Who Would Play Your Brand on the Big Screen?

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone talking about marketing personas, I’d have enough liquid cash to bankroll my very own low-budget indie film. Those lovable avatars that represent our target audiences are discussed on a daily basis from the classroom to the boardroom, and rightly so. Well-defined personas are critical to every marketing strategy. But have you ever noticed that marketers rarely, if ever, talk about the most important persona of all?

Sure, we have Becky the soccer mom, carting her three kids to and fro with hardly a minute to spare. There’s also Fred the executive, jetting off on his sixth business trip of the month. I bet you can name a few more off the top of your head from the usual cast of characters, and we spend most of the time we have allotted for personas painting the details on those cookie cutter molds.

The star of the show, however, is one-of-a-kind. No template exists for the almighty brand persona. It’s extremely difficult to define because it’s so unique, and it’s often overlooked as a result. But any film with a flimsy lead is sure to flop, so let’s focus on your brand and pan in for a close-up.

Good Looks Will Only Get You So Far

One of the main reasons why brand personas fail to get the attention they deserve is because they’re the intangible product of two definitive marketing activities that are easier to control: branding and communication. Just like an actress getting her glossy 8x10 into the hands of a casting director and then delivering lines in character at the audition, your brand performs on multiple levels too.

The first component of your brand persona is, naturally, your branding. Your logo, colors, fonts and imagery all add up to a single visual impression that gives people a superficial idea of who your company is. Consider this your headshot.

Of course, your company is more than just a pretty set of style guidelines. Good looks may get you in the door, but you’ll be out of luck if you don’t deliver on the messaging. The subtle use of tone, pace, word choice and context makes all the difference when it comes to relating to your target audience in a believable way. This equates to your voice.

When you combine the aesthetics with the content, you create a presence, and that’s what captivates the masses! Unfortunately, many marketers let that presence manifest itself rather than proactively build it from scratch. They design a logo, decide on their brand colors and then move on to the communication stage with their focus firmly fixed on CTAs and KPIs instead of staying true to a defined persona. Even if everyone on your team has a decent grasp on your brand’s voice descriptors, it’s easy for your presence to end up muddled and unmemorable when you don’t know who your brand is beneath it all.

Rather than letting your brand persona materialize over time as a volatile sum of its parts, let’s flip the script and start with your persona first. That way you have a strong core to guide everything else to come.

It All Comes Down to Casting

So, how exactly do you go about defining your brand persona? Well, to define it is to personify it, and there’s no better way than by picking an actual person. Vague composites are fine for buyer personas, but you need to get everyone on the same page with this one. Becky the soccer mom simply won’t cut it this time around.

Of course, with billions people to choose from, how do you narrow it down? Let alone to someone who would be widely known throughout your company? For that, we turn to Hollywood.

Celebrities are undoubtedly the most ubiquitous personalities we have at our disposal, so let’s leverage them to our advantage. Imagine for a moment that one of the big movie studios has just green-lighted a film adaptation of your brand’s triumphant rise to glory, and your company will be anthropomorphized for the role. Now, ask yourself this one simple question: Who would play your brand on the big screen?

It could be any person from any era. Think of the qualities that represent your company and try to match them up with the personality traits of your favorite movie and television stars. It might help to determine the genre your brand would most likely be featured in and then concentrate your brainstorming there. For example, a tech company with an innovative SaaS solution might want to jump right to the sci-fi, epic and adventure genres for inspiration.

The more granular you can get with your pick the better, so try to zoom in on one person in a specific role if you can. In other words, Marlon Brando is great, but while Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone is ideal, Marlon Brando as Kia might not be so perfect. A great role model can give you a stronger foundation on which to develop the voice of your brand.

Stunt Doubles to Set

This exercise may seem frivolous at first, but having a precise “model” that everyone at your company can look to is instrumental in building and maintaining a consistent brand persona. It’s infinitely easier to get everyone speaking the same language when they all know whose mouth they’re using, as opposed to an amorphous cluster of personality traits that can be interpreted in a million different ways.

Tell a dozen marketers, sales reps and thought leaders to channel Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and you’re bound to get much more consistent results than if you told them to produce content that sounds like it was written by “an enthusiastic female.” It enables writers to get into character the same way actors do. It also gives you a solid base on which to tack those familiar traits, so you can create your own unique character without confusion. One example of that would be using Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but making him slightly more affable and optimistic. This not only makes it easier for everyone who communicates on behalf of your brand, but it also helps you harmonize many different writing and speaking styles into one powerful voice.

In addition to the universal nature of film and television, accessibility is another huge benefit of sourcing a personality this way. If Joe “I Haven’t Been to the Movies in 20 Years” Gromly isn’t familiar with the particular character you choose, onboarding is as simple as streaming the movie during a Lunch & Learn. In fact, it would be a good idea to get everyone together to watch the film even if Gromly has seen it. You want everyone to be crystal clear on your brand persona, and having one common example that you can point to is a blessing.

Hop in the Director’s Chair

By now you might have a few initial thoughts on who would play your brand in a movie. If not, don’t abandon the project just yet. I’ve put together a few easy questions to guide you in your pursuit of the perfect actor to represent your brand. Fill out this fun and effective worksheet to get a better idea of who your company really is and how to translate that into an extraordinary brand persona.

How well defined is your brand persona? Fill out this easy worksheet and take your brand from bit part to top billing.

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By Justin Schorah / justin@0to5.com

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