Brand Personality: Traits of Top Brands

Arek Dvornechuck — Branding Expert.
Arek Dvornechcuck
Branding Expert

I'm a branding expert and graphic designer based in NY. I specialize in the development of brands: brand strategy, identity & web design. Need help with your project?—Get in touch

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Brand personality plays a crucial role in developing and maintaining strong brands—it's a set of human characteristics attributed to a brand.

It’s intentionally determined through a process of assigning a set of human characteristics and qualities to the brand.

Brand personality refers to the personification of a brand.

Brands stand out not only by how they position themselves in the marketplace, bu also by how well they connect with customers.

According to a research institute’s two-year study of 100,000 retail customers, “emotionally connected customers have a 306 percent higher lifetime value".

In this article, I will describe the power of brand personality on examples of famous brands.

Because I believe that a great source of ideas comes from looking at others.

Look at brands that are admired or relevant and ask yourself—what's their brand personality?

Brand Personality traits of Famous Brands

First, I'll show you some examples of famous brands and their personalities.

Then, you'll learn how to go about defining the personality of your brand.

You'll also find the Brand Personality Exercise I use with my clients.

PS. If you don't like to read — check out my YouTube video about the same subject.

Top Brands and Their Personalities:

  1. Apple
  2. Nike
  3. Tesla
  4. Volvo
  5. Hallmark
  6. Harley-Davidson
  7. Amazon
  8. Red Bull
  9. Rolex
  10. Tiffany

Certainly the brand story must be meaningful, but it’s the way in which a brand communicates that truly:

  • Sets the brand apart
  • Makes it immediately recognizable
  • Creates an emotional connection

Personality is an important dimension of brand equity because, like human personality, it is both differentiating and enduring.

Brand personality directs the voice, tone and style through which the brand communicates.

What's your brand personality?

Your brand is more than just your logo and slogan—brands, like people, have personalities.

People want to see the humanity within a business.

Like people, brands without personalities are just plain boring.

It's better to be a jerk than have no personality—at least by being a jerk you'd be interesting.

Having a personality is equally helpful to brands.

If your brand was a person, how would you describe him or her?

What's your Brand Personality?

People like people who they're like or want to be like—same is true with brands.

We love brands who have similar character to ours, or one that we aspire to have.

By getting it right, you will be able to build a brand that stands out from the crowd and speaks to your customers at a deeper level.

So without further ado, let's start by Apple who is probably the most described example of good branding.

There are many reasons behind Apple's success, but one of them is certainly the ability to create a personality that resonates with their customers.

1. Apple

The personality of Apple is sophistication.

People express their own personality or an idealized one by the brands that they chose.

Apple has a non-corporate, artistic, sophisticated, creative personality.

This is based in part on the perception that Apple has an unpretentious, irreverent and somewhat off-the-wall but also sophisticated personality.

Apple — Brand Personality

Even though Apple is a technology company, its brand is very sophisticated.

When Steve Jobs returned in the late 1990s, the company placed a heavy emphasis on design for its hardware, software and retail stores.

Apple products are elegant, as is its packaging, software and marketing.

As Steve Jobs used to say "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication".

2. Nike

The personality of Nike is excitement.

A brand can serve as a person’s personal statement even if that person were stranded on a desert island.

Nike has an active lifestyle, inspirational, exciting, cool personality.

Nike-as-a-person would be exciting, provocative, spirited, cool, innovative, aggressive, and into health and fitness.

Nike — Brand Personality

Since the 1980s, Nike has been endorsing the very best athletes across a wide variety of sports.

In this way they portray Nike's persona as exciting, provocative, innovative and durable.

Their brand slogan ‘Just Do It’ is provocative and aspirational to everyone who's into achievement.

The Nike brand offers a sense of confidence when any of their garments are worn.

Their large personality has sparked great brand loyalty, making many people opt for their brand over their competitors.

3. Tesla

The personality of Tesla is excitement & sophistication.

We use brands as self-expressive statements, particularly the cars we drive and the clothes we wear.

Tesla has an exciting, visionary, charismatic, courageous, spiritual personality.

Driving a Tesla provides a self-expressive benefit—others will observe and make judgements about you.

Tesla — Brand Personality

The Tesla brand is indelibly linked with Elon Musk similarly to Steve Jobs with Apple.

Elon has big ideas to change the world and pride himself on questioning the status quo—he shares the Magician brand archetype.

Tesla also shares the Ruler archetype—it wants to crush the competition.

They’re powerful leaders who believe in winning as the ultimate goal.

The public image of the leader has a big impact on how we perceive the brand.

4. Volvo

The personality of Volvo is sincerity & competence.

A trustworthy, dependable, conservative personality might be boring but might nonetheless reflect characteristics valued in an auto brand such as Volvo.

Volvo has a responsible, trustworthy, reliable, family-man personality.

The emotional positioning of the Volvo brand is firmly connected with sincerity and competence.

Volvo — Brand Personality

Volvo is all about performance, design, safety and the overall environment.

These characteristics are very important for a Volvo consumer who is well aware that all these elements are considered thoroughly in the designing process.

5. Hallmark

The personality of Hallmark is sincerity.

The concept of a relationship between a brand and a person, analogous to that between two people, provides a different perspective on how brand personality might work.

Hallmark has a personality of a well-liked, warm, and respected family member.

If you think of Hallmark you think of warm, sentimental, family oriented, and traditional personality linked to growing up.

Hallmark — Brand Personality

The Hallmark-as-person is sincere, sentimental, warm, genuine, wholesome and ageless as well as being competent and imaginative.

This says a lot about what Hallmark offers as a brand.

6. Harley-Davidson

Harley Davidson personality is ruggedness.

A brand personality can be a vehicle to express a person’s self.

Harley-Davidson has a macho, rebellious, America-loving, freedom-seeking personality.

One who is willing to break out (outlaw) from confining society norms of dress and behavior.

Harley — Brand Personality

This rugged personality suggests that the product is powerful and is a bike with substance.

Promotional campaigns initiated by the company which named motorcycles as mean and tough machines.

Its logo and the use of dynamic and bright colors helped Harley Davidson build its brand personality.

7. Amazon

Amazon personality is sincerity & competence.

Amazon is one of the world’s most trusted brands—very sincere, supported by industry-changing shipping and return policies and exceptional product accessibility.

Amazon has a reliable, competent, sincere and caring personality.

CEO Jeff Bezos is extremely customer-focused, telling the customer exactly what to expect when interacting with Amazon and backing it up.

Amazon — Brand Personality

Some Amazon suppliers don’t like it, but he has built Amazon into one of the world’s most trusted and sincere brands.

While Amazon continues to break new ground, not all products are successful; Bezos is unafraid of failure, which helps make it more human.

8. Red Bull

Red Bull personality is excitement.

It's an inspirational brand that relates to two different types of customers: professional athletes and fun-loving people.

Red bull has an exciting, courageous, outgoing and hyper-energetic brand personality.

The brand caters to athletes that need to exceed difficult challenges, and the other the fun-loving person that needs a bit of energy to get through the day and enjoy themselves.

RedBull — Brand Personality

Their most recent marketing efforts focus on the brand as they dabble in extreme sports, concerts and music, causing a larger excitement around the urban brand.

Red Bull is known for ‘giving wings’ - giving you that extra boost of energy.

9. Rolex

Rolex personality is competence & sophistication.

Rolex is a brand that scores high on competence—it's known for producing the world’s finest watches.

Rolex has a solemn, stable, responsible, organized and professional man personality.

Who is the customer?—most likely an executive type who needs a watch for the boardroom that can be worn to follow through to dinner.

Rolex — Brand Personality

He or she doesn’t want anything flashy, but something finely made, elegant and classic.

This person identifies with the finer things in life and use the Rolex brand to convey their success to the world.

10. Tiffany

Tiffany personality is sophistication.

Imagine you were in the mall and saw a woman carrying a bag from Tiffany&Co. —How would you describe this person?

Tiffany has a sophisticated, elegant, upper-class, successful, charming personality.

This one of them most prestigious, high-end jewelry brand created a sophisticated and timeless persona.

Tiffany — Brand Personality

Tiffany has made women all over the world long for one of the little blue boxes.

The film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, starring the legendary Audrey Hepburn, further enhanced the feeling that a piece of jewelry from Tiffany is the ‘only one true love’.

PS. Also check out this interesting article written by Danielle Read who shows us three more examples of brands and their personalities.

How to create brand personality

Brand personality provides a point of differentiation and energy that is sustainable, because it's difficult and ineffective to copy one.

Creating a personality should be part of the brand strategy discussion.

Jotting down a list of adjectives that pertain to the character of your brand can be quite helpful, but only if you stay focused.

Probably the best way to define your personality is to use brand archetypes.

By intimately knowing your customer, you’re able to shape your brand personality in a way that reflects them.

If a branding expert wants to create or enhance a brand's personality, then they have to answer the basic question:

What should my brand personality be?

So a great place to start is by using my brand personality exercise to decide what is your primary brand archetype.

And then, for differentiation you can add to that using the framework developed by Jennifer Aaker.

Brand Personality Framework by Jennifer Aaker

It contains 15 traits organized into five core dimensions:

  1. Sincerity—down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful(Disney, Hallmark, Amazon, Cadbury)
  2. Excitement—daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date(Tesla, Red Bull, Coca-Cola, Nike)
  3. Competence—reliable, intelligent, successful(Volvo, Google, Intel, Microsoft)
  4. Sophistication—upper class, charming(Tiffany, Rolex, Gucci, Apple)
  5. Ruggedness—outdoorsy, tough(Harley-Davidson, Timberland, Jeep, Marlboro)

Each facet is in turn measured by a set of traits.

To apply these to a brand, rank the traits on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the least representative and 5 is the most representative.

Importance of brand personality

Remember that your brand personality should have a role in advancing the business strategy and the brand.

You don’t want to have a personality just to have one.

Your brand personality should also appear authentic and not forced.

It should be backed up with in form of value propositions and customer experience.

A brand's personality should also be aligned with a brand's voice.

There also should be a program in place that will bring your brand personality to life so that it's not just an empty aspiration.

Bring your personality to life, ask yourself:

How would my brand’s personality come through in various mediums?

Draft sample email, blog posts, social media, the “about” page on the website, product landing pages etc.

Learn how to define your brand personality — check out the Brand Personality exercise in my Brand Strategy Guide.

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