Marketing & Sales

How a Brand Personality Can Drive Company Culture and Build Trust With Your Audience

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We talked with Tiffany about:

  • What is a brand personality and why does it matter?
  • How do we create brand personalities and what does that process look like? 
  • How can brand personalities serve every department?

About Tiffany Silverberg:

A self-professed “word nerd,” Tiffany Silverberg carries a wealth of marketing expertise spanning freelancing, journalism, and her current position as content director for Out & About Communications. While Tiffany has a passion for words, she also brings a profound understanding of the significance of crafting brand personalities for clients. She recognizes the pivotal role a well-defined brand personality plays in establishing a distinctive identity and building meaningful connections with target audiences. In her role at Out & About, Tiffany collaborates with various members of the team, from copywriters to the creative and marketing director, to establish well-defined brand guidelines that provide clients with a strategic roadmap, or North Star, to maintain brand identity and foster a lasting and impactful brand presence. 

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Full Audio Transcript

Lauren (00:04):
Tiffany. Hi. Welcome.

Tiffany (00:08):
Thank you. Oh my goodness.

Lauren (00:10):
So Tiffany is our content director at Out and About Communications, and we've been working together for five or six years.

Tiffany (00:19):
Yeah, I think, yeah, probably five or six.

Lauren (00:22):
It's been a while in the best way. I think what's been really cool in the time we've worked together is that Tiffany’s seen so much growth and changes with clients, I mean clients we've had for a number of years and been able to see them grow along with us growing. And you all are in for a treat today because Tiffany listens to so many of our clients, so many of our financial services clients, and is directly hearing from the C-suite about their business objectives, where they're going, growing, and really helping to shape the messaging and the tone for numerous organizations of varying sizes. And so she has a really keen ear for listening to what's being said but what's not being said. And then also helping to shape any piece of content you can think of, blogs, podcasts, social media, and so on. And even crisis communications to make sure it is brand aligned. So we're going to talk about actually a tool we use for a handful of our clients called Brand Personalities Today, and Tiffany's going to have a chance to really go into what that is and get into more details as it applies to content applications. So Tiffany, do you want to share a little bit more about your background before we get into brand personality or any of the work we do together?

Tiffany (01:44):
Yeah, absolutely. So we have been working together for five or six years. I think I base it on how old my daughter was when we got started. So I think it's been about five years now since she's six. So before that I did a lot of freelancing or contract type of work for a long time. I've been in marketing for quite a long time. Before that, I was a journalist at a little newspaper, and I've just always liked words, even in college, pre-college, every opportunity. I had jobs that always revolved around stories, words, and the power of communication. I think marketing often gets a bad rap, maybe has a bad reputation for being like we're trying to convince people of things. And I think I come at it feeling, especially with push marketing being more what we're doing now, it's less about convincing people and more about trying to meet them where they're at and they're already looking for the solution. What's the best way we can communicate it? So yeah, that's just kind of a little background.

Lauren (02:54):
And I love the word nerd part of it too, right? I feel like you're like, okay, check out this.

Tiffany (03:01):
Yes, there are a lot of dictionaries in thesaurus right here.

Lauren (03:05):
You're like, okay, check this out. And then you're like, let me explain the background of this word or this symbol. And a lot of those nuances and the language we're choosing is really important. And it especially is important if you're looking at a mission statement or like I said, we'll get into brand personality or even just the voice and tone. So that's part of the fun part of it. And those words make a difference. And even the company culture and how we think and go about our communications. So with that, let's talk about the brand personality. I should phrase this as we kind of get into it. I'd like to be able to explain kind of what it is but then how do you actually create a brand personality? So let's talk first about what a brand personality is and why it is important to the work we're doing for our clients as a tool to utilize and uphold brand standards. Share more about what this beast is.

Tiffany (04:02):
Yeah. So I think we do brand personalities a little differently, and not to pit anything against each other but I think a lot of times when you see brand personalities, it's more of a brand avatar, often sort of chosen from a circle of 16 or eight or there's different ways to put it. And again, I don't want to pin anything against each other. I think those can be really helpful, especially if you're new in business or you just haven't really spent a lot of time defining your values and where you're coming from as a business, that's kind of like the Myers-Briggs way of doing it. But for us at Out & About, we take a slightly different approach, and I think it's just because of where our clients are at. So our clients are often coming from a place of, I've built this brand really organically, really authentically, but now I'm sort of in a next level of growth. I've brought on new employees. It's kind of getting beyond what I can hold, and I need tools like you said, that can help hold all that together without me having to hold all that together. So for us, it comes from a place of like, okay, we're going to pull in, and maybe this is getting more into how we create it…

Lauren (05:14):
That's great.

Tiffany (05:14):
We're going to pull in your values, your history, your future, where you're trying to go, and it's like the essential oil of your brand. We're going to take all those things and pull it all down into one phrase. So that's how we approach it. Instead of saying like, okay, you are a thing. One of these 16. We try to narrow everything down into a little phrase, and we do it a little differently for each client but it's usually two to four words at the most, really, really short. And it's just really, as concentrated, as pithy and strong as we can make it. And then that really becomes a North Star for everything out of that. So all our visuals, all our communication, and if we can do it really, really well, also internal communications and decisions we're making, it can always come back to, does that feel like us? Does it feel like that phrase we've created? Or if not, how can we get it back there?

Lauren (06:20):
Okay. So once we've landed on this two- to four-word phrase, how are we defining it or defining what it is or what are the pieces of it?

Tiffany (06:31):
Yeah, so again, talking about it from a tool perspective, we put this in the brand book and obviously because they're words and because I'm a nerd about it, if we're going to use a phrase, we have to make sure to also define it really well. So we'll often break it down into three or four pillars. Because another way to think about a brand personality is how we want people to feel when we interact with the brand. So we can define that in different ways. We want them to feel courageous, we want them to feel confidence, we want them to feel comfortable or cared for. Those are all C words, it doesn't have to be, but just these are the things we want them to feel, and this is what that looks like and why that's important to us. And then oftentimes, again, with the definitions, we make sure to say, okay, just because it's confident doesn't mean it's arrogant. Sometimes pushing the negative too. It doesn't need to go there, it doesn't need to go there.

Lauren (07:29):
So yeah, really kind of helping to splice out that stuff or those words of support, the overarching brand personality. And then how do you get through to that kind of essence, to that one page of this is our brand personality. Is it conversation? I know you mentioned the mission, vision, values, and kind of this turning point, but what's the process to narrow that down?

Tiffany (07:51):
So a lot of times when we're creating them, it's kind of when we're first starting to work through a discovery process with the clients. So we'll pull a lot from just those initial meetings. And the nice thing about those meetings is there's a lot of us coming needing different things from the meetings. So we're pulling marketing strategies out of there, and we're pulling plans we want to put together for the next 18 months. There's a lot of stuff that comes out, which is kind of nice because oftentimes we'll sit in those meetings, we'll review the recordings later, and sometimes just little phrases will bubble up from the clients. They'll just say the same thing over and over in different ways or just in answering different questions. So that's always really helpful. And then honestly, with the nitty gritty here at Out & About, we have a director team, so the creative director and marketing director, like I said, we all have to come from those discovery meetings with different plans. Okay, I've got to go build this. I've got to go build this, so I have to do the brand personality, some of the voice side. We'll sit down and say okay, what did you hear and what did you hear? And we'll kind of just talk it through and pull…

Lauren (09:03):
…it all apart. Yeah.

Tiffany (09:04):
Yes. And kind of help push and pull things across the table. I saw that. Does that help you? And then to be totally honest, sometimes we get a little silly with it and start going, did that feel like this kind of cartoon to you? Does that brand feel like this pop culture song to you? And I think that kind of helps. Then you start feeling the feelings. It totally feels like a Katy Perry song. From there, then you're like, okay, well what's the actual word that defines that? And not just the song or the cartoon or whatever.

Lauren (09:37):
And then how are these presented then to clients to be able to get sign off on and for them to also have that feeling where they're owning it too.

Tiffany (09:49):
Yeah. So first of all, I think it is super important they feel like they're owning it, right? It needs to not just be a label we're putting on. So we just went to a really silly place about cartoons and pop culture but it needs to feel like something they're very proud of and very, this is what I've been building. Finally, someone is describing what I've been feeling for so long, what I've been trying to pass on from the founder team or C-suite. But then also it needs to be able to trickle down and get everybody rallying around it feeling like, this is us, this is who we are. It's almost like a mascot. It's not a mascot but it's that feeling of like, oh, we're all behind that animal or whatever. So as far as how it's presented, so again, from a tool perspective, we present it in what we call a big brand book.

Everyone kind of calls it something different, and it's really as we present it kind of the middle point. So we'll talk through all the different target markets and UVPs, unique value propositions, and your positioning statement, all those pieces, values and vision and all those things that brought us to this point, and kind of boil them down. And it's that crux that's the brand personality halfway through. Then we're like, okay, all those things boil down into this neat little bow. And then from there, voice guides and brand guides and visuals and all that will sort of flow out of it. So I like to think of an X. And then as far as once we've built it and we're ready to present it, it really helps to kind of have that initial group, whoever the key decision makers are, there's a C-suite or whoever that is, sit down and talk. There are times they're like, that word is not a word we would ever use, or in context with the history of our company random things will come up. So that's really nice to tease through all of that. And then once we're all on board and we all agree that's the word, that's the phrase, whatever, then we'll kind of present it to the executive team or department heads or the next layer of leadership. And then if the company is big enough, they'll kind of take it from there to their teams as needed.

Lauren (12:15):
And can you share maybe an application, so once it's actually put together and it's agreed upon and it's been agreed upon with the C-suite leadership, if there are department heads and employees starting to get buy-in too, then how does it actually apply on the marketing side and maybe even cross department? How have you seen it be a tool for upholding that personality?

Tiffany (12:40):
Yeah, so from a marketing perspective, like I said, we use it kind of the middle point of a brand book. So even as I said in those initial meetings when we're all kind of deciding, okay, it's going to be, this is what it's going to be, it helps us then decide, okay, key phrases, key messaging that's going to define the brand. They all have to sound like that, or colors or new logo or various visual applications. They all have to look like that and feel like that. So that's the starting point. And then again, once we've all decided on it, it really serves as a North Star. So whether we're writing social media posts, or visual posts, our copywriting team, our design team, everyone can go back to this. And I think from a really practical perspective, again, we have that whole book; that's like, it will have this color, it will not have this color, here's a way to say it, but I think when someone sits down and says okay, I have to write a series of social media posts, I have to write a series of emails, it's nice to have just that mental place to sit and go, okay, I have to be here as I'm writing as opposed to pushing up against a guideline, if that makes sense.

Lauren (14:03):
Yeah. So could you maybe share how we use it internally and even share it with our copywriters or copy editors as well? How are they utilizing that to channel the essence of that brand voice and tone?

Tiffany (14:17):
Yeah, exactly like that. We do share it with them and share it with them every single time. So it's not just like you see it once but every time we have to sit down and write again, social media or an email or an ad or anything, they'll have that to go back to. We also do create a video, a little Loom around it too, so someone's explaining it because again, words can be misinterpreted or interpreted different ways so there's someone saying, this is what that feeling is and supposed to be. 

Lauren (14:53):
Yeah, it does. No, you're right. It's used all the time. And I think not just in copy but in design as well too.

Tiffany (15:03):
Yes, exactly. All pieces of copy, but design, same thing. Again, it's easy to say, here's your logo, here's your colors, and we have to have those so nothing strays. But I think it's nice to be able to sit when you want to come up with a really cool new ad or print ad or social campaign, and you want it to be creative. It's nice to know I'm coming from this place of, we were talking earlier confidence, or am I coming from a place of fun? Or where am I starting with that and what do I want people to feel?

Lauren (15:34):
What kind of energy you're pulling, it almost seems like maybe it's like your, I don’t know if baseline is the right word but if you were to present this ad, you could go, does this feel like our brand personality?

Tiffany (15:47):
Yes, exactly. It’s like a filter.

Lauren (15:50):
Yeah. Yeah, that's fair. And then any applications for how it's been used for other departments or outside of marketing?

Tiffany (15:59):
Yeah, I think again, I think when it's done really well, it can serve as, I think that's almost like the sign that it's working really well is when it can start being used internally. And again, when people start getting really excited. And we've seen that happen ourselves and with our clients where just randomly people are like, is it that? Are we being that thing? Or just having that conversation or just almost talking about, it's almost, again, I think about sports teams, it's that time of year, but it becomes a rallying cry or something. We're this, people get excited.

But yeah, I mean, one thing that came up for us that we've talked about for our own use is just kind of getting everyone on the same page before a meeting or even internally when you have to have conversations like, well, we need to come from this place because we all agreed upon it. And I think it's important too, to talk about, it's not just like, I need to put on this facade again. If it's done really well, it should be organically from the brand. So it's not just, I know we've talked about this internally too. It's not just, okay, I'm going to put on this face before this client meeting and then I'll take it off afterward. But it's more like, I was hired for this reason, I belong in this team, and so I'm stepping into this thing that's natural for me. This is who I belong to, if that makes sense.

Lauren (17:26):
Yeah. That energy that's projected as the brand is coming, it's not just one person but it's really across the board, it’s holding the values but is sort of like you said, the essential oil of the brand, I think.

Tiffany (17:39):
Yes, exactly. We all smell like lavender.

Lauren (17:41):

Tiffany (17:44):
But it's that idea of really narrowing it down.

Lauren (17:45):
Or like you said, it's that Katy Perry song, that feeling, right? And what's the feeling if you were to interact with this person or that person, there's a consistent standard and energy across the border, and that you would feel that in design or copy and what have you.

Tiffany (17:59):
Yeah. And that's what I mean about it not being fake, because at least, I mean, for us, we hire for values and we hire for being an authentic, natural part of the team. So it's like when I'm putting on the brand personality, I'm not putting on something fake. I'm putting on, this is why I belong here, this is who we all are sort of together. 

Lauren (18:21):
Well said. So anything you think could be a good takeaway that I haven't asked? I know we're wrapping up quickly here.

Tiffany (18:29):
Yeah, no. I guess one other story, we were talking with a new executive at one of our clients, and she was just saying, this is a client where everyone's really embraced their brand personality. And she was just saying, I could feel it at all the touch points, every interaction. And she's like, it wasn't until you explained it, because we gave the whole presentation to her, and she's like, now I understand what that was. I have a word for it now but before it was like I could just tell everything felt like this brand who we are but I didn't know what that meant. So it was nice that we could actually get the words for it.

Lauren (19:10):
And that's the hard work of leadership, being able to set that company culture, those values are so essential to, you said earlier, hiring, and just the energy that's brought into every day. And then how do we take that and distill that? You were saying, then it gives us a place in which we can come from copy and design.

Tiffany (19:32):
And I guess one more point to that too, we keep mentioning values, and I think the differentiator between your values and your brand personality is just that, well, first of all, for values often we all kind of use the same ones, we say the same words. And so it's nice to have something that feels very, well, for lack of a better word, branded to your brand. We use this phrase, oftentimes we'll choose words that are slightly juxtapositioned or slightly funny together because then once they come together they’re more powerful. So I think that's the difference too. Then you have this separate thing that's almost an inside joke. Everybody's just like, this is our thing. We get excited about it versus values, which are important, but sometimes they're like, well, we all talk about whatever those five things are.

Lauren (20:26):
And it also takes those, comparing what you're saying too, taking those values and mission, vision, all these big pieces. Like you're talking about sort of that X, right? And it funnels it down to sort of you said, get the essence of it.

Tiffany (20:36):
Yeah, exactly.

Lauren (20:38):
So fun. Well, thank you Tiffany for taking time, sharing a little bit of the behind the scenes of what we do here at Out & About, and also that process to be able to get through a really important piece, especially as businesses are growing. So thank you for giving us a sneak peek and sharing more about what makes things stick here.

Tiffany (20:58):
Absolutely. It's been fun. Thank you.

Lauren (21:00):
Absolutely. All right. And we'll include links as well to additional information about brand personality or all of that, and don't hesitate to reach out with questions. Thanks, Tiffany.

Tiffany (21:10):
All right. Thanks.

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