Brand Personality 101: Definition, Examples, Importance & More...

April 8, 2021

What is Brand Personality?

The theory behind brand personality is simple: turning your brand into a person with human characteristics gives it a greater chance to connect with your customers, make it relatable, and build trust and loyalty.

Consumers might like to think that they choose brands because of logical or objective factors like price, product quality, or ease of purchase but psychology is at the root of their purchase decisions. Their emotions direct their choices – and brands need to understand how to harness the power of these emotions to elicit the connections and behaviors they're looking for from their audiences and to differentiate their offerings from their competition.

All the visual identity elements of your brand (your logo, colors, tagline, packaging, etc.) rest on your brand personality – the subtle emotional trait you've identified and developed to connect you with your target audience and give structure to all your marketing activity.

The Importance of Brand Personality

As people, we build trust through experiencing consistency of character. Both with another person and a brand, this builds our affinity and confidence in "knowing" and trusting the person or brand and aligning our own perspective with their point of view. As the demand for storytelling and content around brands grows, a consistent and defined brand personality is the one definitive thread that will keep all your content connected, make it relevant to your audience, and provide the authenticity you need to build trust – the importance of brand personality and starting on the right foot is more significant than ever.

A strong brand personality will also help you stand apart in crowded and often non-differentiated categories like CPG, FMCG, direct-to-consumer clothing, and relatively new entrant CBD/THC. There's often no difference between products in these categories… consider the chewing gum section of the confectionary market. Functionally, there's no difference between Eclipse, Extra, Trident, Orbit, Mentos, Ice Breakers, and many Wrigley's brands. They all offer similar flavors and products both with and without sugar and dental benefits. It's their personality and how they position themselves that makes you gravitate to one or the other. The importance of brand personality can’t be underestimated in setting your brand apart.

Understanding and Identifying Brand Personality Archetypes

By now you may be wondering how to define your brand personality. At Passport Brand Design, we use brand archetypes to help you define your brand personality. We've had more than 16 years of experience helping Fortune 500 brands in a variety of crowded markets strategize how best to elevate their brand. We work with a combination of consumer insights, market research, and journey mapping to help your team determine which of Carl Jung's 12 personality archetypes best fits your brand during our brand personality archetype workshop.  

Early twentieth-century Swiss psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and father of analytical psychology, Jung's theory was that everyone has one dominant trait or characteristic that impacts how they see the world, their values, motivations, and how they interact with others. We use Jung's archetypes to help you define your own brand personality. Our brand personality archetype workshops walk you through a series of steps and exercises to help you definitively determine to which of the following archetypes your brand belongs: the creator, the sage, the caregiver, the innocent, the jester, the magician, the ruler, the hero, the regular guy, the rebel, the explorer, and the lover.

Identifying your brand archetype and using this to anchor and inform your comprehensive marketing and branding strategy gives your brand human characteristics and brings it to life in a way that your target audience can connect with on a personal and emotional level. The right brand personality archetype and resulting strategy will elevate your brand's purpose – differentiating you from your competition, boosting you above the noise, helping your target audience connect with you, and giving you a roadmap for the future.

How to Define Your Brand Personality & Brand Archetype

Many soft drink brands are competing for your attention in the crowded beverage market… and yet a few have been able to differentiate themselves and build unique and long-lasting connections with their customers. Let's look at three of these brands: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Mountain Dew. These brands have effectively defined their brand archetype and then used this characteristic to inform their marketing to strengthen their brand while, at the same time, helping their target audience understand how they should feel about their brand.

Everything works together to contribute to their brand personality – from their logo and visual identity to their packaging, point of sale, TV and print ads, and brand voice. Their target customers connect with this archetype, often because it's similar to their own, and remain loyal to the product because of the affinity and trust they feel for the brand. These brand archetype examples can be used to show how to define your brand personality through your brand’s archetypes.

Coca-Cola Brand Archetype

Coca-Cola has defined their personality archetype as "the innocent" and put it to work for them. Their communications center around positivity and encouraging consumers to find joy in everyday moments with messaging like "choose happiness," "it's the real thing," "taste the feeling," and particularly their "Share a Coke" campaign – one of their most successful marketing initiatives in recent times.

Everything Coca Cola does contributes to this simple, optimistic, and honest "innocent" brand personality and its goal of spreading happiness – from their flamboyant red logo and social media outreach ("everyone welcome") to their vibrant and cheerful advertising that consistently showcases simple moments with their customers enjoying a coke.

Coca-Cola is a branding juggernaut because it has built such a strong and relatable personality that customers inherently know and understand – the human characteristics assigned to the brand are threaded through everything they do. We all inherently know what to expect from their communications, largely thanks to the evident Coca-Cola brand archetype.

Pepsi Brand Personality & Archetype

Another big player in the soda space, Pepsi, is an example of "the jester" archetype. Instead of simple happiness, Pepsi's personality centers around fun and the ability to see things differently – "Pepsi has been bringing fun and refreshment to consumers for over 100 years." The jester plays the clown, lives in the moment, and levels the playing field between those with power and those without.

Witness Pepsi's sponsorship of the 2021 Super Bowl Halftime Show starring Canadian star The Weeknd and supported by a spot with workers stocking supermarket shelves, staffing parking booths, cleaning swimming pools all while dancing, humming, singing along, and generally having fun to the tune of "Blinding Lights" – The Weeknd's number one hit. Everyone is living in the moment and enjoying themselves even though it's late at night, they're working, and they're completing reasonably mundane tasks – a clever and entertaining way to give a different perspective on working life.

Mountain Dew Brand Personality & Archetype

Another Pepsi brand, Mountain Dew, took a different tack altogether and decided to identify as "the rebel." In a move that sees it embracing its difference (not a cola) and pulling away from Coke and Pepsi's safer happiness and fun messages, Mountain Dew deliberately engages in rebellious and free-spirited behavior, which clearly supports the target Mountain Dew brand personality.

In addition to sponsoring extreme sports and encouraging people to "Do the Dew," their recent ad for Mountain Dew Zero Sugar is a terrifying (but effective) nod to The Shining with an ax-wielding Bryan Cranston (from Breaking Bad fame) and a humorous way of shaking up the audience to make them sit up and take notice. They reinforce the rebel archetype's traits at every turn with disruptive new ideas that are brave and often force us to see things differently.  

Successful Brand Personality Examples

Let's look at a few recent brand personality examples where brands have remained true to their personality – even when they might have been expected to do otherwise.

Oatly 2021 Super Bowl Ad

Oatly, a brand of oat milk and another "rebel" archetype, ran a Super Bowl commercial this year (2021) that was widely panned by viewers as weird, poorly produced, and just plain odd. But this ad was completely in line with Oatly's quirky, rebellious, and humorous brand personality. The milk industry is crowded, and dare we say a little boring?! Oatly's ad featured their CEO in a field of oats in Sweden playing on a keyboard with very few lyrics – the chorus of which was "wow, wow, no cow."

They got their message across and managed to get people talking – and their incredibly low budget ad stood out in a field of high budget, overproduced spots. They even made T-shirts with the slogan "I totally hated that Oatly commercial" – which sold out in less than three minutes! Oatly remained true to their quirky, rebel personality, had a little fun, and generated engagement with a lot of new people.

UK Breakfast Cereal Company Weetabix Tweet

Another example of many brands cleverly illustrating their personality is the responses to a recent tweet from UK breakfast cereal brand Weetabix. Weetabix showed their iconic breakfast cereal bars covered in… Heinz baked beans! Hilarity ensued with brands from all over the world replying to the tweet: Domino's suggested that beans on Weetabix are more controversial than pineapple on pizza, KFC wondered whether we should "set aside our differences and prosecute this under the Geneva Convention," Toblerone referenced their Swiss heritage and "commented "we're staying out of this," and Tinder pointed out that this was "not a match"! While all these companies had fun with the conversation, they did so in a way that remained true to their brand personality.

Brand Personality: A Winning Formula

Brand personality is not just humorous copy or expressive identity. It's the overall way your brand behaves in all its communications over all the different channels with all your audiences and stakeholders. Your brand personality is all the emotions and characteristics that your customer associates with your brand.

Defining a strong and authentic brand personality – the intangible trait within your consumer's minds that connects them with your brand – and using this personality to inform your entire strategy is a smart and exciting way to move forward. It's also an ongoing process – not something you do once and throw in a drawer (or bury in a Dropbox file). We do this every day for brands like those mentioned above and for many other global brands who need a robust framework for consistent, impactful activations that move the needle. We also help you manage your brand personality moving forward – because, as we said, it's not a one-and-done exercise.

If you need help defining your brand personality, making your brand more relatable and trustworthy, and managing your strategy moving forward, get in touch with us today. We have a team of armchair psychologists who love what we do and want to help you define, nurture, and manage your brand!

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