A brand pyramid is a representational framework that answers fundamental questions about a brand and market positioning. The framework is particularly useful for new brands to enter a market for the first time. It moves from bottom to bottom with these elements: features and attributes, functional benefits, emotional benefits, brand persona/core values, and brand essence.
|Concept Overview||The Brand Pyramid, also known as the Brand Hierarchy or Brand Value Pyramid, is a model used in marketing and brand management to illustrate the hierarchical structure of a brand’s elements, from its fundamental attributes to its emotional and symbolic associations. The pyramid visually represents how consumers perceive and relate to a brand. It helps marketers and brand managers understand and strategize the building blocks of brand equity.|
|Key Levels||The Brand Pyramid typically consists of four or five key levels: |
1. Brand Identity: At the base of the pyramid, this level represents the fundamental attributes of a brand, including its name, logo, color scheme, and visual elements.
2. Brand Meaning: This level delves deeper into the brand’s functional benefits and attributes, explaining what the brand does and how it meets consumer needs.
3. Brand Response: Moving up, this level explores consumer reactions to the brand, including their thoughts and feelings about it. It includes elements like brand associations and perceived quality.
4. Brand Resonance: At the top of the pyramid, this level represents the highest level of brand loyalty and connection, where consumers have a strong emotional attachment to the brand, and it becomes a part of their identity.
5. Brand Advocacy (Optional): In some versions of the Brand Pyramid, there is an additional level representing brand advocates—loyal customers who actively promote and recommend the brand to others.
|Visual Representation||The Brand Pyramid is often represented as a pyramid-shaped diagram, with each level building upon the one below it. The base is wider to reflect the broadest aspects of the brand, such as its visual identity, while the top is narrower, indicating the more specialized and emotional aspects of brand resonance.|
|Applications||The Brand Pyramid is applied in various contexts: |
1. Brand Strategy: It helps in the development of brand strategies by identifying areas where the brand can be strengthened or enhanced.
2. Brand Assessment: Brands can use the model to assess their current position and determine areas for improvement.
3. Consumer Behavior: Marketers use it to understand consumer behavior and motivations related to a brand.
4. Brand Communication: It guides the development of marketing campaigns and messaging that align with the brand’s position in the pyramid.
|Benefits||Utilizing the Brand Pyramid offers several benefits: |
1. Clarity: It provides a clear and structured framework for analyzing and managing brand equity.
2. Strategic Alignment: Brands can align their strategies with the desired level of brand resonance.
3. Competitive Advantage: A strong brand pyramid can lead to a competitive advantage and increased customer loyalty.
4. Customer Understanding: It aids in understanding customer perceptions and preferences related to the brand.
5. Effective Communication: It helps in creating targeted and effective brand messaging.
|Challenges||Challenges in implementing the Brand Pyramid include the need for accurate and up-to-date consumer research, the potential for shifts in consumer perception, and the time and effort required to build a strong brand at each level. Additionally, it may be challenging to measure emotional aspects of brand equity accurately.|
Understanding brand pyramids
Brand pyramids help a business clarify its brand essence – or the emotional feeling that consumers come to expect from interacting with a brand.
Here, it’s important to note that developing a brand pyramid should be an internal process. In other words, the business must define the external face of its brand by first looking inwards.
What does a business stand for and how does it want to be perceived? This is a question that only a business can answer, and should never be left for others to decide.
It can also serve as a standard that businesses can refer to in gauging whether its actions are aligned with its core values.
Establishing a brand pyramid
A brand pyramid can be created by using a triangle divided into five tiers. Marketing teams must start at the base and then move upwards.
Let’s look at each of the tiers in more detail.
1. Features and attributes
Features and attributes describe the basic purpose of the product in the market.
In other words, what does it do, and how does it do it?
For example, a messaging app may have custom emojis, group chat, and video chat features.
2. Functional benefits
Functional benefits delve a little deeper. This tier seeks to determine the problems that a product or service is attempting to solve.
Put differently, functionality describes the reason a consumer uses a product. It also describes their expected outcome after consumption.
The messaging app solves the problem of free, instantaneous communication allowing consumers to express themselves through video and custom emojis.
3. Emotional benefits
What emotions do consumers tie to the usage of a product or service?
The user of an instant messaging app may feel connection, anticipation, joy, and acceptance.
4. Brand persona/core values
Brand persona simply describes the personification of a brand.
What values are important to this person?
How does the brand persona influence or reinforce marketing strategies and product development, and vice versa?
For example, insurance company Geico uses a gecko as representative of its brand persona.
The gecko calms the typical fear and distrust of insurance companies by appearing curious, approachable, and friendly.
5. Brand essence
Brand essence is the apex of the brand pyramid, and for good reason.
Brand essence is the heart and soul of a business and is a culmination of the previous four tiers.
It is a reason for existing that guides everything a business does.
Importantly, brand essence is felt by customers in the form of positive emotions.
Volvo’s brand essence is safety.
That is, safety is a core function of their brand which determines how they invest in the manufacture of safe cars.
This focus on safety is decades-long and is best exemplified by Volvo’s invention of the three-point seat belt in 1958.
The company was also ahead of the curve with the introduction of airbags over 30 years later.
Brand pyramid examples
Let’s take a look at two brand pyramid examples below.
The Coca-Cola Company
Features and attributes
If we zoom in on the Coca-Cola soft drink in particular, we find that the product is sold in plastic bottles, glass bottles, and aluminum cans.
Coca-Cola has a distinctive red and white label and a recognizable taste with elements of vanilla, cinnamon, essential oils, and nutmeg.
Coca-Cola serves primarily to quench a consumer’s thirst and leave them satisfied after consuming the drink.
The product is widely available and inexpensive which enhances this functional benefit.
Consumers associate joy, nostalgia, and relaxation with consuming Coca-Cola.
The “Share a Feeling” initiative, which allowed consumers to customize Coke cans with specific emotions, meant the brand was also associated with self-expression, storytelling, and meaningful connections with friends.
Brand persona/core values
The Coca-Cola Company’s brand persona is predominantly made of up excitement and sincerity.
Marketing strategies illustrate the direct relationship between the brand and qualities such as cheerfulness, fun, and family-orientation.
For several years, the brand was also personified by animated polar bears who were presented as mischievous but also fun and innocent.
While there are many carbonated beverage brands, none of them can recreate the feeling of enjoying a Coke.
The brand essence of Coca-Cola is associated with happiness, fond memories, and a general zest for life.
Note that the act of consuming Coca-Cola is not the driver of the company’s brand essence.
Instead, it is more to do with the enjoyable activities that an individual engages in whilst consuming Coke, such as watching a sports game or movie and hosting a backyard BBQ.
Features and attributes
Volvo is a Swedish vehicle manufacturer that sells cars, trucks, construction equipment, and buses.
Some of these vehicles are powered by internal combustion engines, while others are powered by hybrid or electric systems.
Consumers purchase Volvo vehicles to move from point A to point B. They also purchase Volvos for their reliability and safety.
As we noted in the previous section, the company was a pioneer in airbag and seatbelt introduction.
It was also one of the first to introduce laminated windscreens and various features to protect children against serious injury in an accident.
For many decades Volvo focused on safety above all, which invoked consumer emotions such as comfort, reassurance, contentment, and satisfaction.
In recent years, the company has endeavored to tell emotional stories that encourage consumers to think about the role their Volvo plays in everyday life rather than each model’s specific features.
In one such story that was used to promote the new XC60 SUV, a mother drives her daughter to the important first day of school and assures her that there is nothing to fear and that everything will be fine.
Brand persona/core values
According to the Volvo Group’s website, the company lists the core values of customer success, passion, change, performance, and trust.
Each guides day-to-day behavior and decision-making.
Volvo’s brand essence is still very much associated with safety.
However, modern standards now mean that vehicles from all major brands are just as safe as Volvo’s vehicles.
This means a brand essence based on safety is less of a differentiator than it once was.
In 2021, Volvo drew on its long research and development history to reposition itself as a nimble leader in tech and design.
Whether this move will change the company’s brand essence among consumers remains to be seen.
- Brand pyramids help businesses define the very essence of their brands by way of visual representation.
- Brand pyramids are divided into five tiers that a business must move through to reach the top: features and attributes, functional benefits, emotional benefits, brand persona/core values, and finally, brand essence.
- Brand pyramids provide a systematic means of clarifying brand essence, which determines the emotions consumers associate with a brand. These pyramids also guide marketing strategy and business operations.
- Brand Pyramid Overview: A brand pyramid is a framework that helps define a brand’s essence and market positioning. It is particularly useful for new brands entering a market. The pyramid moves from features and attributes to functional and emotional benefits, brand persona/core values, and brand essence.
- Purpose of Brand Pyramids:
- Brand pyramids clarify a brand’s emotional essence and perception in the market.
- The process of creating a brand pyramid is an internal one that defines a business’s values and desired perception.
- Creating a Brand Pyramid:
- A brand pyramid is represented as a triangle divided into five tiers, moving from the base to the apex.
- Each tier represents a different aspect of the brand’s positioning and perception.
- Tiers of the Brand Pyramid:
- Features and Attributes: Describes the basic purpose and characteristics of the product or service.
- Functional Benefits: Explores the problems the product/service aims to solve and the outcomes it provides.
- Emotional Benefits: Identifies the emotions consumers associate with the product/service.
- Brand Persona/Core Values: Defines the brand persona and the values it represents.
- Brand Essence: The core characteristic of the brand that elicits an emotional response in consumers.
- Brand Pyramid Examples:
- Coca-Cola Company:
- Features and attributes: Various packaging options, distinctive red and white label, unique taste.
- Functional benefits: Quenching thirst, widespread availability, affordability.
- Emotional benefits: Joy, nostalgia, relaxation, self-expression through customizable cans.
- Brand persona/core values: Excitement, sincerity, cheerfulness, family-orientation.
- Brand essence: Associated with happiness, fond memories, zest for life.
- Features and attributes: Offers cars, trucks, and buses with various power systems.
- Functional benefits: Reliable transportation, safety features like airbags and seatbelts.
- Emotional benefits: Comfort, reassurance, contentment, safety.
- Brand persona/core values: Customer success, passion, change, performance, trust.
- Brand essence: Historically safety-oriented, shifting towards tech and design leadership.
- Coca-Cola Company:
- Key Takeaways:
- Brand pyramids help define a brand’s essence and positioning through a structured process.
- The pyramid guides the progression from attributes to core values and essence.
- Brand pyramids provide a systematic way to clarify brand identity and guide marketing strategies.
Visual Marketing Glossary