Branding Masterclass #3 – Brand Personality and Identity

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Branding Masterclass #3 – Brand Personality and Identity

Originally posted as “Understanding Brand Personality And How It Affects Brand Identity” on 21 Oct 2020.

Hey folks, welcome back to the third edition of my monthly Branding Masterclass series! If you missed the first two parts, double back and give ‘em a read for context! I’m sure there’s a ton there that you’ll find helpful, such as the key differences between “brand”, “branding”, and “brand identity” for one!

This month, I’d like to delve deeper into the idea of “brand personality” and give you practical advice on how to attune your brand identity towards your brand personality. I hope that by the end of this Branding Masterclass, you get a better idea of the potentially ineffable qualities of brand personality and its interplay with brand identity.

Have you ever felt so loyal to a brand that you just couldn’t see yourself settling for a similar product from another store? Perhaps you feel like the brand just complements your image or lifestyle and it just “gets you”?

The connection you have to a brand is the result of your emotions and subconscious feelings towards it.
It might sound strange but fret not, you’re not alone! In fact,
a study in 2018 proved that 95% of us make decisions subconsciously. These feelings are influenced by a brand’s distinct brand personality, which is precisely what we’re talking about!

What exactly is brand personality?

If you’ve read my previous Branding Masterclass, you’ll remember I said that brands with personalities have the advantage of customer preference. The reason for this is simply because brand personality is a quality that both endures and differentiates

I find it helps clients to think of brand personality as the thing that humanises their business, like a set of traits that anyone would want in a friend. In the case of brands, brand personality represents a set of personable characteristics that customers might enjoy or want to be associated with.

Photography: Frankie Cordoba on Unsplash

 

The formal definition of brand personality can be defined as the personification of a brand by attributing human characteristics and qualities to the brand. Some questions might come to mind at this point, something along the lines of “But wait, how do I begin personifying my brand? What traits do I begin with?”

Don’t worry, I’ve got your back! There are a number of frameworks that can be used to identify or define your brand personality or archetype, but seeing as this is a Masterclass – we’ll use one developed by Stanford University researcher, Dr Jennifer L. Aaker, in her study Dimensions of Brand Personality.

Dimenions of Brand Personality according to Aaker

Take Wacky Wears, for instance, a local brand that Superminted’s Brand Strategists reviewed not too long ago. Our team examined the elements of the brand’s identity and when it came to brand personality, we concluded that it was earnest, sincere, and extremely wholesome. In the context of Aaker’s framework, this would place it well within the Sincerity category.

Source: Wacky Wears


To know which category your business falls within, pick 3-5 adjectives that customers can use to describe your business. These descriptive terms will help establish your brand’s personality traits and guide the development of your brand identity – that is, your logo, colour palette, typography, and tone of voice.

In addition to Aaker’s brand personality framework, there are also specific brand archetypes that you could use as a guide for your brand personality. These stem from emotions and feelings that represent your brand, and what it stands for. Feel free to use whichever framework, as long as it makes sense to you!

Logo Type

You’ll find that once you’ve decided on your brand personality, things start to get a lot simpler. From here on out, there are still a whole host of options to wade through as you construct a brand identity that will reflect the personality you have chosen.

Let’s begin with the obvious one, logos. From wordmarks to lettermarks, picture marks to abstract marks – there’s just so many to choose from. For your reference, I’ve put together this handy little guide for you. Feel free to save it, just remember to credit us if you use it! 😉

Regardless of which mark you decide to go with for your logo, it’s vital that you keep it simple, memorable, and appropriate. What does that mean? Well, through my years of experience I’ve always followed these guidelines:

  • Simple – It might be tempting to go all out and design something intricate, but remember that logo sizes have to be increased and decreased across applications. An overly detailed logo looks like an ink spill when shrunk.  
  • Memorable – A good logo has to be instantly recognisable at first glance, and not overtly generic to be associated with every other brand out there.
  • Appropriate – Your logo has to be relevant to your product and audience, while being flexible enough to be applied to all the various mediums you decide to use it for.

Brand Colours

Logos done, time to talk colours! The role of colours in branding is both psychological and emotional. Brands wear colours in strategic ways, designed to evoke associative feelings. It’s kinda like how you would wear a brightly-coloured outfit if you were feeling happy, or why everyone wears black to a funeral (well, a western funeral anyway).

By the way, did you know that blue is the most common logo colour? It’s seen in 33% of logos across the world’s biggest brands. The next most popular colour is red, at 29%. Fun facts aside, these logos are preferred for a specific reason. They elicit specific emotions – for example, blue embodies a certain composure and reliability, while red represents excitement and passion. I can certainly think of some brands that play on these colours as part of their brand personality (Coca-Cola anyone?)

Font and Typeface

Now onto fonts. To be honest, it would be virtually impossible to go through the qualities of every single font in existence. There’s just simply too many. I think the next best option, in that case, would be to categorise the three overarching styles of fonts and give you some of their characteristics – that should help you understand when it’s appropriate to use them.

The key here, as always, is to pick what suits your brand personality. You could even mix and match it up as you see fit, but remember to use no more than three fonts in order to maintain a unified brand identity. Oh, and also avoid Comic Sans when possible. (I’m only partially kidding)

Tone Of Voice

In my first ever Branding Masterclass, I outlined a loose definition of what constitutes tone of voice. To give another more accurate definition, I think this description by the Acrolinx team really nails it:

Tone of voice is how the character of your business comes through in your words, both written and spoken. It’s not about what you say, but how you say it and the impression it makes on everyone in your audience who reads or hears you.

What’s important to note is that while your tone of voice should be adjusted according to context and intent, your brand voice and how you present your personality across all channels needs to always be consistent and unchanging.

Tall order? Don’t sweat it, here’s how you can get started – begin by focusing on your brand personality and list down what your tone of voice is and isn’t. Use descriptive words and adjectives to outline your tone of voice. 

Once that’s done, put it to the test and come up with a couple of phrases or sentences that truly encapsulates your tone of voice. If they don’t sound quite right, try different words that convey similar meanings. You’ll be surprised at how much of an impact that might have.

Parting Words

Wow, okay that might have been the longest Branding Masterclass I’ve written to date. I promise the next one is definitely going to be a lot shorter!

If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back. The goal of this is to really help you develop a deeper appreciation for brand personality and how that guides elements of your brand identity, so I hope you’ve at least learnt something new!

Remember to stay tuned to this space for monthly updates from me, and until then, don’t be a stranger!

Nadine is the Principal Brand Consultant and CEO of Superminted. She is a nonconforming, divergent thinker with a conviction that effective branding is the cornerstone to a successful business.

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