The Depths Of Brand Character Development

Jerome ConlonApril 28, 20162 min

The thoughtful, quirky and uplifting character of New Belgium Brewing is an excellent example of Soulful Branding in practice. This video provides a fascinating glimpse into founder and CEO Kim Jordan’s values that are the source of New Belgium’s soulful brand character.  

The depth of a brands character can be compared to an iceberg. You only can see the tip of a brands character, but when character traits are truly admirable that glimpse is enough. Kim Jordan provides a glimpse into how New Belgium’s magnetically attractive brand character has been formed.

What fermentation is to beer, character is to brands.

Brand character development is overlooked by many companies. Business schools don’t provide training in it, its not a skill set…it’s about who we are as people, what we value, how we express ourselves, how we regard others and how we understand the larger context of how our products really fit into the way people live life more fully.

In my book Soulful Branding – How to Unlock the Hidden Energy in Your Company and Brand, a brand research tool is introduced called Ethography. “Ethography is the study of a brand’s ethos, its underlying character and influence. Ethography is the intimate study of a brands values, beliefs and character. These things reveal a company’s internal culture and they spring from leadership vision and values. They set the tone for how key relationships are nourished.

Ethnography is a branch of anthropology that studies human culture. Design ethnography has developed into a brilliant tool for navigating the space of human need finding, while its complement brand ethography (without the “n”) enables us to navigate meaning and character generated at the brand level. Whereas product ethnography deals with understanding product identities, brand ethography is concerned with brand persona and character that emerges from brand research and how to take imaginative leaps to shape a brand’s character in new ways.

Knowing that all markets evolve, that consumer tastes evolve, and that important values and meanings in society also evolve, tells us that successful brands must evolve as well. It’s simply not reasonable to expect that a brand field defined twenty, ten, or even three years ago will resonate as strongly with the customers of today. Hence, a formal study of brand meaning is essential, and brand ethography is an important tool for doing this work.

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