Brand personality – what is it and why you should care about it

9 January 2017 | Design, Branding, Brand audit

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A brand is a living thing. Your company is perceived by your customers and competitors to have certain qualities and attributes. Just like a person, it has a personality, and it is as important as your product offering and the value you deliver.

Brand personality is not the look and feel of your product, though it will have an effect on it. It is also not your personality. It is what you would like people engaging with your brand to perceive as your brand's character.

Even if you are a one-man show, think of it as a professional persona versus you as a private person. For example, while your personal and professional ambitions may meld into one, as a professional you want your service or product to be the star of the show. Give it a personality of its own.

Brand personality in the bigger picture

Let's take two iconic brands Nike and Apple and analyse their personality for a moment. You may say that Nike is your positive, driven and active friend, the one who always encourages you to do your best and go for it, not just sit around thinking about it. She always inspires you into action and says "Just do it".

Apple is your technology genius friend who has the highest standards both in aesthetics and usability. He always leaves you thinking "why didn't I think of that earlier". He guesses your needs and frustrations, fixing the problem before you even knew it was there, and presents the solution so tastefully. He always inspires you to think differently, be bold and to question the status quo.

We just talked about these two brands from the point of view of personality - what they would say, do and how you relate to them. We did not talk about the actual products they offer. We were just referring to them as people and how they make us feel, what connection to them we have personally. And this is what brand personality is.

If you think of the brand architecture as a mountain structure, personality would sit at its base.

It is not necessarily visible. You won't find it written in words in the day-to-day interaction with a brand, but it is present and speaks for itself. Underlining all brand behaviour it colours it with a certain flavour, like an invisible veil.

How to define your brand personality

Now let's have a look at your brand personality. If I asked you – what kind of person is your brand, what would you say? Let's say it's a He. Maybe you want to start by telling me how that person looks - solid and formal or casual and relaxed, what he wears to work and how he spends his leisure time. Where does he go to eat and hang out? What topics does he like to talk about, what are his views? What music does he listen to and appreciate?

It is a simple, but powerful exercise, and it helps to define your brand personality as a separate entity.

Let's take a step further. Have a look at a list of personality attributes and pick those that convey your brand's personality. Start with a long list and shorten it by eliminating repeating words. From a few synonyms, choose those that better describe what you want to communicate. Even look up word definitions if you can't decide between a few similar ones. Do this until you end up with a maximum of seven adjectives. From those, pick three or four that are the most important. It is better to have a stronger character with fewer attributes than trying to tick all the boxes.

If you get stuck in the long list, ask yourself if all words describe the personality, or perhaps values, aims, hidden meaning to you? Stick with personality descriptors only and leave the others for another exercise.

By the end, you should have a set of characteristics that will form the underlying personality of your brand. This will colour all your brand communication, both visual and verbal.

Why you should do it

So why is it so important to invest the time and effort to clearly define your brand personality? First of all, it is a strong internal guide for brand management. If you put in the work to define it, these won't be just words. They will be binding, affecting your behaviour as a brand and becoming a core element of its existence.

Second, it will aid consistent brand communication which helps to grow and keep loyal customer following. People identify with brands on a personal level. And just like a friend they have come to know and expect to behave in a certain way, they expect a brand to be true to its character.

Finally, it helps to stand out. You want people to engage with your brand and pick you over your competitors. You want to be remembered. And those with a strong character and charisma will be more memorable and draw people in.

After all, strong brands command price premium.
David A. Aaker and Erich Joachimsthaler, Brand Leadership

The personality of your brand should not be accidental, but intentional from the outset. It should guide all your communications so that your brand leaves a strong impression at every touchpoint building customer loyalty. Be authentic, consistent and memorable. After all, strong brands command price premium.

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