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The hidden impact of creator personalities on business branding

Understanding the chain of influence of creators’ personalities on their technological creations, from software to systems to medical devices, can impact subsequent branding, positioning, customer segmentation and on-going product development says Sue Mizera

As people, creators mostly fall into one of four, globally-confirmed, consumer psychographic types:

Early adopters:

  • Explorers (prizing fulfillment in personal challenges)
  • Reformers (valuing authenticity and individuality).

Or middle adopters:

  • Succeeders (valuing control and achievement)
  • Mainstreamers (seeking conformity and belonging).

(See cross-cultural consumer characterisations, or 4Cs, publicly available from VMLY&R. A fifth group, Aspirers, is more relevant to the luxury category.)

These profiles are as distinctive as fingerprints. There should be little surprise, these profiles wind up in new technology because creators’ distinct goals, motivations and values drive the kind of technology they aim to produce. So Explorers want to offer users exciting challenges; Reformers want to provide opportunities for individualisation; Succeeders want users to gain mastery and control, while Mainstreamers want to make things simple and accessible. 

If you’ll recall from the case study in my previous blog, four startlingly unrelated metaphors were used to identify each of the four ERP/CRM products in the brand portfolio, helping us solve the brand management puzzle: the metaphors were 'vanilla ice cream', 'a golf game', 'an older BMW', and a 'wild stallion'. 

The creators of the four products each represented one of the four psychographic types. 

  • Mainstreamers created the vanilla ice cream (plain and simple); 
  • Succeeders provided the golf game (striving for control); 
  • Reformers invited tinkering with their older BMW (individualise it, make it your own); 
  • An Explorer rode in on the wild stallion (take that challenge!) 

Each bears the indelible fingerprint – the unique goals, motivations and values – of their creator(s). Each creator’s personality, in effect, is the source of their product’s brand personality and its long-term marketplace positioning and differentiation.

Why the creator's personality matters

Like creators, customers equally fall into one of the four psychographic categories. Their goals, motivations and values overall prescribe what they want for their companies, their people, their teams, and even their own professional practices. As for technology, their mindsets drive their choices – whether it be for systems, software or precision tools – as much as do price and functionality.

Take management teams: when choosing technology for their companies, some prefer their people to have easier, 'plug and play' options that they rarely need to think about; others want their people to be involved in the technology, to put their stamp on the development, and even to tailor the technology specifically for the company. We have seen this to be especially the case, but not exclusively, among CEOs and owner/founders of start-ups and SMEs. In many ways, their technology choices help to define what kind of company and culture management wants to foster.

Take individual professionals, for example across medical fields: global studies confirm they too fall into familiar consumer types. Middle adopters (Succeeders and Mainstreamers) prefer technology that simplifies their procedures and helps them perform with routine predictability, control, safety and security. Early adopters (explorers and reformers) prefer to tailor their processes to individual patient challenges, seeking their own discovery and self-fulfillment in managing the complexity. From orthopedics to orthodontics, professionals deliver the same, excellent results, but with preferred and different medical approaches.

The benefits of understanding creator mindsets

  • Understanding how and why different mindsets prefer different technologies – and exploiting the rich, sophisticated market segmentation that results – will unlock multiple opportunities
  • Better market coverage: more comprehensive coverage in the case of multiple-product portfolios (i.e. managing which products best address which segments across the globe); more focused and in-depth coverage in the case of single-product offerings
  • Customer loyalty, reference and preference: the result of targeting customer “sweet spots” and continuing to address what they really want and need over time
  • More focused R&D: continuing to develop and enhance products in line with their brand personalities and connections to customers’ needs; ensuring differentiation by resisting adding all the latest advances to all products
  • More efficient, effective salesforce: brings new meaning to knowing your customers and unexplored depth to customer intimacy; 
  • More efficient marketing: rifleshot versus scattershot campaigns that attempt to sell all things to all customers
  • Competitive relevance and differentiation: few competitors will understand, or be equipped, to copy you
  • Future business strategies: an enormous area, including what to buy, sell and develop to achieve market leadership.

The trouble

All too often, these insights, if they are understood at all, are rarely appreciated until it’s too late. 

Over time, and particularly in mergers and acquisitions, distinctions in products get blurred. Internal competition forces adding all the latest advances to all products as R&D works to homogenise versus maintain differentiation.

Salesforces continue to serve up all things to all audiences versus being rewarded for referring business to specialised colleagues in other segments.

Customers feel confused, preferring the same technology and devices they’ve always used (referred to as 'stickiness'), even if these are now quite similar to other products in the portfolio. 

Marketing continues to struggle to find meaningful product and service differences, which can result in failing to deliver against KPIs. 

If sales are not maximised, management feels the pressure. At the same time, opting for a market segmentation business model requires substantial courage to implement new frameworks, objectives and business models. 

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Are you lucky enough to know the personality of the creators of your technology? 
  • Do you exploit brand personality in your marketing? 
  • Have you experienced product homogenisation in an M&A? 
  • Have you missed opportunities as a result? 
  • How will you bring this to the attention of your management? 

More about brand personality – brand archetypes – in my next blog.

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