brand attributes artwork This previously published post is the eighth and final in our series using our workbook Developing Your Nonprofit Brand. Since October 2019 we’ve been posting a new blog every two weeks to help you follow along with the exercises. If you’re late to our branding party, download it now and very quickly you’ll be on your way to having more impact in 2020.

Just getting started? Begin here.


We’re in the final step of the workbook: pages 18–21. 

Brand Personality Attributes

or How to improve your creative projects with 5 little words

Do your organization’s marketing materials and content look like they could be from any other similar group or business? Do you struggle to give direction to your creative team partners? Clear direction enables creative professionals like graphic designers, content writers, and photographers the ability to create something that looks and sounds like it could only come from your organization or business.

5 Little Words That Matter for a Strong Brand

Having 5 brand attributes will help solve the problem of being indistinguishable. What exactly are brand personality attributes? Think of your brand as a person, what traits does it have? Is your brand Funny? Serious? Passionate? Sincere? Empathetic? These are the words which will inform the creation of your communication pieces. Specifically, your copy, images, layout and design for all of your content should be integrated to reflect the words you’ve chosen. If you’re consistent in using the attributes, all your materials and media will portray your brand’s personality.

How Do Brand Personality Attributes Fit into Your Big Picture?

Let’s quickly review so that when you are thinking about your attributes they align with your statements:

  • Mission statements are about why you exist and what you do.
  • Vision statements are aspirational and define a problem you wish to solve.
  • Value statements are about what you believe, and describe how you conduct yourself.
How Brand is Manifested Graphic

These make up the core of who you are as an organization. Outside this core, is positioning.

  • Brand Positioning is differentiation, which is about gaining a competitive advantage in a stakeholder’s mind. It’s also known as your “unique selling proposition” which answers the question of how you are different from everyone else.

Finally in the last ring, is Brand Personality.

  • Brand Personality is how you’re perceived by the outside world and that’s why it’s the outer circle. Attributes are simply the the set of human characteristics that are attributed to your brand.

3 Simple Steps to Determining Brand Personality Attributes

 We’ve talked about the why, now it’s time to get to the “how.” The first step in determining brand personality attributes is simply generating a list of words. In addition, take these steps:

  1.  Brainstorm in person with a diverse group of people.
  2. Audit your materials. Collect every piece of communication you can: invitations, brochures, datasheets, memos, news stories, etc. Lay them all out and highlight words that sound like a personality attribute. Look at them as a whole—what do the materials suggest?
  3. Audit your competitors’ materials. What do you think their brand personality attributes might be? Write them down and create a chart. This will be important later when you are determining your own as your goal is to be unique and therefore more memorable.

The goal is to select the 5 best words that are authentic, realistic, unique to your organization. While it’s ok to be aspirational, they should be accurate. Taken all together is the set of words distinctive? Remember that your set of attributes describes only your organization, not any other group.

Your 5 Brand Personality Attributes and How to Use Them

When you write a creative brief or work order for creative work, be sure to include your brand personality attributes. You want these to be considered along with your primary message for the piece—whatever that might be.

  • Content Creation What is the purpose and vehicle for the message for this audience? A video, a tweet, a print brochure?
  • Art Direction and Photo-Editing Commissioning photography or searching stock images
  • Copy Tone Casual, formal?
  • Design Puts it all together

Your brand personality attributes help inform creative choices. They provide the direction. Check out our example in the image to see how we used attributes to guide us in developing a new identity for our client. Arrow before brand personality attributesArrow after brand personality attributes

In the new logo for our client not only do the brand attributes give direction when beginning a project, they also serve to help evaluate the proposed work. So we ask, does this piece convey “creative, strategic, community-oriented, experts, and approachable?” These attributes also come through well in the tagline “Complex Questions. Straight Answers.”

Selecting brand personality attributes is just one step in implementing a brand strategy that will build a stronger brand. If you take this step I guarantee your creative partners will thank you for it and will reward you with better, more effective creative.