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Whether you’re building a brand from the ground up or giving an established one a refresh, you’ll want to spend some time clearly articulating your brand attributes before getting too far ahead. This is an important step toward ensuring your company’s core values make their way into the brand personality you build, and that they ultimately resonate with your target audience.

Let’s take a beginner’s look at brand attributes, why they matter and how to go about defining them for your brand.

What are brand attributes?

A brand attribute is a quality or characteristic that is inherently a part of your company’s brand.

When potential customers see any aspect of your brand image — from the fonts, colors and images you use to the copy you write — they will witness these attributes shining through.

Brand attributes are similar to attributes you’d find in a person, such as the first impression they make and the personality traits they exhibit as well as the values they demonstrate.

Of course, unique attributes won’t just show up at your brand’s doorstep one day. It’s your job to define them.

“Attribute” comes from the Latin “ad” and “tribuere,” meaning “to assign.” So, a brand attribute is a quality that you intentionally assign to your brand.

Why do brand attributes matter?

Customers have a difficult time trusting and embracing brands that are hard to get to know. If you keep your cards close to your chest and never reveal anything about your company, like what you value and what brand experience you create, a potential customer won’t be inclined to stick around.

It’s similar to how we relate to other people.

Do you really want to spend all your energy trying to get that standoffish person to open up — even if you aren’t sure you’ll get along in the first place?

If someone comes along who confidently, unapologetically embraces who they are, knows how to be vulnerable and makes you feel pretty great about yourself, chances are, you’ll probably want to spend more time with them.

Likewise, someone in your target market will be more attracted to a strong brand with well-defined attributes and an exciting personality.

Brand attributes and authenticity

Rooting your brand identity in a series of distinct attributes can also make your company’s marketing efforts more authentic.

Of nearly 1,600 consumers polled in an industry study, 90% said they consider authenticity an important factor when evaluating which brands they like and support. However, 51% also believed that less than half of brands actually create authentic content that resonates.

It doesn’t take much number crunching to reach a conclusion here: The majority of consumers think the majority of brands are falling short and producing phony content. Ouch.

The word “authentic” gets tossed around a lot, so it’s worth taking a moment to unpack what this really means: Something is authentic if it has clear origins. It’s also genuine, meaning it is exactly as advertised.

In a sense, the advertised origins and qualities are your brand attributes.

A case study in brand attributes and customer loyalty

We’ve already established that customers will assess a brand’s authenticity before supporting it. But they will also react to your key attributes in a pronounced way.

Let’s take a look at children’s clothing brand Primary as an example of what brand attributes look like in action — and how they can build a loyal customer base.

This company’s target customer is likely a busy millennial parent who wants high-quality clothing for their kids at a reasonable price. This customer also wants to raise (and dress) their children in a way that’s positive and affirming, rather than rigidly aligned with stereotypical gender norms. Beyond their family unit, this parent strives to create a world in which all kids are treated equally.

When that customer stumbles across Primary via direct mail marketing or social media and starts perusing their product offerings, they’ll notice a few important things.

Primary uses soft, sustainable fabrics. They design clothes for kids, not for boys and girls — and their mix-and-match compatibility can save parents time in the morning. Plus, these products come at an accessible price point.

Moreover, the company demonstrates inclusivity and representation through the content they create. Finally, Primary uses a vibrant, fun-loving brand voice and color palette that echoes its slogan, “Live your true colors.”

All of these features will create a positive brand association for the target buyer. And we can easily trace this unique combination of characteristics back to Primary’s brand attributes:

  • Inclusive.
  • Gender nonprescriptive.
  • Eco-conscious.
  • Empowering.
  • Playful.

Primary’s strong brand identity has worked wonders for customer loyalty. As the company explains on its careers page, “Our customers are incredibly passionate about our mission, leading to strong repeat metrics and one of the highest NPS scores in the industry (85+).”

NPS, or net promoter score, is a useful metric that shows how likely customers are to recommend a brand to others. The fact that 85% of Primary parents want to spread the word is an excellent indicator of brand loyalty.

And it all starts with the fact that this kids’ clothing company formulated a distinctive brand essence around several important values and characteristics they knew would resonate with their audience.

7 ways to define your brand attributes

Now, how can you achieve this type of success at your company?

Well, defining your brand attributes can’t exactly guarantee customer satisfaction or referrals. But it certainly can help you cultivate a consistent brand and solidify your brand positioning in a sea of competitors.

Here are 7 places to start when articulating your brand attributes:

1. Connect with your core values

We’ve already seen evidence for how values can translate into brand attributes. It’s important to tap into your company’s foundational values since these can help inform several attributes. Examples of values-based brand attributes could be:

  • Charitable.
  • Open-minded.
  • Compassionate.

2. Consider your company culture

The type of culture you promote at your organization can carry over into the brand image you project. Depending on what happens behind the scenes and what qualities you try to bring out in your team members, you might choose a culture-inspired attribute like:

  • Curious.
  • Traditional.
  • Ambitious.

3. Know what sets your brand apart

Your unique selling proposition can say a lot about the attributes you want to embed in your brand. Looking at how your products and services, and the value you provide, differ from competitors can lead you to attributes such as:

  • Sustainable.
  • Efficient.
  • Tropical.

4. Look at your target customer’s attributes

As we saw with the earlier case study, customers are drawn to brands that share similar qualities with them. If you know who your ideal customer is and what they’re like, you could embrace an attribute like one of these examples:

  • Family oriented.
  • Rebellious.
  • Intelligent.

5. Tap into the emotional side of the brand experience

Consider what emotions your target customer experiences before finding your company — for instance, how they feel when going through specific pain points and challenges. Also, think about what emotions you want to bring out during the brand experience with your goods or services. This can lead you to identify brand attributes such as:

  • Empathetic.
  • Intuitive.
  • Optimistic.

6. Get to know your brand using analogies

Is your brand more like a comforting bowl of soup or an exhilarating race car? Choosing your top attributes is often easier if you liken your brand to something else. Once you get your imagination going, you could assign attributes to your brand like:

  • Warm.
  • Down-to-earth.
  • Sleek.

7. Translate your findings into your brand visuals and voice

To move forward and build a successful brand, it’s critical that you capture everything you know about your attributes in your brand guidelines. This will involve choosing visual elements and a tone of voice that convey the attributes you’ve selected.

Remember that building a brand strategy from these attributes isn’t just about picking some words. Your brand is the closest thing you have to a living, breathing representation of your business. It will morph and grow, and it will probably come up against some resistance. But being intentional about using your attributes as a guiding light will help you bring out the best in your brand.

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