The building blocks of the brand identity

October 11, 2010

It has now been several months since I kicked off my series of posts on building a brand identity.  I realize that those of you who read the first 2 posts might be wondering when this next post would arrive…It has been a bit delayed as a result of a new role that I have taken on in the last few weeks- motherhood.  My new boss (my 7 week old son) doesn’t give me much free time to work on posts these days, and so future posts might be a bit less frequent.

Since it has been quite a while since my last post, here is a quick recap of what I covered previously in this series.  The first post introduced the topic of why some organizations embark on the process of building a brand identity.  The next post focused on the key inputs to the process of successfully building a brand identity.  This post discusses the pieces of the brand identity that the development process should address.  These pieces, or building blocks, of the brand are the brand essence, benefits, character, and reasons to believe.  If an organization is going through a brand development process to build its brand identity, the participants of the process should brainstorm each of these pieces and then align to a final set that the organization will consistently use in the future.

Brand Essence: The brand’s essence is the word that the brand ultimately stands for/delivers in the minds of its target customers.  The essence should be stable over time.  Even as campaigns or positionings evolve, the core essence that the brand delivers should be consistent.  Brands that have strong core essences have one word that ‘pops’ into their target customer’s mind when they think of the brand.  For instance, many people think ‘safety’ when they think of Volvo.  People typically think ‘innovation’ when they think of 3M.  A strong brand has a clear essence that is demonstrated by all that the brand does for and communicates to its target customers.

Benefits: The brand’s benefits are either what the brand does for its target customers (these are functional benefits) or how it makes the target customers feel (emotional benefits).  Many brands have several benefits — some of them are functional and some of them are emotional.  For instance, Sure antiperspirant’s functional benefit is that it keeps you dry.  Its emotional benefit is that it makes you feel confident in yourself and not self conscious so that you can be your best.

Character: The brand’s character is the personality behind the brand. The character helps guide how the brand looks, feels, and gets communicated to its target customers.  For instance, Pepsi and Coca Cola — while they both are brands of dark cola beverages — are highly differentiated by their various brand characters.  They have very different personalities.  In the brand development process, a great exercise for getting to a brand’s character is to identify a celebrity who is a good representation of the brand (i.e. answering the question, if our brand was a person, who would it be?).  Once some celebrities are identified in the brand development process, key common characteristics/personality traits can be identified to help develop the brand character.  Personality characteristics (i.e. ways you would describe a person) are ultimately the types of words that you would be seeking in this exercise.

Reasons to Believe: A brand’s reasons to believe are the “facts” about the brand that support how a brand is able to deliver its benefits to its target customer.  These “facts” can be product related (design, formulations, features), people related (founder, endorsements), or experience related (proprietary information, research).  The reasons to believe further differentiate a brand from any others that might provide similar benefits.  Strong reasons to believe make a brand that much more compelling in its message of the benefits that it delivers.

The building blocks of the brand is one of the critical outcomes of the brand development process.  Once these are identified, the process is nearly complete.  The final stage of the development process is to use the building blocks to create a brand promise that can be communicated both internally throughout the organization as well as externally to target customers.  My next post will discuss developing a brand promise and cascading it consistently throughout the organization.

Advertisements