Successful brands are well defined, relevant and reflect the five elements of branding: position, promise, personality, story and association. This guide explores the elements of branding in detail, and outlines the steps you can take to improve your branding today.
TLDR: You can improve your branding if you align your brand position, promise, personality, story and association. You also need to emphasize discipline and consistency in every action, and incorporate your brand identity into every aspect of your organization.
The Five Elements of Successful Branding
You can think of branding as the personality of your business. It not only defines who you are and what you do, it also differentiates your concept from the competition. More than just a logo, your brand enables you to create a unique identity and establish yourself as a reputable vendor in your industry.
Thousands of brands fail because their brand strategy is either non-existent or doesn’t adhere to the five key elements of branding:
Brand Positioning: How Your Brand is Perceived
Brand position refers to the process of designing a company’s offering to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of their target market. In other words, brand positioning describes how a brand differs from its competitors, and whether it is perceived as favorable, different and credible.
To create a successful brand positioning strategy for your brand, we must understand what your customers want, your capabilities and how your competitors position their brands.
You should also create a brand position statement that resonates with your customers; defines your capabilities, and differentiates your brand from the competition. One way to do this is to summarize your brand into three words like “Digital Marketing Agency.”
With your brand positioning in hand, you should reflect that position in everything that you do, i.e., brand personality, packaging design, product, service, visual identity design, communications, everything.
For an example of brand positioning in action, we turn to Apple – the textbook example of amazing brand position. Apple builds innovative products that are beautiful and completely different from anything else on the market, and that resonates with consumers.
With your brand positioning in hand, you should reflect the position in everything that you do, i.e., brand personality, packaging design, product, visual identity, etc.
Brand Promise: The Value Your Brand Provides
Brands are less tangible than you’d think. You can’t touch a brand. It only exists in the mind of the consumer. It doesn’t matter how clever your brand message is, so long as you raise awareness, and/or enable the right perceptions. That’s where your brand promise comes into play. Your brand promise describes:
- what your organization does
- whom it caters to;
- your unique values
- differentiates you from other companies
- what the consumer can gain by using your offering
If consumers perceive your brand promise to be empty, they’ll scoff at the disconnect between the message and the actual customer experience. If you’re committed to following through on your brand promise, it will pay off as you earn consumer confidence, loyalty and trust.
One of the most recognizable brand promises is that of Geico, “15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance.” It works because it’s straightforward, informative, and captures the spirit of the brand in one sentence.
Brand Personality: The Traits that Describe Your Brand
An effective brand increases its brand equity by having a consistent set of traits that a specific consumer segment enjoys. Your brand personality consists of human characteristics attributed to your brand name, i.e., something to which the consumer can relate.
To establish your brand’s personality, think about the specific personality traits that your employees, prospects, partners and clients use whenever they describe your brand. Aim to elicit a positive emotional response from a targeted consumer segment.
As you select personality traits, remember that customers are more likely to purchase a brand if its personality is similar to their own. In that regard, there are five main types of brand personalities with common traits:
- Excitement – Carefree, spirited, and youthful
- Sincerity – Kindness, thoughtfulness, and an orientation toward family values
- Ruggedness – Rough, tough, outdoorsy, and athletic
- Competence – Successful, accomplished and influential, highlighted by leadership
- Sophistication – Elegant, prestigious, and sometimes even pretentious
Dove, for example, aims to attract feminine consumers, so they chose sincerity as their brand personality. Luxury brands, such as Michael Kors, Coach and Chanel, aim for sophistication.
Another great example of brand personality is Tesla. The Tesla brand is indelibly linked with Elon Musk, like to Steve Jobs with Apple. Elon has big ideas to change the world and prides himself on questioning the status quo. The public image of the leader has a big impact on how we perceive the brand.
Brand Story: Facts and Feelings Generated by Your Brand
Your brand story is the cohesive narrative that encompasses the facts and feelings that are created by your brand. It’s not about showing, or telling. It’s about inspiring consumers and provoking an emotional reaction.
To be effective, your brand story should recount the series of events that sparked your company’s inception, and express how that narrative continues to drive your mission. Just like your favorite characters in literature and on TV, if you craft a compelling brand story, your audience will remember you, develop empathy for you, and, ultimately, care more about you.
Whether you love or loathe Ikea, there’s no denying how much they have changed how we see brands. Dubbed the “brand of many” by the Observer, IKEA is both experiential and quirky.
That quirkiness and imagination is everywhere from the delightful product names to the amusing products themselves. It also extends into their branding, like their 2002 “Unboring” campaign.
Brand Association: The Physical Aspects of Your Brand
Brand associations are the specific physical assets that make up the brand. These include your logo, name, colors, fonts, image tagline and so on. Your brand promise and your brand traits must be reflected through your brand association. Your brand association must also support your brand positioning statement.
Once you have all of these in order, you can begin to develop a relevant brand. Remember, the key to the success of any brand is consistency. Nobody will care what your brand really is unless you decide to keep it the same every single time they are exposed to it.
No one does brand association better than Nike. Watching a golf tournament with Tiger Woods makes you think of Nike products. Similarly, seeing a Nike hat at the store might make you think of Tiger Woods. The same goes for all of their celebrity endorsements.
By following the five key elements of branding, you will overcome the unique challenges that comes with branding. However, should you find the branding process overwhelming, you can always contact the branding experts at VisualFizz to take care of the process for you.