5 Steps to Defining Your Brand Essence

A process to create a message platform for your brand.

Diana Lillicrap 7.26.2023


Getting to 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 objectives you are trying to accomplish. Step back and think about your bigger purpose. What unites and excites everyone in your organization? What brings your culture together? 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. From there, start to narrow down to your three uniques—those things you can uniquely deliver (in terms of what your customers value) that others can’t. Once you have your points of difference, you’ll have defined your value proposition.

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 brand’s value, your competitive advantages, and your brand attributes, it’s time to put your brand essence into words. To make it useful in multiple places, a message platform should include: Your bigger purpose (some people call this your Why statement); Who you are; What you do; and What sets you apart. Ultimately, you want enough language to use alone or to string together to create that elevator pitch that will easily tell someone about your company. And you want it to be memorable and unique, so it needs connect with them emotionally, pique their interests, and not bore them with too many details. The trick is to keep it simple and straightforward.

Here’s an example:

Bigger purpose: We believe design leads to emotion, which leads to action.

Who we are: 5 by 5 Design is a branding agency based in Minneapolis.

What we do: We help brands move to the next level by uncovering their potential.

What sets us apart: We ask the right questions, lay out whip-smart strategy, and deliver useful tools.

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