The Entrepreneur's Guide to Irresistible Brand Personas
You have a genius business idea. You’ve settled on a killer company name and are reeling to get the leads rolling in... but what are you going to say to them?
And how are you going to say it?
Your story is only as good as the way you tell it. And coherence between the narrative and your way of sharing it is essential.
Nailing your Mentor Persona will skyrocket your conversions.
Why “Mentor,” you ask?
It’s simple—nobody wants to be a sidekick.
Which means you have to be ready to give your customers 100% of the power, 100% of the reigns, 100% of the credit.
Your job? Support. Guidance. Knowledge. Mentorship.
Surprisingly, though, there’s a lot of wiggle room in the way you package that mentorship up. And that, my friends, is where your brand's persona comes in.
Let’s back up and start there: What is a brand persona?
Your brand persona defines the way you represent yourself, share your story, and communicate with your audience. It determines everything, from the way you package your product and tell friends about what you do, to even what your logo looks like.
In short, it’s your company’s ~*~vibe~*~
Consistency builds trust—that’s just a fact of life. And so, every single time you brand “speaks,” it needs to sound like the same person is behind the keyboard. It’s gotta be locked down.
So, what should that look like? And how do you pick?
That's what this Ultimate Guide is all about.
First, how do you choose your brand’s persona?
Most times, a company's brand persona starts out as either a slightly more confident (or slightly more reserved) version of the founder’s personality.
Usually, startups are too focused on their product or service or logo or website or name to put a lot of effort into something as “unseen” as their brand persona.
But that’ll come back to bite them in the long run.
The answer is not “look within,” either. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Look at your target audience.
Who are they most likely to resonate with? Trust? Go to for help?
That’s who you want to be.
Often, it’s some version of the audience themselves—you mirror back at them what they want to see in themselves.
Working with hikers? Be a super hiker.
Working with moms? Be a cool mom.
But because nothing is ever that simple… it’s not that simple. And that’s where the Mentor Personas come in.
Your customer wants to be their own hero.
They don’t want to hear about how good you are. Frankly, they couldn’t care less.
Instead, they care about how good they are. And if you can make them better?
Bingo, you win.
Cue the 6 Mentor Personas:
When we’re developing a client’s brand, this is where we start.
They’re based on common “Brand Personality” archetypes. But instead of positioning you as Harry Potter and your customers as a silent observer, you’re Dumbledore. And they get to be the Boy Who Lived.
Of course, it would be extremely unlikely that your brand would fall 100% into only one of these categories. But like the Myers-Briggs personality test and horoscope mumbo jumbo, it gives you a place to start.
And that's exactly what this Ultimate Guide to an Irresistible Brand Persona is all about.
Here are some questions you'll be able to answer:
- 1What is a Mentor Persona?
- 2What is your business' ideal Mentor Persona?
- 3What is each Mentor Persona is all about -- and who are some big names who have had success with each?
Before reading on, take a moment to find out which Mentor Persona best fits your brand.
(NOTE: This is just a starting point! Use your own discretion when choosing the best Mentor Persona for your specific audience.)
You have your Mentor Persona...
But what is a Mentor Persona anyway?
If you do some digging into branding, you'll quickly see many, many people touting "brand personalities," "brand voices," "brand avatars," etc.
But at the end of the day, they all are missing something: an emphasis on the customer.
"Mentor Persona" is the term we use when determining the best communication methods for a brand because it keeps our focus where it's supposed to be: the audience.
Before we try to be cute or clever, we must think of ourselves as a Mentor to the audience in every piece of copy we write.
Therefore, a Mentor is necessarily a person.
It is critical to think of your brand as a person who is building a unique relationship with your customer.
After years of copywriting and digging into brands, we've found most brands fall into one of these six categories.
Naturally, many brands dip a toe in more than one, so there's a ton of space for creativity within each. But they provide a solid starting point.
(To illustrate this point, each Mentor Persona below will include two very different -- but both successful -- brands.)
Without further ado, let's dive into it.
The Quirky Best Friend
Key Attribute: Excitement
You know that friend who’s just a little odd? You love ‘em, but they’re on their own planet. They’ve been making their outfits custom since second grade with varying degrees of success, and they may have even aged into a hipster teen.
When you’re with them, you always have a blast. They’re spirited, funny, out there, and maybe even a bit snarky, but ultimately have a good heart -- you can trust them to always be honest with you. And the best part? They’re not afraid to be themselves. They are who they are, and that is genuine.
What audiences is the Quirky Best Friend good for? Generally, brands that pull this one off successfully will be targeting young people--specifically, millennials or younger.
What problems do Quirky Best Friends run into? Make sure you aren’t undercutting your own message by focusing too much on humor--everything you do should come back to how you serve your customers.
Successful Quirky Best Friends
Purple is a mattress company known for their quirky, over-the-top branding. On their homepage, they return to their tried-and-true Goldilocks schtick and also playfully reference things like "hardcore science." Overall, Purple is a brand that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Dos Equis is a beer company that first became a force on the branding scene with its incredible Most Interesting Man in the World commercials, in which bearded gentleman was in continually more ridiculous and macho situation while drinking Dos Equis. Even without the Most Interesting Man, Dos Equis keeps their branding interesting with playful advertising.
The Hippie Guru
Key Attribute: Sophistication
This is the mentor who is all-wise. They’re charming, smooth, wise, and maybe even a little ethereal. This type of mentor personality is very Obi Wan Kenobi-esque and presents itself as the person who has unlocked a secret to success that they want to share with their students.
Being around this type of mentor allows you to get a glimpse of what you could be and shows you the path from humble beginnings to become a master guru yourself.
This is a mentor that you can always trust to be transparent with you and will never hide anything from you. They want you to succeed and achieve their level of understanding of the universe.
What audiences is the Hippie Guru good for? The Hippie Guru is great at hand-holding and making people feel good about themselves. If you have an audience that is generally anxious or a little unsure of themselves, this can be a great fit.
What problems do Hippie Gurus run into? Sometimes this persona can come off as a bit aloof, out of touch, or condescending. To avoid this, make sure to ground your statements in reality--include facts and relevant, concrete information to balance it out.
Successful Hippie Gurus
Parachute is a bedding company that I was introduced to through Pod Save America (shoutout!). Since they're all about restful, comfortable sleep, it makes sense that they'd go with a peaceful hippie-esk vibe using gentle words like "slumber" and complimenting the language with earthy tones.
Rolls-Royce is an ultra-high-end luxury car company. All of their advertising plays with elements of romance, travel, and even touches of magic. In this case, the Hippie Guru works well because nobody needs a Rolls-Royce for practical reasons -- it's all about how it makes the driver feel.
The Relatable Outsider
Key Attribute: Competence
When we all start something new for the first time, it can be really REALLY daunting. That’s where the relatable outsider comes in: this is the quintessential newbie problem solver.
The Relatable Outsider inspires empathy. This is a person who may have once been a newbie underdog themselves, but discovered a framework that led them to great results.
The Relatable Outsider comes across as successful, hardworking, and confident. They make their customers feel comfortable and at ease, because they know they have a guide who has been in their shoes. To convey this Mentor Persona, you really have to embody the process you took to find your success and the sheer tenacity you had to put in upfront to see good results.
The road you took wasn’t easy, but it worked -- and now you want to share it with the people around you.
What audiences is the Relatable Outsider good for? The Relatable Outsider really resonates with customers who are looking to undergo a major (and likely intimidating) change. Entrepreneurs who build a personal brand for themselves often fall into this persona--usually because it’s true.
What problems do Relatable Outsiders run into? Sometimes the old “I’m just like you” schtick gets old, especially if you overemphasize the challenges you face today. There’s only so many times you want to hear the buff pretty boy say he used to be chubby and sad before you want to stuff cotton in your ears.
Successful Relatable Outsiders
PG Tips is a British tea company that's been around for quite some time and is definitely a leader in the tea industry. Even so, they've managed to position themselves as an "everyman" through language like "tea for everyone" and nostalgic stuffed animals.
Nerd Fitness is an online fitness community that helps nerds achieve a healthy lifestyle. As you can see in their copy, they are completely dedicated to the Relatable Outsider persona. It shows up in everything from how they target "nerds, misfits, and mutants" specifically, and in how they include before and after pictures of their clients.
The Wizened Veteran
Key Attribute: Ruggedness
If you’re going to go on an adventure, you want a Wizened Veteran to accompany you.
To get a good idea of what this kind of mentor personality may feel like, you have to embody your inner Gandalf the Gray. Someone that is wise, tough, thrill-seeking, and who has an aura of authority.
A Wizened Veteran is almost always trying to convince you to go on another crazy adventure. They get you so hyped up and confident that you already envision yourself finding success and standing on top of the world.
Balancing these attributes can be tough because you don’t want to come across as cocky. Rather, you should be the wise and dependable mentor that always shows up in a time of crisis to help save the day. So, you’re not necessarily the main hero, but you do play an important part to ensure those that you’re mentoring win the day.
What audiences is the Wizened Veteran good for? Traditionally, this persona is great for hooking outdoors or sports enthusiasts, but there’s no reason it can’t be successful elsewhere. This is a persona that inspires confidence and action in its audience.
What problems do Wizened Veterans run into? When taken too far, the Wizened Veteran can come off as pushy and egotistical. To avoid this, make sure you aren't just talking about all of your accomplishments -- you can use them for reference but only as much as they serve your audience.
Successful Wizened Veterans
Harley-Davidson is a motorcycle company with a reputation for their tough biker clientele. To speak to this particular audience, they lean into freedom through thrill-seeking adventures.
REI -- or Recreational Equipment Inc. -- is an outdoor store known for their hard eco-friendly stances. It's hard to find a better example of a pure Wizened Veteran than on their homepage. They lay it right out there: "let their journey inspire yours."
The Motivational Icon
Key Attribute: Inspiring
Probably the most straightforward of the Mentor Personas, but one of the most difficult ones to pull off. This is when you share your success with people to a certain extent, but you really try to get your customers to see themselves in your shoes and show them that success can be obtained.
The Motivational Icon is accomplished, trendy, humble, and up-lifting. They're like the team captain from your basketball team who you knew stayed back hours after practice to do drills on her own -- you respect them.
What audiences is the Motivational Icon good for? This is great for audiences that have a lot of different brands vying for their attention.
What problems do Motivational Icons run into? Done wrong, this persona can come across as overly aggressive and in-your-face--or, even worse, scammy and fake. You have to be the best to act like the best, or else people will see through it immediately.
Successful Motivational Icons
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more quintessential example of a Motivational Icon than Nike. Nike is a sporting goods company who has absolutely mastered the art of getting their customers fired up and inspired. In this homepage, they use powerful, energetic words like rise, grind, and shine.
Duracell is a leading battery company that takes a more serious approach than the little pink Energizer Bunny we all know and love. They come at it a little different than Nike, but still strive to empower their customers and make them feel invincible.
Key Attribute: Sincerity
If you want your actions to speak more of you than your words, then you’re the Do-Gooder. This kind of mentor personality is one that is centered around being down-to-earth, honest, and optimistic. Essentially, you want to come across as incredibly genuine and allow your mission to rally people to you.
An amazing example of this kind of mentor is TOMS, the one-for-one shoe company. Their mission of selling some stellar shoes and making it their commitment to also donate a pair of shoes for every pair sold speaks for itself. It’s because of this dedication that people will buy TOMS over going to a nearby shoe store -- their audience feels they’re making a difference.
What audiences is the Do-Gooder good for? The most obvious answer is socially-conscious consumers.
What problems do Do-Gooder run into? When you’re a Do-Gooder, you’re held to a higher standard than other brands. Because you market yourself as “good,” you’ll need to be transparent and forthcoming about any issues, or else it could come back to get you.
Leesa is a (freakin' fantastic) mattress company that supports people who are homeless by donating one mattress for every ten sold. They have their "Social Impact" tab casually in the center of their main menu bar and overall maintain a feeling of ease and support.
Walt Disney World's homepage had a ridiculously fast moving hero video (pun intended), so I did my best to pause it at a place that illustrates the vibe. The words read "Get ready for an incredible summer!" and promise parents the opportunity to make their kids (and themselves) feel like the ultimate do-gooders: superheroes.
The Common Thread
Despite presenting themselves in different ways, all six Mentor Personas work to:
By fleshing out your Mentor Persona, you’re not only going to help your business. It’s also going to help you connect with people that are looking for your help.
The Internet can be a cold place. So, do your part and make a warm atmosphere for customers to come find you.
So, who are you?
Now that you’ve got a sense of who you can be, think back to your audience.
Remember: this is just a framework for your brand persona. Within each subtype, there’s tons of room for creativity and originality.
For example, internet entrepreneurs Pat Flynn and Ramit Sethi could both be classified as Relatable Outsiders.
Originally, Pat started off in architecture and ultimately lost his job, and Ramit started off as a skinny super nerd who couldn’t get his friends to attend his finance workshops.
Now, they both have multi-million dollar information product offerings and email lists of literally tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people.
However, it only takes two seconds to realize how vastly different they present themselves.
On one hand, Pat Flynn has developed a persona that is kind, humble, and generous. He frequently reminds his podcast listeners that he “appreciates them” and is known for his quirky stunts at conventions.
On the other hand, Ramit Sethi has made himself into no B.S., confident, tough-love father figure. He’s extremely generous -- he gives away 99% of his material for free -- but there is no hand-holding to be found on his entire site.
Both are Relatable Outsiders. But that manifests in completely different ways.
The moral of the story? Have fun with it. Choose a Mentor Persona as a starting off point, and then go nuts.
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