Brand positioning: Value, Discriminator and Brand Essence (3/3)
Brand Essence, Discriminator and Brand Personality
This is the third and last post on our exploration journey on the brand positioning. Previous destinations in the expedition – within the context of the brand key framework – included the diagnostic part of the positioning, and the consumer centric component of model. We will now focus our attention on the more brand – descriptive part of the framework, by beginning with the brand essence, which is probably the most important component of the model.
The Brand Essence is often referred to as the Equity of the Brand. It is what the brand stands for, what inspires its commercial and marketing efforts, its purpose in the world. It’s often expressed through a tag-line or a slogan, but the tag-line is just a mere formalization of the essence in a storytelling fashion. The slogan is not the essence. The brand essence, is first and foremost the promise that the brand makes to consumers and customers, employees and shareholders. It builds upon, and shapes – almost in a balancing act – the attributes, the brand’s personality and beliefs. The brand essence is in a nutshell the most important strategic decision the brand team can postulate. Short of a inspiring promise, the brand positioning is hollow, void and unfulfilling its raison d’être.
Values, Beliefs and Brand Personality
A strong relationship with consumers can only be achieved by a brand that clearly stands for something. This is why this component is so pivotal in the model, albeit very challenging for new-comers and for experts alike. It entails treating the brand as if it were a person, with values, beliefs and a personality. And it’s not an easy exercise to conduct with no previous experience; and even for experienced marketers it’s difficult to abstract the brand as a person, often falling into the trap of describing an idyllic version of one-self.
In a nutshell, the brand attributes are those characteristics that make the brand stand and relate to its essence. Going back to the Nike example, Nike as a brand is energetic, yet lifestyle and image conscious. It’s competitive but not compromising on comfort.
The attributes and values are deeply intertwined with the beliefs and the personality of the brand. They literally build and depend on each other. The belief is an idea, a vision, of a possible scenario, that gives purpose to the brand. For example, Nike believes that everybody can be an athlete. And they build products that enable anybody to becoming a professional athlete. And their personality tells you how they plan in achieving this objective. In Nike’s case they are a rather aggressive and competitive brand, and that’s their nuance on being athletic. They don’t plan to hide in plain sight. Nike wants everybody to know their brand is there. Yet they are not loud, they don’t scream, but you can feel their presence.
Attributes, beliefs and personality are the elements defining the brand’s “look and feel” and the brand’s “tone of voice”, which are key dimensions of translating the positioning into its design and advertising derivatives: it’s the bridge to the path to execution.
It’s probably the one attribute that makes the brand stand out from the competition. Sometimes the attributes are imposed by a category, a marketplace. And therefore a number of brands will share a passion for quality, or innovativeness, because those are condicio sine qua non to a market entry. Hence the discriminator, is the minimum number of attributes that differentiate the brand from it’s competitors. Nike is, of course, provocative: the slogan is pushy, aggressive and challenging the user, which is in line with the brand’s personality.
|Nike||· Full of energy|
· Lifestyle and image conscious
|Every human being can be a pro athlete||· Athletic|
|· Provocative: Take control of your life||Become an athlete||Just do it|
A brand positioning exercise is no easy task, and we should not underestimate it. It requires a market diagnostic effort, generating unique and relevant consumer insights, while at the same time declining the brand promise in terms of attributes, beliefs and essence.