What Is Brand Personality? How To Define It, With Examples

abstract squares and spheres: brand personality

Nike and Beckett Simonon are both shoe companies, but customers don’t regard them as interchangeable brands. After all, it’s unlikely you’ve ever heard someone say, “I’ve got my eye on some Nike Air Jordans, but if they’re out of stock, I’ll go with the Beckett Simonon Bernard tassel loafers.” That’s because while both of these models are shoes, Nike and Beckett Simonon have very different brand personalities.

Brand personality traits are a lot like human personality traits: They send subtle messages to someone encountering them for the first time. Explore some brand personality examples and strategies for adding personality to your company’s brand identity.

What is brand personality?

Brand personality is a cumulative set of brand character traits that evoke human character traits. Marketers often describe brands through the lens of human traits. Just as a human being can have a sophisticated personality, a business can have a sophisticated brand personality. Much in the way a human being can seem down to earth, so too can a brand.

These traits derive from elements that include:

  • Brand voice. Brand voice is how a business communicates to the world at large. It can fall anywhere on the brand personality spectrum, from academic to excited to stoic.
  • Visual styles. In the same way that someone’s personal style—reflected in their choice of clothes or accessories—can communicate something about a person, visual assets can communicate something about a brand. For instance, based on color psychology, dynamic and bright colors can signal an energetic visual brand message, while earth tones might convey a more grounded personality.
  • Marketing approach. A company that advertises via online animated videos communicates a different brand personality than one that markets by sending personalized direct mail to prospective clients.

How a strong brand personality can benefit your business

Embodying human characteristics can help make your brand relatable. When you establish your own brand personality, you can benefit in three core ways.

  1. Connect with potential customers. Frequently, your brand’s personality mirrors that of your target audience. For instance, a hiking gear brand might adopt a rugged personality to relate to its target market of outdoor adventurers. Whichever brand personality dimension you identify with—whether it’s sincere, competent, sophisticated, tough, or excited—can help you build an emotional connection with customers.
  2. Stand out from the pack. Your company’s unique personality traits can help it find a niche in a saturated marketplace. There might be other businesses selling the same products at similar prices, but you can lodge your brand in customers’ minds with a distinct brand story and personality.
  3. Guide brand marketing. As your marketing team develops brand messaging and supporting marketing collateral, it can focus on the character traits you’ve established, making the process more efficient.

How to define and implement your brand personality

Establishing a brand personality framework is a five-step process that turns your company’s core values into its public-facing brand.

  1. Consider your company’s core values
  2. Identify your target audience
  3. Write a brand personality definition
  4. Create a corporate branding style guide
  5. Train your sales and marketing teams

1. Consider your company’s core values

Your brand personality starts with a close look at your business's core values. You may describe these values with words like respect, integrity, passion, empowerment, humility, empathy, creativity, or fun. Focus on a few values that will serve as the defining tone for your unique brand personality.

2. Identify your target audience

Your customer base should connect with your brand personality. If you sell to extreme sports enthusiasts, you might embrace a high-energy personality. If you sell to doctors, you might benefit from a methodical personality. Aligning your brand traits with those of your customers can create bonds and lead to great brand loyalty over the long term.

3. Write a brand personality definition

Establish a brand personality definition you can share with your team by choosing the precise words that do, and don’t, explain your brand. Choose three to five defining words—such as fun, accessible, or studious—that your brand personality is, and corresponding words that clarify what it isn’t—such as serious, sophisticated, or lighthearted. These terms should help everyone in the company imagine the “person” your brand is. 

When clarifying what your brand is not, avoid using adjectives that no brand would want to identify with, such as arrogant, vindictive, or obtuse. Instead, choose traits that may be aspirational for other brands but not yours, such as irreverent or earnest. Honing in on these subtleties will help guide anyone who’s interfacing with a customer or developing marketing strategies for your business.

4. Create a corporate branding style guide

A corporate branding style guide will align your sales and marketing teams to best represent your brand. Include specific, actionable brand guidelines covering brand colors, brand fonts, brand logos, brand voice, brand story, and any other factors that might reflect personality traits.

The style guide should tie back to the imaginary person your brand embodies. If you view your brand as sophisticated, ask how a human with a sophisticated personality would present themselves in public.

5. Train your sales and marketing teams

To fully implement a personality-based brand strategy, get buy-in from your team. Explain why brand personality matters to your business and how it will help you connect with customers. Using your newly created style guide, teach them how to incorporate brand personality traits into all their sales and marketing efforts.

3 examples of successful brand personalities

Some of the world’s most valuable brands boast famous brand personalities. Here are three companies that used personality to advance their brand positioning.

  1. Nike
  2. Thinx
  3. FTD

1. Nike

Nike became the classic athletic brand archetype by projecting an empowered, active personality. At the heart of this personality is Nike’s iconic slogan: “Just Do It.” The company’s marketing materials are filled with people striving for greatness and reaching their goals, creating the sense that everything is possible. This has helped make the Nike brand synonymous with athletic achievement.

Just Do It. The Nike logo and its slogan are inherent to the brand's personality.
The Just Do It. Nike slogan is the basis for its brand personality.

2. Thinx

Thinx sells absorbent underwear for people with periods. Thinx’s outward personality is honest, sincere, and empathetic. The company’s straightforward messaging and body-positive images are designed to help customers feel comfortable. Thinx demonstrates how sincere brands can lean into their personality to win market share.

Thinx's brand personality is inclusive and reflects this throughout its marketing and brand content.
Thinx's brand personality is always inclusive.

3. FTD

FTD sends flowers to homes and offices throughout the US and Canada. Because flowers have to arrive fresh, and usually on a precise date, FTD consciously projects a competent brand personality. Its clean website interface greets you with an instant prompt for your recipient’s ZIP code and delivery date. The implicit message is that FTD is here to serve you with the utmost professionalism.

FTD's home page is no-nonsense and is marketing the upcoming Mother's Day holiday.
FTD's home page allows you to immediately order flowers for the upcoming Mother's Day holiday.

Brand personality FAQ

Can brand personality change over time?

Brand personalities often change over time. In fact, some of the world’s most famous brands have altered their public-facing personalities to capture new markets or introduce a new brand dimension. For instance, the FX TV network spent its early years emphasizing a hip, urban personality; original programs were broadcast live from a large apartment in New York City. Three decades and several owners later, it projects a more sophisticated image, which aligns with the prestige programs it airs.

How can a brand personality be communicated effectively?

Communicate your brand’s personality effectively by ensuring your marketing language, color scheme, fonts, graphics, and social media interactions all project the same personality traits. Align your sales reps and marketing team to make sure everyone shares the same understanding of the company’s personality. This uniformity and consistency has powered some of the world’s most famous brand archetypes.

What is the difference between brand personality and brand image?

Brand image refers to how the public perceives your business. Brand personality refers to the set of human-like character traits that define your company among its internal stakeholders. The two are related insofar as when your team shares a common sense of your brand personality, it can generate a consistent brand image for the public to see.