What Spirit Airlines and Arby’s Can Teach Marketers About Brand Personality

Digital has created countless opportunities for brands, but in ticking off the advantages that it affords we can’t overlook what it does to enhance their personalities. Sites, display ads, and social media all allow businesses to amplify their character. When consumers really understand what a brand’s all about – when they see it and feel it in a tangible way – it can result in boosted affinity, loyalty, and sales.

Last month, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released new data on the effectiveness of its Display Rising Stars ads – a collection of six units that include the Billboard, Filmstrip, and Pushdown. Compared with legacy display ads, one notable data point is that the formats were found to “give more personality to the brand” (65 percent). “The Rising Stars offer larger, more interactive canvasses that allow marketers to paint richer brand portraits,” says Peter Minnium, head of brand initiatives with the IAB. “The result of this richer portrayal is often richer understanding that respondents expressed as giving more personality to the brand.”

Engaging creative and visual marketing tactics are critical to conveying your personality to consumers. Tone, along with human characteristics like being whimsical (think Travelocity and Oreo) or refined (Apple), adventurous (like GoPro and Patagonia) or brazen (Old Spice) work in tandem to shape an impression of your business. Your personality isn’t just about how customers perceive your business and products, but what differentiates you from your competitors. Pound for pound, little stands to influence customer attitudes as much as the behavior and disposition a brand displays online.

Spirit Airlines has done a beautiful job of showcasing its brand personality through multiple digital media channels, including its booking site and unsubscribe page.


For the brand that generates the most customer complaints of any airline its size, with more grievances rolling in each year, flaunting a personality that’s quirky and unconventional is a risk for Spirit Airlines. By keeping things light, however, Spirit hopes to turn customer sentiment around. Last year the company launched a new campaign called “Less Money, More Go” that includes a series of videos and a rebranding effort led by Kansas City, Missouri-based integrated agency Barkley. Coupling racy humor with customer education, the videos explain the brand’s “bare fare” pricing model and a la carte booking system while highlighting the advantages of flying with an airline that “rocked the system” and “redesigned air travel from the ground up.” The result? A bold brand personality that’s impossible to ignore.

Bare Fare Slow Jam from Spirit Airlines on Vimeo.

To push the envelope further, Spirit introduced the “H8te Thousand Miles Giveaway” and State of the Hate survey that invites customers to share complains (i.e. “unleash that hate!”) in exchange for 8,000 free Spirit miles. The effort served to prove that Spirit isn’t the only airline to rile customers; the survey has generated 28,000 responses to date, including criticisms of Spirit’s competitors.

As useful as brand sites and videos are for exhibiting personality online, social media is even better suited to this strategy. Through pithy commentary and succinct posts that force brands to boil down their messaging, social platforms really let companies shine.

Follow a brand like Arby’s on Twitter or Vine and it’s clear the fast-food chain is all about fun. The brand continues to capitalize on the hat that musician Pharrell Williams wore to last year’s Grammy Awards and that Arby’s pointed out bore a striking resemblance to its logo (the brand later bought the hat in a charity auction and donated it to a museum). Many of its best posts, however, consist of no-frills commentary that speaks to the brand’s playful attitude.

A human’s personality might be largely innate. For brands, it must be crafted – molded from the moment the brand is born, and by every message it shares moving forward.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.