• Advertisements

Finding the Essence of a Brand

Defining a brand (and especially redefining a brand) is often a thankless job. Everyone has an opinion. Many people resist change; it’s human nature.

Ask for participation from your team members. Seek their good ideas. There are a couple of reasons for doing this. Your work will be based on a wider perspective. And, by seeking everyone’s input, it ensures everyone’s buy-in of the final product. It’s a win-win situation.

You know the best way to seek everyone’s input. One way is to put a questionnaire on everyone’s desk every morning for one week. Another way is to have informal thinking sessions during lunch(es). The format of how you ask the questions isn’t as important as the questions themselves.

step 1:  questions for those at your company:

Set the questions up by telling everyone that you’re looking for words and ideas to define and describe your company. Tell them that you want their thoughts. Their perspective is much needed. Ask them to answer some questions for you, and tell them that their answers should be totally anonymous.


Who is your company?

Who do your clients think your company is?


Who are your company’s competitors?

What makes each competitor unique in the market?


How is your company different from your competitors?

Why do clients come to you?  Why do clients return to you?


How does your company want to be perceived by others?

How do others perceive your company?


Who is your company’s target market?

How is your company’s target market different from your competitors’ target market?


This one is fun.  Make a stick-figure cartoon of two people talking. Put drinks in their stick hands. The person on the left is saying, “So, you work at ‘your company name’?  What does ‘company name’ do?”  The person on the right has a big, empty talk bubble. Give each employee five copies of this cartoon. On each version, label the person on the right as a key person in your organization from all levels of the company:  the receptionist, the CEO, the sales manager, the attorney, the head of the mailroom, etc.  And on the last one, label the person “You.”  Ask everyone to fill in the blank space.  You decide the best people to go on the right. It’s best if you can give these out one per day or one at a time.

The questions (1 – 5) are grouped together on purpose. Everyone should focus on the questions in a group before going on to the next grouping. If you elect to give out the questions over the course of a week, you’ll have one set of questions plus one stick figure per day.

Let people answer the questions in any way they see fit. Try not to give any more guidance than is needed. If some want to answer the questions in the macro scale, that’s OK. Others will answer them focused on the micro level, and that’s OK. Let everyone go off however they see fit.

The redundancy in the questions is OK. The questions in group 1 are similar to those in group 4. See if the answers are similar. If they are, then that’s good.

Don’t forget to get the answers from your other offices and from all departments. Often times, it’s good to get these answers from business partners — consultants, board members, your accountant, and even clients (select carefully and tread lightly there). Anyone who knows your company will be good.

You or only a select few should be the only one to see the replies. Tell everyone that you’re analyzing the data (that should turn them off of wanting to see it).

step 2:  sifting out the gold.

Some of the stuff you’ll learn from these questions is going to be junk. Some of it will be gold. You’re the one to decide what is what.

The answers will help guide your thinking. They will give you some key words to use.

The key is to focus on the brand truth. That means that the key is NOT to do what the CEO or CMO wants.

After reading over the replies and thinking a lot, you should have a lot of info to begin the process of designing the brand for your company. Next, I like to look for the essence of a brand…

step 3:  spell it out.

Write the essence of your company’s brand.  Fill in the blanks below:

For (identify your company’s target market) your company’s name” is the (identify your product/service description) that (identify the unique benefit you offer to clients) because “your company’s name” has (identify the reason why it is).

Parts of this are lame (because I’m making it up), but I want to give you an example:

For business-unit managers, Exxo Company is the needed boost of positive energy that inspires success because Exxo Company has an interactive and lively approach to finding effective ways for clients’ to work happier and more productively.

The blanks seem self-explanatory. The third one should really focus on what your company offers better than the competition (the customer benefit). Just because the competition could say the same thing, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use it. You just have to be first to say it. I like the example of Folger’s Coffee. When it came out it was touted as Mountain-Grown Folgers. Ahh, coffee grown in the fresh mountain air. The fact that all coffee is grown in the mountains didn’t matter. Since Folger’s was first to own that space, it was theirs.

The last blank is the reason why your company can provide the customer benefit better than the competition.

Now, you should use this template as a starting point. If you need to add something, do it. Try to keep it short and focused!

step 4:  question it.

Once you have written a sentence for your company, look at it.  Ask these questions:

– Is it true? If not, start over.  It must be true to you, to your team, to your clients, and your target market.

– Will clients believe it? Can you explain why they will believe it?  Note… this says “why they will believe it,” not why they should believe it.  Look at it from their POV.

– Is it easy to understand? Will my mother understand it?  Simplicity is a key to all strong brands.  I’m not suggesting that my mother is your target audience. What I’m saying is that if my mother cannot understand it, then a busy, disengaged consumer will not quickly understand it either. He/she won’t know who you are and what you can do for him/her. If it takes five minutes for him/her to digest what your company is, he/she won’t hear it.

– Is your company separated from the competition? All brands are unique (whether they admit it or not). Make sure another company cannot use the same statement.

– Does it say something attractive about your company? The statement must be a forward-moving, positive statement. When designing this statement about your company, it’s best to write it to where you want to be, not where your company is or was.

– Is the wording authentic? Are there corporate mumbo-jumbo words or phrases, or are there catchy phrases from Business 2000?  Erase them. Examples: ideation, actionable steps, holistic viewpoint, grounded processes, network of solutions, teamwork approach (also, make sure there are no sports analogies in there!).

– Are there generalities? Change them to specifics. Examples:  a creativity company, a solutions provider, for all of your needs (that’s my favorite!).

– Is it focused? Keep it to one key idea. Don’t try to say everything because you’ll end up saying nothing. Sure, things are going to be left out, but what’s left in is understandable and memorable.  Think of a successful brand in your town or city. Think of it… imagine it… it could be the locally-owned grocery store chain or a restaurant with a strong reputation… Got it? …  Could you summarize your thinking into a few key words, or did you think of all aspects of that company?  You probably thought of only a few things… but all aspects of the company help to make it what it is.  You probably thought of one simple idea of what that brand means to you. Simplicity and clarity make strong brands because they are easy to remember and easy to understand. People can easily figure out where the brand fits into their life.

After answering all of the questions (and revising the brand statement accordingly), you’ll have a strong description of your brand essence.

step 5:  stay on course.

The results of this process should be your guide in all of your company’s marketing decisions.  The pile of questionnaires and this exploration of the essence of your brand will be an invaluable resource for:

• creating a tone board

• designing a logo

• expanding the company

• figuring out how to get your brand into the heads of every potential customer

• writing a mission statement

• creating innovative extensions

• writing company brochures

• redesigning the website.

Go forth and stay true to your brand!



One Response

  1. Not that I’m impressed a lot, but this is more than I expected for when I stumpled upon a link on Delicious telling that the info is awesome. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: