Brand personality plays a significant role in building a brand that your audience can truly connect with. Read on to understand how you an create a remarkable brand personality using seasonal brand theory and color psychology.
Let’s play a game – What brand would you want to sit next to on a seven-hour flight? What about the brand that you’d pick to have a cozy coffee chat with in front a roaring fire? What about the brand that you’d take on a days-long hiking trip versus a night on the town?
For me, I’d want to sit next to Charmin on a plane ride so I could listen to their snarky potty humor and stay entertained. I’d want to sit in front of a cozy fire with Toms Shoes and talk about conscious capitalism and how we can do business differently. I’d take Patagonia on my hiking trip because they’d be able to teach me so many things and Cards Against Humanity for my night on the town.
Of course, we aren’t actually sitting next to Charmin on a plane ride or having a beer with Cards Against Humanity – but I’m willing to wager that as I rattled off those questions, a few brands automatically popped into your head.
And that, my friends, is the power of brand personality. It allows you to picture an intangible thing like a brand in a tangible form with certain traits and characteristics and mannerisms.
If you’re wondering how you can leverage the power of brand personality for your own business, you’re in the right place. We’re walking through all you ned to know about brand personality and how you can use this brand strategy to create a remarkable and effective relationship with your community.
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What is Brand Personality?
Your brand’s personality is the set of human characteristics associated with a brand.
I like to think of those characteristics as being in one of two buckets – behavior or aesthetic. The behavior is how the brand acts and includes elements like tone of voice, engagement style, and common words and phrases used. Aesthetic is the visual aspect of your brand and includes elements like logo, fonts and colors.
Together, these two overarching categories can go a long way towards creating a magnetic personality that truly connects with your right audience.
Why Brand Personality Matters to Your Business
Imagine this, you’re at a party and you walk over to someone and try to strike up a conversation. Except, after one or two interactions, you realize they have as much personality as a rock and engaging with them in a conversation is about as exciting as eating soap.
It’s a party, so of course there are plenty of other people to mingle with and meet. How long do you stick it out with Mr. Rock?
Now translate this over to the branding space. The party is whatever marketing channel you’re utilizing – email, webinars, social media, website etc. – and Mr. Rock is the brand without anything remarkable.
The takeaway here is that as a brand, personality is the key to connecting and engaging with your right audience. No personality = no engagement.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to be the next Twitter Wendy’s (their roasts are amazing), Mint Mobile (hello Ryan Reynolds, thank you for making advertising fun to watch again) or Grove Collaborative (who doesn’t smile when they get a sweet message on their shipment box?). But the idea here is that you’re intentionally communicating with an aligned personality so your right audience actually wants to engage.
Have you ever come across a social media post or email and instantly recognized it, even before seeing the brand logo or who it was from?
A big part of that reason is because of the unique characteristics and traits that the brand is using to communicate. Everything from the captions to the images to the graphics support a certain personality and when you’re consistently leveraging said personality, you create an expectation with your community.
Now, what makes brand personality matter is also what can be the most scary – your brand essence will not be for everyone.
And, that’s kind of the point. Because if you’re like everyone else, there’s nothing to differentiate you from… everyone else.
What Are the Different Types of Brand Personality Frameworks?
Just like personality tests for humans, there are brand personality frameworks to help you develop your brand’s personality traits, characteristics and behaviors.
Yes, you could just slap a few adjectives down on paper and call it good, but I’m willing to bet you’re here because you want something a little more. A little more strategic, intentional and meaningful.
Enter: Seasonal brand theory, brand archetypes and dimensions of personality.
These three frameworks are rooted in psychology and offer guidance on creating a personality that’s fueled by connection and human behavior.
Seasonal Brand Theory
The idea is that every brand identifies with a particular season and that season has unique characteristics. From the words on a website to the photography styling to the color palette, each season has a set of guidelines that embody and evoke emotions based on color psychology and seasonal theory.
These two concepts were then blended together by Carole Jackson, to help people understand what colors to wear, type of makeup to use, etc. and was then transferred to the branding space by Fiona Humberstone.
Read more about seasonal brand theory here.
Archetypes are universal, inborn models of people, behaviors and personalities that play a role in influencing human behavior; they’re innate, universal and unlearned. Carl Jung defined twelve primary types that represent the range of basic human motivations. This idea was translated into brand archetypes by Carol S. Pearson and Margaret Mark in their book, The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes. Their framework leverages the 12 personality archetypes to create an impactful brand.
Read more about brand archetypes here.
Dimensions of Brand Personality
This idea is rooted in The Big Five human personality traits and was transferred over to the branding space by Jennifer L. Aaker. Her theory says there are five key dimensions of brand personality – sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness – and a reliable, valid and generalizable scale to measure them.
Read more about the dimensions of brand personality here.
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How to Define Your Brand Personality
Now that you have an idea of the different frameworks you can leverage to develop your brand’s personality, the next question may be, “Okay, now what?”
Let’s first back up a few steps: the point of utilizing the brand personality frameworks is to give you boundaries and guidelines for creating a personality that resonates with your right audience and aligns with your desired brand perception.
Define Your Desired Perception
With that in mind, the first step is to define what you want that brand perception to be. How do you want your market to perceive your brand? What are you known for?
Pick Your Framework
From there, the frameworks can then help categorize your brand and offer some guidelines as to what your brand’s communication can look like in order to reinforce the perception that you’re after.
Note on selecting the ‘right’ framework for you: I’d first recommend seeing which one resonates the most with you. My brain was immediately drawn to seasonal brand theory so it’s what I use the most when developing personalities for clients. But for you, maybe the dimensions or archetypes work better and offer more support. The goal is to lean into what works for you so that you’ll actually put it to use.
Create a personality guidebook
Lastly, consider creating a working guidebook that summarizes your brand’s personality and includes elements like:
The tone of voice and communication style of your brand: What does your brand sound like when it communicates through the various brand touch points? I.e., XYZ brand voice is fun, welcoming and exuberant, and its communication style is open, honest and brisk
A summary of the overall brand experience: One or two sentences that describe the overall experience someone will have with your brand.
How you want people to feel when they engage with your brand: When you’re mindful of the type of feelings that you want to evoke, you can be more intentional about how you’re showing up.
How your brand engages with its customers, community and the larger market: Think about how you want your brand to respond to comments, messages and emails. I.e., Is your brand straight to the point or do you ask questions and provide lengthy responses?
The words and phrases that your brand commonly uses: Writing down common words and sayings will help create guideposts for communicating your brand; this is also a great reference document for creating content. I.e., Brand action comes from clarity.
An elevator pitch describing your brand at a high level: It’s nice to have a quick snippet of your brand, in your brand’s voice, to explain what you do and who you do it for.
Brand-aligned words and how your business defines them: This is great if there’s specific vernacular or words within your industry that you explain a certain way. I.e., XYZ brand defines content marketing as…
How your brand does not sound, engage or communicate: Putting boundaries and guidelines around what your brand doesn’t say, how it doesn’t engage or the experience that it doesn’t provide is almost even more helpful because you’re drawing the line in the sand on what is not okay to do. I.e., XYZ brand does not use sarcasm, snark or curse words
What Makes a Brand Personality Remarkable…and Thus Effective?
When something is remarkable, it’s worthy of notice or attention.
The word that I want to focus on here is ‘worthy’. When something is worthy of our attention, it has adequate character, merit or value.
Sidenote: Please do not confuse or intertwine your worthiness as a human with creating something of worth on behalf of your brand. They are absolutely not one in the same. As a human, you are, without a doubt, worthy.
In today’s very crowded digital business environment, it can be easy to think that all we need in order to be successful is to get attention. But what we often overlook or forget is that our brand can create something that garners attention or gets noticed without having to be remarkable. As Seth Godin puts it, “Running down the street naked will get you noticed, but it won’t accomplish much. It’s easy to pull off a stunt, but not useful.”
The purpose of striving for remarkable-ness (is that a word? it is now :-P) as a brand is that you’re holding your business to the standard of creating something that has meaning and significance. It’s not just about grabbing anyone’s attention for attention’s sake, but rather, getting noticed because it’s valuable for your right audience. Because what I find remarkable may be vastly different from what you find remarkable.
And I think that’s what separates the people-first businesses from the profit-first businesses.
People-first businesses are intentional about showing up for their right audience and delivering the value that the audience is after. They’re building connection with and seeking connection from a specific group of people. They don’t want everyone’s attention, they want attention from a certain type of person.
This means that in order to have a remarkable (and effective) brand personality, you must know who you have to be remarkable for.
Once you have a clear picture on your ideal client, you can shift your focus to developing a personality that is intentional, distinct and authentic.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- How do you want your brand to be experienced? How can your brand personality enhance that experience?
- What are the brand personalities of others in your space/category? How can you leverage personality to differentiate your business?
- What personality traits and characteristics align with the core identity of your brand?
How to Bring Your Own Brand’s Personality to Life
Whether you’re starting from scratch or have been at this whole business building thing for a few years, the best way to bring your brand personality to life is to get out there and communicate it.
Reference the three frameworks and your brand personality guidebook to write emails, select photos for your website and engage on social media.
Pay attention to what’s working (and what’s not) when it comes to the various ways you’re showing up, and then update your guidebook accordingly.
Get curious and observe how your brand behaves and make the decision of what you want more of and what you want to leave behind.
Are there common words and phrases that you use regularly? Have you decided on a photo filter or editing style that reflects how you want people to feel? Are you more short and to the point or long winded?
The more action you take, the more guidelines and boundaries and guide posts you are able to create for your brand’s communication. And, over time, your brand personality will start to become even more defined, distinctive and most importantly, effective.
With that, happy branding 🙂
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