A complete guide to mastering your ethical brand personality

Written by Adam

June 13, 2020

brand personality

If your Brand Soul is all about inner purpose and meaning, the Brand Mind is about character, flair and style. This is your step-by-step guide to creating a brand personality with a serious attitude. Read on to discover the who, how and what of your brand.

Great brands have an attitude. They develop their own perspective, a set of beliefs, a recognisable swagger. They have certain personality traits, favourite topics of conversation and a voice of their own. Through this personality, they become leaders, mentors and even friends.

This becomes integral when telling your brand story in a way that resonates with customers.

For an ethical business, social enterprise, charity or everyday changemaker, creating a winning brand personality will give your business a serious edge. You will already have a higher agenda and a great story to tell. Here is where you find your voice and set the tone.

But what does it mean to give your brand a personality? First, you’ll need to understand your brand soul.

If you haven’t already, check out our blog on how to create your purpose, principles and proposition.

Who we are: creating brand personality

The first thing to do is to define your brand personality. You’ll need your best creatives for this session. Start the workshop with a simple ice-breaker: “If our brand was a person, who would it be?” Here, you want to be naming celebrities not your best friend’s cousin’s girlfriend.

Ask what it is about their character that you associate with. Think about the way the character talks, how they’re viewed, what their personality traits are. Aim to narrow this down to one of 12 brand archetypes, as devised by Carl Jung (though for a different purpose entirely).

The 12 brand archetypes

The Lover: looking for passion and intimacy, the lover is romantic and committed. Think Victoria’s Secret, Chanel, Haagen Dazs.  

The Explorer: searching for excitement and greater meaning and finding inspiration in new experiences. Think Jeep, Red Bull, REI.

The Sage: providing wide guidance for those who need it, acting like a mentor. Think Google, PBS, Philips.

The Jester: brings light-hearted fun to the table, while often making a little mischief along the way. Think Old Spice, Ben & Jerry’s, M&Ms.

The Ruler: controlling and stern, but carries a weight of prestige and brings order to chaos. Think Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, British Airways.

The Magician: looking to make dreams a reality, the magician is visionary and spiritual. Think Apple, Disney, Absolut.

The Caregiver: protective and caring with a compassionate, nurturing and generous nature. Think Johnson & Johnson, Campbell’s Soup, UNICEF.

The Innocent: the happy, wholesome character who’s forever optimistic and youthful. Think Coca-Cola, Innocent Smoothies, Nintendo Wii.

The Everyman: knows how to connect and belong. A down-to-earth pillar of the community. Think eBAY, IKEA.

The Hero: on a mission to make the world a better place through courage and power. Think Nike, BMW.

The Creator: imaginative and arty, driven to build things of enduring meaning and value. Think Lego, Crayola, Adobe.

The Outlaw: questions authority and breaks the rules, the outlaw is all about rebellion and revolution. Think Virgin, Harley-Davidson, Diesel.

You don’t have to go all out for one archetype. And yes, you can pick and mix a few traits. But the more you dilute your character, the less defined it becomes.

It’s good to know which archetype you belong to, so pick one and see how you fit in with the other brands in your tribe. If they’re not a competitor, see if you can take inspiration from the way they deliver their content.

How we speak: the brand voice

Now we start to focus and define. Ask yourself, how would you describe your brand personality in 5-10 adjectives? And what do these adjectives say about your attitude? Think about what your key motivators are and how you would describe these to your target audience.

This exercise helps to set your tone of voice, giving your designers and copywriters vital information for building a consistent brand.

A good way to start is by taking a full list of character traits and adding them into three piles: ‘We are’, ‘We are not’ and ‘Does not apply’. To help, the deviants behind Cards of Humanity have developed a handy set of branding cards which you can find here.

If you don’t want to splash out, you can always create your own. For the record, the characteristics of Your Turn include:

  • Creative: building things of enduring value.
  • Modern: on-trend with new digital hacks.
  • Inspirational: content that changes lives.
  • Friendly: always happy to reach out and connect.

Compassionate: let’s make great things happen.

Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

—Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon

Defining the lexicon

The way we speak isn’t just defined by our tone of voice, but also by the words that we use. Make a list of words your brand character might say. Don’t shy away from power words (those that have a little extra oomph).

To start, spend some time thinking about how you should describe your key services and what kind of calls to actions you would use. For instance, when offering email subscription, are you the kind of business that says: ‘That’s awesome! Sign me up’, or are you more of the ‘Add me to the newsletter’ kind of brand. Split these words into those that you like, and those you want to avoid at all cost.

What we talk about: key messages

To tell a consistent brand story, you should focus on your key messages. These will become the payload for all that hard work. They’re your brand’s favourite topics. They’re the things you’re talking about even when you’re talking about something else.

Defining your key messages will help you filter out the waffle and focus your content marketing on what really matters. They should underpin who you are, what you do, why you’re different and how your audience will benefit.

Messaging architecture

Messaging architecture helps you to understand what you should (and shouldn’t) be talking about. This means that when it’s time to start creating content you can focus on a specific set of highly-relevant, inter-related topics.

When it comes to blogs, this makes it easier for Google to index your content. This will lead to better SEO, greater visibility and more traffic. A consistent approach also means your audience will know what to expect. This is what it takes to build a loyal, trusting and engaged following.

To begin, refer back to your value proposition (see our guide on brand soul) and consider which 3 or 4 elements are key. Then write down a further three supporting points for each element.

Your Turn’s messaging architecture

Here’s an example to show you how this works. First, take my value proposition:

I help ethical businesses tell their stories with free promotion, marketing resources and networking opportunities.

From this, I can isolate three key elements and expand each with a further three key messages.

Free promotion

  • We believe good business is good for the world, so we’re here to help you spread the word.
  • Get mentioned in our weekly social shout-outs and feature on our ‘ethical brands’ web page.
  • Connect with us and helps us speak up for your cause.

Marketing resources

  • We think great marketing will give social entrepreneurs an edge.
  • Our free resources will help you create your brand, strategy and content.
  • Speak to us about free 1-2-1 marketing support. 

Networking opportunities

  • Discover like-minded entrepreneurs on our ‘ethical brands’ web page
  • Join our social media community, learn and educate.
  • Find out how to collaborate to spread the word of ethical business

That’s it. I have identified the key topics of my content. Now I can start to build content around each of these themes.

The final word

By following the above steps, you will be able to add some create the basic principles of your brand character. This doesn’t just take into account who you are, but how you speak and what you say.

Armed with this information, you will better understand the direction of your content and how it will resonate with your customers.

If you’re interested in developing your brand and discovering further marketing resources, we’d love to hear from you.

We’re here to speak up for ethical businesses, social enterprises and everyday changemakers in Yorkshire. You can access free promotional support, marketing resources and guidance on our website.

Just say hello. It’s Your Turn.

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