In the summer of 2020, I quit my corporate job in finance so I could use my skills and experience to provide marketing and fintech resources to entrepreneurs building their small businesses. When it was time to make a logo and design the rest of my branding, I knew it was important that I make that passion really clear. So, I created a brand personality that was bold, daring and innovative—and Small Business Startup Solutions was born.
Creating a brand personality can help even the smallest business stand out. To start, think about the most admirable traits of your business: What adjectives would you choose to describe it if it were a person? Throughout this article, I’ll use my business’s brand personality to represent the concept, plus detail how you can create your own with best practices on conveying it to the world.
What is a brand personality, and why does it matter?
A brand personality is the personification of a business, acting as a framework for its brand identity. It’s how a company manifests its values and mission through its design language, communication style and actions. By attributing human characteristics to your business, you can connect with your target market and differentiate your business from the competition.
How to create a brand personality
Use the following steps to develop your personality branding:
- Define your brand values
- Determine the dimension of your brand personality
- Identify your brand archetype
- Assemble a brand guide
01. Define your brand values
Your brand values are your business’s reason for being. They are the beliefs and principles that guide its actions and decision-making. Your brand values will act as the core of your personality branding and should inform its development.
For example, the brand values of Small Business Startup Solutions (SBSS) are entrepreneurship, innovation and social responsibility. Its brand manifesto is to “Grow the Local Economy.” I try to infuse that mission into everything, from my marketing to my business operations.
02. Determine the dimensions of your brand personality
Since building a brand personality is a nuanced, complex process, it can help to first categorize your business. Jennifer Aakers’ five dimensions of brand personality offer a useful starting point. This model aligns brand personality traits with human characteristics that fit into one of five dimensions: excitement, sincerity, competence, sophistication and ruggedness.
03. Identify your brand archetype
The brand archetype system gets more specific. In this framework, a brand can fit into twelve main archetypes:
- The Idealist commits to its deeply-rooted values and beliefs.
- The Realist prioritizes logic and competency.
- The Warrior orients towards goals.
- The Caregiver nurtures with compassion and altruism.
- The Seeker looks for new perspectives, and takes an individualistic trail-blazing approach.
- The Lover focuses on building relationships.
- The Revolutionary defies convention and looks for cutting-edge solutions to deeply engrained problems.
- The Creator expresses and invents.
- The Sage values reflection, and often takes an analytical approach to truth seeking.
- The Jester leads with a lighthearted, playful and spontaneous tone.
- The Magician intuits, inspires and provides insight.
- The Ruler values power and demonstrates leadership.
04. Assemble a brand guide
A brand style guide—a catalog of a brand’s assets—ensures that all your marketing clearly, cohesively and consistently reflects your brand personality. The branding world refers to these as the three C’s:
- Clarity: A clear, well-defined brand strategy ensures that target audiences can understand all brand aspects and messages.
- Consistency: Ensure that your brand voice and visual identity complement one another to reinforce your brand personality. Consistent brand elements help your target market recognize and trust you. To remain cohesive, stay within the brand guide.
- Credibility: A credible brand is trustworthy, reliable and reputable. You must ensure that all your business actions reflect your brand personality. Be transparent about your business practices and deliver on your marketing promises to increase your brand’s credibility.
Let’s use the brand guide for SBSS as a style guide example. It features my mission and values, as well as my logo, brand colors, typography and on-brand images that fit the personality. While the slate-gray, black and white give my branding a modern and competent look, the yellow emphasizes the “Excited” aspect of my brand personality and symbolizes the bright light of innovation. I use active imagery to demonstrate its “Explorer” brand archetype. Whenever I use photography that does not feature myself, I strive to feature diverse subjects so everyone knows that my brand is warm and welcoming to all.
5 brand personality examples
To help you better understand brand personalities and how to develop your branding around one, we’ve identified five small businesses that fit into Aakers’ brand personality dimensions.
01. Exciting brand personality example: FlipSide Event Cleanup
To appeal to event hosts, FlipSide Event Cleanup developed a spirited and energetic brand personality. The spunky tone of voice and crafty logo demonstrate that vitality. When paired with the coal-gray, the refreshing mint-green brand color, represents how the company take event spaces from filthy to “sparkling clean.” Their website and social media emphasize their commitment to sustainability and their enthusiasm for cleaning.
02. Competent brand personality example: Little Bags by Anna
The teenage founder of Little Bags by Anna gave her business a competent brand personality so potential customers would recognize it as a reputable and reliable business despite her young age. The business exudes competency, primarily through its ethical business practices. Anna makes her bags out of reclaimed textiles and donates a sizable portion of her revenue to literacy and food security nonprofits.
03. Sophisticated brand personality example: The Natural Aesthetic Medspa
When I worked with The Natural Aesthetic Medspa to design their website, we emphasized their brand personality’s sophisticated nature with high-quality imagery and an elevated tone of voice. The blush-pink brand color gives it a feminine edge to appeal to the female-heavy clientele and the calligraphic typography establishes it as high-end.
04. Rugged brand personality example: Music By Lucas Brown
Lucas Brown is a soulful singer-songwriter inspired by nature and off-roading and musically influenced by John Mayer and Ed Sheeran. We worked together to give his online presence a rugged brand personality. The darker tone of his site establishes the artist’s depth and masculinity. All the imagery features Brown outside, often surrounded by trees.
05. Sincere brand personality example: Occasionally Yours
Because Occasionally Yours is a welcoming, feel-good eatery that has been open since 1989, we chose to keep things simple when creating their website. The Times New Roman typography represents the comfortable familiarity of being at home and the scalloped edge of the footer softens the aesthetic. The header features footage of the historic suburb of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania to emphasize its local branding and the large, macro food photography demonstrates its trustworthiness.