There are two sides to every company persona: an internal one and an external one. For most businesses, the clearest example of its internal character is its core values—the things that it strives for and makes employees excited to work towards. Externally, you can see a brand’s personality in how it presents itself to the world through its brand design (how it looks) and its brand messaging (how it talks.)
As our creative director, Cherry Lao, sometimes says, “Core values show me who you are as a person. Brand personality shows me what you like to wear and how you like to make people feel.” In an ideal world, you want a company’s internal and external personas to complement and make sense together. Why? Well, let’s start at the beginning.
You might be wondering why core values and a brand personality matter so much in the first place—let alone why they need to align. For starters, these two things give you an honest sense of what your company is about. In order to succeed and grow, a business must understand who it is. Only then can they offer the best version of itself to customers.
This understanding begins with the core values. A business needs to know what it stands for. If you’re not sure what your company’s core values are, don’t worry—it’s not difficult to discover them. Start with some key questions. What qualities motivate the business? Why do you get up and create every day? What problem(s) are you trying to solve? What are the best values of our top employees? Ask these questions to yourself, to the founder, to the internal team. Assess what people are saying and what is a common theme. There you’ll find your core values.
Next up is your brand personality. This is all about your external perception: How you want customers to remember you and how you stand out. To gain insight into your current brand personality, ask a new round of questions. Ask customers, employees and suppliers what type of animal they imagine the brand is? Or, if the brand was an actor or actress, who would it be? How about a car? A city? A character?
From there, Cherry suggests, “I like to encourage people to think about their experiences and the places they like to visit. What bars or hotels do they find memorable? What experiences have they had that enliven all five senses?” These questions get people thinking about what inspires them and shifts their perspective to the possibilities of what a brand identity can make someone feel like (happy, hopeful, excited, inspired.) When you’re in this frame of mind, it’s easier to understand how your brand makes people feel.
Bringing the two together
Now let’s take a look at what happens when the core values and brand personality are a mismatch. It’s probably simplest to see it in an example. Imagine a company that has a core value of “Making the world a friendlier place.” But their customer service team is known for being unhelpful and borderline rude. You can see how this creates friction both within a company and for customers. Fundamentally, it’s confusing and makes a brand identity feel less credible. It creates a sensation of falsehood and doesn’t give employees and customers a reason to be loyal.
We should pause for a moment and say that the core values and brand personality don’t need to be exactly the same. Returning to our example, it’s not that the company needs to state explicitly in brand marketing, “We’re here to make the world a friendlier place.” (In fact, they probably shouldn’t say that because it feels heavy-handed and probably loftier than the product.) No, instead, the feeling of the brand design should put people in a happy, light, friendly mood. So while the internal and external experiences are different, they still feel complementary and understandable.
This is important because when your core values and brand personality do match up, communications and brand marketing become far less complicated. When you know what your company stands for through and through, it’s clear what your brand story is, how you should look, and what you should say. Your brand identity gains something truly immeasurable: Authenticity. Things become consistent, efficient, and transparent. Employees will get your company and what they’re working for. Customers will get the brand and what feeling they’re buying into. Ultimately, this is how you build brand affinity and loyalty.
This is why taking the time to define your core values and brand personality is worth it. Get them clear and concise and then make sure they’re the two sides of the same coin. As a creative branding agency, we’ve seen it a thousand times—once these characteristics are settled, a brand becomes sharper, more inspiring, and easier to feel attached to.
Parting thought for the day…
“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” – Alexander Hamilton