You're probably wondering why a tech brand decides to use a bitten apple as a logo or why Coca-cola hasn't changed its typography. A brand logo and the rest of the brand's style guide tell many things. They may tell a story of how their company was founded.
They may want to say that their colors represent the industry or the company's beliefs. Or maybe, the founder just liked the fruit so much that they used it as a logo. How a brand came into being varies from company to company, but they all present a common trait - it has to be unique.
But being unique is something expected in brand identity. In today's competitive market, there must be something inherent in the brand that customers can connect to emotionally, forming deeper connections with the brand.
What Are Brand Attributes?
Brand attributes are a set of characteristics that personifies the brand. Essentially, it answers, 'What is the first thing you think about the brand based on what it looks, sounds,and feels like?' Brand attributes can be asserted by the company's branding team as a set of personalities and traits that best align with the company values, like being trustworthy and innovative, also known as soft brand attributes.
But brand attributes are also directly seen and heard, such as brand assets like the logo, the brand name, and color palettes.
But brand attributes can also be organically developed, from the target audience's perspective, whether intentionally or not. For example, color psychology is a study of how colors affect human behaviors and emotions and thus affect the perspective of objects.
A common example is blue, which evokes a sense of calm, and black for exclusivity and luxury. But how colors evoke emotions varies from person to person, not to mention that culture, region, and personal opinion also affect how we perceive color.
This is why blue doesn't always mean calm to everyone and dissonance between the hard brand attributes and intended soft brand attributes will alienate the target audience.
That is where the brand building comes in.
Brand Personality vs. Brand Attributes
Defining brand attributes as the personification of the brand identity, one would think if we compare brand attributes with brand personality, they would look similar. On the surface level, they do, but what makes them distinct from each other is their purpose in their purpose.
Brand personality is the set of characteristics that embodies a brand should it be imagined as a person. That is, it is the personality in how it interacts, speaks, and treats its target audience.
Brand attributes are the characteristics people might think of a brand without looking into their products or services.
Why Are Brand Attributes Important?
The importance of brand attributes doesn't come from how it affects the brand recognition from its target audience, but more so that it isn't just developed solely by the company's branding team, specifically on the soft brand attributes. Mostly, what matters is how the audience perceives the brand, no matter how the marketing team wants to convey it.
For example, a common branding symbol for healthcare or life science-related industries is the caduceus - the twin snake want or the cross, as both already have a history of representing medicine.
A branding team may decide to use a skull for a healthcare institute as a brand for reasons like it is a biological symbol, but a skull has a symbol that has always been used officially as a threat warning, poisonous object, or death.
Another example is how we have always associated colors with things. Blue tends to be for boys, and pink is for girls, and while our understanding of how we associate colors is becoming increasingly challenged and undermined, it would understandably feel off to put pink on things marketed for men, like trucks and sportswear.
For the record, it is appreciated that branding teams challenge these norms, but doing so should start with good research.
Key Brand Attributes to Have
Brand attributes can be developed and visualized in a myriad of ways, and it depends mainly on the insights gained from understanding the company's core values and target market research, but the following brand attributes are essential in most brands, whatever the size, industry, and niche:
One of the brand's key purposes is to make a deeper connection with the target audience, which goes beyond just customers buying their product. Branding teams assess the relevance of the brand logo symbols and color palettes to the industry and the niche that they are targeting.
For example, old luxury fashion brands often use their founder's name as this was a common brand identity for 19th and 20th-century brands that are still active and popular, in cases like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Their dominating reputation in the past decades wouldn't make it necessary for them to make a more creative brand name.
But making a brand name out of a founder's name isn't as viable as it was, as it would only feel pretentious or simply narcissistic nowadays unless the name has already gained its fame.
Another example is the dissonance between using a skull for healthcare-related brands.
Arguably, uniqueness is the most important brand attribute a brand should have, as one of the primary goals of any brand building is to stand out against the competitors possible. Brand assets should be recognizable at first glance and should be the first thing that appears in someone's mind should a person think of a product or service to purchase.
For example, when Nokia was still leading the market, mobile phones varied so much in size and shape. There are flip phones, phones with a QWERTY keyboard, and mobile phones with nine keyboard buttons. Innovations in the product, in features such as email, camera, and music player, vary a lot. Nowadays, the standard design of smartphones is a flat brick of all touch-screen displays and cameras at the back and front and a USB charger.
In a mainly similar product design, one would ask where brands would differentiate from each other. Some brands offer more innovative technology for premium prices; others provide budget phones with scaled-down features. Some offer sustainability, and some offer exclusivity.
Essentially, in a competitive market where the products that are marketed are essentially the same, brands have been exploring ways to build their brand beyond just the products themselves.
Change is consistent, and brand-building is no exception. But despite the need to adapt to ever-evolving marketing, brand identity must still be consistent with its core values.
It is admirable for a brand to explore new ways to interpret its brand purpose or simply want to rebrand everything. But consistency should still be the priority in any overhauling projects of the branding team.
For example, Elon Musk recently rebranded Twitter into simply called X and abruptly destroyed any brand recognition the social media platform had all over the years. The scope of the change comes negatively on facts like the word 'tweet' and 'retweet' has become recognized automatically in English-speaking vocabularies.
Moreover, the tonal difference between the two brand attributes, the previous one exudes being casual, friendly, and simple, into something that seems to resonate as something techy and unconventional (it mainly comes from the reputation of 'X' and its uses throughout history, technology, pop culture, as well as its association to NSFW sites).
This rebranding has caused alienation among its users, particularly those who scroll just to pass the time.
When someone says which Android smartphone is the best, despite not knowing much about their products and simply about their brand, many people point to established brands like Samsung rather than rising tech companies like Tecno. When someone asks why despite the dominating reputation of Nokia in the first decade of the 21st century, they are still struggling in the smartphone market, they point to their lack of innovation. When someone asks why the Nothing smartphone brand had already gained significant interest and recognition despite being founded in 2020, it has something to do with Carl Pei's reputation, who was once a co-founder of the OnePlus brand.
The examples mentioned point to one of the hardest brand attributes to maintain: brand credibility. Brand credibility is closely tied to the product's quality and satisfaction it gives to its audience and the one that is mainly developed organically - thus, what makes it difficult.
But brand credibility can also come in other aspects of the company, like the quality of customer service, the brand interaction with its audience, and how transparent a brand is willing to gather audience feedback and improve as a company.
What are Some Good Brand Attributes Examples?
You might get stuck with coming up with fitting brand attributes, especially on balancing out what you think best represents your brand and your target audience, as it's often the case that these two factors clash against each other. So it is a good start that you are aware of what kind of industry you have and what market you wish to get opportunities from. Here are some well-known brands that you can get inspiration from on how they present their brand attributes:
The well-known sports brand has always frontlined a messaging that exudes to dare its audience to take challenges and make this statement integrated throughout their campaigns and into their products and their brand.
Though the 'challenges' are often broad and vague in a sense, the sense of activeness in the essence of similar phrases like 'taking a leap' or 'moving forward' has the sense that it is active, unstoppable, and empowering - hallmark characteristics in sports activities.
Skin care product packaging varies, but the common elements are either natural ingredients or celebrities. The former promises a product that is natural and organic, and the other promises that users will achieve the same beauty as the celebrity.
Nivea's packaging, in its positioning as simply to take care of the skin, doesn't present the mentioned elements that much, as they want to present a direct and honest approach to market their products, gaining trustworthiness from their customers
The bitten apple in the leading global tech brand logo has many stories. One was its conception of how an apple inspired Isaac Newton to understand gravity. Another was its association with Alan Turing, particularly his death by cyanide-laced apple.
But the modern take was Apple as a symbol of simplicity, and how a once-unapproachable technology that is computers became more accessible to people, as is Apple's mission.
How to Set Brand Attributes Effectively?
Identify Your Core Values
To define brand attributes, you need to make sure that the company's core values are clear and make a direct statement to the public. There are three types of core values to define: Brand Mission, Brand Vision, and Brand Values.
1. Brand Mission explains your business's existence and what makes it stand out. In our example, Nivea's mission is to provide a skincare brand that doesn't promise beauty but only wishes to care for the customer's skin.
2. Brand Vision should outline your company's future and long-term goals. Apple's vision is to provide a product that is user-friendly and a brand that everyone trusts.
3. Brand Values are the standards you uphold to remain true to your brand mission and vision.
Branding teams often look into the company's origin and see where they could find inspiration for the company's core values. Usually, a company exists to fill a niche, which even the founders wanted to solve for themselves.
For example, a business owner wishes for a cheaper alternative for eyeglasses after having experienced not being able to afford one when they were younger.
Core values from experience make it more relatable, and brand attributes can be organically developed more easily.
Keep in mind that consistency is key to avoid alienating your audience, but you should also be willing to adapt and grow as a business to meet changing needs and trends. Let your market know you are committed to your core values and willing to evolve to stay true to them.
Identify Your Target Audience
Developing brand attributes should also begin with thorough research and identifying your target audience. This allows you to focus your marketing efforts on customers who will most likely stay loyal to your brand and provide a significant return on investment.
Developing a customer persona can help you further refine your target audience by identifying their demographics, interests, purchasing power, lifestyle, and major concerns.
In our example of a cheap eyeglass brand, the company can create a customer persona akin to a business owner: someone who desperately needs an eyeglass to live normally but can't afford to have one.
Understanding why they choose your brand over others can help you differentiate your branding efforts. In our example, the reading glass is cheaper but doesn't compromise quality.
Remember that you can have multiple customer persona, but it is critical to focus on a customer segment that will most likely purchase your product.
Connect Attributes to Brand Assets
Soft and hard brand attributes should come harmoniously so that they would translate seamlessly into the customer's perspective. This is why the previous steps, identifying the core values and target audience research, are important.
In our example, having a brand visual aesthetic that tells the customers that the product is cheap wouldn't go so well. Color palettes that are soft and calming, like blue, green, and gray, give a sense of trustworthiness and quality, as opposed to flashy saturated colors for consumer-minded brands or black and gold for luxury brands.
Having lightly edited but high-quality images also helps, as it conveys authenticity and a sense of simplicity, which the latter is often associated with affordability. Finally, as the product is brought up to the world to solve a very real consumer's problem, having a customer-centered approach gives a sense of relatability.
Developing strong brand attributes isn't just a one-time project, as changes are necessary for the brand to grow. Moreover, the customer's perspective of the brand's attributes also changes so it is important that how a brand is viewed must be consistent with the core values and must align with the appeal to the target audience.
And thus, it needs to be constantly developed and monitored, which is tedious.
If you are stuck if your brand attributes building, let us know how Evolv can help you figure it out. We are a team of branding experts backed with experience working with many brands, big and small, established, and startups, and we can help you lead your industry with a strong brand that leaves a lasting impression on your audience.
You can also check out our blog page to learn more about brand-building.