What is brand personality?
In our myths about branding post, we talked about a bunch of misconceptions. Branding is much more than your logo and color scheme; successful brands evoke powerful feelings and emotions. Purely Branded agrees, stating that a brand “lives and evolves in the minds and hearts of consumers. Its identity, therefore, is crucial to your business’s future.” Successful brands create human-like connections by either relating to traits that their audience already possesses or displaying qualities that their audience aspires to possess.
In order to align values, you need to know your brand (and target audience) intimately. Your brand’s personality is composed of relatable human characteristics that help lead your buyer through their individual customer journey. When you personify your brand, it helps your company appeal to each of your customers, create a consistent purchasing experience, and build brand loyalty.
Why does your brand’s personality matter?
Encouraging people to fall in love with your brand is a great goal, and it starts by fostering positive interactions with each consumer. In fact, 86% of customers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support, and 43% of customers spend more money at brands to which they’re loyal. So, how do you earn that loyalty? What makes you authentic?
It’s really quite simple: Your brand has to be relatable enough that it could be friends with your audience. “Brands talk to humans all the time,” comments Landingi, a marketing automation platform, “Ever since the internet joined the party, brands constantly ask humans to talk back. To interact. To share feedback. To get attached. To love. To stay loyal. What do those [actions] sound like? Human interaction. For a human to interact, they need to relate to what they’re interacting with.”
When you think back on some of your most relatable human interactions, you probably had a compatible personality with the other person. So to create a relatable experience between you audience and your brand, you need to consider its personality, too! Thankfully, you don’t have to start from scratch. We’re about to cover the two most popular frameworks — then you can take Moxie’s quiz to help discover your brand’s unique personality! So, let’s dig in.
Brand Personality Frameworks
Walter Landon, a pioneer of branding and consumer research, once said “Products are made in a factory but brands are created in the mind.” And there's significant research to back that up — even a framework or two.
1. Aaker’s 5 Dimensions of a Brand Personality
Believe it or not, we’ve been talking about brand personality for over 20 years now. In 1997, Jennifer Aaker published “Dimensions of Brand Personality” in the Journal of Marketing Research. To this day, her theoretical framework for determining brand personality remains a clear, relevant way for businesses to take an introspective look and better relate to their audience.
Aaker surmised that each brand gravitates toward one of five categories: Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, or Ruggedness. Although companies can certainly overlap with a few different categories, their brand personality is the strongest attribute from the following list:
Sincerity – Sincere companies are genuine and down-to-earth with strong values of family, friendship, and service. They emphasize honesty and generosity. Campbells and Hallmark are both great examples; many other food and hospitality brands fall under the sincerity umbrella.
Excitement – These companies often appeal to younger generations and have an edgier, high energy quality to their campaigns. They’re cool, hip, and even whimsical. A couple great examples are Nike and Coca Cola.
Competence – Selecting this brand personality means that your brand’s backbone is its trustworthiness, reliability, and strong sense of responsibility. Banks and insurance companies often identify as competent; UPS and Microsoft are two big brands with this personality.
Sophistication – Sophisticated brands should have an exclusivity and luxury about them. They’re expensive, high-end, and glamourous, often clothing and jewelry brands; Gucci and Coach fall both fit the bill.
Ruggedness – This brand personality is associated with strength, toughness, and longevity. Outdoor and automotive companies tend to gravitate to this category, like REI Sports and Harley Davidson.
2. Carl Jung’s Brand Archetypes
The second, slightly less popular framework, is based on Carl Jung’s 12 personality archetypes. Each archetype has specific goals in addition to characteristics, which can become a little bit overwhelming to sort through if you’re just beginning to wrap your head around brand personality.
Goal: Building connections
Everyman – Respect and fairness
Jester – Humor and originality
Lover – Passion and faithfulness
Goal: Leave a mark
Hero – Courage and strength
Magician – Charisma and intuition
Outlaw – Progressiveness and leadership
Goal: Seek paradise
Explorer – Independence and self-sufficiency
Sage – Intelligence and understanding
Innocent – Trust and honesty
Goal: Provide structure
Creator – Creativity and imagination
Ruler – Power and status
Caregiver – Compassion and empathy
You can probably tell that Jung’s personalities have much more nuance than Aaker’s method. As you scan this list, it’s probably a lot more difficult to pinpoint which archetype fits your brand best — that’s OK! You can always work your way up to Jung. (And if you’re interested in more detail about his brand archetypes, Landingi put together a fantastic article with plenty of examples.)
When it comes to marketing, brainstorming is everyone’s best friend. So, grab a piece of paper, find a pen, and start jotting down ideas!
To determine brand personality, start without the framework. Simply think of your brand and list all of the characteristics that reflect your company’s core values. This exercise might be helpful to do twice, once at the executive level, and once with direct reports.
After you do an internal brainstorm, pick some customers (or people who fit your customer profile) to conduct the same exercise. (Note: if your customer list comes back wildly different from your internal list, it’s pointing out a flaw in your messaging!)
Once you compile the lists, compare the internal and external results, circle the traits that overlap, and start looking for your brand’s primary characteristics. The most important question to ask here is: Which traits align with your ideal customers?
Now that you’re armed with your list, revisit each branding framework and choose the personality or archetype that matches best.
OK, what’s next?
Remember, your brand personality needs to be authentic. Let’s say you make recycled handbags. Your brand is far from “sophisticated,” but you really want your bags to appeal to a higher income bracket. If you try to force your product into the wrong market, your audience will see through your façade and it could tarnish your brand reputation. Accept your brand for what it is, share who you are, and you’ll grow a loyal brand following.
Instead of copying all of the designer handbags and trying to force sophistication, remember that there are plenty of laid-back women who also want quality bags at an affordable price — not to mention, a portion of your proceeds benefit local women’s shelters — so your brand personality is definitely sincerity.
Recognize and understand your market, not the market you think you should be in. Be authentic and you’ll develop a loyal following of raving fans. It’s that simple.
Feeling stuck on your brand personality? Check out Moxie’s Brand Personality Quiz to narrow it down! And as always, we’re here for all of your branding questions! Want to chat? Drop us a line.