A Guide to the Rugged Brand Personality

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The rugged brand personality is one of the five dimensions of brand personality developed by Jennifer Aaker. This framework helps clarify the voice, tone, and presence of a brand to its customers – and is enormously helpful when it comes to marketing and positioning a product or service!

In this guide, we’ll talk about the rugged brand, the key personality traits it has, and some well-known examples of rugged brands out in the world.

Let’s dive in!

Rugged Brand Personality Traits

The rugged brand personality has four key traits associated with it in the 5 Dimensions of Brand Personality Framework. These traits include toughness, strength, being outdoorsy, and being unconventional.

Rugged brands are usually seen in the outdoors or travel spheres, encouraging adventure, unconventional living, and taking the road less traveled.

An interesting thing to note about rugged brands is that when done successfully, Commerce brands create a fiercely loyal customer following that translates into a lifestyle.

Oftentimes, rugged brands provide a new, unconventional way to look at hobbies, regular everyday rituals, and activities that translate into an almost cult-like following!

The rugged brand personality is one of the five dimensions of brand personality. Learn the traits and see examples here!

An In-Depth Example of a Rugged Brand: Hotel Tango Distillery

There are several great examples of popular rugged brands well-known to most people. These would be motorcycle brands Harley Davidson, Jeep, and outdoors brands like Columbia. Another great example is Hotel Tango Distillery.

Hotel Tango Distillery is a whiskey company founded by military veteran Sgt. Travis Barnes, his wife Hilary, and several friends in 2014. Barnes enlisted in the Marine Corps after the attack on the Twin Towers, serving three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom and obtaining the rank of Sergeant before being given an Honorable Discharge and re-entering civilian life.

After graduating from law school and marrying his wife Hilary, Travis began experimenting with making whiskey, and ultimately founded a company. Hotel Tango is a reference to the NATO alphabet – Hotel for Hilary, and Tango for Travis.

It was then that we started to come up with the idea that Travis’s background in the military would lead to a really easy connection to the meticulous process of distilling.

Now consumers can understand why it was going to be a good experience for them. And that’s when we came up with the phrase “distilled with discipline.”

-The Follow Up Podcast with Travis Barnes and Bryan Judkins

Here’s where Hotel Tango Distillery shows its rugged brand personality in just some places:

Mission Statement

Hotel Tango Distillery  has a straightforward mission statement – “Hotel Tango creates disciplined spirits that bring people together.”

Not only does this simple, bold message match the rugged brand personality, but the very people that Hotel Tango Distillery is created by and served to (military, veterans, and first responders) are also viewed as roles in society with honor, valor, and glory.

Company Values

Hotel Tango has four core values to its brand:

  • Disciplined- We are committed to excellence and always improving
  • Spirited – we are passionate and playful
  • Straightforward – We tell it like it is and demand accountability
  • Gung-ho – We relentlessly work together

Also, it was really important that we capture Travis’s personality as part of this brand. We have a phrase that we say, which is “bottling Travis.” And when you meet Travis, he’s a very straightforward, no bullshit kind of dude.

-The Follow Up Podcast

Product Packaging

Hotel Tango does a fantastic job of brand continuity through it’s packaging. Many of the label designs evoke military MRE packaging – with simple typography, phrasing like “Ready to Drink” and “High Standard Issue”.

Here’s an example of an MRE to show you the inspiration behind the label!

Social Media Content

As a veteran-owned brand, Hotel Tango both employs and features veterans and content that speaks to this audience on social media. For example, naming a veteran of the month and openly supporting nonprofits, missions, and interests that serve this audience.

These are just some of the ways that Hotel Tango Distillery displays its bold, daring, and unconventional approaches to branding and business. There are many more examples found throughout their website, social media, and marketing campaigns.

And, there are many more examples of sincere brands in the wild! In the next section, we’ll list some more popular examples to help give you rugged branding inspiration!

Rugged Brand Personality Examples


Harley Davidson

Columbia Sportswear

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The rugged brand personality is one of the five dimensions of brand personality. Learn the traits and see examples of this brand identity here!

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