Why do people line up for hours to get the new iPhone? Or pay premium prices for Air Jordans? The answer is rooted in the psychology behind the brand personality. The brands you love aren’t your favorite by accident.
These brands are engineered to appeal to you and others with similar desires. Forming deep connections to people’s emotions is how major brands have clinched their markets and gained loyal customers.
If you want to create a brand that does the same, we’ll cover two scientific approaches and a beginner-friendly guide to get you there.
What is a brand personality?
The elements of a brand personality
The 12 brand archetypes with examples
How to develop your brand personality
Let’s jump in!
What is a brand personality?
A brand personality is a set of human traits that define a brand. Things like values, hobbies, humor, candor, and sincerity. These traits are handpicked to build an emotional connection to a specific target audience with similar traits.
Why a brand personality is important
Building a brand personality can help your business:
Resonate with the right target audience
Create an emotional connection and foster brand loyalty
Differentiate your brand
Increase brand equity
Many businesses overlook building a brand personality, resulting in mediocre and lifeless branding. These businesses are easily flushed out by competitors who established an emotional connection with their audience from the beginning.
Below are two expert approaches to creating a brand personality that resonates with your audience. Use these as the foundation for your brand!
The elements of brand personality
The most popular way to build a brand personality is by using the Aakers five-dimensional model. This model divides brands into primary traits of sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness.
Brands focus on one or two major personality dimensions while balancing and complementing the others.
Sincere brands like Disney or Patagonia have wholesome, honest, and down-to-earth personalities. You’ll notice these traits in their actions and marketing.
Patagonia’s “Common Thread” initiative encourages people to reduce clothing waste by shopping consciously. The ad above urges customers to not buy their products for the sake of reducing unnecessary consumption.
It might seem counterintuitive for a business – but this approach is aligned with their sincere brand personality and purpose. As a result, Patagonia built its brand loyalty and resonated with outdoorsy people that want to be more environmentally sustainable.
Some brands have daring, exciting, and imaginative personalities. Nike, for example, has positioned its brand to inspire movement, growth, and excitement in athletics.
It uses celebrity athletes and inspirational messaging to urge people to live a life of possibility. Nike’s famous slogan “just do it.” is both simple and daring. It appeals to people who strive for consistent progress.
Other top brands like Redbull built brand excitement by urging ordinary people to do spontaneous things. The brand resonates with individuals that live or want to live high-octane, daring lives.
Brands built around a competent personality pride themselves on being intelligent and reliable. They tend to be hard-working and value high-quality work and success.
Google, for example, searches billions of web pages in seconds to give you the top 10 websites that answer your question. That’s both reliable and intelligent.
Alternatively, Volvo is a great example of a competent vehicle brand. It’s built a reputation as one of the safest vehicles out there and resonates with people who value reliability and safety.
Other competent-style brand personalities are in banks and software industries that have a more serious demeanor.
Sophisticated brands have charming and glamorous personalities that highlight luxurious living. Brands like Rolex, Mercedes, or Chanel are all sophisticated brands with high-quality products created by respected designers.
Rugged brands have an outdoorsy, unconventional, and tough appeal. Jeep is an example of a rugged brand and is the poster child for offroad adventures. The ruggedness brand personality appeals to people who crave adventure and the path less traveled.
Tip: If your brand falls into more than one dimension, choose a primary and a secondary dimension.
For example, Patagonia is primarily seen as sincere, followed by rugged due to its sturdy outdoor products. Apple embodies brand competence with intelligent and reliable products, yet highlights excitement from its innovative creativity.
The 12 brand archetypes with examples
The key to nailing your brand personality is to specify your target market archetype and directly align it to your brand archetype. This way, you can resonate with your intended audience and position your brand intentionally.
The 12 brand archetypes are rooted in psychology, and each one is a categorization of basic (and primitive) human desire.
Any brand you feel an emotional connection to was intentionally aligned to attract people with similar desires. Below are the 12 brand archetypes:
At the center of the circle, there are four different motivations with three archetypes connected to each. Let’s deconstruct the brand archetype wheel with some examples.
These archetypes are motivated by stability and control.
Ruler: Articulate, commanding, dominant, confident Brand examples: Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, IBM, Microsoft
Caregiver: Compassionate, empathetic, warm, selfless Brand examples: Toms, WWF, Johnsons Baby
Creator: Inspiring, daring, creative, original Brand examples: Apple, Adobe, Lego
These archetypes are motivated by independence and fulfillment.
Innocent: Positive, optimistic, honest, and pure. Brand examples: Dove, Aveeno, Whole Foods
Sage: Truth, wisdom, and intelligence Brand examples: Audi, Google, BBC,
Explorer: Independence, freedom, bravery Brand examples: The North Face, Jeep, Patagonia
These archetypes are motivated by belonging and enjoyment.
Lover: Intimacy, sensuality, empathy, affection Brand examples: Chanel, Victoria’s Secret, Alfa Romeo, Cadbury
Jester: Funny, fun-loving, playful, optimistic Brand examples: Old Spice, M&M’s, Ben & Jerry’s
Citizen: Down to earth, simple, sincere, hard-working Brand examples: Ikea, Walmart, Target
These archetypes are motivated by risk and mastery.
Rebel/Outlaw: Leadership, disruption, anarchy, bravery Brand examples: Harley Davidson, Diesel, Virgin
Magician: Visionary, innovative, mystical, charismatic Brand examples: Disney, Coca-cola, Mastercard
Hero: Honest, brave, strong, competent Brand examples: Nike, FedEx, Gatorade
How to develop your brand personality
Now that we’ve covered the different personalities brands can take on, it’s time for you to develop your brand’s personality. Here’s how you do it.
1. Define your target audience's personality
Your target audience is a specific group of people that are most likely to be interested in your business.
Most business owners don’t realize that defining your target audience is an ongoing process. Refine your target audience consistently, and gather intel as you learn what gets a reaction and what doesn’t.
If you’re starting from scratch, conduct surveys to gather information on who you’re targeting. Use free surveying tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms to easily create and send your survey. Here are a few questions to get you started:
What’s your demographic?
What are their hobbies?
Which social media platforms do they use?
What are they passionate about?
What challenges do they face?
What is the best way to reach them?
What drives them to purchase?
What stops them from buying?
You can also share your survey on social channels and forums to gain insight. Once you have a solid understanding of your target audience, think of how you can resonate with their interests and ease their challenges with your product or service.
2. List your brand personality traits
How would you describe your brand? What kind of personality does it have? How do you want to make people feel?
Write five personality traits that embody your brand and purpose.
These words will be the beacon that guides you to a solid personality. Here’s a list of traits to get you started:
3. Study your competition
Understanding your competitors gives you insight on how to differentiate your brand from every angle.
Start by listing your competitors and pinpointing their brand personality dimensions and archetype. Look through their online reviews and make notes of what customers love and what they’re unsatisfied with. Customer reviews are the hidden gem of your research!
Now you’ll know what your target market needs, and what competitor weaknesses to capitalize on. Based on your findings, you can tailor your brand personality to cover the gaps and needs your competitors aren’t meeting. You might even discover a whole new niche!
4. Build an aligned brand identity
With your target market and traits in mind, align your brand personality to one of the five brand dimensions and archetypes outlined above. You can even take this handy archetypes quiz!
With a solid understanding of how you want your brand to come across, it’s time to make your visual brand reflect that. Start by creating the following elements:
Make sure to use the right font pair and create a logo that’s a materialization of your brand personality. Here are some business names and logo examples for inspiration!
5. Stay consistent with brand guidelines
With the elements you created for your brand identity, build your brand guidelines by choosing how you want to consistently represent your brand personality.
Tip: Brand guidelines are a set of usage rules on how to represent your brand assets across all channels. These help your business build credibility and recognition as you grow.
You can use the Looka brand kit to have these generated for you instantly. Here are some brand guidelines for various brand personalities for inspiration:
Building a personality for your brand will help to establish a more human connection to your customers. Customers with emotional ties to a brand will stay loyal for years. Here are a few takeaways to keep in mind:
A brand personality is the human traits used to define your brand
Use the five brand dimensions to build out your personality
Build an emotional connection to your audience by aligning your brand personality to a brand archetype
You can develop your brand personality by:
Defining your target market
Studying your competition
Establishing brand traits
Building an aligned brand identity
Staying consistent with brand guidelines