No matter the size of the business or organization, large or small, every brand has a personality. Defining and developing this personality is a key step toward having a cohesive, well-defined brand. Even if you don’t take the time to define it, some sort of personality will take shape. So what exactly is brand personality? Where does it come from? And how do you define it?
Understanding Brand Personality
Brand personality is the combination of characteristics that form your brand's distinctive character. It shapes how customers see your brand and how you differentiate yourself from your competition. One of the most well respected and widely used models for defining brand personality is the Aaker model. It was created in 1997 by Jennifer Aaker for a journal of marketing research while she was attending University of California, Berkeley.
The Five Dimensions of Brand Personality
In the journal Aaker details five different dimensions of brand personality: Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, and Ruggedness. She models these dimensions after the “Big Five” dimensions of human personality. Each dimension is meant to serve as a benchmark for a group of similar personality traits. As a whole, the dimensions are meant to work together to create a generalized scale of traits that businesses can use to help determine their brand’s personality.
- Sincerity - Brands whose personalities are dominated by sincerity want to be seen as honest and straightforward. This brand personality revolves around providing a transparent customer experience. Brands with this personality don’t try to increase customer traffic solely using marketing gimmicks, they rely on facts about their company and products. This means they avoid surprising customers with information, instead they do the opposite, laying out all relevant information to meet the customer’s needs and decrease customer skepticism. Traits associated with this personality include: down-to-earth, honest, real, genuine, pure, cheerful, and friendly.
- Excitement - Brands whose personalities are dominated by excitement want to provide their customers with an unforgettable experience. Brands with this personality typically look for diversity in their customers because their goal is to provide them all with an experience everyone can relate to. This brand personality relies on a balance of something constant, that doesn’t change (the brand’s ability to deliver) and something new, that isn’t predictable (the customer’s experience). Use of action words is common with excitement brands because they encourage their customers to allow them to take them on journey and discover something new. Traits associated with this personality include: daring, trendy, spirited, imaginative, and playful.
- Competence - Brands whose personalities are dominated by competence showcase their commitment to quality and the impact they’ve made on their industry. Brands with this personality want to be seen as industry leaders in the minds of their customers. They focus on producing products and services regularly that retain reliable quality. They also look to meet the needs of their customers by referencing what is lacking in their industry. This brand personality revolves around innovation and new ideas. Traits associated with this personality include: intelligent, successful, reliable, innovative, inventive, and experienced.
- Sophistication - Brands whose personalities are dominated by sophistication accompany a lifestyle their customers aspire to have. Brands with this personality combine luxury and performance. They are the choice customers would make if they could afford it. They are a representation of a certain level of success, a status symbol. This brand personality revolves around an established reputation and isn’t built overnight. Brands who plan to use this personality must reinforce their superiority in customers’ minds and be patient when waiting for their reputation to grow. They also must maintain the quality of their products and meet customers’ expectations in order to grow recognition and acceptance for their brand. Traits associated with this personality include: upper class, glamorous, timeless, smooth, refined, and elegant.
- Ruggedness - Brands whose personalities are dominated by ruggedness emphasize their power and strength to their customers. They feature a take charge attitude and tell customers they can help them perform at their best. Brands with this personality focus on encouraging their customers to stand strong against obstacles and showcase their ability to outperform their competition. Traits associated with this personality include: upper class, glamorous, timeless, smooth, refined, and elegant.
Defining Your Brand's Personality
Your brand’s personality shows itself in the way you interact with customers, the way you conduct business, your company values, and your goals for the future. It is a central driver of consumer preference because most consumers want to do business with brands that they have the most in common with. Knowing how to define your brand’s personality allows you to deliver a brand experience that shows potential customers how you are similar to them. Ultimately leading to a potential sale and deeper, lasting impression with them. The key to defining this personality is to understand that brand personality operates on a scale. So every brand's personality contains a mix of traits associated with each dimension.
Your goal is to identify your brand's top three traits that represent who you are. These traits should be viewed as a unit, rather than separate, and combined should present a clear and cohesive message. The best way to find these traits is to think of your brand in three stages: past, present, and future. For each stage, make a list of traits to describe your brand at that stage. Make sure you have traits associated with each dimension. Once you have created your three lists, analyze them to find traits you've listed that have similar meanings. Write these traits on a separate list. Once you've done this, take that newly narrowed down list of traits and use it to brainstorm three separate traits that summarize the entire list. Keep in mind that your three final traits should follow this pattern:
- Your first trait should align with the brand personality dimension that you feel best describes your brand.
- Your second trait should spark and encourage action within your organization.
- Your final trait should provide an additional layer of meaning to the combination. Think of it as the finishing touch.
When choosing your traits, avoid words that have similar meanings. They should compliment one another; not be repetitive. Finally, look at the order of the traits you’ve chosen. Changing the order can change the meaning. Rearrange your traits until you find a combination that suits your brand. Once you've found your combination, share it with your organization. These are the words you'll be using from now on to guide your choices.