We have created and evolved brands for a wide variety of clients and, of course, have a process for doing so. Our process is exploratory and collaborative, designed to dig deep to determine the brand and identify its components. One of the essential (no pun intended) components is a company’s brand essence. While clients have no trouble understanding points of differentiation, brand values, and even brand personalities, they sometimes get hung up on what is meant by “brand essence” and why it’s important.
Admittedly, unless you are a seasoned branding pro, the concept can sound a bit like marketing gobbledygook, but its importance should not be underestimated, as it is the engine that drives the brand.
Often thought of as a brand’s DNA, a brand essence sets forth the essential value of your brand and the role it plays in the world. It is a mantra that makes clear to your external and internal audiences, in a concise and somewhat aspirational tone, who you are and what you stand for, and serves as a guide for where you want to go. It captures what you want these audiences to feel when experiencing your brand.
Specifically, it’s a brief (1-2 words ideally) statement that should resonate with every aspect of who the company is and what it believes in (one of the most commonly recited examples of a brand essence is that of Volvo’s, which is “safety”).
It is an intangible attribute that is comprised of both reasoned and intuitive characteristics. It is intended to be timeless — relevant now and into the future.
It is not a public-facing phrase or tagline, but rather an internal compass that helps, not only guide brand development work, but also inform ongoing strategic decision-making and galvanize employee engagement around a simple and compelling concept.
But, this essence must be authentic to have impact – it must feel deeply true.
Once discovered, it drives all the other elements of a company’s brand, from establishing the brand statement/promise, brand positioning and brand personas to creating the logo, color palette, fonts, imagery, voice and identity concept(s). That, in turn, results in a brand that:
Of course I’m going to say this but, with as much objectivity as I can muster, your best bet is to work with a creative agency to find your brand essence.
Having someone from the outside looking in is critically important because (1) ultimately, a brand is simply the perceptions that other people have of your company and, because you are pickled in it, an agency is in a better position to evaluate those perceptions and (2) this exploration can be hard and time-consuming work that very well may get put off or inadequately addressed if done internally.
That said, it certainly is possible to find your brand essence on your own but there should be a clear process developed and adequate time devoted to those who are assigned the task.
As with most things, finding your essence isn’t rocket science. There may be a bit of intuitive magic to it but the process itself is relatively straightforward. Typically, our process involves:
Through this exercise, not only does the visual, spoken and written components of the brand become more focused and reflective of a company’s identity, but through its adoption, employees are newly invigorated, embracing and living the brand in everything they do.
Next up, we’ll touch upon brand launches. In the meantime, check out tenthcrowcreative.com for a look at some of our brand work and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.