Defining brand character

Determining your brand character and putting into action is incredibly exciting and invigorating for everyone invested in your organization.

Written BY

Sarah Obenauer

Sarah is the Co-founder of Purpose Craft. She runs Make a Mark, 12-hour design and development marathons benefitting local humanitarian causes. She also publishes Limitless, built to create a community of women surviving and thriving with Rheumatoid Arthritis. She has been working with nonprofits and purpose-driven organizations and businesses for nearly a decade.

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October 29, 2020

Brand character is something that is often lost or forgotten. It is easy to dismiss it when you’re fighting to improve your community or getting your organization off the ground, but your brand character is what will help you stick out.

Brand character is the humanlike attributes and qualities that give your organization its unique personality. Having a defined character makes it easy to land on decisions regarding language and aesthetic.

You may remember Womxn Rank from our lesson on Rebrand vs. Refresh. We worked with Kari Hodges and her team at the 2018 New York City Make-a-Thon. They are a social enterprise building a platform for women to anonymously report on sexism, assault, rape, and harassment. They have started an app where women can create a community to ask for help, offer support, and keep each other informed about safety and inclusion, with an emphasis on college campuses and in the workplace.

Their rebrand process began by getting to know Kari and her organization. When we started discussing brand character, we received my all-time favorite, and incredibly authentic response from Kari.

Designer: Who is Womxn Rank at a party?

Kari: Confident, happy, trusting, probably hosting the damn thing & wearing a dope outfit.

Kari didn’t realize it at the time, but she was very clearly starting to define her organization’s character. Her team of makers took this and ran with it to create an entirely new and energized brand that was a perfect fit for Womxn Rank.

Developing your organization’s character requires you to take a step back and think of it as a person. One common mistake when defining brand character is thinking about your audience instead of the organization as a person. Make sure you’re aware of this potential pitfall so you can avoid it.

Consider the questions below to navigate your organization’s character. Remember that the questions below refer to your organization if it was a person, and not you as an individual or your audience members.

Sample character questions:

  • If you met him/her/they at a party, what is he/she/they like?
  • At this party, what is he/she/they wearing?
  • Where would he/she/they sit in a room, toward the front or toward the back?
  • What does he/she/they do on the weekend?
  • Where does he/she/they prefer to travel?
  • If he/she/they were a car, what kind of car would he/she/they be? Sporty, practical, etc.

You can continue to elaborate on these questions and add your own. Once you’re done, give the person a name and keep their information readily available so you can refer to it when planning your communication strategy.

Character Workshop

Download the free Character Workshop. This  digital workshop guide will walk you through leading an exercise (virtual or in-person) to determine your brand's character.

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