Anand Narasimha
Guest Article

Human analogy: a framework for brand anatomy

People relate to brands in the same way they relate to other people, in terms of their connections and relationships with brands.

When I started teaching brand management course a decade ago, I would discuss various models of (brand) identity, positioning, personality and equity in the class.

I discovered two issues with these models. First, most of them were quite complex, and second, there was hardly any model that integrated all these key components of a brand. In addition, students would get confused between these terms, and often used them interchangeably.

This inspired me to create a framework that would address all the issues. Something that would be simple, succinct and integrated.

Brand as a person

A lot of literature and ideas on brands espouse the ‘brand as a person’. People relate to brands in the same way they relate to other people, in terms of their connections and relationships with brands.

The concept of ‘brand personification’ is used extensively to define what brands mean to consumers as a human entity. Studies conducted on ‘brand archetypes’ borrow from human psychology and sociology to classify brands as humans. Jeff Bezos (of Amazon) says, “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person.”

This got me thinking and formed the basis of my framework.

Brand Anatomy: Human Analogy

The framework I have developed is based on two tenets:

1. Comparing the brand with a person and using a human being as a metaphor for a brand.

2. Using the analogy of human anatomy to define the key elements of a brand.

Here is a snapshot of framework and how each brand component relates to a human being:

· Brand identity: the physique and clothing of the brand. How does the brand appear externally?

· Brand positioning: the head (rational benefit) and the heart (emotional benefit). What does that brand do? How does it make me feel?

· Brand personality: the character and values of the brand. Who is the brand as a person?

· Brand essence: the soul and spirit of the brand. What is the distillation of the brand? Its DNA?

Graphical representation of the framework - ‘Brand Anatomy: Human Analogy’
Graphical representation of the framework - ‘Brand Anatomy: Human Analogy’

Applying the framework

The framework can be applied in two ways:

1. Analyse and articulate the anatomy of an existing brand -Deconstruction.

2. Create and develop the anatomy of a new brand - Construction.

Let us look at an example for each of these.

Deconstructing the anatomy of an existing brand

Lux soap from Unilever is a well-established mass brand for over 90 years. It has been consistently marketed as a ‘beauty soap’ across the globe. It has been promoted as the ‘soap of the film stars’ for decades.

Here is what the brand anatomy of Lux soap would look like, applying the human analogy:

Human analogy: a framework for brand anatomy

Constructing the anatomy of a new brand

In one of my consulting assignments, we applied this framework to develop the brand anatomy for a Bangalore-based health-tech startup. This company provides a range of health and wellness services, customised for corporate enterprises (it is a pure play B2B business). The brand components needed to be defined and articulated.

Here is what the brand anatomy of the health-tech company looked like, applying the human analogy (the company name and other details can’t be disclosed for obvious reasons):

Human analogy: a framework for brand anatomy

A new definition of brand marketing

While developing this framework, an interesting thing happened along the way. I hit upon a new way to define brand marketing.

‘Brand marketing is all the stuff you do to make your brand rich, famous and loved’

Rich - healthy margins and profits.
Famous - well known and talked about.
Loved - fierce loyalty and advocacy.

After all, if a brand is like a 'person’, then every person also aspires to be rich, famous and loved. Do they not?

Checklist for building a ‘brand as a person’

The next logical question is, ‘how do you build a brand as a person?’

Here’s my checklist for what a brand has to be, to become rich, famous and loved:

1. Great storyteller: is the brand engaging its audience with great stories? Do these stories entertain, involve and inspire? Do they build strong connections?
2. Purpose-driven: has the story shifted from what the brand sells, to what role it plays in people's lives? How does it enrich the society and world at large? Does it have a bigger reason for existence?
3. Lives the purpose: has the brand moved beyond just advertising (ads) to creating meaningful experiences (acts)? Does it practise what it preaches?
4. Ever evolving: is the brand constantly surprising and delighting consumers and not becoming static? Is it learning and relearning to remain relevant?
5. Proactive partner: is the brand co-creating solutions, content, conversations and communities with its consumers? Is it a good listener and anticipates what people desire?

Finally, a brand today needs to combine the power of creativity + the beauty of data + the magic of technology to keep growing, just like any new-age professional would need to.

The author is a corporate-turned-academician, with over three decades of experience spanning brand marketing, advertising and consulting. Currently, he is a professor of brand marketing at the Jagdish Sheth School of Management, Bangalore (formerly, IFIM Business School).