Southwest Airlines is one of the earlier high profile examples of this. Co-founder and former CEO Herb Keleher, pursued a leadership style based on values, attitudes and culture and created a no frills airline that was fun. He believes in "hiring for attitude and training for skill." He has also said, “A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear.”
GEICO has its lovable, charming gecko. Which led to more insurance companies trying to create their own personalities through advertising campaigns and their characters, such as Progressive's Flo.
As I recall the brands I have worked with over the years, brand personality has been an important part of several brand positioning projects. Here are some examples of that.
- I worked with a federal credit union whose mantra was "simple, easy, fun." "Fun" was clearly differentiating in their category but we had to define how that personality attribute would play out at each point of customer contact.
- We worked with a watch brand that was a symbol of its wearer's hyper-competence and hyper-confidence.
- I am currently working with a reinsurance company that is known for having a "sense of humor" because of a previous leader's personality. We may adopt that as a permanent part of that brand's DNA.
- We positioned a health care system as being serious. It's point of difference was that it was a serious place for serious, complicated diseases and injuries.
- We helped a golf brand take on the personality of a serious, skilled, competent player so that the brand could be worn as a badge by people who were serious about golf.
- I worked with a property management company whose primary point of difference was its friendliness and responsiveness to renter's needs.
- We helped an insurance company adopt a set of values that is based on Christian values, generosity and caring for one another as a community.
- When I was at Hallmark, the company's mission was to help people share their feelings and nurture relationships. We decided the brand's essence was "caring shared."
- I worked with a continuing care retirement community that decided to focus on "family" including the love of family and family relationships.
While brand personality can be the result of a carefully crafted advertising campaign, more often than not, it becomes part of the brand's DNA. It becomes institutionalized and internalized by each employee. It even becomes part of the hiring criteria and performance appraisals. Consider choosing a unique and compelling brand personality as a part of your brand's unique value proposition.