Brand essence is defined as the core characteristic of a brand that elicits an emotional response in consumers. Brand essence is unique to every business, and the most successful businesses use it to create a reliable feeling in their target audience that builds loyalty over time.
Understanding brand essence
Fundamentally, brand essence is the emotional reason behind a consumer choosing one company over another. Since it deals with human emotions, brand essence is intangible. In other words, it is felt.
It’s important to note that brand essence is not a company slogan, tagline, or mission statement. By its very definition, brand essence is driven by consumers – it is not something a business can deliberately communicate.
In the most successful brands, brand essence is described in just a few short words. Here, there is power in brevity.
Consider the following global brands and the characteristic emotions that consumers experience just by thinking about them:
- Volvo – safety.
- Disney – magic.
- Harley Davidson – freedom.
- BMW – driving pleasure.
- Apple – simple elegance.
Creating a brand essence
Brand essence is about striking a balance between authenticity and ambition. To gauge the perception of their brand, businesses should seek the input of internal and external stakeholders. Consumers should of course be consulted first and foremost, but employees, clients, and industry peers should also be consulted.
Once the relevant stakeholders have been assembled, they should brainstorm the answers to a list of questions. These include:
- If the business in question was a car, what make and model would it embody, and why?
- How does the business perceive itself and does this perception align with those of customers or clients?
- What does a business contribute to the world and how does this make consumers feel?
With the answers to these questions, stakeholders can further refine brand essence by ensuring that descriptive words are
- Authentic – does a business deliver on its promises? Brand essence must be in alignment with what the customer experiences.
- Relevant – is the brand essence statement relevant to the customer? Does it resonate with them to the degree that emotion is felt?
- Consistent – consistency is key because it informs others of what to expect from a brand. McDonald’s became a powerful global force because its restaurants are consistently branded regardless of the country they operate in.
- Sustainable – brand essence is a long term strategy. As such, it must be sustainable in the sense that it must maintain relevancy as a business grows. For example, a car manufacturer whose brand essence is “handmade engineering” may run into trouble as they shift toward production line manufacturing to meet growth targets.
Benefits of brand essence to businesses
Increased focus and clarity
Businesses who develop a brand essence are more focused on their core goals and attributes. This enables them to make better decisions and communicate with consumers in a way that reinforces brand recognition and awareness.
Tying emotions to a particular brand are important in creating meaningful and sustainable differentiation, particularly in oversaturated markets. Apple has not drastically changed the design of their products in many years, but it maintains a competitive advantage through clear and consistent communication of its brand message.
- Brand essence is the reliable feeling that consumers come to expect when interacting with a brand.
- Brand essence relies on the power of brevity and should be ascertained by consulting internal and external stakeholders.
- Brand essence must be authentic. That is, it must deliver on its promises and resonate with customers through consistent and sustainable communication.
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