This is part one of a three-part series discussing the composition, importance, intent, and process of branding.
In definition, a brand is a name, symbol, or design that identifies and differentiates a product, service, or organization from its competition. The act of branding is defined as the marketing strategies and practices employed to define, differentiate, and express your unique value proposition.
Removing the marketing jargon, a brand is a promise you make to your customers. It’s comprised of who you are, who you aspire to be, and who people perceive you to be. In essence, your brand is your reputation. It precedes you. It follows you. It is the personification of your organization. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said, “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well. People notice that over time. I don’t think there are any shortcuts.”
Most people define a brand or branding as simply the visual formation of the logo, colors, typography, iconography, and other perceivable elements. However, these elements are only the final components of brand development. Prior to creating any visual representation of your organization, there five elements that must be established in order to define its purpose and story.
In short: Your intent / What you do, for whom and how you do it
The brand position is a statement that defines the core components of your brand strategy. (No big deal, right? It’s ONLY the most important and most difficult piece of the puzzle.) It is an essential element of any strong brand because it defines what you do, who you serve, and how you differentiate your organization from the competition.
Here’s an easy way to break it down into actionable elements:
- What: The only [category]
- How: that [differentiation characteristic(s)]
- Who: for [target audience]
- Where: in [geographic or industry location]
- Why: who [want/need]
- When: during [underlying trend]
Once these elements are defined, it becomes easier to develop a brand tagline that speaks to a targeted audience in a unique and authentic way.
In short: How you aim to connect with your customers
The brand promise communicates the primary human needs satisfied by your brand. It’s an emotional statement intended to humanize the organization. If the brand position consists of the factual information, the brand promise is made up of lofty aspirations, sunshine, and rainbows. To create a brand promise, complete the “we promise…” sentence in a way that does not focus on specific products or the organization itself. Here a few examples to help you get started.
- The ultimate driving experience (BMW).
- To inspire moments of optimism and uplift (Coca-Cola).
- To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world (Nike).
In short: Your unique value proposition / what you have to offer
Why would someone choose your brand over a competitor? This is your differentiator. Also referred to as your unique value proposition or unique selling proposition, this statement should communicate a specific benefit that cannot be replicated by a competitor and which addresses a specific need of your customer. It’s important to note that the differentiation strategy should not be relegated to the marketing team. Standing out in a competitive landscape should be an organizational objective. The marketing message simply serves to communicate this information — not define it.
In short: Tone of messaging and visual representation
Instead of asking, “what is a brand?” a better question may be, “who is a brand?” Just as a brand can have a reputation, it can also have a personality. Humanizing your brand by giving it a persona helps to create a relatable and memorable experience for customers, and doing so can aid internal teams in developing the messaging and overall identity. A brand persona typically takes the form of a list of 3 – 5 traits or one of the 12 archetypes.
Absolut Vodka: cool, hip, contemporary
Stoli Vodka: intellectual, conservative, classic
In short: An authentic expression of what your brand stands for
A brand story is a truthful narrative about who your brand is and how it impacts the lives of your customers. It is the culmination of all of your branding efforts; therefore, it should include elements of your position, promise, differentiators, and persona, but the most important characteristic of a brand story is authenticity. It should connect your customers and community to the people behind the brand in a real and engaging way. Your brand story should also serve as the foundation for your brand elevator speech and boilerplate.
If you found this information useful, consider subscribing below to receive weekly updates regarding new content. Next week, we’ll discuss the importance of brand strategy and actionable steps to create and/or elevate your own brand.