The Most Popular Brands at a Party

By Nick Riley

We all love a good party. Whilst I don’t get to many parties these days, the ones I remember the most have always been filled with loads of interesting characters and personalities. I’ve always found it fascinating to be a bit of an observer at a party. A great party is a real-life drama unfolding in front of your very eyes – different characters vying for everyone else’s attention, huddles of intense conversations – people all displaying their best (or worst) versions of themselves for everyone to see. There are always a few people that are the most popular - their presence can set the tone and make it a memorable evening.

Looking around at a party I can see how my friends are all characters in their own right, with clear attributes that in my mind define their unique personalities. Take for example my good friend Todd. When he’s at a party I can expect some sort of hijinks – plenty of laughs, a few broken glasses, a couple of loud arguments and a horrendous Bourbon & Coke inspired headache the next morning. Todd is a Jester at heart - a rascal who loves to make other people laugh, has to be the centre of attention and doesn’t take life too seriously. I have another friend Laurie – he’s a famous lover and a smooth talker who wears his heart on his sleeve. At a party he’ll always be making cocktails whilst surrounded by pretty girls, Vodka Martini in hand. My other friend Tony is a true Explorer. At a party he’ll be surrounded by a captive audience whilst retelling his famous stories of adventures far and wide – fishing, diving, hunting and beer drinking!

Each of my friends has their own personal brand - even if they don’t realise it. The way they speak, look and act defines their unique brand character, which in turn defines other people’s perceptions of them. And just like a brand – once your character has been defined and embedded, it can be very hard to shake that perception, let alone change it.

This explains the power of brand character, also known as brand archetypes. Knowing your brand character and then confidently confirming that character in the minds of your audience through the way your brand looks, acts and speaks is one of the single most powerful ways to grow a strong brand.

Harley Davidson is the perfect example of a brand with a Rebel character. They confidently confirm this character through a carefully managed brand experience that supports this perception and doesn’t dilute it. This has kept the Harley Davidson brand strong, confident and consistent.

Absolut Vodka displays clear characteristics of the Magician archetype. They are world famous for their highly visible program of product innovation and a visual identity and expression that constantly surprises and delights its customers.

Absolut and Harley Davidson - defined by clear, strong character archetypes.

As I mentioned earlier – embedded character perceptions can often be hard to shake. This is a problem if your character is no longer relevant to the type of people you want to connect with. A perfect example closer to home is Tui Beer. Tui has always been the classic ‘Jester’ – reflecting the irreverent and somewhat hard-case character of the typical Kiwi bloke. Over time this character has become the Kiwi bloke of old, an outdated stereotype that no longer reflects the true character of the modern New Zealand man. As this character became irrelevant, so did Tui – and what was once the largest selling beer in DB’s portfolio is now relegated to the back-shelf of the bottle store.

I like to imagine that brands are just like characters at a party. They’re all competing for attention, hoping to involve as many people as possible in their conversation. And just like being at a party – people connect with other characters they like. Brands are no different. People see reflections of themselves in the brands they choose, which highlights the importance of choosing a brand character that is not only a true reflection of your brand, but also a true reflection of the people you want to be talking to.

I’ll sum up with a famous quote by the infamous party animal Andy Warhol. When asked by a reporter from the New York times – “Andy, who in your opinion are the most popular people at a party? – surely it's the best looking?” Andy replied “Why no, it’s always the people who are the most interesting”.

Further Reading

Man and His Symbols – Carl G. Jung

The Hero and the Outlaw – Margaret Mark & Carol S. Pearson