How to define the brand personality of your startup

Updated: Aug 17

How would you describe your brand if it were a person? Adventurous, serious, friendly, witty, calm, active, etc? Think of your brand as a person and give him or her a name and follow along.

Brand personality refers to the specific traits attributed to a brand that its audience enjoy and can relate to. As I always say, people do business with people and not a non-existent entity. That's why It's very important to create a personality for your brand. This humanizes your brand to your (potential) customers and can be perceived by how you look and sound and how you make them feel.

"People do business with people and not a non-existent entity."

If you think about your brand as a person with unique personality traits, you begin to show up in a way that allows you to connect with your customers on an emotional level and give them a reason to choose you over others.

Why is it important to define your brand personality?

The short answer is that if you don't define your brand personality, you will end up sending confusing messages to (potential) customers which might make it hard for them to relate to your brand.

When I started my business, all I knew was, as a business person you need to come off as very professional which to me meant, wearing the right clothes, speaking a certain way, using some jargon and generally making sure your clients take you seriously. Well you can imagine how that went for me; I sounded so robotic and couldn't keep up with that. This was because that is not who I am. I love to be personable with my clients so they feel comfortable working with me. To bring my point home, let's take a look at some more reasons why it's important to define the brand personality for your startup.

Sets your brand apart

Imagine if all of us had the same personality; sounded the same, looked alike, with literally no difference. I bet the world would be so boring with nothing to look forward to. Now imagine if all startups were the same; same products and/or services, same personality, same message and same everything. Customers will be super confused! Customers are constantly bombarded with different products and services which makes it hard to choose. Defining your brand personality will set your brand apart, therefore making it easier for your customers to choose you because they can easily relate. For instance, if your brand is adventurous, people who love adventure will be easily drawn to you.

Enhances your brand story

Every business has a story; why the business exists and what it provides its customers. A well-defined brand personality seeks to understand the core of the business and what it stands for. This helps your customers understand who you are beyond the surface.

Develops emotional connection

Have you ever met someone and naturally felt some form of connection? That must be because you share some beliefs or values. Customers are drawn to companies they share the same beliefs with. Defining your brand personality and communicating it effectively develops some form of emotional connection with customers. When customers feel connected to a brand, they are more likely to recommend it to others, buy and spend more with the brand, stay loyal and even return after a bad experience.

Brand personality frameworks and methods

Now that we know what brand personality is and why it's important for your startup, let's discuss how to define it using 2 methods or frameworks.

The brand personality framework

This method was coined by Jennifer Aaker, a social psychologist, which uses a model that groups brand personalities into 5 broad categories. Each personality trait you choose falls under each of these categories.

Each dimension has its own personality traits and strengths. Ideally, your brand personality should fall under one of the categories, with around 3-5 adjectives that you would want your customers to use when describing your brand.

Brand Archetypes Framework

This is a model based on Carl Jung's theory that people tend to use symbolism to understand concepts. He defined 12 archetypes that represent different groupings of characteristics, aspirations, values and attitudes. In the image below are the 12 archetypes

These archetypes give your brand a character that makes you easily accessible and relatable to the customers who share the same values. They help your overall brand identity and elevate how you communicate and engage with your customers.

The Social Types want to connect with others

THE EVERY MAN Goal: To fit in and wants their customers to feel a sense of belonging. Traits: Casual, down-to-earth, supportive, solid virtues, real, democratic, equality, community, lack of pretense Famous examples: IKEA, Visa, Levi’s

THE LOVER Goal: Intimacy Wants their customer to find love and connection

Traits: Romantic, sensual, passionate, warm, intimate, giving Famous examples: Chanel, Victoria’s Secret

THE JESTER Goal: To enjoy life and wants their customers to have more joy and laughter in their daily lives. Traits: Fun, light-hearted, humorous, enjoyment, never boring Famous examples: M&Ms, Skittles

The Order Types want to give the world structure

THE CREATOR Goal: To innovate Wants their customers to believe in what’s possible Traits: Imaginative, creative, artistic, entrepreneurial, inventive, non-conformist, visionary, innovative, non-conforming Famous examples: Adobe

THE RULER Goal: Control (in order to lead) Wants their customers to feel more organized, stable, secure

Traits: Organized, leader, role model, responsible, controls the chaos, boss Famous examples: Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz, Rolex

THE CAREGIVER Goal: To serve others Wants their customers to feel understood and protected Traits: Maternal, generous, compassionate, caring, nurturing, parental, empathy, selfless Famous examples: UNICEF, Johnson & Johnson, Heinz

The Ego Types want to change the world

THE MAGICIAN Goal: Power (to make magical things happen) Wants to make their customers’ dreams come true Traits: Inspirational, idealistic, charismatic, visionary, imaginative, spiritual Famous examples: Apple, Disney

THE HERO Goal: Mastery (in order to make the world a better place) Wants to help their customers by rescuing them from their troubles

Traits: Bold, honorable, confident, strong, courageous, inspirational Famous examples: Nike, FedEx

THE REBEL Goal: Liberation Wants to help their customers break free from the status quo, overturn what’s not working

Traits: Wild, change-maker, rebellious, rule-breaker, revolution, edgy, misfit, outrageous, radical, free, disruptor, shocking Famous examples: Harley Davidson, Virgin

The Freedom Types want to find paradise

THE INNOCENT Goal: Happiness

Wants to help their customers feel great on the inside Traits: Positive, kind, good, pure, simple, young, loyal, optimistic, trustworthy, moral, reliable, honest, good virtues, nostalgic, sees the good in everything, faith, does the right thing Famous examples: Dove

THE EXPLORER Goal: Freedom Wants to help their customers have new experiences, adventures, discoveries

Traits: Adventurous, independent, pioneering, individualism, wanderlust Famous examples: The North Face

THE SAGE Goal: To understand

Wants to help their customers by sharing knowledge Traits: Wise, visionary, knowledgeable, intelligent, trusted source of information, thoughtful, mentoring, advisor, guru Famous examples: Oprah, Google, Quora

How then do you define your brand personality?

Let's get straight into the practical ways to define your brand personality. Here are some tips to identify and articulate your brand personality with less stress.

Start with 3-5 adjectives

For example: Is your brand frank, smart, youthful, wise, uplifting, empowering, inviting, personal, nice, fresh, stylish, witty, etc? The frameworks above can serve as a guide to pick those adjectives.

Create a face for your brand

Who would be the perfect face of your brand? Whose essence captures what you are doing? What characteristics do they have that you want to emulate?

Create a moodboard

You can combine elements such as images, patterns, colors, etc that can help you to visualize who you are.

Think of who you want to be to your customers

Who would your ideal customer turn to for help? What traits would make them choose you over another brand? What do you want them to envision you as? Are you a reliable older brother? A cheerful best friend?


People don’t like faceless companies. People like other people. Using the founder or maybe the CEO as a face of your startup is an excellent way to showcase your brand personality, relate to your costumers and ultimately, build that highly sought after long-lasting relationship.

Maybe you’re...

  • Adventurous and spirited but you’re a financial planner, so you think you need be corporate, responsible, dependable.

  • Sophisticated and feminine but you work in tech so you think you need to be tough and masculine.

  • Down-to-earth, warm and laid-back but you’re in fashion so you think you need to be glamorous and refined.

Branding is not trickery or putting up a face. It’s about showing up as authentically as you can so people know what to expect.

Now let me ask you this:

  • Who do you think adventurous and spirited people would rather work with when they need a financial planner?

  • Who do you think sophisticated women will want to work with when they need technical expertise?

  • Who do you think laid-back people will choose when they need fashion advice?

The beautiful silver lining about having so much competition these days is that you have a huge opportunity to get narrow and worry only about finding your people. They notice us when we’re showing them exactly who we are.

The real magic happens when you convey a consistent personality in your branding; your brand voice, visual identity and even your actions. With consistency, people start to “get to know you,” which leads to trusting and choosing you.

Having a distinct personality means you’re not just some anonymous, generic startup offering the same things a lot of other startups are offering. You become known and remembered.

Was this helpful? Have a question? Let's talk in the comments!

#brandstrategy #brandpersonality #updeepbranding