In today’s competitive marketplace, businesses are constantly looking for ways to differentiate themselves and stand out from their competitors.
To do this, you need to not only formulate a foolproof brand strategy, but also develop a unique brand personality.
This is because humans connect not only with each other on a personal level, but also with brands. Just consider one of the oldest examples in the book, the battle between Samsung (Android) and Apple (iPhone). Every consumer has a side, and usually once you’ve made your choice, you stick to it.
Both brands have distinct personalities and traits that align with the buyer’s own persona. In fact, several studies conducted over the years even claim that iPhone users are happier, more extroverted, more adventurous, and make more money than Android users (sorry Android lovers).
But what is brand personality? And how can you create a persona that will stand out from your competitors, and attract the right customers? Let’s find out!
Brand personality is the set of human characteristics and traits that are attributed to a brand by its creators, and recognized by its customers. It is the way in which a brand expresses itself and connects with its target audience on a personal level. Just like people, brands have a unique identity that sets them apart and makes them recognizable to consumers.
Just picture being on a date with some high-profile brands. Versace would be flashy, and nothing better than Michelin star excellence would be acceptable. Whereas Fred Perry would be way too cool for school, and you’d find yourself at some hipster brewery drinking a fruity pale ale.
It’s easy to imagine these brands in real life, which is why developing a strong brand personality for your business is vital. People will be painting a personal picture of your brand in their heads, and the most common way for most people is by building a personal website.
Below is a summary of the key reasons why brand personality is so important:
- It creates an emotional connection between your business and customers. Emotional investment breeds loyalty.
- It encourages trust in your brand, because it becomes more humanized.
- You can create a sense of community, which in turn encourages your customers to shop with you again, and again.
- It is easier to portray your brand’s values and mission through a strong brand personality.
The dimensions of brand personality are a set of characteristics used to define a brand’s persona. There are many different models that can be used to describe brand personality, but one of the most popular and widely used in the marketing world is Stanford University Professor Jennifer Aaker’s “Big Five” personality traits, which are:
- Sincerity: This trait is associated with being honest, genuine, and wholesome. Brands that exhibit sincerity tend to be perceived as down-to-earth and friendly, and they often appeal to consumers who value authenticity, trustworthiness, and ethical practices. Examples of brands that exhibit sincerity include The Body Shop and Patagonia.
- Excitement: Exciting brands are daring, lively, and imaginative. They exhibit excitement and tend to be perceived as innovative and dynamic, and they often appeal to consumers who value ingenuity and stimulation. Examples of brands that exhibit excitement include Red Bull, Nike, and Apple. They typically increase brand awareness through exciting, imaginative marketing campaigns.
- Competence: This trait is associated with being reliable, intelligent, and successful. Brands that exhibit competence tend to be perceived as dependable and trustworthy, and they often appeal to consumers who value quality and competence. Examples of brands that exhibit competence include IBM, Google, and Mercedes-Benz.
- Sophistication: This personality is the Versace and Gucci of the brand world. Companies that showcase this trait are refined, elegant, and cultured. Brands that exhibit sophistication tend to be perceived as upscale and luxurious, and they often appeal to consumers who value style and taste.
- Ruggedness: This trait is associated with being outdoorsy, tough, and rugged. Brands that exhibit ruggedness tend to be perceived as tough and durable, and they often appeal to consumers who value strength and resilience. Examples of brands that exhibit ruggedness include Jeep, Harley-Davidson, and The North Face.
Be sure to consider these five dimensions when building your brand’s personality, since consumers are most receptive to businesses that exhibit one, if not multiple, of these five dimensions.
1. Define Your Values
Just like humans have values that help define us, so should any serious brand. Think carefully about what you want your business to stand for. Are you focusing on ethical, sustainable practices? Or are your values centered around efficiency and productivity?
Once you’ve outlined your values, focus on how they make you different from other competitors. Do you donate 10% of your profits to charity, for example? Or plant a tree for every item sold? Make sure you clearly communicate your values through a strong mission statement on your website too.
2. Understand Your Audience
When you’re building a brand online, no matter which aspect of your brand you’re developing, you should always have your target audience in mind. The same goes for building your brand’s personality. Conducting market research can be helpful here. Ask yourself: would my target market want to hang out with my brand if it were a person? Build a brand that would impress in a room full of your customers, by focusing on what they admire and what they are attracted to.
3. Question Your Role
Consider how you want your customers to perceive your brand in their lives. What are you offering them? Are you a source of inspiration, like with brands such as Nike or Adidas? Or are you more like an escape, such as the likes of Netflix. Once you’ve figured out your role in your customers’ lives, this will help fine tune your brand’s personality.
If you’re a health and nutrition food brand, for example, you aren’t going to suddenly start promoting fashion items. That goes against your role in your customers’ lives, which is to offer guidance and support with their nutritional choices. Making off-brand moves like this can lead to brand dilution and general customer confusion.
4. Apply an Archetype
There are 12 primary brand archetypes that can be applied to your business as you begin developing it. An archetype is important because it reflects not just your brand’s persona, but all aspects of the brand including your tone of voice and your values.
Swiss psychologist Carl Jung defined these twelve archetypes, which include four overriding subcategories of providing structure, seeking paradise, building a connection, and leaving a mark to customers.
The 12 archetypes are:
- The Innocent: represents purity, simplicity, and optimism. Examples include Coca-Cola or Dove.
- The Sage: exhibits wisdom, knowledge, and insight. Think of Google as the head sage.
- The Explorer: masters of adventure, risk-taking, and self-discovery. Red Bull is a prime example of an explorer.
- The Outlaw: represents rebellion, non-conformity, and freedom. Harley Davidson and its congregation of Hells Angels are well and truly the epitome of this archetype.
- The Magician: the master problem solvers that do the impossible through transformation, creativity, and vision. This has two obvious brand examples, Apple and Tesla.
- The Hero: bravery, strength, and courage. Queue the intense cinematic music and real-life celebrity advocates, and you’ve got Nike, the hero!
- The Lover: this archetype is all about passion, intimacy, and sensuality. Victoria’s Secret is a prime example.
- The Jester: these brands will use humor, lightheartedness, and playfulness to portray their personality. Think M&M ads, which always have the room in fits of laughter – “no you get in the bowl.”
- The Everyperson: practicality, down-to-earth values, and a sense of belonging. IKEA and Walmart pride themselves on being trustworthy. I mean when was the last time you put together an IKEA bed that was missing a piece?
- The Caregiver: if you want your brand to be seen as nurturing, compassionate, and generose, you’ll be the typical caregiver archetype. Perfect examples are Johnson & Johnson and TOMS.
- The Ruler: authority, control, and leadership. These businesses do things by the book, and do them with real confidence. Rolex is a great example of a ruler, the king of watches.
- The Creator: innovation, imagination, and originality are all aspects of the creator. Anyone in the creative sector would easily identify Adobe as the perfect example of a creator archetype brand.
5. Develop Brand Guidelines
Creating brand guidelines is not only important for consistency and clarity, but also for your brand’s personality. Think about your own self and your persona. It doesn’t just change overnight, it remains consistent. Guidelines allow your brand to do the same.
Even visually, your brand should have consistent fonts and color schemes throughout your marketing and advertising campaigns. You should also have strict guidelines on the way your employees behave, in person and on social media (this reinforces your values).
6. Consistently Review
Building a brand personality isn’t a stagnant process. There is no finite stage at which your business personality is fully complete. This simply isn’t viable – as your brand grows your personality will shift with it. And that is okay. In fact it is important to be adaptable.
You can do this by reviewing your brand and its personality at least twice a year, to really hone in on what is working well, and what may need to be tweaked. Of course be careful not to make too many drastic changes to your brand’s values, as this can have a negative impact on the customers that currently support you.
By now you should know the answer to your question “What is brand personality?” and instead be turning over the new, and much more exciting, question: “What is my brand personality?”
While you mull that over, it’s important to recognize the many pieces of the puzzle that come with defining your brand’s personality. Think carefully about the five dimensions and which one best describes the brand you are trying to build.
See this as your foundation, and from there you can work on defining your values and choosing an archetype that aligns with your role in your customers’ lives.
However, be careful that you don’t develop an ambiguous brand in the process. Ambiguity and a lack of direction will only confuse potential customers and your target audience, and will not instill a sense of trust or loyalty to your brand.
But if you produce a confident, purposeful brand personality, you’ll be well on the way to sitting at the archetype table with the likes of Coca-Cola, Nike, and Apple.