Brand Attributes: Quality Ingredients for Your Identity
by Haley Bridges
Your product may be great, but it's not enough. With the number of competing tech solutions launching every week, innovation is expected. To edge out the competition, a company’s greatest advantage will be brand, and one of the most important elements of brand is personality.
Before creating taglines, logos, websites, or visual language, what exactly is there to latch onto when defining your brand’s uniqueness? We believe one thing that already exists at every tech company is its essence, ethos – those seeds of personality that feel individual. We call them brand attributes. They’re the traits that guide our work towards a true manifestation of our clients’ identities.
Spend a minute thinking about the beloved tech brands Slack, Zendesk, and Adobe.
There's an unmistakable personality to each of them. Where Slack conveys quickness, joy, and camaraderie, the Adobe experience promises expansiveness, diversity, and imagination. Likewise, Zendesk embodies their superior customer service with UI that feels like a pep talk from a friend.
People expect utility from products, but they look for connections from brands.
Why is this significant? Simply put, it’s because people expect utility from products, but they look for connections from brands. When choosing between comparable options, buyers examine what’s offered beyond product in order to determine which option is right for them. So, when you hear someone say they ultimately chose brand X over brand Y because “it just felt right,” that’s brand. That’s connection.
Of course we believe your product needs to live up to expectations, but what the above brands prove so well is that a product + brand personality is the new necessary formula for communicating a richer, more compelling offering to audiences. Personality has staying power, and the tech brands who go beyond the cost of entry are winning their category.
If you’re rebranding, you’re likely doing it for one or more of these reasons:
You need to stand out from competitors.
Your identity no longer represents who you are today.
You are pivoting either what you’re selling or who you’re selling to.
Focus Lab is a team of brand experts serving the B2B tech world, so we spend our days solving for these objectives and making technology more than just table stakes. In order to move the needle, we help clients start seeing themselves as a brand, not just a product, so that we can begin creating an identity that offers more to audiences. Think of it this way: instead of only talking about what your product does, think about the meaning it holds for people, or the universal question it helps answer. One of the ways we start these conversations is through asking our clients to select their very own brand attributes.
At the start of all projects, we assign our clients a homework exercise consisting of yes/no-this/that-style prompts grouped into rational, intellectual, and emotional themes. The goal is to whittle the list down from 60+ to the top three attributes that a brand sees in itself and aspires to be perceived as by their target audience. Once those three words have been chosen, we align on their meaning and assign a unique definition to each, and then use the attributes to gauge elements befitting the new brand identity.
In our work, this starts with strategy and is carried through both visual and verbal identity. Brand attributes play a key role in our direction, and they are the basis of our rationale for mood boards that set the tone for visual explorations. It’s pretty rewarding to see how a brand’s uniquely defined attributes can start showing up in something like color, voice, or a value proposition. When you see the possibilities and opportunities your brand attributes offer, they can even expand beyond our work at Focus Lab; many clients continue using their unique attributes as a litmus test to guide marketing and content efforts.
In our 11+ years, we’ve seen attribute trends come and go. A few years back, everyone wanted to be disruptive and bold. During the pandemic, brands gravitated towards simplicity, dependability, and approachability. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these qualities, but we’ve seen that an abundance of similar attributes can lead to a diluted brand outcome. So, we have three don’ts we stress when clients embark on a rebrand and select attributes:
Don’t play it safe by defining your attributes solely around your product. Nearly every B2B tech company in the world wants to be known as easy to use and frictionless.
Don’t choose attributes that are only true of your brand today. Be authentic, but be aspirational.
Don’t stress over dictionary definitions. How you define these words is what counts and what we will use to represent them.
Trends cycle, but your attributes are meant to last the life of the brand. Though it’s tempting to choose definitions that are simple or evident to audiences, resisting this urge will allow your brand to evolve with your trajectory and make a greater impression on your ideal customers.
We like to say that attributes are not the end-all-be-all for brand success.
Product still matters.
Category distinction still matters.
Purpose still matters.
But beyond these expectations, customers crave that sense of connection that only comes from companies willing to put in the work of defining personality and creating a brand that embodies it.
Don’t miss the opportunity to show up as your full self.