The Dichotomy Of Brand Personality

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When dueling companies in the same industry vie for customers, a natural rhythm of contrasting brand personalities develops. After all, a brand wants to distinguish itself from its competitor. A 30 second advertisement is not the place to find nuance or a middle ground. These polar opposites creates a black and white decision for the customer. The most basic adjectives used to describe brand personalities show this contrast: conservative vs. progressive, urban vs. outdoorsy, casual vs. professional, stylish vs. practical, young vs. old. Below are two examples of competing brand personalities:

Pants: Levi’s vs. Docker’s

Levi’s – O’Pioneers<

“O’Pioneers” shows youth running in the open spaces of America as Walt Whitman’s poem by the same name is recited in the background. The camera shows quick movements and jump cuts, suggesting an edginess in technique that goes along with the edginess of wearing Levi’s. The commercial is raw, off the cuff, and spontaneous, suggesting that wearing Levi’s will give you the same youthful feel portrayed by those in the commercial. The message is simple – America is a vast land and it’s up to the youth to go after every inch of it, thereby finding themselves within it all. Levi’s firmly places itself as the compass for this adventure.

Both the Docker’s and Levi’s commercials use a music soundtrack. That’s where the similarities end. The Docker’s commercial takes place in San Francisco, suggesting a business oriented, world class sophistication. The measured movements of the camera show a consistency and function associated with the brand. The commercial highlights the words “Weekend”, “Dress”, and “Golf”. Those words suggest a stability that is the key to life. Whereas Levi’s looked for adventure, Docker’s presents a middle to upper class vision of America. Docker’s is for professionals looking to balance family, the complexities of work life, and a weekend of fun with the boys.

Soft Drink: Pepsi vs. Coca Cola

Pepsi

Britney Spears, at the height of her popularity, stars in this commercial. There’s no narrative, no reason for Spears to be at the Pepsi warehouse. She’s there because she’s the biggest pop star in the world and that’s what Pepsi does. The commercial has more in common with a hip music video than an advertising. Britney Spears is young and attractive, symbolizing the youth and dynamics of the brand. Likewise, words like young, hip, and mobile would be used to describe the personality of Pepsi.

Coca Cola

Unlike the Pepsi ad, there’s a narrative here, albeit very simple: a thirsty man buys a Coke (again these ads leave little room for nuance). Another significant difference between the two is the lack of star power in this Coke ad. In fact, it’s anti-star power. Coca Cola’s most famous “I Like To Teach the World to Sing” commercial is about people getting along in one big community. The commercial above is no different. The man puts in his money and from there, a community of animated characters happily work together to create the Coke product. There’s no star, no one person placed higher than anyone else. This suggests a nostalgic view of America, one where people reminisce about the “simpler times” of small towns where everyone knew eachother’s name. Coca-Cola is the blue collar part of America. Pepsi is Hollywood.

There’s countless examples of this dichotomy. From Apple vs. IBM to Benz vs. BMW, the classic archetypes of young, vibrant generation butting heads with the classic, stable establishment play out in the most visible settings.