The Cult of Personality…Cultivating the Cult

Learn what, Ben & Jerry’s, and other companies have done to build their brands so effectively. Apple. Ben & Jerry’s. Craig’s List. Google. Lexus. Manchester United. Nike. Nordstrom. Seventh Generation. Starbucks. Stonyfield Farm. Target.

All brands. All successful. What is it that each of these companies has executed effectively in building their brands?

Whether Apple, Nordstrom or Stonyfield Farm, each brand has built a distinctive, positive personality. And not just any personality, but one that particularly resonates with their core target audience. (Brand personality is one of the four elements of “Brand DNA” as described in the StartupNation article, Establish a Brand as part of the 10 Steps to Open for Business step-by-step advice series.)

Nike is a brand that exudes “cool.” Its brand is like that kid in your school who always seems to be one step ahead of everyone else with the latest, coolest and most stylish clothing and gadgets.

Ben & Jerry’s is the irreverent class clown, who does his own thing and always seems to be having a great time.

Seventh Generation is the concerned, altruistic older sister. She’s never done in seeking additional ways to save the planet and in enlisting others to do the same.

And each of these companies has been successful in building a large, loyal and passionate customer base. There are many apparel, ice-cream and household goods companies. Yet these three distinctly stand out from the crowd in large part due to their corporate personalities.

Put another way, if these companies had strictly focused on their products, their attraction would have been vastly reduced. What makes them so irresistible IS their personalities, and their products have become inseparable from this larger force.

What are the elements that make a compelling corporate personality?

  • Likability – Consumers like Target because its ads are different – they are fun, playful and colorful – it’s hard not to be happy after watching one of its ads.
  • Standing for Something – Each of the brands mentioned above is not afraid to stand for something distinctive. The brand is not trying to be all things to all people. Craig’s List is a minimalist, utilitarian website aiming to be as “pure” as possible.
  • Exceptionality – Each brand here does something exceptional. Nordstrom goes to the extreme in providing world-class customer service. Nordstrom will even gift-wrap items bought at other stores. Wow!

How can a corporate personality be translated into an effective website?

  • Lexus – Lexus is like a super cool, super smart and super successful cousin. The website is filled with imagery that matches the brand’s “pursuit of perfection.” The imagery is crisp and stunning. There’s no doubt left in the site visitor’s mind that Lexus cares about every last detail of the car driving experience.
  • – is like a friend who is the ultimate social connector, always introducing you to others, getting you to try new things and starting the conversation at parties. The website is overflowing with opportunities for user-generated content and engagement, from product reviews, blogs and recommendation lists, to guides, ratings and forums.
  • Seventh Generation – As mentioned, Seventh Generation is like a concerned, altruistic older sister. The first thing that you encounter on is a call-to-action to join Seventh Generation Nation in saving the planet. The website is full of information and engagement opportunities towards this cause, and even right on the home page highlights the number of trees and gallons of petroleum saved by use of its products.

How about your website?

Your corporate personality should come across in your website through the use of page real estate, headlines, tone, content, promotions, etc. Everything on the site should fold into this personality, reinforcing it in the process.

In integrating your corporate personality into your website, you should answer the following questions:

  • What personality does the website project?
  • Is the personality distinctive?
  • How does it differentiate you from the competition?
  • Does it resonate with your target audience segments?
  • How does your website help you to create a passionate and loyal customer base?
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