In today’s global, rapidly shifting marketplace, price wars, and gimmicks are no longer effective strategies to develop long-term customer loyalty. Companies build customer loyalty and longevity in the market when they create a brand that is easy to emotionally invest in, indicative of their mission and values, and clear in what sets them apart from their competitors.
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of business strategy and development is connecting emotionally with your target demographic. The way to do that? Through developing a multifaceted and thoughtful brand identity.
Creating a strong brand identity, however, is easier said than done. The path to finding your company’s voice can be murky and ill-defined. Something that will help in that process if figuring out your brand essence.
This guide will map out for you what brand essence is, why it matters, and how to develop a thoughtful, accurate brand essence that will set your company up for long term, consistent success.
What is brand essence, and why does it matter?
Brand essence is a 1-2 word phrase that defines the core of your company. Unlike many other aspects of business development, brand essence refers to an intangible attribute of your company that sparks emotional responses within your target demographic.
A brand is a compilation of one’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences surrounding a company. A brand essence cuts to the very core of that idea; it is the heart and soul of your brand. It isn’t tangible, meaning that it isn’t a fact, commodity, or product feature. Think of it as the simplest way to express what your company stands for.
When created accurately and effectively, it will serve as a driving decision-making tool for years to come. It will inform every facet of your business strategy, including marketing, product or service development, and long term growth goals. Your brand essence will help maintain consistency over time and across all platforms and develop a reputation within your industry.
Cultivation strategies: how do you develop and utilize your brand essence?
The goal of brand essence is to pinpoint your businesses’ current qualities (think about your USP), future goals, and what inspires customers to fall in love with what you do. In other words, it’s about attributing human characteristics to your company in a way that represents why you’re in business. Loyalty is rooted in the connection people feel to your brand. Distilling your entire brand into just one or two words is undoubtedly a daunting task, but once it’s done, it will be an invaluable asset to your company.
The first step is brainstorming. Think about why you start the company, what makes you unique, and what you want to do in the future. Some of the best questions to ask yourself are Kirk Phillips’s 9 Essential Criteria for strong brand essence. Answering these questions will give you a jumpstart in your brand essence creation process:
- Is it unique?
- Does it make people feel something?
- Is it focused and single-minded? Does it communicate what drives your business?
- Is it experiential? Will it be indicative of what people feel when interacting with your brand?
- Is it meaningful? Will your demographic care about it?
- Is it delivered consistently from person to person and platform to platform?
- Is it authentic?
- Is it sustainable? Your brand essence must be able to stay consistent over time.
- Is it scalable? Can you maintain your brand essence even if your brand expands significantly?
The composition of brand essence can also be expressed as an equation:
BRAND VALUES + USP + FUTURE GOALS = BRAND ESSENCE
Other things to think about: why did you start making your product or offering your service? How do other people currently understand your brand? What is appealing about the product that you cannot get elsewhere?
Defining your brand essence will result in elevated, personalized customer marketing, more meaningful consumer experiences, and higher levels of customer loyalty, which will carry your brand through ups and downs in both the economy as well as your product development.
Brand Essence Wheel marketing and brand essence models: visualizing brand strategy
A brand essence wheel is a psychological approach to marketing that is represented in a three-ring circle with brand essence at its center. Let’s break down a brand essence wheel chart.
As we move from the outer rings inwards, we go from superficial, customer-centric attributes and feelings about a brand or product towards what its purpose or essence is. For the outer ring in the upper left quadrant: does this product transport me from place to place? Does it fill me up? Does it taste good? For the lower-left quadrant of the outer ring: does this product make me feel strong? Adventurous? Brave?
The middle ring is for facts, statistics, and characteristics of the brand or product that are true regardless of public perception. Where is the product made? What is it made of? What is the tone of the brand?
These outer rings will help you arrive at your center circle, which is your brand essence. The brand essence wheel is also useful when re-evaluating your brand strategy and performing brand analysis.
It is important to note that there are multiple ways of creating brand essence models, and any visual tool will be an asset as you start to cultivate your brand essence and purposeful marketing strategies.
How does brand essence fit into brand strategy?
Just as the brand essence wheels show, your brand essence is at the center of your company universe. It is the one, singular idea that encapsulates who you are why your customers love you. This is the foundation upon which you must expand and build your brand strategy. A brand’s essence is deeply related to the unique selling proposition (USP), company mission, and brand promise.
Marketing is all about adapting to social patterns and tailoring your brand to who your target demographic is, and brand essence is all about consistency and longterm company image. These two things can combine to help you make cohesive business decisions that allow your company to keep sight of its mission, purpose, and values while still growing with the evolving marketplace.
Stellar brand essence examples:
There are many examples of brand essence that you know and see every day without thinking. These are the most successful brand essences that fit perfectly into their brand essence wheels and broader marketing and growth strategies. Some great examples to learn from:
- Nike: innovation and imagination
- Airbnb: belonging
- Haagen Dazs: gold standard
- Disney: magical
These are just a few. Brand essence is ultimately about helping people understand and love your company in the same way that you do. It’s a little bit like SEO in that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You must approach the development of your brand essence carefully and thoughtfully. Take the time to develop brand essence wheels and models, and answer as many questions as you can about what your brand is and how you can facilitate a connection between customers and company mission.