The Unspoken Heroes of Startups: Brand Personality

The Unspoken Heroes of Startups: Brand Personality


branding Personality

Recently, I wrote an article about why branding is one of the underrated heroes of startups. This week’s article is about the importance of having a personality behind that brand.

I view brand personality the same way I view human personality. If your startup is devoid of any human emotion or lacks a sense of humor, your appeal is as good as a sober Barney Gumble.

So what does brand personality mean, anyways?

Brand personality is a set characteristics that define the identity of a startup and how you want people to view you. As in other words, it’s the reason why people like your company.

Take careers, for example: which occupation would be a better conversation starter and be more interesting? An accountant? Or a pornography historian (that’s a actual career by the way!).

Perception is everything.

Brand personality can be expressed in different ways:

-Visually. Don’t think that your fancy looking website is automatically defining your brand personality. It’s the content that matters the most. For example, copywriting. If your startup sells multiple products, you must write product descriptions that match your chosen personality traits. Are you funny? Then write funny descriptions!

-By your employees. Zappos employees perfectly reflect the company’s brand personality: relentlessly helpful and determined providers of happiness.

-By your actions. If you’ve used Lyft before, you will be familiar with the ubiquitous fist bump. Zappos customer service reps go above and beyond to make sure you are happy. 

-Through emotion. This Dirt Devil commercial is one of the best I have ever seen. By taking you on a roller coaster ride of emotions, it perfectly reflects Dirt Devil’s brand personality:

So WHY is it so important to have brand personality?

-Differentiation. There are too many startups trying to do the same thing. People don’t give a shit about your startup. But when they do, you better hold their attention. Brand personality is the only thing that will set you apart. Help make their buying decision much easier by having a great personality.

-Engagement. No one wants to talk to the guy at the bar who’s holding a drink in his hand and awkwardly bobbing his head up and down. But the guy who is blazing the dance floor is bound to get some cuties approaching him.

-Emotion. By eliciting emotional responses from consumers, they feel an affinity for your brand and are more likely to stick with you.

-Virality. No one talks about Clark Kent, but they will rave about Superman. By making people laugh, cry or smile through your brand personality, you become something worth talking about to others.

When a customer sees your company for the first time, they know almost nothing about you. Your first opportunity to win their attention is through your brand. Here are a few other examples of brand personality at its best:


The big pink mustache is just awesome and oozes personality. Do everything in your power to be unforgettable.

Dollar Shave Club:

I loved their first video. If you haven’t seen it yet, you are missing out on some seriously funny ass shit! In a market dominated by Gillette, Michael Dubin was smart enough to do something that would separate himself, using humor.


For every shoe you buy, they donate a pair to someone who needs it. Compassion is their brand personality.

Fortnight Lingerie:

A few years ago, they were a unknown newcomer hiding beneath the shadows of lingerie giants like La Perla and Victoria Secret. But in a stroke of marketing genius they came out with some hysterical and outrageously sexy videos:

Funny. Sexy. These are the personality traits that Fortnight was able to establish right away. Sales immediately spiked and it’s easy to see why.

Rice to Riches:

Tons of brand personality.


You don’t always need funny videos to show your brands personality. Tony Hsieh did it with a strong corporate culture. Have you seen Zappos’ head office? It’s far from being the austere corporate dungeons you see at other companies.

Hsieh defined his company’s personality, then structured all of its actions to match it. This brings us to the next topic:

Does your company, its employees and actions match your chosen brand personality?

Remember Bill Nye the Science Guy on Dancing With The Stars? He was awful. And it wasn’t because he didn’t practice enough – he had no personality. His geeky science brand was a complete mis-step (pun intended) on the dance floor.

Now imagine if Fabio was on the show instead. His brand personality is a better fit for the audience and I have no doubt he would have done better than Nye.

PETA would cease to exist if people found out that its employees ate meat. Kevin Hart would probably suck at selling you life insurance.

If your brand personality does not match your product, there is a huge disconnect that takes place; if you say you are funny, you better be damn sure that you can make people laugh.

Fluevog sells awesome shoes, but their number one selling point is their unique brand of humor. Just look at their “about” page.

I don’t need to tell you how competitive the startup industry is. Your best chances of survival might not end up being your product or price point, but your brand personality. So start making people laugh and cry. Entertain them. Arouse emotions. Measure happiness as the number one metric. Find your spark.

Reprinted by permission.

About the author: Jay Deng

Jay Deng is an angel investor and venture capitalist. He invested in two companies whose exits topped $800 million. He is also the CEO and founder of Diva For Less.

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