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Branding Basics: Three Important Branding Concepts

A great deal of information (and misinformation) exists around the notion of brands and branding, but I have found that the essence of a brand can be distilled down to three simple concepts. Understand these concepts and you’ll become a branding expert. Consistently reinforce them throughout your organization and you’ll build a powerful brand.

1. The Brand Promise is a commitment you make to prospects and customers. It answers the question on every customer’s mind: “If I engage in a relationship with you, your product or your company, what can I expect?” The answer to this question must address the big problem solved or the compelling need fulfilled — in other words, the primary benefit of your product or service. Companies with the clearest brand promises have the strongest brands. And the simplest idea is often the most powerful.

2. The Brand Attributes include all the unique ways you deliver your brand promise. These comprise the feature set that describes the customer’s experience with your company. Common attributes might include your unique versions of quality, customer service, innovation and flexibility.

3. The Brand Personality describes the human characteristics people experience when they encounter your brand. It has by far the strongest influence on the emotional connection people feel toward your brand. Often a company’s brand personality matches the customer’s self-perception of their own personality or a personality they aspire to. Common brand personalities include ruggedness, sophistication, excitement, competence or sincerity.

Of these concepts, the brand promise leads the way because it is directly affected by the value proposition your company chooses. Your brand promise represents the core essence of your brand. It lays the foundation for your relationship with the customer. Take a look at these familiar brand promises and see if you can identify the companies that own them (scroll down for the answers).

1. The safest cars in the world

2. Frequent, low cost flights

3. Everyday low prices

4. Fun entertainment for the whole family

5. Advanced processors with continually improving cost and speed performance

6. A unique coffee experience

7. Low cost computers with minimal hassle

8. Time-certain delivery

9. Refreshment

These companies (how many did you get right?) are market leaders because they have relentlessly focused their entire organization on their brand promise. When you do business with any of them, you know what to expect and what you will receive.

The Essence of the Brand

Brand personality has to do with the emotional connection people have to your brand. It manifests itself in many different ways. It can be portrayed in the pictures and visual imagery of your brand or it can be communicated in the “tone” or “voice” of your communications.

Southwest Airlines, for example, knows that their employees directly reinforce their brand personality. Consequently, they hire only those people whose personalities exactly matches a carefully defined profile:

* A commitment to customer service

* Self-motivated and energetic personality

* Team-oriented

* Ability to work equally well alone or with others

* Sense of humor

* Positive attitude

* Flexibility to work in a dynamic, fast-paced environment

Statistically, it is easier to get into Harvard University than it is to get a job at Southwest Airlines. If you don’t match this profile, you don’t work for Southwest — period. Of

course, this isn’t the only reason for Southwest’s phenomenal track record of success. But their fanatical devotion to their brand personality and the people who deliver it has played a major role in their ability to maintain a consistently strong brand image.

These three concepts — brand promise, brand attributes and brand personality — represent the essence of your brand, so it is critical to understand the power that comes from the interplay among and between them. By pursuing these concepts with passion and commitment, you can develop a clear, consistent and compelling brand that attracts

customers to your value proposition and puts your company in a position of market leadership.

Answers to which companies own the brand promises listed above:

1. Volvo

2. Southwest Airlines

3. Wal-Mart

4. Disney

5. Intel

6. Starbucks

7. Dell

8. Federal Express

9. Coke