Often when people are asked to describe a product or a service, they often list up the functional traits of what it looks like or how it works. However, when they are asked to describe the brand behind it, they shift towards more symbolic adjectives and talks as if it was a person, or even a friend. Coca Cola is fun. Apple is innovative. We just know it as if it was embedded in our brains.
According to research, this happens because consumers naturally associate brands with human personality traits. This implies that if you know that your brand will be described as a person by your target consumers sooner or later, you should get ahead of it and establish and control your Brand Personality from the get-go.
In this blog post we will explain the concept and benefits of a Brand Personality and provide you with a toolset on how to can create your own. Throughout the post we will refer to the research of Jennifer Aaker. If you want to learn more about her work and research, you can find links at the bottom of this article.
What is a Brand Personality?
A Brand Personality is defined by Aaker as the set of human characteristics associated with a brand. Aaker suggest that consumers perceive brands across these five distinct personality dimensions:
In other words, a Brand Personality delivers the complexity that you can’t get across through a Brand Statement or a Brand Tagline. It is what makes your brand come, literally, alive.
It is created in the same way as we human beings develop our personalities – through everything we have been thought or influenced by. With brands however, you can control its personality through planned marketing activities and how you interact with your consumers. You can even plan it from the beginning and build your brand completely around a set brand personality. And as time goes by, your brands develop into somewhat intangible organism that consumers will refer to as precisely fun, innovative, old, strong or weak, whether you like it or not.
What can you use a Brand Personality for?
A Brand Personality is a definite must-have as it enables your brand to come across with more clarity and in a more personable way. It is also a great framework for your marketing team to use as it inspires people to create better content. For your external partners and agencies as its easier for them to get your brand. And most importantly for your target consumers since you are building a brand they can relate to as if they knew him or her.
For example, if your brand was a person, the way he or she would talk can help you find your tone of voice. The way he or she would dress will have an impact on your colour scheme or image use. In social media you can take it further by consequently using people and not products or services in your storytelling, and pairing them with certain locations, events or places – where would your brand eat, travel, sleep, rest, party?
As an example, if the shoe brand TOMS was a person it would be the adventurer that explored the world, on a quest to make it a better place. He or she would never be photographed next to a muppet on Times Square NY or doing shopping on Oxford Street in London. He or she would be out in the real world like this picture from their Instagram. Photo: @toms on Instagram.
Another example is Coca Cola. If Coca Cola was a person it would never wear a suit. He or she would wear vintage ripped jeans, be surrounded by a happy group of friends, and simply love a fuzz-free lifestyle. And off course a red shirt. Photo: @cocacolaar Coca Cola Argentina’s Instagram account.
How do you develop a Brand Personality?
Aaker developed five personality dimensions:
In addition, she also developed a Brand Personality Scale where each dimension is presented on a continuum made up of 15 underlying facets and 42 personality traits. You can use this list as a road-map to our Brand Personality by giving each trait a score. Below you find a recipe as well as a full list of traits. This is a great exercise that works for both new and established brands.
Step 1: Assemble
Assemble key stakeholders from your organization. Both marketeres and non-marketeres.
Step 2: Rate
Have each of them rate each trait on a scale from 1 to 5 (1= Not at all descriptive for our brand, 5= Extremely descriptive for our brand). Remember to push yourself and your team to use the extremes of the 1-5 scale. It is also important that you don’t let people influence each other as you need the width of opinions.
Step 3: Organize
Organize the findings to see on what dimensions your brand rate especially high or low. Do you see a trend? Are there big gaps between how the team members scored the traits?
Step 4: Discuss
Discuss the findings, especially the differences. Agree on a direction.
Step 5: Finalise
Finalise the Brand Personality by writing a description and create a moodboard.
The simplest version of this exercise is to send out a spreadsheet to your team members, but we do recommend doing it in a Brand Workshop. It is also a great idea to include more tools such as image cards that elicit certain associations to get the discussions flowing. And remember to always have a Brand Workshop moderator that knows how to extract those good ideas.
Hopefully you feel inspired to start developing your own Brand Personality and give your marketing a boost.
If you want to learn more about the research behind the test, read the full article of Jennifer Aker here.
Also, if you need some direction and support to help improve your brand then our branding team can help you, so feel free to get in touch with us.
Jennifer Aakers Brand Personality Dimensions, Facets and Traits:
Dimensions and facets:
- Sincerity (down to earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful)
- Excitement (daring, spirited, imaginative, up to date)
- Competence (reliable, intelligent, successful)
- Sophistication (upper class, charming)
- Ruggedness (outdoorsy, tough)
Facets and traits:
- Down-to earth (family oriented, small town)
- Honest (sincere, real)
- Wholesome (wholesome, original)
- Cheerful (cheerful, sentimental ,friendly)
- Daring (daring, trendy, exciting)
- Spirited (spirited, cool, young)
- Imaginative (imaginative, unique)
- Up to date (up to date, independent, contemporary)
- Reliable (reliable, hardworking, secure)
- Intelligent (intelligent, technical, corporate)
- Successful (successful, leader, confident)
- Upper class (upper class, glamorous, good looking)
- Charming (charming, feminine, smooth)
- Outdoorsy (outdoorsy, masculine, western)
- Tough (tough, rugged)