There’s this one step that a majority of startups seem to pass up as they prepare for launch. And it’s a biggie when it comes to creating lasting connections with your audience—brand personality.
Personality? Really? Yep.
OK, you’ve heard all about brand, brand voice, brand identity, even brand character...but “brand personality”...what on earth is that? Let’s cover some working definitions real quick so we’re all on the same page:
- Brand: How your company is perceived by the public.
- Branding: The activities undertaken by a company to establish its brand.
- Brand Identity: Logo, font, style, tone, and voice all fall under this category; it’s about creating the feel you want surrounding all of your content on all channels where it appears.
- Brand Personality: Human traits attributed to a company. Quirky? Subdued and subtle? Rugged and outdoorsy? These are all personality traits you can give your company.
It’s that last one we’re talking about today. There are 5 primary personality traits that summarize the majority of companies today: Exciting, Sincere, Rugged, Competent, Sophisticated. Which are you? That’s the question today’s piece is intended to help you answer.
Defining Your Startup’s Brand Personality
There’s no easy way to say this, but in the early days, your startup’s personality is going to be your personality. You’re the creative mastermind behind your company, your product/service, and all hiring is going to go through you as well, so even the team will display your personality to an extent. Your employee value proposition (EVP)? Yep, that’s going to reflect your values, mission, and the culture you want to create at your startup.
So in truth, the first step to developing your brand personality is to do some soul searching. Developing and documenting these traits early on can prove to be a game-changer as you grow and increase your workforce, expand your product line, and so on. You’ll have a sense of who your company is, so it’s that much easier to ensure the decisions you make line up with that image and come across in your content and communications.
Do you have a social media presence? Have your marketing people (or a good friend if you are the marketing person) do a social media audit of your accounts. Don’t tell them what you’re looking for, just tell them to read through your timelines and compile a list of words that come to mind. Bonus points if you can do this with multiple people or groups of people, think of it as the focus group stage of a marketing campaign. But it’s all about you, so I hope you have a thick skin, just in case.
Take Advantage of Internal Resources
When we say that, it’s generally in reference to your employees, company assets, etc. This time it means more than that. Your resources include yourself, your inner circle of founders, investors, employees, product designs, existing online presence, the PR you’ve sent out in the run-up to launch, and just about everything else you can think of that relates to your company. Look especially hard at your EVP. What are you offering people when they come on board? This includes the tangibles like a 401k and health care coverage, but it also includes the intangibles like office culture and work-life balance and will give you a great deal of information about your brand personality.
If you’re unsure of any of these aspects, ask your inner circle. What drew them to your company? What’s made them stick around through the ups and downs of initial funding rounds and late-night code sprints?
Product Personality Matters, Too
Describe your product as though it was a friend you were describing to another friend to see if they might want to go out on a date. Then ask your designers, developers, sales team, and executive assistants to do the same. And if you’re a service consultancy or the like, then ask for anonymized descriptions of your consultants and what makes them stand out from the crowd.
The idea is to gain deeper insight into the personality of your product. By this point you should have quite an impressive list of descriptors; of you, of your team, of your company culture, your online presence, and your product. It’s time to put all this together into a brand personality for your new startup.
Designing the Brand Personality You Want for Your Startup
The easiest way to go through this is going to involve the use of a hypothetical startup with a theoretical product. So, meet Get Unlost, LLC. This exciting new startup, based in Boulder, Colorado, has developed an app that promises to keep you on track when you’re looking for that Vanlife Glamping Spot you read about/saw on Instagram.
They’re doing this with a combination of GPS and crowdsourced directions from an active community of Vanlifers that have been following the founder’s exploits on social media since he started his adventures 4 years ago (also where the first round of funding came from via a crowdfunding campaign).
Here’s the final list of traits the team compiled over the last 2 weeks of sitdown brainstorming sessions (these cover the founder, company culture, product, etc):
- Needs a shower
- Nice Van!
Yes, we realize some of those aren’t really personality traits, but they do say a lot about the team who thought them up, so they’re perfect for our needs. From this list, the team can start to nail down the personality of their company, and from there their brand as a whole. We would say they fall into a combination of two of the five categories we listed earlier, Sophisticated and Rugged.
Combining that with the fact that the founder is a known face at campsites everywhere, and has an established social media following who love him for his sarcastic affability, and you’ve got it. Now all Get Unlost has to do is document this personality so anyone joining the team can get up to speed on the tone, style, and voice they want to be used in all content and communication and they’re good to go. The mix of sophisticated ruggedness and community focus of the team AND the product will serve them well going forward.
People who resonate with their aesthetic will jump on board and help launch the app among the dedicated vanlife community, and from there it will spread organically through their networks. For a startup like this, tapping into this sort of pre-existing community is the ultimate expression of a successful brand personality.
Now it's your turn. There's no time like the present to determine your brand's personality.
We've put together a helpful guide for branding across social media. You can get it for free by clicking below. It may be a good way to get you thinking along these branding personality lines.