The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Category: Brand Essence
A process called "laddering" is often used to uncover the essence of a brand. Laddering is based on the notion that brand meaning can be deepened by examining progressively more abstract implications of a brand's features. The bottom rung of the ladder represents the starting point, which is usually an attribute. The implication of this attribute is a functional benefit, which is the second rung on the ladder. And the implication of a functional benefit is an emotional benefit, which is the third rung on the ladder. Finally, the emotional benefit implies the brand's essence. As the ladder is ascended, the focus is less on the attributes of the brand and more on the role that the brand plays in consumers' lives.
To illustrate the laddering process, consider how the weight-loss brand Jenny Craig might use laddering to market its weight-control meals. Jenny Craig delivers low-calorie meals that provide the needed balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. The implication of these attributes is that they will facilitate healthy weight loss. Losing weight will enhance physical appearance and thus self-esteem, as reflected in greater satisfaction with life. Thus, Jenny Craig's essence is enhancing the enjoyment of life, which is the consumer's goal in using the brand.
Brand essence can also be developed by associating a brand with brands in other categories that share a common goal. In a McDonald's ad depicting a blind date, a young man named Larry calls on his date. He immediately attempts to manage her expectations by clarifying who he is and who he is not. He points out that he is not a doctor, lawyer, banker, or CPA. He is a store clerk. He tells his date that they will not be dining at a bistro, casa, or maison, nor will they be attending the opera, the symphony, or the ballet. Instead he proposes that they drive in his ordinary car to McDonald's and then go to a movie. The factors common to Larry's job, car, and choice of restaurant and entertainment imply McDonald's brand's essence, an unpretentious place to get a good meal.Read More
Brand Essence is the heart and soul of a brand – a brand’s fundamental nature or quality. Usually stated in two to three words, a brand’s essence is the one constant across product categories and throughout the world. Some examples are “Nike: Authentic Athletic Performance,” “Hallmark: Caring Shared,” “Disney: Fun Family Entertainment or “Disneyworld, Magical Fun,” “Starbucks: Rewarding Everyday Moments,” “The Nature Conservancy: Saving Great Places.” (Typically, it is rare for an organization’s brand essence and slogan to be the same. For instance, Nike’s essence – “authentic athletic performance” – was translated to the following two slogans: “Just do it!” and “I can.” But, “Saving Great Places” happens to be The Nature Conservancy’s brand essence and its slogan.)
Kevin Keller, brand expert and author of the popular brand book, Strategic Brand Management, coined the term “brand mantra,” which is very closely related to brand essence. The “mantra” concept reinforces the role of brand essence in internal communication. Kevin says, [brand mantra] should “define the category of business for the brand and set brand boundaries. It should also clarify what is unique about the brand. It should be memorable. As a result it should be short, crisp and vivid in meaning. Ideally, the brand mantra would also stake out ground that is personally meaningful and relevant to as many employees as possible.”
Sponsored by: The Brand Positioning Workshop
In his book, Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders, Adam Morgan indicates that people enthusiastically share information for one of four reasons: (1) bragging rights, (2) product enthusiasm, (3) aspirational identification or (4) news value.
Stories and anecdotes make a point real to people and imbed it in their memories. Brand stories and anecdotes can become legends. As they are told and retold, they can raise the brand to a mythological level. Stories are often told about consumer experiences that far exceed expectations. This could be the result of extraordinary customer service or some other incredible experience with the brand. Going out of your way as an organization to create these experiences will pay huge dividends – word-of-mouth marketing can not be underestimated. Ideally, you create experiences that reinforce your brand’s point of difference.
For instance, a Hallmark card shop owner cared so much for one of her customers that when the customer could not find what she was looking for in the store, the owner drove several miles away to a few other Hallmark stores until she found what the customer was looking for. She hand delivered it to the customer’s house that evening, at no charge, reinforcing Hallmark’s essence of “caring shared.” Now that is the stuff of legends. Delivering this type of service, even occasionally, generates significant word-of-mouth brand advocacy.Read More
This branding question came to us from Rich in Seattle:
"Please describe the difference between brand essence and brand promise"
Rich, thanks for asking. We believe there are four critical elements to a well-positioned brand:
(1) target consumer, (2) brand essence, (3) brand promise and (4) brand personality.
Here are the differences between the two you asked about…
The Brand Essence is a two to three word phrase (typically in the format “adjective adjective noun”) capturing the “heart and soul” of the brand. The Brand Essence is simple, concise, aspirationally attainable, timeless, enduring and extendable. Examples include “fun family entertainment” (Disney), “genuine athletic performance” (Nike), “saving great places” (The Nature Conservancy) and “caring shared” (Hallmark). It is not a tagline or slogan, but rather the first thing an employee might say to quickly describe the brand to another in an elevator conversation (“This brand is all about…”). While a brand’s positioning might differ slightly from country to country and while its advertising campaigns might change over time, like a person’s character, the brand’s essence will largely remain unchanged.
The Brand Promise is a sentence that communicates the one thing that the brand intends to own in the target consumer’s mind. I prefer to express it in the following form: “Only (brand) delivers (unique benefit) to (target consumer).” A brand promise must be understandable, believable, unique/differentiating, compelling, admirable and endearing. The ideal benefit to claim in a brand promise has the following three qualities: (1) it is extremely important to the target consumer, (2) the brand’s organization is uniquely suited to delivering it and (3) competitors are not addressing it. As an example, Harley-Davidson’s brand promise might read as follows: “Only Harley-Davidson delivers the fantasy of complete freedom on the road and the comradeship of kindred spirits to avid cyclists.” The brand’s promise should drive everything an organization does and be manifest at each point of contact the brand makes with the consumer.
Have a branding related question? Just Ask…
Sponsored By: Brand AidRead More
When I have joined organizations to head up their brand management or marketing functions, others in those organizations have often conveyed to me that my primary role must be one of the following:
- Logo management
- Creating brochures
- "Air cover" for the sales force
- "Putting a pretty face on the product"
Having been immersed in brand management for such a long time and with the recent pervasive coverage of brand management in the general business press, it amazes me how many people still don't "get" what brand management is all about.Read More