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What’s Your Brand’s Personality?

September 16, 2020


What’s Your Brand’s Personality?

We live in an age of consumers demanding “authenticity” from the companies they work with. We talk about brand identity and higher purposes, about feeling our brands and building relationships.

Is it any surprise, then, that we can also talk about brand personalities? It might seem like a stretch to say a brand has a “personality." But in the age of branded social media feeds, it’s more true than ever before.

Personality is a core piece of brand identity, although the two aren’t exactly the same thing. So, what is your brand’s personality, and how do you figure that out? What does it mean for your brand identity?

Personality vs. Identity

Let’s start by sorting out what we mean when we talk about brand personality versus brand identity. Identity is who we think we are.

Personality, on the other hand, is more about how we present ourselves and how others then perceive us. For example, we might believe we’re a brand that’s focused on warm relationships. Our personality might be bubbly and chipper, or we might be kind and caring.

See the difference? The personality is in the presentation.

Personality Stems from Identity

Our brand identity and our brand personality are intertwined. If our brand is super sophisticated, then being quirky, fun, and down-to-earth doesn't reflect that identity.

Our personality comes out of our identity. Let’s look at Tim Horton’s and Starbucks.

Starbucks has a brand identity as elevating coffee. At their core, they’ve always been about serving better coffee or stronger coffee or more authentic coffee. When the company started out in the 1970s, its aim was to emulate Italian coffee culture.

The Starbucks brand identity, then, is rooted in being a bit more sophisticated. It’s a little more exciting. It aims to bring culture and even something a little bit exotic to a drink that most Americans see as functional.

So, how does this translate into the Starbucks personality? They definitely present themselves as being a bit more upscale and focused on the consumer. You can walk into Starbucks and get your “handcrafted” drink made your way. They also present themselves as innovative.

So the Starbucks personality is modern and maybe a bit eccentric. But it’s also a bit more artsy or sophisticated, while still being individual.

Now let’s look at Canadian icon Tim Hortons. This coffee shop and donut chain has been around since the 1960s. It was started by Toronto Maple Leafs star Tim Horton. It emulates other coffee-and-donut shops like Dunkin’ Donuts in the US.

This is not an upscale coffee shop focused on bringing “coffee culture” and “handcrafted drinks” to Canadians. Instead, the Tim Hortons identity revolves around the idea of community: average, hard-working Canadians grab their cup of joe. Maybe they bring their kids for a sweet treat or delight the office with surprise Timbits. The chain’s evolution into providing hearty lunch fare also capitalizes on this idea.

So the identity of Tim’s is much more “salt of the Earth” than Starbucks. The personality Tim’s presents, then, is usually down-to-earth, reliable, and friendly. This is a great place to grab a cup of coffee on your way to work or to stop and catch up with an old friend.

Comparing the Two

Let’s take a look at these two side by side:


Starbucks: Identity could be considered an Individual Culture Hub. Personality characteristics might include: sophisticated, innovative, artistic, modern, youthful, exciting.

Tim Hortons: Identity could be considered a Community Meeting Place. Personality characteristics might include: friendly, down-to-earth, warm, hard-working, reliable, classic.

We can see here that the two coffee shops are almost polar opposites in some respects! Tim Hortons banks on their reliability—you know what you’re getting every time you walk into Tim’s. Starbucks is going to surprise (and hopefully delight) you with something innovative or artistic!

Tim’s is going to provide you with the timeless classics. Starbucks is reinventing coffee, creating new drinks, and getting a bit more experimental. Tim Hortons is a taste of your hometown, while Starbucks is bringing you exotic flavours from around the world.

These differences in identity then play into how the brands present themselves, on social media and in the real world. Tim Hortons focuses on helping in their communities and showcases hard-working Canadians. We see hockey moms who are up super early on winter mornings, snowplow drivers who are make sure the roads are safe, farmers who are grow the food we eat.

Starbucks is showcasing their latest creation or their seasonal drink menu. They have “limited edition” drinks that people flock to try. They bring back some favourites, but they also push new.

Tim’s says, “We’ve got your usual ready and waiting,” and Starbucks says, “Come check out our latest creation!”

Determining Brand Personality

We can see how identity influences personality. Now we can think about how we want to present our brands, how they’ll interact with our customers.

If we know our brand identity, we can easily think about personality.

If we’re not sure what our brand identity is, then we might want to think a bit about our brand personality! It can give us clues about who we are—or even who we want to be.

If we’re still not sure about identity or personality, then it’s time to talk to our customers. Ask them how they perceive us and what they think we do. This is often far more accurate than trying to come up with something ourselves. Our customers often know our brands much better than we ourselves do!

Once we have an understanding of our identity and our personality, it becomes easier to see how we’re relating to customers—and how we can meet their expectations and their emotional needs as ourselves.

Building those authentic relationships with our customers is simple when we know our brands inside out.

So start with the why!


Meet Margo…brand visioning & marketing

Margo Jay is a Master Brand Strategist with a career leading globally recognized brands; developing and launching a proven model that maximizes competitive sales potential and consumer appeal. She has built the model to help companies of all sizes. Her Client roster includes entrepreneurs through to Fortune 100 brands: NHL teams, Global QSR brands, CPG brands, Broadcast brands, Agencies, Non Profit brands, Hard goods…this model and process provides competitive advantage in any category.

Complete clarity. Ownable distinct selling proposition. Shared values. Brand Clarity. Brand Focus. Brand Inspiration. Brand Obsession. Unlocking brand potential is what she does.

And it all starts with why!

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