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Identifying your brand personality traits

Collect insights from target consumers on your brand personality, brand health and more.

If you were asked to describe your brand, what kind of words would you use? For many business owners, that question is very difficult to answer. Your brand is not just about your branding, such as your logo, colour palette or tagline, but it’s also an intangible representation of your business that communicates who you are to consumers and the market. 

Just like human beings, brands have personalities, made up of values, goals, beliefs, character and ideas. Identifying your brand personality traits is the first step in crystallising the meaning and experience you want to convey to your target audience. The strongest and most effective brands are able to bolster their brand equity by having a relatable and consistent set of personality traits that resonate with their market. Read on to learn more about how you can identify and define your brand personality traits to better connect with your market.

What exactly do we mean when we talk about brand personality? Brand personality is the personification of a brand’s identity. This is rather like the human characteristics assigned to a brand, and how it is perceived. People have a tendency to assign human characteristics where possible, so just like a human, a brand can be exciting, adventurous, sincere or thoughtful. 

For example, Toyota cars are generally considered to be reliable, while Apple products represent progressiveness and innovation. These high-profile examples emphasise something important about brand personality. Brand personality is often communicated through brand voice and tone, which allows its personality to shine through. But the most successful brands are those that exude a brand personality that the market agrees with. In short, the market, your competition and your existing customers see what you also see in your brand.

Harmony between your brand personality and your brand isn’t easy to accomplish, so it's important to gather data from your target audience to learn which personality traits your audience aligns with your brand. 

It's important to distinguish the concept of brand personality from brand imagery. Brand imagery is part of your marketing strategy and describes the internally crafted set of creative assets that communicates to customers your value proposition and the tangible features benefits of the brand. In that sense, it can be designed and controlled by you. 

For example, one way a company can portray itself to its customers is through things like its logo, its colour palette and the design of its website. In other words, it’s how you want your brand to be perceived. 

In contrast, the brand personality creates an emotional connection for your target audience. It is tied to the emotional response and connection that people have to the brand. Think of it in four parts:

  1. How the market, consumers or anyone outside of your business feels about your brand
  2. How you want to be perceived by your target audience
  3. How customers actually perceive your brand
  4. How your own employees feel about your brand

Although brand personality and brand imagery are distinct, both are an essential part of your overall brand health and, ideally, they should be in sync with one another.

It's crucial that you accurately define its brand personality so it resonates with the target customer. That’s because there’s a direct relationship between brand personality and overall brand health. If your brand personality is understood by your target consumers and they find value in it, it results in increased brand equity and can drive sales by helping you to stand out from the competition. 

For instance, let’s suppose you’re developing a new gym clothing line. What brand personality would best resonate with your target market? The natural inclination might be to craft a brand personality that indicates hard working, high-performance activewear. However, it's possible that other competitors have already positioned themselves in this way. Doing the same thing will simply increase your competition and may mean that your marketing messages are lost in the crowd. Instead, to set yourself apart, you might position yourself more uniquely in the market by crafting a brand personality of sophistication. Not only would this help differentiate the brand as a high-end, upscale, alternative, but it might also attract higher-spending consumers.

Who is your dream customer? While you might think that business success is all about selling to as many people as possible, some customers are more valuable than others. The best type of customer is one with a personality that matches your brand: if your brand is sophisticated, you need sophisticated consumers. If, on the other hand, you’re positioning yourself as technologically innovative, you need forward-thinking customers who are seeking novelty and innovation from their products and services. When you have customers who are seeking what you provide, you’ll be in a better position to cultivate a loyal, high-spending customer base that is willing to say positive things about the brand and your offerings.

Having a strong brand personality that is reflected in your brand tone and voice can attract your ideal customer by giving them a reason to choose your brand over others. By humanising your brand, you have the power to create a special and more valuable connection with the customer.

So, brand personality gives the brand a face, makes it relatable and differentiates it in a crowded marketplace. It can appeal to a particular customer segment and helps the customer better relate to the brand. All of this means that it’s key to understand what the personality traits of your brand are. 

Although developing brand personality is a key part of brand strategy, brand personality can also develop organically, and it’s important to understand how customers perceive this personality. It's simple to set a basic brand identity through colours and logos, etc., but defining your brand personality is more difficult and a much more nuanced process. All of this means that you’ll need to embark on some comprehensive fact-finding to learn more about how your brand personality is currently defined and perceived, and whether that aligns with your expectations, as well as those of your customers.

Surveys are a great method to explore perceptions of your brand personality. Surveys and other market research tools are especially useful for gaining insights into how consumers perceive a brand’s personality. The way consumers perceive brand personality, and their response to this personality, may differ from person to person, which makes consumer-based research absolutely critical. Structuring research with demographic questions helps us understand how the perception of brand personality differs between groups.

Here are some survey templates that can help get data on your brand personality:

Survey-based research can be used at two key points in the brand personality research process:

  • Before developing a new brand personality

Gather data from your consumers about perceptions of your existing brand personality before embarking on any work to develop brand personality. It’s crucial to establish a baseline that will help you know where you’re starting from. And although consumers are key, you should also consider surveying your employees to check whether they have the same understanding of your personality traits.

  • After implementing a new brand personality

If you’re trying to convey a certain personality through your marketing and outreach efforts and your interactions with your market, you need to make sure that customers are perceiving the brand in the same way you intend. Make sure you gather appropriate data after implementing a new brand personality in order to measure the success of your efforts.

So, what’s the best strategy to develop and define your brand personality? Starting with the customer is the best way because, ultimately, brand personality work is undertaken in order to better connect with the customer. Once you’ve found out who your customer is, what their expectations are and what they want from you, you can tailor a brand personality that appeals to them. When doing this, remember to think of your brand as if it were a person, and then assign that person qualities that you can follow in all brand messaging. 

There are many different definitions you can use to describe your brand personality. Stanford researcher Jennifer Aaker defined five archetypes for brand personality. These are a great place to start, and brand traits can be chosen to align to one of these archetypes: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness.

Sincerity indicates thoughtfulness and an orientation towards family values. For example, the personal care brand Dove has built its brand messaging on sincerity traits through, for example, its “Real Beauty” campaign and pledge, which is about celebrating women’s inner beauty and building their self-confidence.

Excitement incorporates traits such as spiritedness, youthfulness, imaginative, up to date and being carefree. Brands that convey an exciting personality seek to provide their consumers with new and novel experiences that they’ll never forget. For example, Airbnb’s mission statement, “To make people around the world feel like they could belong anywhere”, reflects the excitement of the overall brand.

Competence is reflected in personality traits such as accomplishments, success and thought leadership.  Brands that convey a competent quality want customers to choose them over competitors because they associate the brand with high quality and effectiveness. Some of the most competent brands are found in the consumer equipment space: think Stanley knives, Le Creuset for cookware and Bosch washing machines.

Sophistication conveys traits of elegance, prestige and luxury. Brands that adopt this type of personality tend to be found at the higher end of luxury markets. Good examples are Cartier and Louis Vuitton. 

Ruggedness means being rough, tough, outdoorsy and athletic. Jeep is an excellent example of a brand that is associated with being rugged.

These are just a starting point, however, and there are many different ways you can define your brand. 

What’s crucial is that you’re consistent in term of how you communicate your brand personality. Consumers interact with brands in so many places, and across so many mediums, making consistent branding vitally important. For that reason, a deep understanding of how consumers view, understand and relate to brands is critical.

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