Brands are expressed in many ways, many of which will help build brand recognition.
I wrote a highly popular post on the topic last year, which I would recommend reading first for background, if you missed it. It’s called “What Every Marketer Needs to Know about Brand Image, Equity, Personality & Archetypes”
Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about what brands are, above and beyond their names, logos and the product or service they offer.
Which of them have a face, a voice, an aroma, a unique packaging, a slogan or a sound that immediately identifies them? And if they do, what does it bring in addition to the brand in terms of brand recognition?
Here is a very personal perspective of some of the best examples in each area. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.
Some of the faces which represent brands are of celebrities, others of unknown people who become celebrities.
One of the first faces I think of for a brand is Flo from Progressive. She has won the hearts of Americans over the years, with her helpful but quirky discussions with potential customers.
Flo has also made insurance less confusing and more friendly through her “girl next door” looks and sparky attitude. Here’s one of the more recent ads with Flo.
In 2012, an animated box was added to their campaign concepts, to represent the company’s products. Apparently, the vast number of ads with Flo – over 100 – had resulted in a “love her or hate her” relationship as some found her off-putting.
Take a look at an example below from a few years ago and decide for yourself if the animated box is better than Flo.
George Clooney has been the face of Nespresso for many years now. He started as smooth and superior, but over the years he has become more approachable, even funny. The latest commercials actually show him being injured in various ways, from falling pianos to “Mafia-type makeovers!” They are always entertaining, even for non-Nespresso drinkers.
Perhaps Nestle is trying to open their appeal to younger coffee drinkers who enjoy humour and hoping that the videos get shared on social media?
There are many other examples of “faces” that we now immediately recognise and associate with their brands. Even if some have been dropped over the years, they still maintain their strong connection:
SC Johnson’s Mr Clean and the muscle man
Quaker Oats and the Quaker.
Coca-Cola and the Polar Bear
Marlboro and the Cowboy – Darrell
Duracell / Energiser and the Pink Bunny
Each face is chosen to represent the brand because it fits with the values with which it wants to be linked.
The Muscle man suggests toughness, never tired, perfect for house cleaning when you want the quickest and easiest solution to difficult jobs.
The Quaker implies integrity, harmony, simplicity, perfect for natural products.
The Polar Bear is associated with cold, stimulating, refreshing liquid (ocean), perfect for a carbonated soft drink.
The Cowboy suggests independence, freedom, strength, perfect for a masculine brand.
The Bunny implies endurance. never-ending energy, perfect for a long-lasting battery.
The advantage of a cartoon character over a real person is that associations are unlikely to change. Just consider some of the recent sporting disasters which resulted in brands firing their “faces”.
Almost all celebrity spokespeople are required to sign an agreement containing certain moral or behavioural clauses. These give the brands the right to cancel a contract if the celebrity does something which could be damaging to the brand. Nike has done this with Maria Sharapova, Manny Pacquiao, Michael Vick and Lance Armstrong. Tiger Woods was apparently dropped by Gillette, Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade and Tag Heuer. Wow, that must have lowered his income somewhat!
Sound / Voice / Tone
Besides the faces of celebrities, some brands have adopted a very individual voice or sound. These can be actual voices, such as the infamous Budweiser’s Wassup campaign that was first aired in 1999. (yes really that long ago!) Or the tones used in print advertising, which has become even more important with the rise of social media.