A brand is compared to many things: the heart, the engine, the north star of your business.
Each of these metaphors sounds nice, but what do they actually mean? When it’s done right, branding is more than a metaphor — it’s a financially sound business decision.
Businesses with strong, innovative brands consistently outperform competitors — with the world’s top brands producing double the return to shareholders, according to one study by McKinsey & Company.1
Developing an authentic brand makes it easier to identify and prioritize goals and market segmentation — regardless of the structure, purchase cycle or audience of your business.
Humans consistently make emotional decisions and want to work with brands they trust. In B2B or B2C, good brand strategy is good business strategy because people are always people. Especially in overly commoditized markets, a recognizable, reliable brand may be the only difference between you and your competitors.
Not all brands are created—or experienced—equally. Building a brand that’s in alignment with your business goals, engaging to your customers and authentic to your company culture is an in-depth process that takes time and intelligence.
At E&S, our proprietary branding process starts with bringing the right mix of your team members together. After assembling key decision makers, we gain the most important insights from you (and the world around you). Through a proven cadence of workshops, conversations, research and the development of your brand platform, we zero in on the relevant and true brand that only your company could create.
Why create a brand platform?
Branding is more than a logo or a series of ads. Before diving into visuals or slogans, businesses need to define what they stand for, who they’re talking to and how they want to sound. To answer each of these questions and gain alignment across teams, we start branding work with the development of a brand platform. A brand platform is for internal use only and consists of five unique statements that set your business apart and inspire your future. These are your vision, mission, position, value proposition and promise.
While it’s important to get the ideas right at this stage, every single word doesn’t have to be perfect. This is an internal document that will inspire future marketing deliverables — not be pulled from verbatim.
Vision: Your desired future state.
The brand platform begins with a brand vision. A thoughtful and aspirational vision gives your company clear direction for the future. As the name implies, this is the place for visionary thinking — to go beyond the day-to-day and see the big picture of what you hope to achieve.
Whether your company has a vision or you’re crafting one for the first time, it’s important that everyone in your company can believe in and be inspired by it.
Mission: How you’ll work toward your vision.
A mission is how you’re going to achieve your vision. If your vision is to be the market leader in your category, your mission is what you’ll do to get there condensed into one thought. To be effective, your mission needs to be clear and actionable.
Position: What you do and who you do it for.
Your brand position clarifies your reason for existing. It might seem simple, but conveying what you do and for whom into one succinct sentence is the key to figuring out where you stand in the market.
Some companies combine position and value proposition, but we separate them into two different elements of the platform. This helps businesses with complex models (which is often the case for B2B companies) quantify what they sell, whether it’s a product or service or both.
Value proposition: Why you’re better than the competition.
You’re probably different than the competition for a myriad of reasons. But if you had to boil it down to just one thing that makes consumers choose you over someone else, what would it be? That’s your value proposition. Your differentiator should be 100% provable, ownable and unique to your company or product. It should also be granular. Rather than broadly saying it’s your people who set you apart, go deeper. Is it your proprietary vetting process? Accelerated on-the-job training? Or something else entirely?
Promise: How you want people to experience your brand.
Your brand promise is the last piece of the brand platform but by far the most important; it summarizes your brand ethos in just a few words. Getting it right is vital because it can and should reflect every aspect of your business — from how employees recruit to what customers expect when they walk through your doors (literally or digitally).
This is truly where the magic happens, when our team of strategic and creative thinkers craft an idea that perfectly captures the unique way your business should show up in the market. Then, we use evaluation criteria developed by Gallup2 to add objectivity to our review process and help determine if our recommended brand promise can be successful:
- Compelling: Does the promise fulfill an important and differentiated need?
- Connecting: Will it create an emotional bond with customers that goes beyond functional attributes?
- Credible: Do customers feel this promise fits your brand identity?
While a brand promise is still an internal message, it’s the closest thing to an external-facing piece of the platform because it’s used to inform your public-facing expression, specifically your tagline.
Creating an aligned brand.
An excellent brand has alignment everywhere. Between employees and customers. Through visuals and tone and voice. What you say adds up to what you do. A brand platform is one tool that can facilitate this alignment, but it’s just one piece of the much larger branding puzzle.