What Is Brand Personality? How It Works and Examples

Brand Personality

Investopedia / Sydney Saporito

What Is Brand Personality?

The term brand personality refers to a set of human characteristics that are attributed to a brand name. An effective brand increases its brand equity by having a consistent set of traits that a specific consumer segment enjoys. This personality is a qualitative value-add that a brand gains in addition to its functional benefits.

A brand personality is something to which the consumer can relate. If the consumer becomes a regular customer, they may start to identify parts of their own personality with the brand personality.

Key Takeaways

  • Brand personality is a set of human characteristics that are attributed to a brand name.
  • Companies should accurately define their brand personalities so they resonate with the right consumers.
  • A company's brand should aim to elicit a positive emotional response from a targeted consumer segment.
  • The personal side of brand personality is so important especially in the digital age of artificial intelligence and automation.
  • Don't confuse brand personality with imagery, which consists of a company's creative assets.
1:11

Brand Personality

How Brand Personality Works

Brand personality is a framework that helps a company or organization shape the way people feel about its product, service, or mission. A company's brand personality elicits an emotional response in a specific consumer segment. The intention of building a brand personality is to incite positive actions that benefit the business.

Customers are more likely to purchase a brand if its personality is similar to their own. There are five main types of brand personalities with common traits:

  1. Excitement: Carefree, spirited, playful, modern, trendy, and youthful
  2. Sincerity: Kindness, thoughtfulness, and an orientation toward family values, environmental sustainability, or care for workers and communities
  3. Ruggedness: Rough, tough, outdoorsy, unfussy, and athletic
  4. Competence: Successful, accomplished, and influential, which is highlighted by leadership
  5. Sophistication: Elegant, prestigious, exclusive, luxurious, and sometimes even pretentious

Brand personalities are even more important, especially in the digital age where automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technology is growing. As much as consumers enjoy being able to shop online or have companies predict their preferences, studies show that people still want personal interaction and direct customer service when it comes to the way they do business with companies.

Customers are more likely to purchase a brand if its personality is similar to their own.

Companies share their brand personality in a variety of ways. Marketing materials, both written and visual, emphasize or communicate these qualities and values. If the brand partners with celebrities or influencers, they should be people already known for those qualities. How a business interacts with its industry or community can also communicate its personality through events, product releases, or charitable partnerships.

Brand Personality vs. Imagery

A company's brand personality should not be confused with its imagery. A company's imagery is a series of creative assets that communicate the tangible benefits of its brand. Conversely, a firm's brand personality directly creates an emotional association in the mind of an ideal consumer group. Brand personality should influence the imagery and other marketing materials that a company creates and uses.

It is important for a company to accurately define its brand personality so it resonates with the appropriate consumer. This is because brand personality creates increased brand equity and defines the brand's attitude in the marketplace. It is also the key factor of any successful marketing campaign. In order to choose a brand's personality, companies consider the five personality types and select the one the company wishes to convey.

If, for example, a new outdoor apparel company wants to resonate with consumers, the natural inclination is to create a brand personality that is rugged. But it is possible that a competitor may have already positioned itself as the rugged outdoor apparel brand. To set itself apart, the new company can position itself uniquely in the mind of the customer by adopting a brand personality of sophistication. This differentiates the brand as an upscale, high-end option to outdoor apparel, which attracts a specific type of consumer.

Real-World Examples of Brand Personality

There are many examples in the corporate world of how brand personality works. Here are some common, well-known ones.

Dove

Dove chooses sincerity as its brand personality. In doing so, the company hopes to attract feminine consumers who don't like the superficial image associated with many personal care and beauty brands.

One of Dove's major marketing pushes was the Real Beauty campaign, which features videos that explored how brand images are retouched and photoshopped. It also uses models with diversely-sized bodies in its advertisements and features interviews with celebrity activists on its websites. All this creates a brand personality that feels thoughtful and genuine, which appeals to customers who don't want to be associated with traditional beauty standards.

Nike

Nike has an excited brand personality that motivated athletes identify with. The company's motto "Just Do It," evokes a driven, athletic person who is always willing to pursue new goals.

Nike's products and marketing tend to feature bold colors, such as neon accents, that feel energetic and modern. Its commercials show people overcoming obstacles or achieving goals while wearing Nike apparel. Its brand personality feels active, ambitious, and inspirational, which are all personality traits that athletes tend to associate with themselves.

Luxury Brands

Luxury brands, such as Michael Kors and Chanel, aim to create a sophisticated, glamorous brand personality, which attracts a high-spending consumer base.

These brands use images that evoke elitism and luxury, with elegant settings and glamorous clothes. Michael Kors calls its rewards programs "VIP," while Chanel has a section on its website devoted to "haute couture." Their goods are priced above what many shoppers can easily afford, and since they have highly-recognizable logos, customers who buy them can flaunt their ability to make those purchases without having to say anything directly. All this creates a brand personality that showcases the upper-class, trendy lifestyle that their ideal customers want to be associated with.

REI

REI is an outdoor recreation retail store. It has a rugged brand personality that outdoorsy, adventurous customers can identify with. The REI website uses phrases like "Gear Up For Adventure" in its copy, while branding is done with bold, unfussy, colors that are associated with the outdoors and action, such as pine green and dark orange. Event the website is organized not by type of item but by type of activity: Camp & Hike, Cycle, Snow, Water, et cetera.

REI's brand personality feels strong, resilient, and exploratory, which is how its ideal customers want to see themselves.

Starbucks

Starbucks has positioned itself as having multiple components to its brand personality, including sophistication, sincerity, and excitement. It uses different components of its business to achieve each of these.

  • Sophistication: Starbucks advertises its coffee as high-end. Employees are educated about the different types and blends, and Starbucks offers its own exclusive line of coffee for sale. The company has introduced many branded drinks that become cultural touchpoints, such as the Frappucino.
  • Excitement: Starbucks encourages membership by offering rewards, including seasonal games such as "Adventure Awaits" in summer, when customers can win prizes. The company usually has seasonal drinks that are only available for a limited time, which drives social media excitement.
  • Sincerity: To counter the dislike of customers who see Starbucks as "too corporate," the company has a strong environmental and social message. It includes sections on environmental impact and diversity on its website, as well as running partnerships with different charities or offering discounts to groups like veterans.

By creating a brand personality with so many different but complementary aspects, Starbucks is able to appeal to a wide variety of customers who associate themselves with different priorities and traits. For example, customers who define themselves as socially conscious might generally avoid buying from large corporations. But they can still feel good about associating with Starbucks because the brand supports ESG goals and talks about how they treat their workers.

Why Is It Crucial for Companies to Define Their Brand Personality?

It is important for companies to accurately define their brand personalities so they resonate with the appropriate consumers. This is because a brand personality results in increased brand equity and defines the brand's attitude in the marketplace. It is also the key factor of any successful marketing campaign. 

What Are the Different Types of Brand Personalities?

A company's brand personality elicits an emotional response in a specific consumer segment, with the intention of inciting positive actions that benefit the firm. There are five main types of brand personalities with common traits. They are excitement, sincerity, ruggedness, competence, and sophistication. Customers are more likely to purchase a brand if its personality is similar to their own. 

What Is the Difference Between Brand Personality and Imagery?

A company's brand personality should not be confused with its imagery. A company's imagery is a series of creative assets that communicate the tangible benefits of its brand. Conversely, a firm's brand personality directly creates an emotional association in the mind of an ideal consumer group. Imagery is one part of how a company communicates its brand personality.

The Bottom Line

Brand personality is a set of human characteristics that are attributed to a brand name. Common ones are excitement, sincerity, ruggedness, competence, and sophistication. Brand personality is different than its imagery, though these creative assets should reflect a company's brand personality.

A company's brand should appeal to its target customers. When companies define and display their brand personality, customers who see themselves as having that personality can identify with the brand.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Hubspot. "12 Data-Backed Reasons Customer Service Is Key to Business Growth."

Open a New Bank Account
×
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.
Sponsor
Name
Description
Open a New Bank Account
×
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.