4 Tips to Create Your Perfect Brand Essence
There’s a new coffee shop that’s opened in the Northern Quarter, Manchester.
In one of our recent lunch breaks, my colleague and I decided to pop along and see what all the fuss was about. We sat down in one of their workplace/lunch booths and enjoyed some cake, but there was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
For some reason, I liked this place more than others in the area. Five more minutes of gazing around the newly refurbished room and sipping my drink, it clicked:
Superior coffee. Better surroundings.
This is how Foundation Coffee made me feel. It was a brief encounter but the experience stuck with me. However, it’s perfectly plausible that another customer - at the same moment, on the same day - would have a completely different perception of the new cafe. And that’s without even mentioning how the owner and staff feel about working there.
The essence of a brand, its very soul, is a tricky thing to get right.
A great brand lives in your head. It doesn't just deliver a service, it provides customers with a sense of value and purpose that goes beyond their consumer needs. It reflects who they are as a person and what matters to them most. But a brand also has to mean something to employees too, the people who promote and give life to your business every single day.
So, if you’re going to create a brand essence, there’s a few things you’ll need to think about first.
1. What does your company promise?
Every brand promises something - to its customers, prospective customers, or new and long-term recruits.
Your company’s promise will also determine your position within the marketplace, whether your product is cheaper, better value, or offers a heightened customer experience. Without a promise or point of differentiation a brand will fade into the background. And the business probably won’t last long either.
Your essence should succeed in encapsulating the shared experience that unites customers and staff together. It’s like going into a coffee shop when you know people enjoy working there: the feeling is infectious, and if the product is good, the customer is more likely to buy-in to this ethos.
An essence is the driving force behind every encounter your business will ever have.
2. What do people say behind your back?
No, we aren’t talking about that time you wore black jeans and a brown belt to work.
Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, said that your brand is ‘what people say about you when you’re not in the room’.
In other words, your essence is a down and dirty representation of exactly what your brand is.
It’s unadulterated. Honest. And it doesn’t come with any aspirations or ideas about who you could be, rather it’s who you are right now.
When it comes to creating the essence that epitomises your brand, think about the following questions:
What core principle unites your staff and customers together?
How does your brand make people feel?
What’s the one word that defines every aspect of your business, from the bottom to the very top?
This should be a good starting point for moving onto the next step: writing down and articulating it.
Remember, your essence won’t be necessary for public consumption. Instead, it’s the starting point from which to create meaningful marketing campaigns - and crucially set your business apart from its competitors.
Like most things in life, however, less is definitely more.
3. Keep your brand essence to doormat size
Image courtesty of www.volvo.com
The key to creating a great brand essence is simplicity. Do Purpose, the wonderful book by David Hieatt, summed up this mantra nicely.
When you purchase a doormat you are charged by the letter. So any rolling sentences or unnecessary hyperbole don’t just look bad, they cost you money too.
This is a good way of thinking about your brand essence. It should be short, snappy, and to the point - with no room for ambiguity or misunderstanding.
Here are some really good brand essences from the industry leaders:
Nike: Authentic Athletic Performance
Starbucks: Rewarding Everyday Moments
Disney: Fun Family Entertainment
Start by thinking big. Then condense it all onto one doormat.
If you’re still stuck, then Graham Robertson - from Beloved Brands - has created an excellent visualisation tool for determining your company’s ‘big idea’.
4. Make sure everyone in your company knows the brand essence
One of the reasons nailing down your brand essence is so difficult, however, is that it has to be meaningful to staff members. If you don’t have buy-in, then it’s probably time to go back to the drawing boards.
But once you succeed in determining your brand essence, it’s important to distribute this information to everyone in your company - from executives right down to product development and customer service.
Some companies, like Apple, like to put brand essences on their company walls and use it to inspire and give direction to staff at every junction. Their unique company culture is an opportunity in itself to succeed in the market place - after all, if staff love to be there, then this passion and pride in purpose is likely to rub off on customers too.
The essence is your team mascot. It will always be there, come good or bad, and it needs to be emotive enough to inspire action in staff and consumers alike.
Creating a brand essence
There’s no quick method to defining your brand into two, three, or four words.
It takes time and lots of consumer/competitor research. Expect to have 20 or 30 ideas and lots of torn up paper before you choose ‘the one’. But once you do, you’ll have an invaluable tool to shape and guide every business action you have in the future. And that’s not bad from just a few words.
When it comes to determining your essence, however, it can be helpful to keep the following points in mind:
Your company promise is probably your best starting point
Try and get to grips with how your brand makes people feel - so speak to both customers and staff
Keep things short and simple, with no room for ambiguity or misunderstanding
Make sure everyone in your company knows its brand essence - it will help inspire them through times of prosperity and even possible hardship
Now, get creating!
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