the ultimate guide to brand personality (and why it matters)

The Ultimate Guide to Brand Personality (and why it matters)

Brand personality is the key to humanizing your company. Without a distinct personality, your company is little more than a huge vending machine churning products. Customers need something to relate to if they’re going to advocate for your brand.

Think about the companies you feel the most affinity with. The products and services might be great, but there’s often something more. Personality creates emotional connections, defining your business as fun, reliable, or youthful. A brand personality also guarantees you will not blend in with the competition. So, how exactly do you define yours?

Let’s explore the ins and outs of brand personality.

What is Brand Personality?

Simply put, brand personality is the human characteristics connected to your brand. You express the characteristics of your brand as adjectives. They highlight how you want people to perceive your company. Harley-Davidson is a rugged, confident, and inspirational company. It draws the attention of explorers and freedom-seekers.

some popular brands personality and meaning

Apple is a sophisticated, creative, and innovative brand. Apple fans flock to the company because they love its modern, hip approach. Defining brand personality involves imagining your company as a person. What kind of individual would your business be? Is it youthful and a little cheeky, like Innocent Smoothies? Is your business a rebel, like Brewdog?

Giving your company an identity means making it more human, ensuring you can connect with other humans (your customers). Your brand personality also helps customers define themselves. People buy from brands that share characteristics they value.

Brand Personality Frameworks

Every company has its own personality. Often, as your business evolves and you get to know more about your audience, your definition will change. For companies just getting started with brand personality, frameworks are often helpful. Here are some brand personality frameworks you can use.

Aaker’s Brand Personality Framework

Aaker’s brand personality framework

Aaker’s framework highlights the human characteristics you can give to a company. The framework covers 5 crucial dimensions:

  • Sincerity: Honesty and truthfulness. Sincere brands follow and communicate specific ethical practices. They’re committed to playing their part for the betterment of the world. Sincere brands also apply clear policies to avoid ambiguity.
  • Excitement: Brands perceived as imaginative and inspiring. Brands with a high level of “excitement” are spirited and edgy. They’re best known for thinking outside the box.
  • Competence: Reliable and responsible. Competent brands are intelligent and efficient. They’re brimming with ambassadors who help to build trust.
  • Sophistication: Luxurious and upper-class companies. Sophisticated brands are often seen as glamorous and charming. These companies are all about showing their upscale side.
  • Ruggedness: Outdoorsy and daring. Rugged brands aren’t afraid to explore the world. These companies often work with products made for brave people willing to take risks.

This brand personality is the most common for most. It’s one of the easiest ways to define strong brands across five dimensions. Keep in mind most brand personalities fall into more than one category.

The Brand Identity Prism

The Kapferer brand identity prism

Established by Jean-Noel Kapferer, the Brand Identity Prism was born in 1986. The professor of marketing strategy built this prism around six vital characteristics. According to Jean-Noel, these six characteristics work together to make up an overall brand. The characteristics are:

  • Physique: The physical characteristics of your brand. This includes your style guide, logo, color palette, and even how you represent your product. Apple is sophisticated and modern.
  • Personality: The personality is your brand voice. Your personality addresses what you say and how you say it.
  • Culture: Your brand’s origin story. Culture describes your company’s beliefs, why it was born, where it lives, and so on. Culture is increasingly important in new companies.
  • Relationship: The connection between your brand and its customers. This refers to the customer service you offer and even the content you create online.
  • Reflection: Who you want your customer to be. What kind of people would you specifically like to reach? Knowing your target audience makes reaching them easier.
  • Self-image: How your customers visualize their ideal selves. Your visual identity plays a key part here. Ralph Lauren builds a luxurious storyline for its customers to visualize being a part of.

Did you know? A picture is worth 1,000 words or 60,000 in marketing.

The brand prism is a little more complex than Aaker’s method. But it does help you to look at your company from multiple perspectives. This can be valuable when learning how to create a brand personality.

Brand Archetypes (Carl Jung)

Another potential brand personality framework involves choosing an archetype. You might have heard of things like the hero or magician brand archetype before. The concept, created by Carl Jung, is popular among famous brands.

Carl Jung brand archetypes

To define your creative personality with archetypes, you need to understand symbolism. Carl defined 12 archetypes of values, attitudes, and characteristics making up personality. The question you need to ask is which kind of archetype will connect with your customer.

  • Belonging: Social brand archetypes are about connecting with us. The “everyman” wants to fit in with others. The “lover” wants their customer to find love and is often romantic. The jester wants to make people laugh and find joy.
  • Stability: Stability brand archetypes give the world structure. The creator wants to innovate and build something new. The ruler wants to lead the marketplace. A caregiver wants to look after and support others.
  • Impact: These companies want to change the world. The goal of the magician is to make incredible things happen. The hero wants to rescue customers from their pain points. Alternatively, the rebel wants to help people escape the status quo.
  • Paradise: These businesses want to set customers free. The innocent aims to make people feel great on the inside. The explorer is all about discovery and freedom. The Sage hopes to share knowledge.

Creating your brand personality with archetypes can be very useful. It’s a way to identify your company quickly, see it as more of a human personality, and have a brand voice. 

How to Create Your Brand Personality

This guide will look at how to define your brand personality with Aaker’s framework. There are multiple approaches you can consider, but this one should at least give you a solid starting point. Remember, when choosing a distinct personality for your company, it’s helpful to get input. Different staff members will help you get a better grip on your brand story.

Just because you think your company has certain dominant personality traits doesn’t mean everyone feels the same way. Explore all human characteristics attributed to your company by different people.

Step 1: Create your user personas

Understanding your customers is an important part of building your brand personality. Unfortunately, it’s also something frequently overlooked by new companies. Your brand personality needs to reflect your target audience.

The whole purpose of your personality is to have emotionally connected customers. This means knowing what kind of characteristics appeal to your customers.

Creating your user personas means collecting as much information as possible about them. If you have existing clients, issue surveys and polls to generate data. If you’re starting from scratch, evaluate the customers of your competitors.

Step 2: Choose some adjectives

The second step in using any brand personality framework is choosing adjectives. These are the words you’ll want people to think of when considering your brand. Your adjectives will fall under one of Aaker’s personality dimensions above.

Notably, you may find you fall into more than one of the categories defined by Aaker. This is okay. You can be a competent and sophisticated company, for instance.

The adjectives we use to describe Apple, for instance, might be imaginative, reliable, and intelligent. This would define Apple as a primarily sophisticated brand with an edge of excitement. To keep things simple, try to stick to no more than 3-5 adjectives. You can use a personality quiz for inspiration if you’re unsure.

Step 3: Create a personality statement

Choose specific qualities to focus on and use your adjectives to make a statement. For instance:

My brand is down-to-earth and wholesome but also reliable and hard-working. My brand personality is sincere and competent.

This statement will help to define everything you do and create as a business. With your key adjectives in place, you’ll be able to provide more guidance to your team. Your statement can also help you to determine what your brand is not.

If you’re down-to-earth, you’re probably not as daring and spirited as other brands. Add this statement to your brand guidelines for use in the future.

Step 4: Create your brand anchors

Your brand anchors are the crucial adjectives you will use every time you create anything for your company. Every marketing campaign and message needs to be guided by these.

If you’re going to run a social media campaign, you might ask, how does this make my brand look wholesome? Will using stock images go against my “down-to-earth” nature? We collected the best social media scheduling tools that help reduce the manual work of running a social campaign.

While some adjectives will be flexible, others will be more rigid. Your concept of “wholesome” might be different from other brands. But if you want your customers to see you as trustworthy, you must be very specific about your “reliability”.

Step 5: Be consistent

The most important thing you can have with a brand personality is consistency. No one wants to buy from a sophisticated company one day and wacky the next. Once you’ve chosen the descriptors for your company, stick with them.

Adding your brand anchors and personality statement to your brand guidelines will help. But it’s worth regularly auditing your assets too. Reading your articles, watching your branded videos, checking your social media feeds, and considering your imagery can help. Keeping visuals consistent is key. We recommend building a design system to standardize the design process. Did you know

As your business evolves, you may consider whether your brand personality needs an update. McDonald’s updated its personality with reliability as customers became more concerned about ingredients.

Brand Personality Examples

If you’re struggling to define your personality and brand story, don’t panic. It can be tough to create a full brand strategy from scratch. Often, examining the brand message cultivated by other companies can help. The following brand personality examples may help you see your personality traits.

1. Innocent Smoothies

Innocent Smoothies is an interesting example of brand personality. The company is largely a “Sincere” brand. It’s cheerful and down-to-earth, with a playful nature. Everything about the company is fun and engaging, from the hand-drawn images to the design of its drinks.

Innocent also embraces the “wholesome” concept perfectly. Though the company’s personality is often a little cheeky and “daring”, it focuses on the right values. Innocent constantly reminds us of the high-quality ingredients in its drinks.

Innocent Smoothies’ cheerful personality shows best on social media. The company constantly posts playful messages, sure to grab attention:

Innocent Smoothies playful tweets

The playful side of Innocent helps it to compete with other natural food brands. Innocent connects with customers.

2. Brewdog

One of the best-known craft beer companies in the world, Brewdog has a mixed brand personality. The core of the personality is “excitement. Brewdog is naturally spirited and imaginative. The company is constantly coming up with new products and drinks.

The brand communicates its up-to-date nature well too. You can frequently see the company getting involved with social issues and taking a stand. Perhaps the best adjective used to describe Brewdog is “daring”. The company’s brand isn’t afraid to take some punches to stand out.

Brewdogs bold & daring brand personality

Though aggressively “in your face” sometimes, Brewdog is also a sincere brand. The company is always honest about its activities, particularly in relation to climate change. Though not particularly “wholesome”, Brewdog is very down to earth.

The brand isn’t afraid to stand for what it believes in. The no-nonsense approach Brewdog takes to selling craft beer makes it truly unforgettable.

3. Dollar Shave Club

One of the best brand personality examples for modern brands, Dollar Shave Club is an icon of modern advertising. From its visual identity to its advertising, this company is modern. The primary focus of the brand personality is “excitement”.

Dollar Shave Club is daring and imaginative. It asks its customers to consider a new way of getting the shaving products they need. The company helped to inspire a new generation of subscription services.

Dollar Shave Club exciting brand personality

The company also has a rugged” personality. Many of the advertising messages used in the advertising messages are masculine and outdoorsy. They use phrases like “shred with a surfboard, not your razor”. Or “Such a handsome face. Keep it that way.”

A combination of playful and humorous content, combined with ruggedness, helps this company to appeal to a lot of customers.

4. Volvo

Volvo is a company committed to sincerity and competence. The company wants you to believe in its down-to-earth and honest nature, which means sharing lots of information. Volvo is always up-to-date when it comes to things like press releases and manufacturing details.

From a competence perspective, Volvo wants to be more than just reliable. This hard-working company believes in safety above all else. This is an important focus for a car brand. The company ignores the outdoorsy nature of other vehicle manufacturers. Instead, the focus is on keeping families safe and protected.

Volvo also takes a unique approach to protect the environment. Part of being a wholesome, family-driven brand means protecting the earth. This means the company is always taking steps to become more efficient.

Volvo's family & safety first brand personality

5. Rolex

Perhaps one of the most traditional brand personality examples on this list. Rolex generates great brand loyalty with a sophisticated personality. The brand strategy is built around quality. When you buy a Rolex, the well-defined personality gives you peace of mind.

The personality traits in Rolex branch across competence and sophistication. The overall image of the brand is luxurious. You get high-quality materials in your watches. Plus, Rolex advertises its technical expertise regularly too.

For the ultimate sophistication experience, Rolex isn’t flashy or dramatic. Taking luxury to a deeper level, Rolex has a public image of elegance. The reliability aspect of the brand makes your purchase feel more worthwhile.

Rolex quality focused brand personality

Combining two aspects of the Aaker brand personality, Rolex creates something unique. You get a luxury brand with Rolex, but one with value too. You pay more for this watch, but the customer experience makes it worth it.

Defining Your Brand Personality

There’s no one-size-fits-all for brand personality. Your brand personality traits list should differ from the other companies in your industry. After all, if all brands had the same personalities, none of them would stand out. As your business grows and you learn about your audience, your brand’s personality will evolve. But knowing which brand personality traits matter most to use is crucial.

All top brands use their knowledge of brand personality to define their brand message. If your brand’s personality is clear and consistent, your brand equity increases, as does customer loyalty. Now it’s up to you to discover your company’s brand personality.

Mor Mester

Mor Mester is the Head of Content Marketing at EmailVendorSelection. He lives and breathes email marketing and marketing automation. After work, you can find him riding his bike or playing basketball.