Strong Fundamentals

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How to start shaping your brand personality

Seth Matisak

Head of Design @ Forward Partners

Your brand personality will help shape how people interact with your company and product. It needs to make an emotional connection with your customers so they keep coming back time and time again.

Key takeaways

  • Brand personality helps brand engagement by associating itself with a specific set of human characteristics;
  • Brand personality helps connect product with customers on a emotional level which helps drive trust and in turn transactions or brand loyalty;
  • Exciting, Sincere, Ruggedness, Competence, Sophistication are 5 good brand traits to choose from for your MVP;
  • Personality drives your identity - remember to iterate on it as you grow.

What is Brand personality?

Brand personality is the set of human characteristics that are associated with a brand. It helps shape how people interact with your company and product. It’s been proven (Ronald E. Goldsmith Research Study) that having human-like characteristics will increase the authenticity of your company and in turn increase brand engagement. Do not take your brand’s personality lightly. This is not something to put off or skip in your product development. Your personality will help shape the entire user experience from tone of voice when writing copy to the type of visual identity you use to help differentiate yourself from the crowd.

How will my brand personality effect customers?

Personality is the driving force behind your brand experience and the way you connect to your customers on a deeper level than just a transactional one. You want to be memorable and generate positive thoughts when customers think of your product or company. Let’s break down where personality sits within a brand as a whole. Think of a brand as giant jigsaw puzzle, which is comprised of the personality, logo, customer interaction points, packaging & website. Then take the jigsaw piece of personality and that in itself is divided into tone, imagery, typography, imagery, colour and texture. Those are the main pieces of brand personality. All those pieces have to work together consistently to help connect with customers on an emotional level which helps build trust. That’s exactly how your brand personality will affect customers. Without meaningful interactions you’ll find it harder to retain customers thus becoming a one-off product or even worse you’ll just be looked over because you won’t be perceived professional or trustworthy.

How do you find your brand personality?

Starting the process of personality exploration as early as possible is important to help the development of your brand as a whole. Remember that your brand and, in turn, personality should be walking a similar evolutionary line as your product. They go hand in hand. It’s just as important to start the iteration process of your brand personality as it is to iterate your product. Start off simple then iterate and iterate. As you test more and more slight iterations, your research will become richer and in-turn make your brand and product more targeted and on point. First things first though, let’s start at the very beginning. You don’t need extensive research to guide you at this point. Look at the list of 5 five main personalities below and their attached traits. These represent a great jumping off point for your MVP. I’ve included real-life examples so you can see how the personality traits drive design decisions. What colours to use, the style of buttons and imagery, the tone of copy and typography are all based off personality traits of the brand.    

  • Excitement: carefree, spirited, youthful
  • Sincerity: genuine, kind, family-oriented, thoughtful
  • Ruggedness: rough, tough, outdoors, athletic
  • Competence: successful, accomplished, influential, a leader
  • Sophistication: elegant, prestigious, pretentious

Excitement: carefree, spirited, youthful - Quicksilver


Sincerity: genuine, kind, family-oriented, thoughtful - Kleenex  


Ruggedness: rough, tough, outdoors, athletic (The North Face)  


Competence: successful, accomplished, influential, a leader (Barclays)  


Sophistication: elegant, prestigious, pretentious (Rolex)


You should have an idea where you fit in this list so pick one or two basic personalities. You now have your first brand personality type. It’s really that simple. You don’t have to spend weeks figuring out your personality at this point. That’s expensive and it is more beneficial to have a much broader reach at this stage. This now allows you to focus on the general tone of your copy and visual identity to use in your MVP. Your brand personality, and later on brand values, are your guide, now let it lead the way in all your design decisions.

Edge Retreats Case Study: How does brand personality effect my product?

Take a look at the two web pages below. Same company, same product. Both layouts are nearly identical to show you how copy tone, typography, image selection and colour can have a huge difference on brand personality. Can you feel the personality difference?  


Left - Sophistication

This mock up demonstrates subtle luxury that targets both men and women. Thin font helps convey a very modern appeal while the serif fonts helps bring a sophisticated contrast and a flair of editorial throughout the site. The tone of the copy is based around giving the viewer a sense of exploration & discovery paired with exceptional service. Images showing large landscapes help put the viewer in the area giving them a better sense of the inspiring locations.

Right - Bold & Excitement

This mock up demonstrates a bold luxury paired with excitement that targets young, single, successful men. A black background and thick font brings an authority and strong, masculine stance to the site. The copy itself is much more direct and actionable. The images even target men with ideas of exotic locations paired with beautiful women and exciting activities.     Remember, your brand personality will drive all your design decisions so it’s very important to start the process of evolution early. Iterate your personality as you would your product and make sure you stay consistent in applying your personality to all aspects of the user experience. Consistency breeds trust and trust breeds customer brand loyalty.    

Useful Links:  

Seth Matisak

Head of Design @ Forward Partners

Seth brings 7 years of design experience from around the world including Washington DC, Cleveland, Ohio and Malta having won awards for his print and packaging designs. He has a strong passion for all things branding and helped maintain brand standards for world-wide corporations (Nestle, Nokia, John Deere, Kimberly Clark and Sherwin Williams) while also creating new and engaging brands for start-ups, city organisations and charities while his ability to transition his layout and branding skills to the digital world has resulted in clean, intuitive and modern web designs.

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