Forgettable. Without a clearly defined brand personality, your marketing and your message is likely to fall flat with prospective customers.

Importance of Brand Personality

More than a new logo or flashy website redesign, brand personality captures the essence of your brand and makes it actionable—helping to shape every social media post, marketing campaign, and customer interaction.

Defining your brand’s personality can help you 1) elicit an emotional response from current and prospective customers, 2) create a unique and memorable customer experience, and 3) differentiate your business and your brand.

Unfortunately, many brands overlook the critical importance of brand personality and, as a result, they end up looking and sounding like all of the other companies in their marketplace. There’s too much competition for you to make that mistake. Customers have too many choices. There’s too much noise. You need a plan.

How to Create Brand Personality

To identify your brand personality, start by assessing your brand as well as other aspirational brands inside or outside of your category that you admire and ask the following questions:

  1. What is their brand personality? How strong is it? How does it enhance their brand?

  2. When people think about your company or product, what are the feelings and associations you want them to have? Are they unique?

  3. What are the emotional benefits that only you deliver to your customers?

  4. How does someone feel when they buy or use your brand?

  5. What kind of personality do you want your company to have?

  6. What is the primary message you want to convey to your customers?

  7. How do you want people to feel when they visit your website or see a social media post?

Elements of Brand Personality

Another helpful resource is the brand personality scale developed by Jennifer Aaker, General Atlantic Professor of Marketing, Stanford GSB, which contains 15 traits organized into five factors which are outlined below. Each trait is measured by using a five-point scale (1= not at all descriptive, 5= extremely descriptive) rating.

  • Sincerity—down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful. A great example of a down-to-earth brand personality can be found in recent advertising campaigns by Jimmy Dean. They incorporate folksy music and imagery and messaging around having a “good hearty breakfast.” Nothing more wholesome than that. And their logo is two cowboy boots. Personality.

  • Excitement—daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date. Think Nike. They stirred things up by signing Colin Kaepernick to an endorsement deal which generated a significant amount of buzz (both positive and negative) and consistently deliver marketing campaigns that appeal to our competitive nature and drive.

  • Competence—reliable, intelligent, successful. Financial services and investment management companies such as T. Rowe Price. When you are in the business of protecting someone’s hard-earned wealth, reliability, intelligence, and success are going to underscore your brand’s personality.

  • Sophistication—upper-class, charming. Every luxury car brand likely fits into this category and for good reason—they’re selling a lifestyle.

  • Ruggedness—outdoorsy, tough. With a rich history of making quality work boots, Red Wing exemplifies ruggedness and toughness. From their “Heritage Collection” to showcasing customer stories in their “Wall of Honor,” they stay true to their brand personality.

We’d also add “simplicity” to the list and one brand that has taken that idea to an entirely different level is RXBAR. Founded in a suburban basement, Chicago-based RXBar sold to Kellogg for $600 million in under 5 years. How did they stand out in a saturated and hyper-competitive category? A brand personality built on simplicity--simple ingredients, simple messaging, and transparency.

Purposeful and Authentic

Capturing your brand personality isn’t about checking a box just so you can say you have one. To be successful, your brand personality must be aligned with your overarching business strategy and brand purpose.

Although it has been written about ad nauseum, authenticity is absolutely crucial. For example, if your brand personality tries to be something you’re not just to chase after millennials using language that seems contrived or disingenuous, you’re not going to be successful. At least not for long.

Next Steps

Evaluate the state of your current brand personality. Do you have one? Is it obvious to current and prospective customers? Does it align with your brand? Is your brand personality being consistently communicated at every customer touch point? Based on your answers, look for opportunities to create and refine your brand personality based on your marketing goals. From there, make sure you have the right programs and people in place to help bring your brand personality to life.