The best way to get brand attributes examples and really understand them is by thinking of a party you went to.
You probably went home and thought about all the people at the party, and even talked about it with other people you know who were also there.
“The lady in the pink dress with a hearty laugh”.
“The soft-spoken man who was only drinking whisky on ice”.
So people you meet have certain qualities or characteristics with which you perceive them and remember them later.
It’s the same for brands.
What are brand attributes?
Brand attributes are the core features or characteristics of your brand that makes up its identity. They are what people think of when they hear or see your brand.
Brand attributes can be physical, like color or shape. Or they can be more abstract, like personality or tone of voice.
The top brand attributes make your brand unique and also help your audience to remember it. That is why your brand’s attributes should be aligned with your brand’s target audience and positioning.
You should select brand attributes that support your brand story so you can create a strong and differentiated identity for your small business brand.
Related: The dos and don’ts of building a brand identity
For instance, think of a brand you know and have interacted with. To take a generic brand attribute example, let’s go for Coca-Cola.
When you think of the brand, what do you immediately recall? Like the first few things that they think of?
Here are a few brand characters that come to mind:
• Zero sugar options
• Different and new flavors launched regularly
• Consistent taste
• Pepsi rival
While some of these associations are defined by the brand, some are just perceptions in my head.
Accordingly, there can be 2 kinds of brand attributes. But more on that later. Let’s see why they matter in the first place.
Why are brand attributes important?
Maybe you have never heard of brand attributes before, or have always wondered what they are.
The bigger question is, why do they matter?
1. Create more brand awareness
If you are a small business, and especially a new one, you need people to know about your brand.
Not just that, you also need to be different from your competition and stand out.
Strong brand attributes help to make your brand story more unique so that your audience can know and remember you.
2. Enable better brand recall
No matter how unique you think your product or service is, you are not the only one. There are plenty of other brands with similar offers, and it’s easy to get lost.
That’s where brand attributes come in. They help you create a strong impression in the minds of your audience, which helps them to remember your brand without confusing it with your competition.
3. Encourage more brand engagement
A brand is about emotions. If you want to grow your business, you need people to love your brand and connect with it.
When your audience likes your brand, what it stands for, and how it makes them feel, they engage with your brand more and eventually buy from you.
Your brand attributes make your brand more attractive to your audience and drive more connection and engagement.
4. Drive business growth
While brand attributes don’t directly grow your business, by making your brand unique and attractive, they help your audience to connect with your brand more.
To choose it over your competitors and buy from you. Which means sales.
5. Build brand loyalty
Brand attributes not only help to directly or indirectly get your audience to choose your brand for purchases, but they also encourage your customers to keep buying from you repeatedly.
After all, if they like everything about your brand, like the experience of buying from you, and also like your product/ service, why would they choose a different brand later?
They will stick to you (brand loyalty), and buy from you again and again.
Brand attributes vs brand personality
Humans are not the only ones with personalities, brands have them too!
Brand attributes are the characteristics that consumers associate with a brand, like quality or affordability.
Brand personality refers to the character or nature of a brand, such as a fun or quirky personality, or even a chic and modern demeanor.
The key difference between brand personality and brand attributes is that the key brand attributes consist of many physical and perceived elements, and brand personality is just one of them.
Brand attributes list
Your list of brand attributes contains the characteristics that help your customers perceive your brand as unique and memorable.
So your list of key brand attributes contains two types of brand characteristics:
- Sensory brand attributes
- Subconscious brand attributes
Physical/ Sensory brand attributes
The sensory brand attributes are those that can be perceived with your senses. These are the tangible attributes of a brand that you can see, touch, smell, hear, and taste.
Your sensory brand attributes list includes the following elements:
- Brand imagery
- Brand messaging
- Touch & feel
You should try to make all your individual sensory brand attributes as unique as possible to help you build your competitive positioning.
But that is not always possible.
It is just important that the combination of all your sensory brand attributes is as unique as possible, to help your audience differentiate and recognize your brand.
Psychical/ subconscious brand attributes
Subconscious brand attributes are all about how a brand makes its audience and customers feel. They could be even more important than the sensory brand attributes.
To quote one of my favorite teachers Maya Angelou, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
So essentially, that gut feeling they get when they think about the brand.
While the physical brand attributes make a brand easy to remember physically, it is the subconscious attributes that really drive the feeling and emotion.
And can inspire thoughts like “I will only buy from them” or “let’s see what they have to offer”.
Or in some cases, it could inspire a feeling of “nah, that brand doesn’t get me” or “not in a million years am I buying from them”.
Your sensory brand attributes list includes the following key elements:
- Brand personality
- Brand behavior
- Customer service
- Brand trustworthiness
- Brand values
- Fulfilment of the promise
Let’s look at the complete list of brand attributes in more detail.
1. Brand Imagery
Good brand imagery is one of the top attributes of brand identity that helps your brand or product to be recognized and remembered.
The most important brand image attributes are:
- Brand color palette
- Logo and typography
- Design elements unique to your brand
1.1. Brand color palette
Color is one of the most important attributes of your brand: it helps increase brand recognition by 80%.
But many brands can have similar colors, at least in the same family.
Usually, it is your specific brand color palette, so a combination of 2 or more colors that helps your audience remember you.
See below the brand signage. Hard to miss this strong and bold blue-yellow combination, right?
Also, check out the color palettes of the brands below. Probably you recognize at least 25% of them, even without a logo?
1.2. Brand logo and typography
Look at the text below and tell me you don’t know the brand.
Besides the actual message, it also stands out because of the very specific font used.
In fact, Apple customized the Garamond font to create this look as part of the Apple brand attributes.
And it became so popular, it even got established as a different brand by itself: Apple Garamond.
Besides color, a font can also be one of the most recognizable brand attributes.
This brings us to the next element of visual identity.
1.3. Brand design elements
Design elements used repeatedly in the marketing material of a brand (like flyers, brochures, etc), and/ or in the products can be a very powerful way for a brand to build differentiation.
Take the brand Desigual for example.
Their colorful floral prints and abstract patterns make them instantly recognizable and also memorable, in the clutter of a zillion fashion brands out there.
Another example of a brand design element that helps audiences remember a brand is a brand mascot.
Big brands like Michelin, McDonald’s, Duracell, have all used their mascots in various marketing & PR campaigns to increase brand recall and drive sales.
2. Brand messaging
Your brand messaging is like the heart of your business.
It’s what speaks to your existing and potential customers, shapes their expectations, and effectively communicates why you’re the best choice for them.
So your tagline, brand promise, and website content, are all elements that will help your audience recognize and remember your brand.
For instance, see below some famous brand taglines and the feelings that they inspire.
Over time, a sound or music can become an integral part of a brand.
An audio brand attribute can be a tune, a song, or just a sign-off logo.
See below some examples of audio branding and audio logos to understand how big brands use sound to improve their brand recognition.
4. Touch and feel
Materials and textures can also be specific brand attributes.
A smell can also be a powerful brand attribute. It works best in locations, like retail, and can also be referred to as scent marketing.
For example, ever been near a Dunkin Donuts store?
The sugary sweet smell is powerful enough to drag in most doughnut lovers, my husband included. I am not their audience, sadly 😉
I swoon over the lovely aroma in Lush stores instead.
To conclude, you should remember that even though most of these brand attributes can work in a silo, ideally they should go hand-in-hand.A brand should have all the sensory brand attributes work together to provide a complete experience. This will differentiate the brand and also increase brand recognition and recall. Click To Tweet
6. Brand personality
Let’s say you meet a new person. Either you click with them, or you don’t, or it’s kind of in-between.
Let’s say you really click. Your personalities just match. You would want to interact with them again, right? Because it makes you feel good to chat, interact, build a relationship.
It’s the same with a company brand.
Somehow this reminds me of the Mac vs Pc ads. They are old, but I love them! The contrast between the two could not be clearer.
Mac used these to show themselves as cool, young, and energetic. No wonder they quickly gained a huge following.
7. Brand behavior
Brand behavior is defined as the way your brand interacts with its audience and customers.
Brand behavior is a set of different elements that you can define:
Tone: The tone in which your brand talks with its audience. It includes both the actual words used in communication, as well as the body language.
Attitude: The attitude that your brand (including your customer care) gives to its audience. Respectful/ accommodating/ superiority…you choose!
Note: An aura of pride in a brand is not always bad. Luxury brands often have an approach of ‘the customer is not always king’. They would not always accommodate the need of every customer, for example.
They could have an attitude of ‘this is what our brand is, take it or leave it’. And this approach often works to make them aspirational, coveted, and extremely desirable.
How you follow up on sales, repeat purchases, how you attract new customers and provide delight for your existing ones, are all examples of brand behavior.
If you have a brand you like, you want it to stay that way, right?
You want it to make you the same promise, provide you with the same consistent value regularly, have the same relationship, and behave the same way over a period of time.
In other words, you need it to be consistent.
If it changes any of its aspects, like message, imagery, or service quality, from point to point, it will paint different pictures, you as the audience will get confused, and your interaction with the brand will decline.
Nike’s consistency of ‘Just Do It’ across channels helped it gain 25% market share and $8.3B in 10 years.
Consistency is one of the top attributes that should be present across all brand elements that build brand equity, even at the smallest touch point with the consumer.
For example, if FedEx promises ”the world on time’, you need to depend on the brand to fulfill its promise and deliver your packages on time every single time you choose them.
If they let you down a few times, you won’t trust them anymore. This brings us to the next point.
Trust in a brand, like in any person, is built over time and is needed to drive small business growth.
Here are some things you can do to get the trust of your audience
- Have a compelling brand message
- Consistently communicate through valuable content
- Engage and interact often with your audience
- Maintain your brand positioning and promise
- Deliver value even when they’re not buying from you or after they already have
10. Brand values
Your brand values can make you really connect to a brand or swear off them.
Usually, they are not the most crucial factor for people choosing or connecting to the brand, but there could be cases where this becomes the single most important factor.
For example, millennials rushed to buy Nike shoes when they stood by Kaepernick.
Or in today’s world, people distancing themselves from brands that continue operations in Russia.
To conclude subconscious brand attributes: it is much easier to create sensory attributes than these subconscious ones.
Subconscious brand attributes are intangible, hard to design, and heavily dependent on your audience’s perceptions, leaving you less in control.
But if you remain authentic to your core brand essence, over time you will become a loved and go-to brand.
“You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the some, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time” – John Lydgate.
A brand has to clearly identify who its target audience is, and focus on communicating with them. It has to match its core offer with the needs of this specific audience, communicate a clear message in their language, and provide a kind of experience that resonates with them.
For example, Axe became a multi-million dollar brand by clearly targeting ‘nerdy, insecure’ teenage guys and building the brand message accordingly (that all guys can look good and attract the opposite sex).
The core offer, positioning, and story of a brand have to be simple, clear, and easily understood. Recent studies indicate that the consumer attention span is decreasing, and that of an average internet consumer is 8 seconds (it’s 9 seconds for a goldfish!).
In a fast-moving world and marketplaces crowded with brands, it could be a big risk to hope that consumers will spend time to decipher the true offer of a brand, so a brand message has to be easy to decipher.
Almost every industry has various numbers of brands that offer relatively similar products. Needless to say, it is thus key to have a Unique Selling Proposition that makes a brand one more attractive for its particular target audience, even if the niche is extremely small.
Uniqueness is not always about the features of your product or service. It could also be in the delivery, the distribution, the environment, the price.
Domino’s USP of pizza ‘delivery in 30 minutes or less’ made it an immediate success in the USA, with the company valued today at >$1 Billion.
A study by the agency Cohn & Wolfe across 12 global markets on important brand attributes indicated authenticity to be a top priority, especially for millennials.
60% of consumers would purchase and recommend a brand they perceive to be authentic. So it is important for a brand to be honest, transparent, meaningful, true to its stated values, and overall, prioritize people.
In their paper on Brand Credibility based on various research, professors Tulin Erdem and Joffre Swait write that ‘Credibility is broadly defined as the believability of an entity’s intentions at a particular time and is posited to have two main components: trustworthiness and expertise.’
These elements affect both brand choice and consideration. So a brand needs to have a Reason-To-Believe on why it can claim particular expertise (i.e., why it has the ability to deliver what it states it can) , and it needs to continuously deliver on its promise in order to build up trust over time.
16. Fulfillment of the promise
A brand is a promise, perceived as an experience by the customer.
A Gallup study indicated that consumers feel brands deliver their promises only 50% of the time. But the top companies deliver 75% of the time.
So to gain and retain strong brand equity, just keep your brand word.
Are brand attributes and brand characteristics the same?
Brand characteristics are traits that people attribute to your company on an emotional level. These could be values like trustworthiness or helpfulness which are based on customer experiences with you.
Both brand attributes and brand characteristics work together to shape how people perceive your brand,
Brand attributes examples
The best examples of brand attributes are from brands that have been able to perfectly integrate sensory and subconscious brand attributes.
Here are some brand attributes that can inspire you.
1. Starbucks brand attributes
In each element of their brand touchpoint, they have the same look and feel, design element, color, and messaging.
The physical brand attributes are:
- Green and white
- Distinct logo and brand motif
- Brown paper
- Names on cups
So the physical brand attributes are very clear, and these elements also point to the subconscious elements of the brand:
- Personal touch
2. Little Dutch brand attributes
There is also a local brand that I love, called Little Dutch.
Whether big or small, all their products have the same feel, and these are their top brand attributes:
The physical attributes also integrate well with the subconscious attributes of the brand
- High-quality materials
- Learning with play
3. Amazon brand attributes
One of the best examples of brands that combine all the brand attributes to give a consistent brand experience is Amazon.
Their positioning is all about providing the best customer experience. So they bring everything together:
- Design/ logo element of a smile
- Friendly color of orange
- Large selection of physical and online products like music and video
- Smooth and easy logistics like delivery and returns
- Supportive customer care officers who make the buying process easy
- Consistent brand experience
Yes, they get a bad name for putting small businesses out of business, for destroying the economy, for favoring their own brands.
But they never say they are the best for businesses that sell through them.
They say they offer the best to customers.
So some people wouldn’t buy anything from them, but that’s also okay. Because no matter how big you are, you cannot sell to everyone.The most crucial part of branding is to appeal to your specific audience and gain their loyalty. Click To Tweet
When we think of Apple, we immediately think of the logo, Steve Jobs, and innovation.
They are always pushing the boundaries of technology and coming up with groundbreaking products that redefine the industry.
Apple also excels in simplicity, making its products user-friendly, minimalistic, and good-looking. And of course, quality is another attribute associated with Apple.
So in a nutshell. Apple’s brand attributes are:
- Apple logo
Nike is all about inspiring athletes and individuals to push themselves beyond their limits.
In its communication, the brand always indicates its high-performing sports apparel and footwear that helps you perform at your best.
With its ‘Just Do it’ slogan, Nike also tries to encourage people to believe in themselves and their abilities, empowering them to chase their dreams.
Nike’s brand attributes are:
- Swoosh logo
- Just do it
Tesla is not just innovative, it is revolutionizing the world. It has become synonymous with electric cars, autonomous driving, and it is not for the masses, yet. It is, however, setting the future trend in cars and a more sustainable environment.
Another unique attribute it has is Elon Musk.
Putting them all together, we can summarize the brand attributes of Tesla:
- Elon Musk
- Sharp logo
How to set your brand attribute strategy for your business
Whether you’re launching a new business or revamping an existing one, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of your brand attributes.
If you’re wondering what are your top brand attributes, it’s this: They are all the elements of your brand story that can make your brand unique.
So the best way to define your brand attributes is to start with creating your brand story:
- Know your audience
- Define and design your brand
- Bring it together and keep it that way.
In other words, identify your competitive positioning and what sets you apart from other brands to your audience, and carve out the attributes that seamlessly integrate to make your brand unique.
You can get a template with the form below.
Get a FREE, detailed guide to creating your brand story
Let’s see how to set the brand attributes of your business step by step.
1. Understand your target audience
At the heart of all your branding elements should be your target audience.
So before you start working on your brand attributes, try to understand your audience as deeply as possible.
- What are your audience’s demographics and lifestyle?
- What are their challenges, needs, and desires?
- What kind of attributes will resonate with them?
One way to understand your audience is to create a buyer persona.
You could also think about creating a brand attributes questionnaire. You could ask a small set of your audience what they value most in a brand in your industry, and how they perceive your brand to be.
2. Identify your brand’s unique value proposition and core values
What sets you apart from other brands in your industry? This could be anything from your company culture to the products or services that you offer. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you have a purpose-driven brand?
- What are your brand’s core values and messages?
- What does your brand stand for?
- What do you offer that nobody else does?
Conduct competitor research.
Take a look at what other brands in your industry are doing. What qualities do they communicate? How can you differentiate yourself? Why should someone choose you over your competitors?
3. Identify possible brand attributes
Once your brand positioning is identified, it’s time to start working on your attributes!
You could think about them on your own, or even brainstorm with your team members (or friends/ family), about some plausible attributes that could work for your brand.
Consider both the physical characteristics of your brand and the intangible values that it represents.
For example, if you are marketing a luxury car, some possible brand attributes could be “expensive,” “elegant,” “powerful,” and “reliable.”
On the other hand, if you are targeting budget-conscious consumers, some possible brand attributes could be “affordable,” “practical,” and “reliable.”
Write down anything that comes to mind, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Keep in mind what makes your brand unique and what would resonate most with your target audience.
Once you have brainstormed a list of potential brand attributes, you can start to narrow down which ones are most important for your brand and which ones will resonate most with your target audience.
4. Apply your brand attributes to your brand messaging
Your brand attributes should be reflected in all aspects of your brand, including your brand and marketing messages.
Talk about your brands and products and interact with your customers in a way that upholds your brand attributes.
For example, if one of your brand attributes is “friendly,” make sure that your marketing materials use language that is warm and inviting.
5. Apply your brand attributes to all designs
Implement your brand attributes in all the designs that you create for your brand and marketing campaigns.
In your colors, for example.
If one of your brand attributes is being environmentally friendly, you might use green and brown colors in your logo and website design.
Or, if you want to convey a premium feel, you can use gold elements in your brand designs.
You could also use shapes and patterns that represent your brand attributes.
For example, if one of your brand attributes is ‘fun’, you might use playful shapes and patterns in your design.
Another element of brand imagery you should apply your brand attributes on is to your typography.
For example, if one of your brand attributes is ‘professional’, use a clean, modern font in your design.
A brand kit is a document that outlines how your brand should be presented visually and serves as a reference when you design your marketing materials.
Once you have identified your brand attributes, add them to your brand kit, to ensure consistency across all brand touchpoints.
You can create an online brand kit on Canva, to help you easily and quickly apply your brand attributes to all your brand design projects.
Brand attributes – Concluding Tips
1. Prioritize your target audience
Your brand attributes should be a perfect match for your niche audience. It need not appeal to everyone. In fact, you can’t be universally appealing.
One of the first steps to creating your brand story is knowing your audience. Spend a lot of time on this, and continuously keep gaining insights to refine your attributes further.
2. Keep it simple
While you design your brand attributes, follow a policy of less is more.
Don’t overwhelm your audience with too many elements.
It should be easy and effortless for your audience to interact with your brand and remember it.
3. Keep it integrated
All your brand attributes should blend smoothly together.
When you create the sensory attributes, for example, keep in mind the subconscious ones as well.
Take the example of Uniqlo.
It is a high-quality, fast-fashion brand known for its simple designs in clothes.
It also applies this simplistic, minimalistic approach in its stores and communication.
Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images
It even has labels on clothes that mention the source country of the fabric.
Uniqlo has retained its promise of high quality at an affordable price for decades now and has gained global likeability and trust.
Seems overwhelming to set so many brand attributes?
Relax and remember:
- Take baby steps. Don’t try to do everything together
- Refine and tune based on your learnings. Not everything needs to be cast in stone from day one.
- Know your story. That really is the starting point
Now over to you. Did you already define your brand attributes? What challenges did you face? Are your attributes working for you?
Hi Poulomi, I really liked this one as I haven’t thought of my own brand like that. I’ve changed my typography a few times but have kept my orange color. You really have given me more to think about going forward as I just redesigned my website. Thank you.
Thanks a lot for your comment, Lisa. Yes, the most exciting and challenging part of developing a brand is developing these attributes over the long term. Am so glad my post gave you a new thought direction. All the best for your brand work!