Just like a person has key characteristics which reflect their personality, so too do brands.
These key characteristics are referred to as 'brand attributes'. They are qualities and features which are inherent parts of your brand. It is really important to have a handle on your brand attributes - particularly if you want an authentic brand.
Key characteristics for a person are often a blend of visual features, verbal nuances, traits and behaviour. They reflect your personality and distinguish you as an individual.
In a person it visually might be a big nose and high cheekbones, or bushy eyebrows and long eyelashes (reading back on this sentence, I may have subconsciously just described all mine!) Verbally it could be the slight lisp when speaking or the raspy tone of your voice. A key characteristic could also be the way you pronounce a certain word, or the beautiful rich sound of your accent. Each of these distinguish you and are key characteristics someone else would use to describe you.
Traits and behaviour examples are things like how much you worry about things (or if you worry at all); how serious you take life; or if you are a clean freak who hates having dirty hands and everything must be in its right place for there to be order in the world (now I am definitely not speaking about me).
It is the same for brands. Your brand attributes are key visual features, the tone and voice of your brand and the common behaviour your brand displays. Key characteristics of your brand are inherent - they are distinctive to your brand and all attributes combined distinguish your brand from others.
Visual attribute examples for brands are things like a clever and memorable logo or, at the other end of the scale, an inappropriate or really ugly logo. How consistent a brand is visually represented, both in terms of logo and other supportive graphic elements, is another example of a possible key characteristic.
Verbal brand attribute examples are things like the language your brand uses - how loose you are with grammar in your billboards, common words your brand uses in communications and advertising, or perhaps how wordy you are on your website. The tone may also be a brand characteristic if it is always official or always relaxed.
Examples of traits and behaviour that make up a brand's key characteristics are things like your brand always being the first to market with something new or clever, or being outspoken about a particular issue, or if your brand is strongly opinionated.
I love the brand VinoMofo - an online wine sales company that distinguishes itself from the rest with its sense of humour. If you haven't discovered it before now, your life is about to change - for the better. VinoMofo makes buying wine fun (alright, it was fun already but they make it extra fun). A key visual characteristic of this brand is the imagery they use - everyone is having a really good time in their photos, everyone is laughing (and drinking wine at the same time, without spilling any - masterful). Key verbal characteristics are the laid back and everyday language they use - like they are one of your mates - and the humour weaved into what they are saying.
And welcome to the most epic wine site on the planet, if we do say so ourselves. And we do, I suppose, since it’s our slogan. Awkward.
Their brazen self love and self affirmation is a behaviour trait that is definitely a key brand attribute for this company. Particularly the way they express it - in a fun and disarming manner. They even give themselves a shortened nick name.
No bowties and bollocks at the ‘Fo – we live by our credo to step up, care more, keep it real, do some good and have fun.
VinoMofo is a great example of a brand that knows itself and is true to itself. An authentic brand. And that will be a key reason behind its success.
I have read definitions where brand attributes are explained as the same as brand values. This, in my humble opinion, is not true. Key characteristics are features which are distinctive to you, values are your moral compass. They work together to create the sum of you, but they are very distinctive parts. Let's take VinoMofo as an example. Fun-loving would be a key attribute I associate with this brand. Honesty would be a brand value for this group.
I will go into detail about brand values in my next post, but for now, I am off to check out what wine those Mofos have on offer.