What is Your Brand Essence?

When Michelangelo carved his iconic statue of David, people would ask him how he created such a masterpiece. The Italian Rennaisance artist would respond, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Challenger Brands often face a similar dilemma in defining their brand essence, which may not be so superficial and require some unearthing to truly set free.

A brand’s essence is a single word or succinct sentence that conveys the brand’s fundamental nature. The brand essence is intangible and encapsulates how the brand can connect emotionally with its customers as well as its own internal team members. The distinction between intangible and tangible is important when considering brand attributes.

A tangible quality might be a lightweight shoe. Intangible qualities are the visceral feelings associated with your brand like the freedom of riding a Harley-Davidson, the safety associated with sending an important package via FedEx or the magic of visiting Disneyland.

Understanding a brand’s essence is particularly important for Challenger Brands as it clearly distinguishes a company from its competitors and represents the emotional heartbeat of the brand on a consistent basis.

Of course, setting the brand essence free from the brand is no easy task. It lives within each member of the organization as well as the organization itself, but often must be “released” like David from the slab of marble. Frequently, when we ask companies how their brand is unique from their competitors, we’ll hear differentiators such as, “our people,” “our service” and “our products.” This is like a restaurant saying they’re special because they have good food and good service. That’s a basic expectation that does not live at the core of the company. Freeing the essence from the brand requires critical insight derived from internal and external research.

The Challenger Brand approach to identifying a brand’s essence often includes:

1. Analyze the Brand Promise – This is a one-sentence summary of the core benefit the brand provides, and demonstrates the collective company purpose and mentality.
2. Internal Interviews – A series of confidential, one-on-one interviews with key internal stakeholders; the brand essence is usually embedded within the company culture, with which most employees can identify, whether they realize it or not.
3. External Interviews – Confidential conversations with customers (current and former) can uncover valuable insight as the brand essence often lives within what customers think of a brand or organization.
4. History – Looking back over the history of a brand, its marks, symbols, logos, colors and even past names provides necessary personalities and attributes that contribute to the brand’s DNA and ultimately, its essence.

Are you having difficulty freeing the essence from your brand? Please contact us if you’d like our Michelangelo’s to help you carve out the true essence of your brand.

Until next month…

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