How to create your Brand Personality
This is the ‘secret sauce’ in branding that helps you build affinity with your target audience. I believe your brand personality is one of the key intangibles in building your standout brand, because developing the human characteristics of your brand helps differentiate your business and attract customers, especially in a crowded market.
Simply look at how much time and energy the big brands invest in building their brand personality and you’ll appreciate its importance for your small business too. This is because they recognise how much brand personality contributes to brand standout, attracting core customers and developing long lasting, deep relationships with them.
So, let’s make sure your business has an engaging brand personality too. Let’s take an in-depth look at:
1. What is your brand personality?
The New Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘personality’ includes: ‘The combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character’ and ‘Qualities that make someone interesting or popular’
This definition of personality is a great start point for your brand thinking because you want your brand personality to be ‘distinctive‘, so your brand stands out. And it’s a bonus when your brand is seen as ‘interesting‘, so it piques curiosity – and ‘popular’, so lots of people want to buy it.
Here’s an inspiring definition of Brand Personality from Steve Harvey:
‘A brand personality is the magic that brings your brand to life. It’s a vehicle that helps to communicate what makes your company different, in a way that your customers can relate, and connect to. At the same time, it’s also a great source of differentiation, as it’s very difficult for anyone to copy a personality.’
My approach to brand personality
I find it useful to describe your brand as if it is a person. There are three things to hold in your mind when you’re building your distinctive personality traits:
- Behaviour – how your brand acts – of course this is rooted in your brand purpose and brand values
- Style – your brand ‘aesthetic’ – how you use your logo, colours, fonts and imagery in a way that builds recognition for your brand
- Voice – how the brand speaks – your vocabulary and brand tone of voice
2. Why your brand personality matters – 3 reasons
1. KNOW. LIKE. TRUST.
Quite simply, your prospects, being human, will prefer to buy from a brand they like. When you build your brand personality, consistently and over time, you’ll elevate your brand ‘know, like, trust’ into true affinity that withstands the ups and downs of change and even errors. You’ll have built:
- Memorability – from awareness and contact with your business over time
- Love – the positive experience from all the interactions with your brand
- Recommendations – the cumulative effect – when clients freely recommend your brand to others
The New Oxford Dictionary explains anthropomorphism as ‘the attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to a god, animal or object’. We can add ‘brand’ to the list of objects that we treat as having human characteristics. When you manage your brand personality, you’re bringing life to your brand – that you can manage and evolve for the better.
It seems that being human means we’re hard-wired in this way. So working with your brand personality fits with the tradition of naming ships, trains and planes, giving our pets human names and naming our cars and other belongings.
3. COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
When all things are equal with your competitors – product, service, price, availability – greater affinity with your brand can switch the sale to your business. The deeper your brand affinity with customers, the greater your opportunity to build brand loyalty and gain repeat purchases.
When your clients connect emotionally to your brand (as if it is a person) it grows your business. It’s well-documented that buying decisions are based on emotion, and how we feel about the brand and people we’re buying from. As Donald Calne said: ‘The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions’.
3. Start points for creating your brand personality
First of all, remember these 3 things:
- It takes time to build trust in your brand personality
- Your brand personality is intangible, yet it is possible to measure progress
- How your brand personality is perceived by your most important customers, is what counts most
Now, let’s have some fun!
Let’s get some practice in discerning brand personality, by taking a look at some of your favourite big brands. Ask yourself questions like these:
- What sort of person is this brand?
- Is it male or female?
- How old or young is it?
- What is its attitude to customers?
- How does it make you feel?
- If it is a car – or animal – which one is it?
- If you know the founder of the business, how much does what you know of their personality, influence your perceptions of the brand? Think about the personality characteristics of Richard Branson and Virgin, Michael O’Leary and Ryanair, Steve Jobs and Apple and Bill Gates and Microsoft
There are no right or wrong answers
We’re looking for your perceptions of each brand personality and how it makes you feel. Simply write down a few words that sum up each brand personality for you. Here are a few elements to consider:
- Words, images and colours used
- What they say about their products and services
- How they behave – in public and behind the scenes; both when things go well and when things go badly
- Who buys their products
- Where they are based – nationality, origins and culture
All of these tangible and intangible clues add up to a picture in your minds’ eye of the people behind the business and the brand personality. Have a go at describing the personalities of these well-known brands and you’ll soon get into the swing of the game:
- Apple vs. Samsung
- O2 vs. Virgin
- Body Shop vs. Boots
- Sainsbury’s vs. Tesco
- Waitrose vs. Morrisons
- Dulux vs. Crown
- Benetton vs. Uniqlo
Let’s focus on your brand personality
Your brand personality is part of your brand strategy, so a good place to start is with a brand audit. This will identify the gap between your brand personality now and how you want the personality of your brand to be peceived – by your very best customers – in 3-5 year’s time.
Remember that creating and building your brand personality is strategic, so it must align with your brand purpose and values – because how your brand takes action and behaves is core to its personality. So let’s include your brand purpose and values on the checklist:
1. Is your brand purpose still relevant for your business and target audience?
- Has anything changed in your market sector – for example, is sustainability a bigger issue now?
- Do you still serve the same target audience? Have their needs and wants changed?
- Draft your answer to this question, ‘Apart from making money, why does your business exist?’
- What changes do you want to make?
2. Are your brand values in need of an update?
- Your brand values are the ‘moral compass’ of the business. They help determine what your brand stands for and what it stands against.
- Check that your values are specific, actionable, in tune with the times and aligned with customer values.
- Is everyone in the business in tune with these brand values?
- Do you want to make any changes?
3. Check the imagery and colours you use in communications – from social media posts to your website and advertising
- How would you describe them?
- Is there a consistent ‘look and feel’ to your selected images?
- How do you use your brand colours?
- What changes could you make for the better?
4. Assess your brand voice and tone – from spoken word in videos to the written word in social media posts and ads
- It can take a while to find your brand voice, so be kind to yourself when you review your speaking and writing.
- How would you describe your tone of voice now?
- What aspects could you evolve and improve in the future?
5. Benchmark 2-3 key competitors or brands you admire
- Describe what works and doesn’t work for your target audience
- Pinpoint the personality differences between these brands and your own
- Clarify the traits you want to include in your future brand personality
Let’s create your ideal future brand personality
Think about the 3 key aspects – behaviour, style and tone of voice. I usually create a mood board of images and words that sum up the person you want your brand to be – and perceived by your very best customers.
Write down the list of characteristics that sum up your future brand personality. Make sure your descriptions encompass how the brand behaves, looks, speaks and listens. Then choose your core key brand personality words – the ones that feel authentic and distinctive to your brand. Check they are fully aligned with your logo, tagline and colour palette. (if not, you may need a brand refresh). Update your Brand Style Guide – you can download your style guide here – and make sure you bring your brand personality to life, consistently, everyday.
Bring your brand personality to life
Make sure to use only the words, tone of voice, style of images, fonts and colours that consistently reinforce and build your unique brand personality. This is now an essential part of your brand marketing strategy and plan. Remember, your brand personality will evolve over time, as times change.
I hope you’ve found this summary useful. If you have any questions or get stuck, please do get in touch. You can book a 30 minute call with me using this link.