in the minds of the people (like, Toyota, Honda, Volvo, Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, Ferrari, General Motors, Shell, BP, Chevron, Casio, Swatch, Rolex, Timex, Newsweek, Vogue, Playboy, The Economist, Jean Levin, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurant, Channel, Pierre Cardin, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Van Heusen, DHL, FedEx, Mac-Donald, Heinz, KFC, Kraft, Philip Morris, Marlboro, Harley-Davidson, QLink, Kaiser Permanente, Sanford, and so on).

See brand as, “Those features that help to distinguish one’s product or service rendition or offerings from those of the competitors – e.g. Nama, trademark, logo, and other symbols”. Branding is the sum total of a company’s identity—from its name and logo to every piece of communication, internal or external—to every encounter every customer or potential customer has with it.

To comprehend further the essence of applying personalities to branding, consider the terms clarified here:

Brand evangelist – This depicts the role of a chief executive officer (CEO) of a business concern that is often best placed to define and defend the actions of the business venture’s brand. The personality of the CEO makes a lot of impact on his/her organisation or product brand. This may turn out negatively, as depicted by the end of a Nigerian commercial bank being marked by its well-known female CEO facing arraignment and later found guilt for misappropriation by a law court.

Endorsement – Here, celebrities or prominent persons come forth with favourable reports on the qualities and virtues of a product or organisation (testimonial), in advertising, written or spoken statement. This agrees with famous Chinese basketball player, Yao Ming, recent identification with Kenya’s Wildlife Service, on the conservation of elephants through discouraging sales of ivory in China. Promotional model illustrates a person hired to drive consumer demand for a product, service, brand, or concept by directly interacting with potential consumers. Such, typically, should be attractive in physical appearance, and should serve to provide information about the product or service and make it appealing to consumers.

Celebrity branding – For this, a celebrity applies his or her status in society to promote a product, service or even charity. It can take several forms, varying from a celebrity appearing in advertisements for product, service promotion or even attending PR events, applying his or her name as a brand (as for mostly clothing and perfumes/fragrances). The trend presently is for singers, models and film stars to have at least one licensed product or service which bears their name. Even celebrities with distinct voice apply this when not on screen (mis. voice-overs for broadcast commercials). There is clearly a correlation between successful celebrity branding and brand endorsementsTiger Woods, the legendary golfer being synonymous with “Nike”; late Steve Jobs and “Apple”; the face of Bill Gates as reminder of “Microsoft”; Richard Brandon’s prominent smile always ‘pointing’ in the direction of “Virgin”. Nigerian corporate entities should not ‘over-flog’ this concept, as being exhibited by an indigenous telecommunication company, who now confuse consumers with ‘multiple faces’ of different Nigerian singers, actors, and comedians.

Ambassador – Even where I see its definition not being set in stone, I view it as depicting someone who represents the brand image (someone who is hired to impress or promote the products or services of a company), and not someone who just endorses the brand. If a celebrity is endorsing a brand and his personality is not associated with the brand’s image, then he/she is not a brand ambassador. A Brand ambassador is someone employed by a company (who represents a company on an ongoing basis, and is compensated to do so), to be the sales person and its physical representative with respect to marketing. The typical goals here are goodwill development, increased awareness, spreading word of mouth, and customer intelligence.

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