Branding Basics – Step Six

Now you have a working document, the brand platform.

It is the “creative brief” as well as the strategic structure for the brand. From it can spring consistent and relevant branding elements and associations.

So now, and only now, are you ready for Step 6: using the brand platform to flex your “creative” wings. Actually, this step enhances and expands the brand platform from the customer’s point of view. It helps establish the consumer-brander relationship.
Based on the information you’ve collected and the decisions you’ve made and documented in the brand platform, Step 6 is the way of expressing the essence of your brand.

You begin to crystallize the brand in concrete ways that will help you devise messages and images that coherently and concisely represent your most compelling position.

There are several vehicles used by branding experts to perform this last foundation step.
One that has gained popularity in recent years is to develop the brand “story”.
The brand story speaks to the corporate vision for the brand, but usually in more personal terms than is expressed in a conventional business plan. It might contain a history if applicable. It might describe the “spark” or idea from which the product sprang. It will certainly be written from a customer’s point of view (assuming customers and prospects are the major stakeholders in the brand). It will likely paint a picture of the features and benefits in a way to differentiate the product from competitive offerings. It might only be a page in length and usually no more than three.
Another approach to expressing brand essence is to describe the product in terms the customer would probably use. This may come from focus group research or just informal discussions with customers. But the idea is to express brand from the customer’s point of view.
Then there are some “fun” techniques that may be appropriate for some brands. These are scenarios developed after asking the question, “If this brand where a wild animal, which one would it be and why?” Variations include “if this brand where a celebrity…” or “if the brand were a city…”. Once there’s some consensus, the scenario is put to paper.
The purpose of setting the brand essence on paper, no matter the technique in arriving at it, is to provide a foundation and guidelines to help in developing a consistent and on-target expression of the brand.  
Now, after performing these foundation steps, you’re where most entrepreneurs begin the branding effort: creating a name.

Yes, naming is Step 7, and I’ll share some observations about names next time.

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