What is a brand?
Before we define what a brand is, let's talk about what a brand is not. A brand is not logo or trademark. To illustrate this, let's take a look at the following graphic:
Both of these are graphical representations of apples, but there is an obvious difference. When you see the image on the left , you think innovation, being cutting-edge, and cool. When you look at the image on the right, you don't feel any of those things. What is the difference?
The difference is Apple has spent billions in advertising to communicate that message to you: being innovative, cutting-edge, and cool. The Apple logo only makes you feel that way because of the messaging.
Remember the Mac VS PC ads? Macs were seen as cool and hip, while PCs were traditional and old.
A brand is the collection of thoughts and feelings you associate with a company that they have communicated to you through messaging. The brand essence is what is at the center of it.
As Derrick Daye says, "Brand Essence is the heart and soul of a brand – a brand’s fundamental nature or quality. Usually stated in two to three words, a brand’s essence is the one constant across product categories and throughout the world."
The brand essence matters because it is the singular thing that your company is about and the thing that sets your company apart from the others. Without a brand essence, you run the risk of being see as just another product.
To illustrate this, let me share a personal story of how my family experienced Disney's brand essence: Magical.
Several years ago, we had a chance to try the Be Our Guest restaurant in the New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom.
When we got to the kiosk to order food, we were given a magic rose.
After we ordered our food, we were instructed to find a table in the beautiful dining rooms.
As we were sitting, I wondered how we were supposed to get our food. We didn't get a metal stand with a number, they didn't take our names, nothing. In several minutes, a cast member came around the dining room with a cart, stopped at our table and delivered our food. The following picture sums up how we felt about the entire experience:
Magical. And being magical makes people happy, especially kids.
Side note: I found out later that there is an RFID chip in the Magic Rose which helps the cast member knows exactly where to to bring the food.
According to Kirk Phillips, there are nine essentials to a brand essence.
1. Unique - What is it about your brand that makes it stand out?
2. Intangible - What is the feeling you want your customers to feel when they think of your brand?
3. Single-minded - What is the one thing that your brand is all about?
4. Experiential - How can your customers feel that?
5. Meaningful - Why does this matter to your customers?
6. Consistency - Is this something that you can deliver on a regular basis?
7. Authentic - Is this truly who your brand is?
8. Sustainable - Can you keep this essence this up?
9. Scalable - Will this essence grow with your business?
These are some great questions to ask yourself to figure out what your brand essence is. Once it is identified, you can take the brand essence and measure it against every part of your company and see if it lines up. Is your sales, marketing, operations and customer service lining up with your brand essence, the one thing you want your customers to remember? If not, it may be time to readjust.