Determining Your Corporate Personality

JAN 29, 2014 5:01pm ET

If you were asked what your corporate personality is, what would you say? I’m sure you’ve been asked this before or have thought about it. Would you say that it was friendly, a leader, tech savvy, customer service oriented or knowledgeable? Of course you would; many companies use these characteristics to describe their corporate personas. Here’s another question. Would your clients and prospects use these same characteristics to describe you? How about your own employees? If not, then it’s clear your brand lacks a corporate personality or that personality is confused and inconsistent.

The importance of identifying your corporate, or brand personality, is that people assign personality traits to everything that has a name whether it be other people, pets, cars or companies. Why? Because people understand what it means to be human. People don’t understand what it means to be a car, computer, a dog or Starbucks. Because of this, people naturally make choices to work with or buy from those to whom they can easily assign positive personality traits.

Think of it this way: Is Starbucks coffee really that good or is it good because when you purchase and drink it outside of one of their locations, just the taste conjures up the feelings you associate with their locations, friendly baristas, fancy displays and overall atmosphere? Now let’s take a mortgage lender, title company, appraisal firm or any other industry related company. The reason people decide to do business with the companies they choose is because those companies exude personality traits they like and can identify with, if you really drill down and think about it.

Here’s a good example. The “challenger” could be a mortgage lender identified as such because they’re well known for working with applicants that have been turned down and assisting them over a several month period to improve their credit situation so they may then be approved to purchase a home at a later date. This same company may also be known as “very entrepreneurial” or “hard workers” or “smart” and so on. These are great personality traits earned due to the vision and commitment of the CEO to be known as such in the marketplace.

Now, what if you take this same company and throw in a couple of LO’s whose work ethic or philosophies ran contrary to the corporate personality? Or, what if you just never identified a corporate personality to begin with? If you haven’t identified a corporate personality and committed yourself to “living” it through your hiring practices and how you and your employees conduct themselves, then what kind of “car” would you be? Probably not one that can drive down the road in a straight line.

Studies show that people buy with emotions and justify with logic, not the other way around. This is a well-known fact. Therefore, it’s essential that you develop a corporate personality that’s consistent and runs through your company and is lived by your people.

So, how do you find out the perception of your corporate personality as it stands now?

First off, have fun with it. You can do this easily first thing tomorrow. Send an email to your employees asking them several fun questions following the format below so that you have answers from several different perspectives:

If our company were a _____________, what kind of ______________ would it be and why?

Then watch for all the fun, interesting answers you get back! The purpose of this exercise is to determine where discrepancies currently lie between how you wish to be perceived and how you’re actually perceived. Here are a few thought prompters to fill in the blanks:

  • Car
  • Animal
  • Color
  • Actor/Actress
  • Dog
  • Shoe

And I’m sure you can think of a few more.

The “why” is the most important part of the question. You view your company as a Ferrari and some of your people may view it as a Mustang; both are sports cars but it comes down to the reason (for their view) and the reasons may be quite similar depending on the attributes your people assign to each car.

If the answers come back all over the board, then you can feel certain that there’s some brand confusion that exists within your company, and therefore within your target audience as well. After all, if your own people don’t have a consistent view of your corporate personality, then surely your target audience doesn’t either.

If you find this confusion exists, this should be enough to motivate you to take steps to do something about it, making sure it is crystallized and consistently understood by all who encounter it. Accordingly, the next step is to answer the same questions yourself from an aspirational perspective, identifying how you wish to be viewed by your audiences both internally and externally.

Personification of your company helps people identify with you and determine whether or not you’re able to fulfill their emotional needs. That’s what makes this so important to your longer term success.

Click to download white paper “BRANDING IN THE MORTGAGE INDUSTRY”

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