What is the underlying essence of your brand?

If you’ve just developed a brand and are preparing to bring it to market or if you’re working with a brand that’s lost its way, identifying its essence can be tricky. One of the best ways to get to the root of question is to focus on the following 7 steps in 3 stages.

Identify Cornerstone Characteristics

  1. Physical Characteristics of the Brand. The process begins by identifying the most relevant and differentiating attributes or features associated with the brand. These are features that people can see or fact-check. Examples could include a food product that promises natural ingredients or distinct flavours, an outdoor space that promises winding walkways and lots of trees, or a retail outlet that promises wide aisles and large change rooms. Think about Panera which has promised natural ingredients, and no artificial flavours or preservatives.
  1. Rational Brand Benefits. The next cornerstone includes identifying what the brand will do for people. List out the most relevant and differentiating functional benefits and rewards that will create and reinforce brand loyalty with the target audience. Examples could include a food product that promises enhanced flavour or guaranteed cooking success, a park that promises easy navigation, or a retail outlet that promises easily accessible services. Think about Dyson vacuum cleaners that are known for never losing suction.
  1. Emotional Brand Benefits. The third cornerstone includes identifying how the brand makes people feel. These relevant and differentiating emotional benefits and rewards will also help to create and reinforce loyalty. Examples could include a food product that allows people to treat themselves, an outdoor space that encourages family togetherness, or a retail outlet that offers independence. Think of Lego, a toy brand that makes children and adults feel playful and joyful.
  1. Brand Image. The fourth cornerstone involves identifying what the brand says about a person to others. These are the associations and projections that the brand offers to the target audience. Examples could include a food product that shows people you have high standards for nourishing your family, a park that demonstrates you value family time, or a retail outlet that helps differently abled people demonstrate they are as capable as everyone else. Think of Toms, a footwear brand that says you care about other people, or Jaguar, a vehicle brand that tells everyone you’ve succeeded in life. 

Identify High Order Personality

Once those four cornerstones are in place, the next step involves identifying higher-order functions of the brand. 

  1. Brand Identity. In this second level, the facts and symbols of the brand must be identified. Typically, these are the distinctive shapes, sizes, images, fonts, and other similar details that will represent the brand. Consumers and customers might even begin to recognize the brand based on these elements alone. Think about the unique shapes of the Heinz ketchup and Coca-Cola bottles, or the forest green colour of John Deere tractors and the robin’s egg blue of Tiffany.
  1. Brand Personality. The second level also includes identifying the brand personality. For instance, if the brand were a person, what would they be like? Relevant and differentiating personal characteristics are necessary to help create and reinforce loyalty. Examples could include being known as dedicated and trustworthy, family oriented and friendly, or fun and light-hearted. Think about how you know that the quirky strange commercial you’re watching has to be an Old Spice.

Identify Top Level Essence

The third and last level consists of one item.

  1. CORE ESSENCE. At this top level, the brand essence is identified. A brand’s core essence is the short form of what the brand ‘is.’ With just a few key words, the essence summarizes and links to the full brand promise or positioning. It combines its most important benefits (functional and emotional) with the desired brand personality. The best ‘essences’ lead to brand promises that are meaningful to the desired consumer target segments. They are also credible and ownable for the brand, and they provide a differentiated advantage versus the competition or other options.

Once these 7 steps have been completed, a brand will have all the necessary information to create a solid marketing plan and continue confidently to market. Feel free to download a copy of our BrandPrint™ tool to help you define the essence of your brand.