The importance of establishing your brand in the era of Digital Darwinism cannot be overstated. Digital Darwinism occurs when technology and society evolve faster than one’s ability to adapt. Every brand is vulnerable, but no business is too big to fail or too small to succeed.
With customers today being increasingly connected, informed, and ultimately empowered, their expectations only escalate. In short, they are more discerning and demanding than ever before. The brand and the brand promise are of paramount importance. Without it, businesses instead rely on fleeting factors such as price, trends, events, gimmicks, and other elements that make it difficult to develop a long-term bond or relationship between a customer and the product or the brand.
When someone asks your customers what is it about your product or brand that draws them to you, what do you want them to say? What do you want people to feel?
As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
To help those who participate in determining a brand’s essence, here are the primary criteria. Test your essence against them.
1. single-minded: One word is ideal. Maybe two. More than two words indicates that the brand has no focus. As a brand (by design) delivers a unique experience, having no focus makes for a weak brand.
2. intangible: One is no more independent on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle than another brand, but somehow one feels like it. Tap into what the consumer feels.
3. unique: The essence of a brand is how it is different from competitors in the same category. E.g., ifApple (and its products) are friendly and approachable, then it is claiming that its competitors are not.
4. experiential: The essence captures what the consumer feels during an experience with the brand. E.g., “Driving a Volvo makes me feel that my family is safe.”
5. consistently delivered: If the proposed essence is not consistently experienced (e.g, if a trip to Walt Disney World isn’t magical), then it isn’t the essence. Can your organization deliver?
6. authentic: The essence must be credible or the brand will be rejected. To find out what consumers believe about your brand, ask them. It’s okay for the brand essence to be aspirational, but only if your customers believe you can deliver on the promise.
7. sustainable: A brand’s essence is baked in. It doesn’t change. Ever.
8. meaningful: There is no point in identifying an essence that is irrelevant to consumers. Essences that don’t connect are the reason behind many failed brands. Again, research.
9. scalable: Will the essence work for brand extensions? Will it work as the brand’s opportunity grows?