Brand Essence, Discriminator, and Brand Personality
This is the third and last post on our exploration journey on 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 the 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 essential component of the model.
The Brand Essence is often referred to as the Equity of the Brand. It is what the brand stands for, inspires its commercial and marketing efforts, and its purpose worldwide. Net, the promise or the purpose is crafted as an Essence statement, which confuses many. Many confuse it with the current communication slogan. It’s often expressed through a tagline or a slogan, but the saying is just a mere formalization of the essence in a storytelling fashion. The motto is not the essence. The brand essence is 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 an inspiring promise, the brand positioning is hollow, void, and unfulfilling in its raison d’être.
Values, Beliefs, and Brand Personality
A strong relationship with consumers can only be achieved by a brand that stands for something. This is why this component is so pivotal in the model, albeit very challenging for newcomers and experts alike. It entails treating the brand as a person, with values, beliefs, and a personality. And it’s not an easy exercise to conduct with no previous experience. 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 oneself.
In a nutshell, the brand attributes are those characteristics that make the brand stand and relate to its essence. The Nike example shows that Nike is energetic yet Lifestyle and image-conscious. It’s competitive but not compromising on Comfort.
The attributes and values are deeply intertwined with the brand’s beliefs and personality. They build and depend on each other. The view 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 become 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 define the brand’s “look and feel” and the brand’s “tone of voice,” which are critical 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. They become a core characteristic of the target market. And therefore, many 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 its competitors. The Discriminator needs to relate to the core emotional benefit of the brand. But not only. Nike is, of course, provocative: the slogan is pushy, aggressive, and challenging the user, which is in line with the brand’s personality. The Discriminator needs to build also on the fundamental values, personality, and attributes of the brand.
Attributes/ Values Beliefs Personality Discriminator Essence Slogan
· Full of energy
· Lifestyle and image-conscious
Every human being can be a pro athlete
· Provocative: Take control of your life
Become an athlete, 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.
The first step in creating a brand positioning strategy is understanding your target audience. This includes understanding what they want, why they want it, and where they are looking for it. Once you have done this, you need to identify your brand’s essential attributes. These attributes include everything from your company name to your product features. Then, you need to create a set of brand promises that describe what your brand does well and what it doesn’t do as well. Finally, you need to figure out how to communicate those promises so that consumers can easily recognize them. The brand key is just a framework to achieve an objective.