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brand differentiation Archives - Haloway Consulting
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Discover Your Brand Essence

Discover your brand essence

What is brand essence?

Every strong brand stands for something—one differentiating attribute.

Some call it brand essence. Others call it the brand. Or any of these…

  • SOUL
  • HEART
  • MANTRA
  • PROMISE
  • SIGNATURE STRENGTH
  • CORE STRENGTH
  • CORE ATTRIBUTE
  • DESCRIPTION
  • PERSONALITY
  • DIFFERENTIATOR
  • EXPERIENCE
  • CONNECTION
  • LIFE FORCE
  • UNIQUENESS
  • INDIVIDUALITY
  • MEANING
  • CENTRAL NATURE
  • VALUE PROPOSITION

Why is a core attribute important?

Your brand essence or core attribute gives your audience the primary reason to choose your brand over competitors’ brands. Your brand personality captures what your audience feels when they experience your brand.

Examples of well-known brands:

  • Apple – The Apple essence is innovation.
  • Volvo – The Volvo essence is safety. “Driving a Volvo makes me feel that my family is safe.”
  • Jeep – Their essence is adventurous.
  • Disney – The Disney essence is magic for everyone. “Experience the Magic Kingdom.”
  • Harley-Davidson – Their essence is liberating, freedom and independence – be a rebel.
  •  VISA – Their essence is reliability everywhere.

What is YOUR true brand essence?

 A strong car brand can create significant value in the automotive industry. The price consumers expect to pay for otherwise identical luxury vehicles can vary as much as $4,000, depending on the car’s brand. For mass-market cars, brand helps determine which products a consumer considers buying. Furthermore, superior brands extend their halo across every model of vehicle within the brand. It’s no surprise that most auto manufacturers make brand positioning and development a key item on their marketing agenda.

Volvo = Safety and reliability.

Tesla = Luxury and state-of-the art electric car technology.

Porsche = Sporty performance.

Lamborghini = Exotic luxury performance.

Ries & Ries

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

 A brand becomes stronger… when you narrow its focus.

The bottom line as you brand yourself and your business

Tap into what your audience feels.

Be single-minded. Stand for something and own it. One word to describe your essence is ideal. Maybe two. More than two words indicates that the brand has no focus.

Because a brand (by design) delivers a unique experience, having no focus makes for a weak brand.

Your brand essence must be authentic and credible, or your audience will not believe you. To find out what your audience believes about your brand, ask them. How did people react to your car brand description during the ice-breaker? Did they believe you? Or was it a stretch for them? How hard was it for you to zoom in on the words you chose to describe yourself?

(It’s okay for the brand essence to be aspirational, but only if your audience believes you can deliver on the promise.)

Haloway Consulting brand essence word cloud

Haloway Consulting brand essence word cloud

Build your brand essence

  1. Pick out 3-5 words that you think and feel best describe you and your business. Use a word cloud tool, word sheets or the resources below to collect words that describe your brand. Can you narrow it to one or two words that you can authentically own and defend?

Here are a few resource links to help:

Brand voice test: Do these words pass the sniff test? If people can't tell who's talking when your logo or trademark is covered, then your brand's voice is not distinctive enough.

How to Build a Bullet-proof Brand: Part 2

Generic tomato sauce

Why is it important to build strong brand differentiation?

Your brand is about intangible perceptions—how people feel about your products, services or business. Similarly, what people experience when they interact with your brand. Most importantly, you want to create powerful brand differentiation that helps you stand out from the pack. 

For instance, you can use the power of brand differentiation build a strong, bullet-proof brand. As a result, you prevent your brand from becoming a generic commodity such as kitty litter, cornflakes or catsup. 

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.”

    ⏤ Jeff Bezos

“A brand is not a product or a premise. It’s the sum of all the experiences you have with a company.”

    ⏤ Amir Kassaei

What happens when people don't see any perceived value in your brand?

Perception is in the eye of the beholder. Some see them, some don’t. However, when people don’t perceive any intangible value, it’s a commodity to them. You're as good as generic kitty litter or catsup in their eyes. 

A commodity is a product, service, cause or organization with NO perceived intangible benefits or attributes. On Wall Street, commodities of the same type are interchangeable with each other. Therefore, If you are a commodity, you are stuck in a no-win price competition.

A brand differentiation lesson from tomatoes and catsup (ketchup)

Catsup (ketchup) is catsup, right? The stuff you squirt on hamburgers, hotdogs and French fries. You say "toe-may-toe," I say "toe-mah-toe." you make catsup by smashing tomatoes up into a tangy sauce and put into a bottle. Brands range from the generic to exotic. People who don't care about their tomato catsup (ketchup) brand will buy the generic, cheap stuff found on the big food chain shelves. 

In contrast, catsup (ketchup) connoisseurs (aka "food snobs") will go out of their way to discover exotic flavors and brands, including Harry and David and classic Sir Kensington. As a result, in the minds of the buyers of these prized gourmet brands, they are most certainly not interchangeable commodities. This is a vastly different mindset from the regular folks who buy generic brands.

All these brands have their place in the market. Who do you think is able to charge more for their product? Who gets more social media buzz and loyal customers? 

"Almost as American as apple pie"

Market Pantry™ promises freshness and quality always at a great value. The essential condiment for barbecues and picnics.

"America's Favorite Ketchup"

Heinz updates its classic with organic tomatoes, no high-fructose corn syrup for a well-balanced version that appeals to the organic food crowd.

"Share more"

Harry & David appeal to people looking for thoughtful, gourmet food gifts that reflect well on the giver.

"Quirky sensibility"

Sir Kensington's was designed to appeal to people who wanted a tasty, non-GMO ketchup on their grass-fed burger with their farm-to-table side.

1. BRANDS COMPETE ON THEIR INTANGIBLE ATTRIBUTES.

2. COMMODITIES COMPETE ON PRICE OR CONVENIENCE.

3. YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE VIEWED AS AN EASILY REPLACEABLE COMMODITY.

Keep these three rules in mind as you work on creating your branding.

In conclusion, all these brands have a legitimate place and purpose in the condiment market. The lesson here is that if you do not want to be viewed as a generic, commodity product or service who can only compete on pricing, you need to build strong brand differentiation to survive. Take a cue from Sir Kensington and figure out what's in your "secret sauce" that will make you irresistible to your customers and prospects!

For those of you who are into the classic red stuff and love a good food fight,  read the Epicurious "tell all" blog post for the insider scoop on which brand makes the best catsup (ketchup). 

Next week: Part 3. Guess what? You already have a brand, whether you know it or not! I will show you how to identify your brand essence and start to put your secret sauce to work.

Until then, feel free to do your homework. Download the presentation now!

About the “Build a Bullet-proof Brand” series

This series of blog posts is based on a branding masterclass workshop from last fall. The topic is evergreen, based on the number of brand-related questions my partner Robynne Davis and I field every week in our marketing meetups. This series is designed to bring all of these important elements into alignment with your authentic brand:

  • Your true brand essence
  • The visual experience behind logos, fonts and color
  • The emotional connections with feeling that happen with images and videos
  • The power of words to convey your brand promise and your brand essence
  • How you appear in the many worlds of social media – consistently and meaningfully.
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