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.
- Understanding brand pyramids
- Establishing a brand pyramid
- Brand pyramid examples
- Key takeaways:
- Connected concepts
- Affiliate Marketing
- Ambush Marketing
- Brand Building
- Brand Equity
- Brand Positioning
- Business Storytelling
- Content Marketing
- Digital Marketing
- Growth Marketing
- Guerrilla Marketing
- Inbound Marketing
- Integrated Marketing
- Marketing Mix
- Marketing Personas
- Multi-Channel Marketing
- Multi-Level Marketing
- Niche Marketing
- Relationship Marketing
- Sustainable Marketing
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.
Ideally, the brand pyramid should assist in developing a unique selling proposition, brand story, and overall marketing strategy. 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 the specific features of each model. 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 history of research and development to reposition itself as a nimble leader in tech and design. It remains to be seen whether this move will change the company’s brand essence among consumers.
- 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.