Brand Essence: Tell It Like It Is

brand essenceRemember what Amazon’s Jeff Bezos said about your brand being “what people say about you when you aren’t in the room”? This is what brand essence is all about.

What really sums you up? This is your brand essence. Basically, the phrase communicating the trade name’s fundamental nature that is associated with products made by your company is the long definition of what a brand essence is. A brand essence is a promise of specific values and benefits, one that has meaning and relevance to users. To consumers, these promises differ from those of the competition. It is the consumer’s gut feeling about your company, service or product. Brand essence has to do with the one thing we can say about a brand that is most compelling and which differentiates it from the brands of the competitor according to how consumers perceive it. Brand essences become more powerful when these are rooted in a fundamental need of a consumer. Here is a course called Brand Management: Building a Strong Brand that could help you learn to apply tactics and strategies when it comes to your brand.

A marketing team in your business will usually spend time considerably developing methods that can express brand essence effectively. Usually, it starts with highlighting the unique benefits of the company’s various brands. Here is an article called Your Promotional Strategy: tips for Brands that gives you even more useful information about branding.

Beyond Marketing

There is power in brand essence. It goes beyond basic brand marketing principles. At its core it inspires companies to move together and drives employees and customers in the same direction. The imagery, persona, spirit and sheer fabric is what you make it. When your brand comes to mind, what do you feel or think? If you had one word describing it, what would this be? Answers to these questions are meant for you to start thinking about how it relates to a new genre of consumers that are more in tune with each other than ever. Maybe we’ll name them Generation ‘C’ for ‘connected.’

Remember; essence is an emotion and is not tangible. This is not really the emotions that run rampant in the culture of corporations but rather, the ones related to what the consumers go through when using your product. The essence of your brand is the very thing that either causes friction with consumers or inspires bonding. As they go through their experiences with your products and share this to others, this will make an impression and affect the decisions their friends make. You can learn the fundamentals of a powerful brand with this highly informative course called How to Build a Strong Brand.

Higher Expectations Than Ever

Customers these days are increasingly informed connected and feeling empowered. This translates to escalated expectations. They are more demanding and discerning than they ever were in the history of mankind. This is why, more than ever brand essence is of paramount importance. Without this, a business relies on temporary factors like gimmicks, events, trends and price which make it hard to develop long term relationships or bonds between the brand or product and the consumer. Here is a course called Building Your Brand that teaches you how to grow your brand systematically.

Your Brand’s Promise

When consumers make a connection with your brand, this is able to generate love for that brand. A combination of experience, innovation, story, strategy and promise matters. The brand promise is its essence and connects consumers first. Everything else feeds off the promise once it is revealed. For FedEx, the promise is ‘dependability,’ for Apple it is ‘simplicity’ and for Volvo, it is ‘safety.’  Your brand story and strategy need to deliver these promises. As for experiencing the brand, every employee needs to buy into and live up to the brand essence. Clearly, the success of the brand is embedding the brand promise right into the company’s culture.

Brands Equal Culture

Most people believe that marketers do brands and the department of human resources can go ahead and take care of culture. The truth is that everyone has the responsibility for both the culture and the brand. Brand leaders need to understand that great marketing involves so much more than three hundred likes on Facebook and TV ads. Basically, the experience consumers walk out of the store with is the brand essence.

Less is More

Brand essence is stated best in just a few terms. Great examples are, “Volvo: safe” and, “Nike: Just Do It.”

Basically the essence of your brand severs as your measurement stick for the evaluation of your marketing materials and strategies. The experience of the brand becomes stronger when it gets installed into all your services and products as well as every consumer touching point including your tagline, logo, packaging, employee training and corporate culture. The brand experience becomes weak when it is ignored or used with impatience, half-heartedly, using mixed messages or used inconsistently.

Laddering

Often, brand essence involves a process called ‘laddering.’ This is based on the notion that the brand’s meaning can become deeper through the examination of more progressively implied abstract features of a brand. The ladder’s bottom rung represents the start point which usually consists of attributes. This attributes is usually a functional advantage which is the ladder’s second wrung. The ladder’s third wrung is an emotional benefit. The brand essence is thus implied in the emotional benefit. As you go up the latter, the focus becomes less on the brand attributes and more on the role played by the brand in the lives of consumers.

You can also develop brand essence by associating your brand with other brands sharing a common objective. For example, a blind date depicted in a McDonald’s ad features a young man calling his date and making attempts of managing her expectations by making what he is not and what he is clear. He mentions that he is not a CPA, banker, lawyer or a doctor but a clerk in a store. He tells her that they will not be dining at a maison, casa or bistro or attending a ballet, a symphony or the opera. Rather, his proposal is that they drive through McDonald’s in his ordinary car and then watch a movie. The common factors to his choice of restaurant, entertainment, car and job imply the essence of the McDonald’s brand: a place to get a good meal with no pretense.

As an illustration of the process of laddering, consider how Jenny Craig, the weight loss plan uses this to market its meals for weight loss. Low calorie meals are delivered by Jenny Craig for providing the balance needed of carbohydrates, fat and protein. These attributes imply that healthy weight loss will be facilitated. Self-esteem and physical appearance will both be enhanced by losing weight, as reflected in a greater life satisfaction. Thus, the essence of Jenny Craig is enhancing life’s enjoyment which is the goal of the consumer when using this brand.

A Brand Essence Must Be…

  • Scalable

Will the brand’s essence work for product extensions? Will it work as there is growth in opportunities?

  • Sustainable

Over time, the brand essence should remain, unchanged forever. Packaging and logo styles can come and go but the essence of the brand stays as it is.

  • Authentic

The brand will be rejected if the brand essence is not believable. As long as consumers feel that the product does deliver what it says it will, it can be aspirational. Remember, consumers expect the truth and authenticity from brand owners. Credibility is what authenticity is about. Asking consumers what they feel your brand is about will enable you to find out what they believe your brand to be.

  • Delivered Consistently

If the core demographic does not go through the experience of the product’s brand essence with consistency, then this is not the real essence. The brand’s character needs to be represented consistently across all the mediums of marketing and company orientation. In other words, a trip to Disneyland needs to be magical at all times, every time. If it does not deliver this magical feeling, then there would be no brand essence

  • Relevant

To the consumer, the brand essence needs to be relevant, vital and desirable. What you say about it does not matter, but rather how it is relevant to consumers is what matters.

  • Experiential

The way a consumer feels when experiencing a brand is captured by a brand essence. It is not internal jargon but really how the consumer defines it. For example, driving a Volvo will make the entire family ‘feel’ safer.

  • Unique

People notice what makes something stand apart, not what looks the same. A strong brand has at its heart what makes it different form the competition. After all, do you buy a shirt because everyone else has the same shirt?

  • Intangible

You aren’t really more independent or stronger on a motorcycle by Harley Davidson than you are in any other motorbike, but somehow you feel like you are. As a company, tapping into how consumers feel is essential.

  • Single-Minded

Brand essences need to rely on just one thing that the consumer can absorb that says something about the brand or else there will be a lack of focus. It isn’t really written for pampering the desire of the clients for a list of features that are apparently inadmissible. In other words, using one or two words will do the trick. Usually, using too many words will give the impression of a lack of focus.  Since brands should deliver an experience that no other brand is able to duplicate, having no focus creates a weak impression.

Brand Essence Questions for Evaluation:

To ensure that you have a good brand essence, ask these questions:

  1. Is your brand essence said from the point of view of the customer? Describing the essence in a way that even non-marketing persons can understand is important.
  2. Did you use a short phrase or even better, just one word? It just won’t work if you need to explain what your brand is.
  3. It is authentic and honest? Don’t make your brand something it isn’t.
  4. Will the entire world find it relevant? Don’t assume that customers from another country will react the same way as the people next door.
  5. Can it grow? The essence needs to be relevant in the future as it is today.
  6. Can you own it? Competitors should not have claim to the same brand essence.

Needless to say, it is not easy to identify the brand essence but once you are able to do it, you will find an invaluable component to your strategy overall. Here is a course called The 101% brand: How Your Corporate Culture Creates Your Brand that shows you the steps on building a brand that thrives.