One of the key components of a brand’s strategy is its brand personality.
What is a brand personality?
Simply stated, these are the collective qualities of a brand when you imagine it as an actual person.
“You now have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place.”David Ogilvy
The concept sounds simple enough. However, in practice, when there are inconsistencies in the execution of the brand personality, this can cause the loss of trust in the brand, thereby leading to the acceleration of its decline in the market. Conversely, a consistent and cohesive brand personality can strongly contribute to the competitiveness and longevity of a brand in its chosen market segment.
One of the Filipino brands which I find to have a brilliant brand personality strategy is Mary Grace, a chain of casual dining restaurants, which is the namesake of its founder, the former Mary Grace Peckson.
Mary Grace opened its very first store almost 20 years ago in 2002 but traces its roots back to its first bazaar eight years earlier in 1994 selling just ensaymadas (a Filipino adaptation from the 17th century ensaimadas from Majorca, Spain) and cheese rolls atop those humble bazaar tables.
“I don’t think something like this would have been born if I wasn’t a mother first.”Mary Grace Peckson-Dimacali
Around 15 years ago, I once attended a Bank of the Philippine Islands-sponsored seminar on entrepreneurship and the featured speaker was Mary Grace Peckson-Dimacali herself. She narrated her grit story about how they used to peddle their ensaymadas and cheese rolls in those bazaars. During one such bazaar, a typhoon hit the metro on that same day, so there were very few customers who visited the bazaar. With so much perishable inventory on her hands, armed with true motherly determination and grit, she immediately transferred her set-up to a nearby church and waited patiently for the faithful to come out during each mass. The result: she managed to sell-out her inventory that day.
In my mind, “Mary Grace” the brand is motherly, caring, welcoming, loving, comforting, and a reassuring presence. In a word: it’s that overwhelming feeling of being “home“.
For me, that’s the personality of the brand.
Even the story behind the brand name “Mary Grace” has a very motherly flavor to it.
L. JDO quotes the founder in The Meridan Post: “When I was looking for a name to give the business, it was taking me sometime until I said “My God, it’s Mary Grace!” Because without planning it, the word grace has five letters and I realized after all my five kids were born – it’s really serendipity! – each letter stood for the initial of each of them. I didn’t plan that. G is for Gabriel, he’s the one helping me now in the business. R is for Raphael, A for Adrian, C is for Clara, and E is for Ernestine. And I didn’t plan that!”, according to Mary Grace.
True to form, when one visits the Mary Grace website today, this is how you are greeted:
Welcome to Mary Grace
Home of the Ensaymadas and Cheeserolls you love! There’s no place like home.Mary Grace Home Page
And of course, the original Ensaymadas and Cheese Rolls play a prominent role as you are welcomed both online and in their physical stores.
Today, it is a multi-million dollar business with close to 70 restaurants in about 20 cities across Metro Manila and its neighboring areas, which makes the brand one of the leading casual dining restaurant-chains in the Philippine National Capital Region.
And in every single restaurant, the same brand personality is consistently experienced through their uber-friendly, attentive and welcoming staff, home-inspired fixtures and furnishings (a friend once quipped: “…it feels like being in the home of Mary Grace…”), and of course the aroma of freshly made pastries (including ensaymadas of course) and native hot chocolate.
And to top it all, Mary Grace unabashedly displays its founder’s Catholic faith quite prominently in its stores. The logo itself is inspired by the Virgin Mother herself, with the lady’s silhouette depicted with a slight bow to show respect and reverence to God.
Around its restaurants, there are many items that provide Christian and inspirational messages which are meant to uplift every weary soul. The ambiance created provides a great complement to the wide array of quality comfort food in its menu (including my all-time favorite, seafood pasta). Free post cards of the Our Lady of Guadalupe are even available as takeaways for customers in every store, a clear indication of the Marian devotion of its founder.
There is much to learn from this brilliant brand in the way it has nurtured and maintained its consistent and cohesive brand personality over the past two decades since opening its first store. Perhaps the founder’s steadfast faith itself has provided the guiding light through the years. But whatever it is, this brand has demonstrated that there is a much greater chance of success if a brand remains true with the brand personality that it has established for itself and executes this consistently across its various customer touch points.