Ever since the Creative Revolution, marketers have insisted brands have character.
A brand, they say, can be friendly, playful, rebellious, sexy, wise or generous—or possess any of a score of other human- or animal-like attributes.
Marketers can feel vindicated in this belief by the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United that corporations are people.
They can also feel vindicated by the lending practices of banks, which define "character" as a business' willingness to pay back a loan.
Character, according to the National Association of Credit Management, "imputes a level of ethics, integrity, trustworthiness and quality of management that is provided or available to the business."
So what's your brand's character?
Is it admired, adorable, confident, dynamic, efficient, fair, honorable, innovative, kind-hearted, likable, painstaking, plucky, proud, romantic, self-assured, silly, sincere, thoughtful, upbeat, warm, willing, witty or wonderful? Or is it something else?
Well, here's a hint: Despite all your words, your brand's character is not what you say it is, but what your customers perceive it to be.
As Priceline's co-founder Jeff Hoffman says, a brand's character is a lot like clothing: what you choose to wear every day forms others' opinions of you.
As the old saying goes, clothes make the man—or the brand.
The company Hoffman co-founded, Priceline, says it's admired and innovative.
But Priceline's recent refusal to refund me the price of tickets that it admits in writing it cancelled tells me the brand's character—the company's words notwithstanding—is altogether different. Try abusive, arrogant, callous, creepy, deceitful, evasive, greedy, malicious, materialistic, mean, nasty, obnoxious, pesky, ruthless, savage, self-serving, sneaky, tacky, tiresome, venomous, vile, wicked, and wolflike.
What clothes are you wearing?
UPDATE: I received a phone call late today from Priceline's PR department. The individual who called informed me the company had decided to refund the cost of my tickets in full, and would process the refund to my credit card within one day.