Updated: Jul 2
Why define your brand?
As many people who read my content will know, I don’t talk about “brand” from the perspective of it being a logo and some fonts. A logo is not your brand. I prefer the definition of a brand as being “the meaning people attach to you and your offer”. “Branding” is the management of that meaning.
Therefore the first step in effective branding has to be to define your brand. You cannot manage what you cannot define. This is a strategic activity (not tactical). It is also a collective one - internally by your leaders and people. Once defined you can align around how you manage it into the future. You can then get tactical. You can use this ‘brand strategy’ to inform your customer and employee experiences, your business strategy, your marketing and your messaging and positioning etc. Your internal brand definition allows your teams to align behind what it is you would like the customer to know you for. For the meaning you want to have in their heads.
Of course - the proof is ultimately in the pudding. That is to say, success is whether your customers actually do begin to know you for the things you have defined. That’s the gold standard and that is something you need to continually work on as your business grows. But you can’t work on that until you align your teams (and especially your leadership team) around the brand and therefore you need to define your brand.
What do you need to define?
What exactly do you need to determine in brand definition?
Later in this post, I have listed 20 things you can define for a brand. But, in truth, I do not believe there is a set answer to the question of exactly what it is that should be defined. In fact, I am highly suspicious of anyone who claims to have a definitive answer to this question. Why? Because you and I know that every business or organisation is different. They have different cultures, audiences, eco-systems, cultures, marketplaces, competitors and leadership ambitions.
Defining a brand, therefore, cannot be a “one size fits all” exercise (a pitfall branding agencies sometimes fall into in my view).
Instead, a pragmatic approach needs to be taken. An approach which bears in mind the specific context of the brand in question and desired end results and use of a brand definition output.
So. That’s my caveat to the 20 points below. For your brand, you might want to use some of them - or all of them. It will depend on your context as to what you might need to define for yours. Typically I might only use a dozen or so of these to help a client define their brand. However, hopefully having these listed out will help you consider your brand and what it is you might need to define in order to help you create a more meaningful business.
22 points of brand definition
Here are some ideas of what you might need to define in your brand strategy in order to get your people pulling in the same direction:
Purpose - The reason we exist (beyond making money). Our motivation which drives us forward.
Values - Our beliefs that govern our behaviour and help to connect people to the spirit of the brand.
Sweet-spot - the components that all need to come together for us to be at our best.
Audience - Our key audiences & their needs - who is it that we serve and what do they need?
Insight - What trend are we riding? What’s the context that we exist in and what consumer information do we always need to keep in mind?
Brandscape - Our category and it’s ecosystem, our location in the world, the competitive environment we are in and who our competitors are.
Whitespace - the area in the market where nobody else is playing and into which we are going to enter.
Big idea - The big hairy concept that we are trying to be, do or realise.
Value proposition - the key reason our audience should pay attention to us
Positioning - How are we distinguishable and identifiable to our audience?
Vision - Our ambition. Our imagined future which is different to what we see now. The transformation we will work towards making a reality.
Mission - how we are going to change the world
Points of difference - The things which make us different and special to our audience.
Manifesto - What we believe and what we do not believe, a series of statements which set out our unique point of view
Promise - what it is we will never fail to do for the customer
Benefits - things that we do that will improve our customer's lives. These could be functional, emotionally or sensory.
Essence - one or two words that sum up how we want to be known in our audiences mind.
Substantiators - reasons why our audience should believe us - the evidence that we are credible
Story - How we began, what’s broken with the world and what are we going to change
Archetype - the character archetype which we embody ensuring we will show up in an understandable way to our ideal customers
Personality traits -descriptors of our behaviour and how we show up in the world.
Tone of voice - how we speak and sound.
So - there’s a big long list of ideas of what you might want to consider defining for your brand strategy - but remember you do not necessarily need all of these set out for your specific context. The trick is simplicity. Even if you define all of these you will need a simple way to remember and articulate your brand so that it is memorable and inspirational.
How to do brand definition
Again there his no silver bullet in answering this question. Every business and situation is different. I never use the same process on a client because of this - flexibility and empathy are key.
However, some of the tools you might want to use to help inform and define your brand would be:
Leadership Brand workshops - getting leaders aligned around what the brand is and where it needs to go is crucial. Brand strategy is a great way to align leadership teams so they all pull in the same direction. Ultimately brand definition is a leadership question - ideally informed by good research and insights.
Desk research - looking at competitors, market ecosystems and audience needs by simply using the internet is a great way to find out a whole host of important things which can inform strategy
Stakeholder interviews - speaking with individuals within your organisation, founders, members of the board, decision-makers and leaders etc, is a great way of getting an honest picture of where a brand is and what might need to be fixed
Customer focus groups - can you get customers in a room to ask for their thoughts and ideas on the brand and where it could improve? If so do it!
Employee focus groups - why not ask people that are close to customers about their thoughts on the brand and how it could be improved?
Staff Surveys - internal staff surveys are a great way fo finding out and engaging with your staff in regards to the definition of the brand and getting new ideas
Customer surveys - getting quantitative and qualitative insights on how customers feel about your brand and how it might be improved is a great way of identifying where your brand might need to go in the future.
Customer observation - spending time with customers in their natural environments is a fantastic way fo better understanding their needs, problems and purchasing decisions.
So - that’s my overview on brand definition - I hope you have found it interesting and helpful as you look to build a meaningful business.
Good luck in defining your brand and then in using that definition to inspire your people from within and attract your customers from without.