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A couple of months ago, I wrote a bank marketing trade publication article about brand personalities. In it, I talked about the five standard personalities (into which every brand falls, so far): sophistication, competence, ruggedness, sincerity, and excitement. It has always been my position that an organization’s brand personality was inherent (generally beyond the control of the organization itself), and that your personality is not inherently better or worse than any other personality. In short, the best thing you can do is discover your personality and then express it authentically. I still stand by this. But recently, I began to consider this question:

Do certain market conditions favor certain personalities?

I really started to consider this as the economic news slipped from tenuous…to uncertain…to nerve racking…to scary…to terrifying. I began to think about the idea that one personality might be better suited for weathering a downturn (or for riding a wave, for that matter). I noticed that a lot of restaurants around here were starting to do poorly, all of which were either sophistication or excitement brands. Maybe this is because people want comfort at a time like this, not new experiences. And maybe people are more interested in surviving than in being seen.

On the other hand, a lot of rugged brands did really well during the past decade or so. When things were good, money was easy, and life was good…maybe ruggedness worked as a foil to a potentially boring existence. Well, things aren’t so boring now. In fact, life is looking a little rugged. We don’t need rugged cars, clothes, shoes, and second homes to get our fill of ruggedness. So, maybe it’s not a great time to be a rugged brand.

These days, people seem to be holding onto their money. And when they spend, the probably want to know that they’re getting good value. Value and trust are big deals. This would bode well for competence and sincerity brands. During the boom, competence was often seen as either a given or irrelevant. And sincerity was seen as goofy (unless you’re a charitable organization). Well, we will see.

Please don’t think I am suggesting that you excitement, rugged, and sophistication brands start wearing blue suits or earth tones in order to appear competent or sincere. You are what you are. But if you have a secondary personality that is sincere or competent, you might want to think about leading with that. Also, you might think about the perceived weaknesses of your style, and position accordingly. What do you think?

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