Every brand has a personality and accurately understanding that personality is important to its success. Understanding a brand’s personality facilitates a brand story telling process and also helps select the most appropriate visual identity, messages, media channels, sponsorships or partnerships. It also enables brand owners to deliver consistent brand experiences that connect with audiences and leave a lasting impression.
I’m currently working with an organisation that is going through a transformation and want to establish a clear brand identity to engage with current and future employees, customers, partners and investors. Last week I wrote a piece to be shared with that organisation’s staff explaining brand personality and why I was asking them to select words that seemed random to them in an online questionnaire.
Brands can take on human characteristics which helps staff, customers and stakeholders to relate and feel emotionally connected to the brand. These characteristics, such as honest, friendly, charming, signify how the brand behaves, looks and sounds.
Some of the world’s most powerful brands spend a considerable amount of time looking for those characteristics to define their personality. One way of defining a brand’s personality is to use a framework developed by Jennifer Aaker, a Stanford University professor, which has five core dimensions; sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness. Each dimension has core attributes:
- Sincerity– genuine, honest, wholesome and cheerful e.g. Dove and Disney
- Excitement– playful, daring, imaginative, and spirited e.g. Virgin and Red Bull
- Competence– intelligence, success, reliability, and expertise. e.g. Intel and
- Sophistication– charming, refined, elegant, and poise e.g. Audi and Cartier
- Ruggedness–powerful, forceful, potent and outdoorsy e.g. Marlboro and Harley Davidson
Whatever tools or frameworks you use, getting the personality right is the most important thing as it puts attitude and behaviour boundaries around the brand. Using Aaker’s framework as an example, think about Disney, we can describe the brand as friendly, wholesome, sincere, happy, brave and adventurous. With that description, we know what to expect when you go to see a Disney movie or visit their theme park. And when they start to do something out of character like being forceful and potent for instance, we question and, in some instances, start to doubt the brand.
Defining your personality has to be organic and authentic.
- Know your customer’s perception of you – your customers will have a rich list of descriptions of your brand personality.
- Know your competitors – how do your competitors describe themselves or what personality traits come through strongly in all their activity; how can you distinguish yourself from those traits to be unique
- Know what you want your perception to be – how would you describe yourselves. How different or similar that that to your customers and competitor descriptions. Are there synergies to take advantage of or gaps you need to close?
Like people brand personalities evolve as we grow navigate through life. Some traits will remain the same and become the core personality, but some will change with time. Keep a constant check to make sure that what you are portraying in your personality remains true to your brand.