Before you can define your Brand Essence, you must first understand what we’re calling a Brand Essence.
Your Brand Essence is a simple sentence that sums up everything that your organization is all about. It captures your brand experience. It defines your raison d’etre. And every aspect of your organization – specifically your marketing – must exude your Brand Essence.
In its simplest form, your Brand Essence can be defined by filling in these blanks.
______________ is all about _____________.
The first blank is relatively simple to fill in. It’s simply the name of your brand. Depending on your organization, it’s either the name of your organization or the name of the product or service you’re marketing.
For a professional service organization, the first blank is filled in with the name of the company.
42Fish is all about _________________.
Jones, Smith & Washington are all about ____________________.
For consumer products, the first blank normally is filled in with the name of the product.
Dr. Pepper is all about _______________.
Speed Stick is all about ________________.
(In cases such as these, the consumers do not care what company manufactures or sells the product. The consumer cares about only the product.)
For some organizations, deciding whether the brand in question is the product or company can be a difficult process. In some cases, you will need to define the essence of both the company and the product, and then you must make sure that everyone involved clearly understands when the corporate Brand Essence is your guiding factor (primarily in how you conduct business as a company) and when the product Brand Essence must take priority (for example, when you’re marketing a product that you sell).
The second blank is the relatively tricky part. It would be pretty easy to fill it in with some half-thought-out answer like a categorical definition of what you sell, but that wouldn’t do anyone any good.
For example, we could say that 42Fish is all about marketing, advertising, and design.
However, that’s neither helpful nor motivating.
To be a truly effective Brand Essence statement, your sentence must be experiential, emotional, evocative, esoteric, and exclusive.
Your Brand Essence must capture the tangible and intangible experience that a member of your target audience will have when working with you or using your product. Is it fun? Educational? Well organized? Extremely personalized? Quick? In-depth? Consultative? Confidence building? Heart warming? Your experience may be all, some, or none of these specific examples. You simply need to decide what the experience is – or what you want it to be – and then make sure that your Brand Essence captures it.
Although many of us will claim that we make all of our decisions based on logic, research, and past experience, emotion plays a huge role in every decision we make. Whether we’re buying socks, shopping for a new camera or computer, selecting a raw material supplier, choosing how much to donate to a charity, or even deciding how to vote on election day, our decisions are always influenced – at least in part – by our emotions. Your Brand Essence can be an important aspect of building an emotional connection with your audience members that will lead to long-term customers.
Your Brand Essence should make the members of your target audience think a little. When people see or hear anything associated with your brand, you want them to think about good times, past or future successes, refreshment, picturesque sunsets, last-second victories, being the hero, the unwavering affection of a loyal dog, homemade chocolate chip cookies, a sense of accomplishment, or some other memory or image that creates a positive links between your brand with your customers’ mindset, self-image, or world view.
If your Brand Essence is too straightforward, it won’t mean anything, and it’ll probably need to change as technology and the market place evolve. To be both effective and timeless, your Brand Essence should be less than obvious, not tied to a specific attribute, hard to put your finger on, and something that makes your audience members feel somewhat elite in “getting it.” By making your Brand Promise intangible, you add to the je ne sais quoi of your brand, elevating it above the brands of your competitors and helping you move beyond a direct comparison of price, features, or benefits.
By exclusive, we’re not talking about a specific product feature or benefit that none of your competitors can provide – and which will probably change over time. We’re talking about something that no one else stands for, something that no one else is talking about, something that is uniquely woven into the fabric of your organization, product, or service. Your Brand Essence must deliver a message, that once you’ve stated it, no other organization can say anything even similar without coming across like a copycat.
And one last thing to keep in mind: Your Brand Essence is an internal statement. Don’t worry about what it will sound like to your audience; in most cases, they will never hear it. The purpose of a Brand Essence is to have a simple statement that you can use to judge every decision you make – from the headline and photo of an advertisement, to your employee dress code or the message on your voicemail system. Everything you do and say must exude your Brand Essence.