The rationale upholding economic theory—and most business planning—is that consumers are rational and consider all information in a judicious manner. However, the reality is that humans are emotional beings and many of the decisions we make stem from emotional impulses.
Studies show that we perceive brands as personifications of companies, and that inadvertently affects the buying decisions we make. With this understanding, it is imperative that companies create their brand keeping in mind how their business decisions affect people on an emotional level.
Let’s take a step back and look at classic personality psychology. There are five categories that make up personality:
- Openness, or how willing a person is to experience new things.
- Conscientiousness, how aware one is of themselves.
- Extraversion, how outgoing someone is in social situations.
- Agreeableness, the desire one has to be likeable or accommodating.
- And the last one is neuroticism, how self-centered or personally-focused a person is.
Each personality category has a scale or spectrum, usually ranging from low to high. And when it comes to people we interact with, we all have preferences that influence who we choose to spend our time with.
Generally speaking, most people appreciate someone who falls between medium to high on openness, we like people that are not closed off to the idea of new experiences.
We prefer people with high conscientiousness, people that are aware of themselves and how they affect others, and medium to high extraversion.
We tend to like people whose personality ranks high in agreeableness, because they are more likely to want to do things that we want to do.
Lastly, most people prefer low neuroticism, as we are all a little self-centered but don’t want to be around people who can’t share the attention.
Personality Psychology and Brand Personality
Now consider how these fit into what you look for in a brand when you are making a purchasing decision. It is a lot like choosing people that we think we will like to spend time with!
A brand that is innovative, creates new ideas and is a thought leader in their industry could be seen as having high openness to new experiences or things.
Brands that are aware of how their business decisions affect the world, community or industry in which they operate could be considered high conscientiousness. And those companies willing to take it just a step further and push the envelope on professional or social development, and willing to get out there in terms of events or public announcements could be a characteristic of extraversion.
A company that wants to make the customer experience the best it can be could be interpreted as high agreeableness. And you probably want a company that has the client’s best interests in mind over their own, which can be interpreted as low neuroticism.
It is no surprise that your ideal company to purchase from or collaborate with probably isn’t much different than your preferred personality type to work with.
How does this fit in with B2B branding?
Your brand has the largest impact on potential buyers’ perception of your company. And even though your target audience is businesses, when it comes down to the decision-making process, it is people with innate emotional biases that are making the purchase.
As mentioned above, people are more likely to interact with brands that have similar personality characteristics as the people they like. Your company brand is a visual representation of your company personality. People associate moral values like trustworthiness with certain visual cues they receive from your branding.
Different fonts evoke different emotions. Bold, or thicker fonts are going to be stronger and more impactful. Bolds fonts are used by companies such as FedEx and Nike, industry leaders that are well known and prominent.
Sans-serif fonts are more lightweight, streamline and modern, most recently popular among tech companies like Microsoft and Facebook.
Sans-serif fonts also embody a sense of stability and objectiveness. Companies that want to come across as state-of-the-art and dependable are more likely to use sans-serif.
Serif fonts exude respectability and reliability. Companies that use serif fonts are more classic, timeless companies that are at the top of the industry like Sony, Volvo and the Google logo pre-September 2015.
Colors have a similar effect to fonts, and range in the emotions they are most often associated with.
The same happens with brand colors. Warmer colors such as red, orange and yellow embody brighter emotions like optimism, confidence and excitement.
Brands like Coca-Cola and Virgin have chosen their main brand color as red because it is associated with strong emotions, domination and sometimes even impulse buying.
Cooler colors such as green, blue and purple are often associated with attributes like peacefulness, trustworthy, and creative or wise.
IBM and Facebook both have blue as the main color in their branding to promote the thinking that they are sophisticated and innovative, leaders in their industries.
As human beings, our emotional responses act much more quickly than our cognitive or rational mind (source). That is why as business professionals, it is important to understand what your company brand speaks, even without words.
Measuring your brand perception
Measuring brand perception is an important aspect of creating a brand personality that is aligned with your company’s desired goals. Brand perception is owned by the consumers, not the company. It is important to check in with your customers, so you can accurately assess how your brand is being perceived.
Customer surveys are a great tool to use to better understand the actual impact of your brand. Customer satisfaction surveys help you understand this by asking targeted question at the middle or end of the client’s experience with your company. Important targeted questions would be:
- Were you satisfied by the work done by (your company)?
- Did the (your company) team meet your expectations?
- How could we have better met your expectations or requirements?
You can make the answer choices open ended or give them a scale from 1 to 5 to utilize.
Another great customer survey is your Net Promoter Score (NPS). It is as simple as asking “how likely are you to recommend us?” The customer answer will be using a scale from 1 (being not likely at all) to 10 (extremely likely). From here, you can average your results to get your NPS and a basic understanding of how well your company performed.
What is considered a good NPS? Mostly, it depends on the goals of your company. If you get the best leads from referral traffic, you probably want to aim for an NPS of 8-10.
Human beings’ emotions react much more quickly to stimuli than our rational mind. As business professionals, it’s important for us to understand the emotional responses our branding could be eliciting, be they intentional or unintentional.