Or…the Window to Your Brand’s Soul
You can discover your brand personality by peering through the window to your brand’s soul using the Johari Window. Here’s one way that I’ve discovered to find your brand essence. In the 1950s, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham developed the Johari Window as a model for mapping personality awareness. Simply stated, you can discover more about yourself — and how others see you — by describing yourself from a list of adjectives, and then asking your friends and colleagues to describe you from the same list. As you receive more input, a picture develops of the differences or the gaps between how you see yourself and how others see you.
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This same exercise can be performed by your business in order to discover what your customers and prospects think about your brand, and, more importantly, how different their perceptions are from your reality.
Successful brands are successful because they are relevant to their core customers — their brand lovers. And they remain relevant (and customers remain loyal) because these companies know how to listen to what others are saying about them and respond or react accordingly. In other words, a company whose brand walk is aligned with their brand talk will develop a more loyal customer following.
Of course, successful brands must not only be authentic (be who they say they are), but they must also be relevant (they have to have something to offer that people really want) and their business must be differentiated (customers and prospects must have a reason for choosing them over their competition).
So, how do you know if your brand’s walk is aligned with your brand’s talk? Take a peek into the window of your brand’s soul and find out.
Peering into the Johari Window
Let’s first look at the Johari Window as a personality tool, and then explore how it can be used to refine your brand’s essence and grow your business.
It’s easy to see how the Johari Window got its name. Johari quadrant 1 is sometimes called the open/self area, free area, or public area. Regardless of what it’s called, it’s the quadrant that contains the various attributes that make up your complete personality. I call it the Attribute Arena. For personality assessment, this area contains the behaviors, attitudes, feelings, emotions, knowledge, experiences, skills, views, and more that both the subject (you) and others (your friends, family, and colleagues) know you by.
Johari quadrant 2 is called the blind self, blind area, or blindspot. This area contains those attributes that are unknown to you (the subject), but others see these traits in you. How do you know what others think of you? Ask! I’ll discuss this more when we see how the Johari construct works to refine your brand essence.
The third Johari quadrant is the hidden self, hidden area, or façade. This area contains a list of attributes or qualities that are known to us (the subject), but are kept hidden from others, and are therefore unknown to them. We often mask sensitivities, fears, hidden agendas, manipulative intentions, secrets — anything that we are trying to hide or are uncomfortable revealing. While this is normal when we’re dealing with human personalities, in the brand-building world of business, it’s not a good idea to portray your business as something you’re not. Think Enron.
Finally, Johari quadrant 4 is the unknown self, or area of unknown activity. It should be populated with feelings, latent abilities, aptitudes, experiences, and more that are unknown to both you (the subject) and others. Often, this area contains more attributes if the subject is young, lacks experience, or has low self-esteem.
The window to your brand’s soul
Now let’s look at how this simple self-actualization model can work for evaluating the strength and alignment of your brand. I’ll use the same construct, the window-based quadrants, except that our objective is slightly different.
The goal in using this assessment tool for your business is to discover the gaps between …
The fewer the differences between those areas, the better.
As in the personality window, we’ll use quadrant 1 to establish a list of attributes for your business. This list can include your organization’s products, services, and all offerings. List everything fundamental (the various ways customers engage with your company) to customer needs (emotional and tangible) that are met through those categories.
In quadrant 2, you’ll list those attributes that you say you are. What do you articulate about your business and your offerings through your marketing and communications, through your customer service (or lack of it), through your point of sale environment, through your product or service quality?
Quadrant 3 contains those attributes or traits that others, in this case customers and prospects, think your business is. How do you know what others think of you? Listen to the Voice of the Customer (VOC) to discover their true feelings. Engage in the ongoing and proactive practice of acquiring data through surveys, loyalty programs, gathering information from your frontline representatives with customer contact, and monitoring social networks.
In quadrant 4, you’ll list those things that your business really is. In other words, what’s the reality of your business? If you say you’re customer-centric, but you have a bad reputation for taking care of the customer, don’t list it here. Deal only in truth in this quadrant—not feelings or best intentions.
The Johari Window in action
To demonstrate the Johari Window model, let’s look at the quadrants of Buckstar, a fictional drive-thru coffee shop.
What you may discover about your brand
After doing the Johari Window exercise for your business, look at the gaps between the quadrants and, based on the number of differences, you should be able to identify your brand’s type among the following four categories.
The Transparent Brand: The transparent brand is the state your business should aspire to. When your brand’s walk is neatly aligned with your brand’s talk, it means that what you really are, what you say you are, and what people believe you are, are all in sync. There is nothing hidden or confusing. Your value proposition is clear, your business knows what it stands for, your target market “gets it,” and your brand delivers it.
The Blind-Spot Brand: This business is blinded to the attributes that customers and prospects recognize about them. The solution to becoming a transparent brand is to get feedback from those around you about the blind spots in your brand personality. You must ask for the feedback and be prepared and willing to respond to customer input.
The Hidden Secrets Brand: This business lives in an unintentional secret world. They don't allow others to know about them because they don't really stand for anything. They may know what makes them unique and relevant to the market, but they are fearful of letting others know. Customers do not know them either. What do others really know about your business?
The Hidden Potential Brand: This is a combination of The Blind-Spot and Hidden Secrets Brand. It is the saddest of all conditions, because these brands don’t know themselves, and their customers and prospects don’t know them either. This means both parties have to invest the energy to communicate and get feedback from one another. It also can mean that marketing and advertising dollars are largely wasted because your messaging is not based on a foundation of common knowledge about what your business stands for or how it’s relevant to potential users.
How to become a Transparent Brand
Your objective is to ensure that the attributes in each of the four quadrants match as closely as possible. There should not be large gaps between the quadrants. You cannot manipulate your way into your customers’ hearts. It must be done authentically and with full disclosure.
As the view of your own brand — and its gaps — matures, your marketing and communications efforts will be more effective. And business performance should improve, too, as less energy and dollars are spent screaming meaningless or confusing messages to a prospective audience that just doesn’t get who your brand really is and what it’s trying to sell.
will you know when it’s working? How will you know when your brand’s
walk aligns with your brand’s talk? A successful business is one where
those who know your brand the best are those who love your brand the
For more about Brand personality, click here.