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Branding with Character

You know it when you see it. There are some brands that just spark something when you encounter them. Brands that immediately draw you in, conjure pleasant memories, or inspire you to take action. Then there are brands that… don’t. Why do some brands feel like trustworthy friends while others feel like used car salesmen? The answer is found in the brand’s character. And while the answer is simple, creating a brand that has that compelling personality can be a bit more of a challenge.

When it comes to making purchase decisions, many of us like to think of ourselves as cold and calculating, carefully weighing information about price, features and durability that will result in the optimal return for our hard-earned cash. But studies out of the Harvard Business School paint a very different picture. In fact, Professor Gerald Zaltman says that as much as 95% of the purchase decision-making process occurs subconsciously. Intuition, gut feelings, and emotion are driving sales, not logical calculations. If this is the case, then why is so much of our marketing based on square footage, taste tests, and miles per gallon? It’s often easier to throw out the numbers and hope something sticks. But the science suggests that creating a brand that appeals to emotion, not logic, will be more effective in driving sales. So, let’s talk about branding with character.

Components of Brand Character

A brand with a distinct character has three foundational traits: valuable, memorable, and authentic.


Being valuable is the trait that is easiest to wrap our heads around. Obviously, we need to provide something that the consumer wants. But while it’s tempting to focus solely on surface-level attributes, brands should look deeper at the type of value they can provide consumers. Certain offerings can signal a particular lifestyle. It’s easy to picture the type of person who rides a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. If someone wants to associate with that lifestyle, then there are simply no alternatives. Other brands provide emotional value. This is often deployed by insurance companies selling “peace of mind” rather than just money in case of emergency. Brands can also conjure nostalgic feelings of simpler, better times. A factor that was undoubtedly considered in the recent Burger King rebrand that features a logo that is nearly identical to a mark that first debuted in the 60’s. Digging to the heart of what a brand provides will lead to messages that resonate deeper with your audience.


A memorable brand acquires a specific spot in the consumer’s mind. This is accomplished through attention-grabbing details and a succinct message. A brand trying to be everything to everyone will blend in with all the noise. But staking your claim to a specific position in a unique way will help your brand be top of mind. Despite producing nearly identical products as a litany of manufacturers, when you ask someone what company produces high-performance sports apparel, they’ll almost always answer Nike. Through striking visuals and the simplified message of “Just do it” Nike has built a brand that is synonymous with being an athlete. When a brand’s message resonates with its target audience and the company is intentional in reinforcing that message, it will prove to be much more memorable than the average marketing ploy.


Consumers can smell an inauthentic brand from a mile away. It’s important to define a mission and values that align with your product and then build infrastructure around your brand to support them. Sitting atop Business Insider’s Authenticity Index is Disney. It may be a bit unintuitive to say a company whose business model relies on fabricating entire worlds is “authentic,” however, Disneyland calls itself the “happiest place on Earth” and delivers on that promise in every facet of its operations. From the environments they create to the training they implement to the type of people they hire, every decision big or small is in support of spreading joy. Taking a deep look at yourself, clearly defining who you are, and then staying true to those core beliefs leads to an authentic brand.

Bringing Your Brand’s Character to Life

Now that you know what type of character you want to express, the question becomes how you express it. Building a brand’s personality is an ongoing exercise that requires buy-in from the entire organization, but there are several foundational building blocks that help to set you in the right direction such as color, typography, imagery, and voice.


Numerous studies have been conducted on the effect color has on our emotions in contexts ranging from general perceptions to corporate identities. And what they all tend to find is that color has a particularly strong influence on human perception, preference, and psychology. So whether you’re trying to use blue to project confidence or yellow to convey optimism, it’s critical for brands to thoughtfully consider what they’re trying to say with their color choices. Before a consumer ever notices a logo or reads a tagline, their perception of a brand begins to form as soon as a color hits their eyes.


Much like color, typography can subtly shape perceptions at just a glance. When it comes to conveying character through type, certain details within letterforms offer particularly rich opportunities. Letters with more curvature such as a G, C or O lend themselves to having a more charismatic aesthetic. Crossbars can be manipulated just a small amount to give immensely different feelings. Small customizations can make fonts more recognizable and offer a proprietary means of expressing the character of your brand. In the hands of a talented designer, the possibilities for crafting a distinct persona through type are endless.


Setting standards for what you want to communicate through your imagery is another important means of building the character of your brand. Photography can help your target audience see themselves represented. Illustration style can project everything from a sophisticated sensibility to youthful enthusiasm. Videos, icons, charts, infographics – all of these visuals contribute to shaping the character of your brand and are an opportunity for another level of unspoken communication with your audience.


Lastly, a brand’s character can effectively be expressed through tone of voice. From taglines to website copy, brochures to social media posts, every word emanating from your company is an opportunity to cultivate your personality. Positioning your company as a friendly neighbor or trusted advisor can often be most tangibly established through how you speak. Establishing the tone you want to convey and the messages you want to deliver upfront will help ensure the consistency necessary to cultivate brand equity.

Case Study: The Upton

A new multifamily development located along Located on Englewood Ave in Atlanta, The Upton is a multifamily development brimming with personality potential. Sitting atop a hill, located within a unique neighborhood and envisioning a distinct atmosphere created through the interiors and amenities, this was anything but your typical apartment.

Starting with naming, we wanted to accentuate the property’s raised topography, its highly amenitized rooftop and the sweeping skyline views. The Upton was chosen to nod to this elevated lifestyle with the word “up” while also conveying a residential feeling.

The mark itself features a distinct typeface to grab attention, a rising slant to further embed the uplifting nature of the community and linking elements that speak to the site’s location con the Atlanta Beltline which will connect this project to the rest of the city.

The Uptown Englewood

The full visual identity truly brings the brand’s playful character to life through lively colors and hand-drawn elements that include a mountain goat mascot, a hot air balloon, and an upward-pointing hand to carry forward the brand promise of being your mode for moving up.

The Uptown Englewood

Each detail of the brand was carefully selected to highlight inherent qualities of the project. With a visually striking identity that reinforces a clear, consistent message, a distinct character emerges that can grab a potential tenant’s attention. Being able to ingrain the message of offering a truly elevated lifestyle in such a crowded market is crucial for this development. Having a memorable, personality-driven brand will give them an immense head start.