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What is a Brand Pyramid?

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What is a Brand Pyramid?

Brand Pyramid: where does it fit?

The branding domain has, in our view, three pillars: architecture, positioning, and design. They are interconnected, but we can assume that each post indirectly supports the brand. From a top perspective, one could argue that brand architecture establishes the relationship between the brand, its products, ranges, and services, and links with other brands in the portfolio (if any). The positioning is the brand’s strategy regarding its reason for being, and it’s a bridge between consumers and the commercial offering. The design translates each component into a unique, relevant, and compelling offering.

Our consulting practice uses the brand key as a positioning framework because of its sophistication and completeness. However, the brand key is not the only positioning model and – probably – is not the most commonly used approach. Many of our clients use the Brand Pyramid instead.

The Brand Pyramid?

The Brand Pyramid is a brand positioning framework in the form of a bi-dimensional pyramid (aka a triangle, but the architectonic reference is probably useful as a selling point), with a more extensive base and multiple layers on top of each other until a peak.

The BP model we often see in action includes five layers, starting from the bottom:

  1. Features are technical characteristics of a product/brand. They link the brand to tangible elements of its product offering, building a more credible positioning. Examples of features include, among others, awards and distinctions, certifications (e.g., bio and organic). We should interpret them as a basement for the construction of the brand.
  2. Functional Benefits: those are the same benefits of the brand key, and they relate to performance-based attributes that the brands promote. Research on benefits laddering suggests that emotional bonding through emotional benefits might happen only in the presence of satisfactory functionalities. So Maison Hermes spends a lot of time training their artisans in hand-stitching their bags, and while this is functionality, it supports the notion of luxury.
  3. Emotional Benefits: This realm of benefits allows for a more robust and deeper emotional bond between consumers and brands. Emotional benefits are also responsible for much of the loyalty consumers show towards brands.
  4. Brand Personality: This component includes all the elements that allow for brand humanization, including look and Feel, Tone of Voice, and, of course, Brand Identity and Personality.
  5. Brand Idea: this is the equivalent of the Essence in the brand key. It is about the promise and the purpose the brand has. It’s at the pyramid’s peak because it relies on the structure underneath to stand.
Brand Pyramid
Brand Pyramid

Brand Pyramid: confusion with other marketing pyramids

Marketers love pyramids and often use them to visualize marketing concepts, which can create some confusion. For example, Prof. Keller’s Brand Equity Model is a pyramid with different components: salience, Performance, Imagery, Judgment, Feelings, and Resonance. Because it is a Brand Equity Pyramid, it is often—and wrongly—referred to as a Brand Pyramid, but it is not a positioning model.

In addition to that, Brand Loyalty is often visualized as a pyramid, outlining the five stages of increasing customers’ loyalty: presence, relevance, performance, advantage, and bonding. This pyramid is a reverse funnel of customer loyalty called the Brand (Loyalty) Pyramid.

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Pros and Cons

The BP has clear benefits:

  • Concise: it is a synthetic model but still provides a good picture of the brand strategy.
  • Visually Appealing: the appeal lies in showcasing that the layers and the peak rely on the layers beneath for stability. It’s a bottom-up construct.
  • Recallable: easy to remember, not very complex

The most significant disadvantage of BP is its inside-out perspective. Unlike the brand key, it does not rely on consumer targets or insights. It does not analyze competitors and their positioning and limits the external world’s view.

Because of the limited perspective, a BP positioning might lack relevance with targets. It is also likely to miss weak signals and emerging trends, effectively forcing the brand to follow the market and never leading its developments.

Finally, BP does not require the brand to seek a unique and discriminating strategy. The model does not require the brand strategist to work towards a relevant and unique positioning: and in our experience, those brand ideas are often borrowed or built upon existing benchmarks.

Brand Pyramid: Examples

AttributesThree-point safety beltCarbon-fiberFlat Plan V8 Engine
Functional BenefitsSafety measuresScissor DoorsF1 technology
Emotional BenefitsFamily SafetyTransgressionRacing
Brand PersonalityModernFuturisticItalian Luxury
Brand IdeaPeace of mindBeyond your wildest dreamsF1 Dream

In Conclusion

The BP is a widely used brand positioning model. It is not as sophisticated as the brand key, but it helps define the brand strategy. Using the BP comes with two risks that need to be mitigated: first and foremost, it provides an inside-out perspective, which must be tested within the natural market landscape (e.g., competitive analysis, and consumer understanding). Moreover, using the mode effectively requires extra effort in benchmarking competitive positioning to avoid a follower stance or lack of uniqueness.

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