5 Steps to Defining Your Brand Essence

Discover your brand’s core qualities.

Diana Lillicrap 9.14.2016

Getting at the heart of what makes your brand unique is key to effective communications. Need help in discovering your own secret sauce? Here’s a five-step process to help you out.

1. Start with what you know.

List out all of your big-picture organizational goals along with any specific communication objectives you are trying to accomplish. Then take stock of your current brand position with an in-depth audit. Knowing your starting point and where you are headed is essential before you can build a map to get there.

2. Research your marketplace.

Thoroughly define the audiences that benefit from your offerings and articulate what they need from your brand. Then, check out your competitors and peers—direct, indirect, and transecting industries with similar goals or audiences. Uncover any trends, shifts, or marketplace considerations that may influence your marketing approach.

3. State your advantages.

Once you have a sense of your current brand position and that of your competitive set, you can list out all the ways your brand is better and more relevant to your audiences. Keep this list broad, including elements of your products and services, your business culture, and things that make you stand out from the crowd.

4. Define your brand attributes.

By this point in the process, you should have a good sense of your brand personality—how does it sound, look, and make others feel? Create a long list of words that reflect your brand. After you’ve filled a page (or more), start to group things into like categories, narrowing the list down to a few big ideas that consistently show up and that are most important to your audiences. Getting to 5 – 7 attributes is a good goal.

5. Create your message platform.

Armed with an understanding of your competitive advantages and your final brand attributes, it’s time to put your brand essence into words. Ultimately, your message platform should include: Who you are; What you do; Why you exist; and What sets you apart. Answer each question with one simple, straightforward sentence.

Here’s an example:

Who we are: 5 by 5 Design is a branding, marketing, and communications firm.

What we do: We ask the right questions to find the right strategies for your specific brand.

Why we exist: We help organizations take their brand to the next level.

What sets us apart: We see the big picture and deliver on the details better than anyone else.

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