Recently, I led an organization through a series of exercises to help them define their brand. Here’s the challenge: most of them didn’t have an understanding of what a brand is, much less how to define it. What I led them through not only helped them understand branding, but it also helped them create something that every brand needs: a brand personality.
What is a brand personality? It’s not your personality or even your team’s personality. It’s not the look and feel of your product. But it is a collection of characteristics and traits that best describe your brand’s character as if your brand was an actual person. If corporations are now people then it’s only fair that brands can be people too, right?
Think about how your brand wants to be perceived by your audience – how it wants to make them feel. Who is your brand as a person? What are those human personality traits and attributes that define your brand?
When you think about it, the strongest brands are those with the most well-defined personalities.
A brand personality demonstrates how you’re different from others.
A brand personality proves there’s more to you and your company than just facts, figures, products and technology.
And most important, a brand personality with human characteristics makes it much easier for people to want to connect and engage with that brand. Laura Busche speaks to this in her book, Lean Branding: “People relate to people, and if your brand feels like people, they’ll relate to you too.”
There are some technical brand models and brand personality archetypes you can study to define your brand’s personality. But to keep from getting overwhelmed I think its fine to go with a clean-slate approach and base your brand’s personality on your own ideas and language. What’s great is that this exercise works whether for a Fortune 100 company, a small business or even your own personal brand.
With that, here’s three steps to define, and then check, your brand’s personality.
- Define your brand as a person.
The first step is to define who your brand is if it were a person. Imagine you met your brand on the street, at a party or on a plane. How would you describe your brand as a person?
- Is your brand a male? A female? Neither?
- Is your brand young? Old? Middle-aged?
- Is your brand conventional or free-spirited?
- Where does your brand live? The city? The suburbs? The beach?
- Is your brand from a specific city or region or is it global?
- What level of education does your brand have?
- What type of clothes does your brand wear?
- What kind of car does your brand drive?
- What’s your brand’s favorite music?
- What’s your brand do for fun?
- What are the causes most important to your brand?
- If your brand were a movie character, who would they be? Indiana Jones? Harry Potter? Katinss Everdeen? Elle Woods?
- Define your brand’s personality attributes.
Now that you’ve defined who your brand is as a person take some time to list some single word personality attributes (that’s a fancy word for adjectives) that sets your brand apart from anyone else. Ideally, you’ll have three to five that really describe how you’re different. The list of attributes to choose from is as endless as your vocabulary
- Modern or Traditional
- Luxurious or Austere
- Fun or Serious
- Innovative or Secure
- Tranquil or Excitable
- Flexible or Rigid
- Simple or Complex
- Respectful or Irreverent
- Formal or laid back
- Adventurous or Cautious
Remember, these are the traits that need to set you apart and differentiate you from others. You’re not doing yourself any favors if you define your brand by minimum expectations. You’re reliable, trustworthy, caring and personal? Great – you should be. Your audience and customers expect that from everyone. Now what attributes actually make you stand out?
- Check this personality against what your customers say it is.
Talk to your customers, your audience, your family and friends. Find out what they say your brand personality is. Do they match what you defined? Great! You’re on the right track. If they don’t – where do you need to focus your efforts? Do you even have the capabilities to get where you want to be or do you need to go back and redefine it to something more attainable?
Once you’ve defined your Brand Personality, you’ll be able inject these attributes into everything you do and say. This process should influence your approach for every interaction someone has with you and your brand — the tone of your communications, your visual style and design and even how front-line team members dress and act. So your social media can’t be fun and playful while your emails are solemn and serious. That’s a big disconnect that sends a schizophrenic message to your audience. If your audience faces inconsistent personality traits they can’t get a true sense of what you or your company stands for. When that happens they begin to lose trust in you. And if you want to stand out in the crowd, your audience has to trust you.
Question: How would you define your brand as a person? What are the top five attributes that describe your brand’s personality? Does your audience agree?