By Matt Yow

One basic thesis is to build brand identities with imbued personality rather than risk them being inherited via consumer experience.


In other words, intentionally ascribe personification to brand identities. This idea surely blurs the line between marketing/advertising and basic visual brand identity design, but infusing personality is an important component of visual brand element creation.

Personality is everything in art and poetry.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Can you hear me now?

Consider Verizon, a multibillion dollar communications monstrosity with very little personality. My own perspective of the brand name connotes [negative] values like ‘tax dodging’ and ‘money hoarding,’ instead of [preferred] values like ‘customer focused’ or ‘service oriented’. The latter haven’t been communicated sufficiently in their brand aura. Case in point, the only face I can associate with the company is the “Can you hear me now?” guy, probably not the best flavor in the consumer’s mouth. (And, for the record, I use Verizon.) As another example, the United States Postal Service (USPS) puts forth little to no effort to create a positive personality or persona and therefore has assumed a negative don’t know, don’t care attitude. Lost your mail? Don’t know. Crushed package? Don’t care. (Generally, however, the USPS is reliable.)

Just do it.

On the other hand, Apple — yeah, Apple — has great personality. There are faces to the brand: Steve Jobs (RIP), Jony Ive, Craig Federighi, and Tim Cook, most notably. These people have faces, voices, and personalities with whom their customers/end users can relate. Apple has built a personal flair into their brand identity perception. Their product sells without excessive advertising or belligerent marketing. A brand name like Nike has a distinguished personality: intense, inspirational, audacious, even a bit in-your-face, despite not having a real face. (Er, does Phil Knight count?) I guess Nike is pushing their endorsed athletes — Dwayne Wade, Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods, etc. — to take center stage as the face(s) of Nike. Coca-Cola sells their brand experience through a product that rarely disappoints its allegiant customer base. This makes me wonder how much easier and efficiently brands with products to resonate over brands for services. (As listed in my examples.)

Here is a Brand New link to Evidently’s recent rebrand. This is an excellent example of using a handful of characters as means of creating a personality and communication. This is their story.


Globally, nations carry this sort of human disposition as well. Uncle Sam, Lady Liberty, John Bull, and Marianne represent countries. Bald eagles, dragons, bulldogs, and bears also represent countries (and sports teams). Freddie, MailChimp’s mascot, is a well-designed vehicle of personality and positivity. There is no limit to the direct relationship between the personality and the brand identity. The brand identity can be as closely or loosely tied to personality as necessary, there is no absolute in this context.

Consider also the brand identity inherent in stature, attire, taste, quirks, preferences, friends — anything and everything. If the brand name were human, what would they listen to? Where is their favorite restaurant? Would the brand read periodicals like Bloomberg Businessweek or Seventeen? You get the idea.

I try to build a full personality for each of our cartoon characters — to make them personalities.

Walt Disney

Of course, as a disclaimer, persona and solid design is not always indicative of intention or motive. Lance Armstrong, Martha Stewart, and Paula Deen (to name a few) all have great design standards and great personas while walking into legal and critical controversy.

Your turn. What do you think? Is this idea waxing too conceptual? Does it help answer questions that define brand characteristics?