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What Is Brand Essence? 5 Examples



What Is Brand Essence? 5 Examples

If you had to describe yourself in less than five words, what would you say? For people, these words are the foundation of a personality. But for companies, they refer to the brand essence.

All successful businesses have a core spirit that makes up the soul of the brand. At Dyson, it’s efficiency. At Disney, it’s magic.

Defining brand essence is essential for building a cohesive brand identity, creating impactful marketing campaigns, and connecting with customers. Considering that over 75% of consumers buy from brands that share the same values, it’s important for companies to signal what matters most to them.

Brand essence is just one part of creating a strong, memorable brand, but it sets the stage for every other aspect of your identity. So before you design a logo or craft company values, you have to understand what brand essence is and how to shape a strong essence statement. (Don’t worry, there are plenty of examples along the way to inspire your brainstorming). Let’s get started.

What is brand essence?

Brand essence is the soul of a brand and acts as a foundation so the brand appears consistent and authentic. It defines what a brand stands for, shapes the overall identity, and aims to invoke a particular thought, feeling, or emotion in consumers. Typically, it’s expressed in two to three words.

Like people, brand essence can’t be fake. Consumers can tell when a brand isn’t being true to itself, which can hurt sales and long-term customer loyalty. That’s why companies use brand essence as a guidepost for all future branding efforts, from designing a logo to choosing images for a social media campaign.

Consider the brand essence statements of well-known companies:

  • Airbnb – Belong Anywhere
  • Patagonia – Responsible and Sustainable
  • Starbucks – Rewarding Everyday Moments
  • McDonald’s – Consistency
  • BMW – Driving Pleasure
  • Nike – Authentic Athletic Performance
  • The Nature Conservancy – Saving Great Places

All great brands have a distinct essence that keeps customers coming back. Brand expert and author Kevin Keller refers to this as a “brand mantra” and says its purpose is to “define the category of business for the brand and set brand boundaries. It should also clarify what is unique about the brand. It should be memorable…it should be short, crisp, and vivid in meaning.”

If you create a brand essence that’s unique and leaves a lasting impression on customers, you’re sure to see a number of benefits.

Importance of Brand Essence

Most marketers know that strong branding can bring in customers and build life-long loyalty. But its essence is what makes people fall in love with a brand and continually choose it over competitors. Beyond driving sales, here’s how brand essence can elevate your business.

  • Inform brand decisions: It’s much easier to create values, define a mission statement, write taglines, design new products, and build marketing assets when your brand has a north star guiding every decision. Without a clear brand essence, your company can take more time than necessary to make key decisions. This can cause frustration for your team and confusion for customers as everyone struggles to understand what your brand truly values.
  • Define your competitive advantage: Your brand can’t be everything to everyone, but a brand essence helps you figure out what target audience to focus on. For BMW, this means attracting buyers who want a great driving experience. But for Volvo, it’s finding customers who prioritize safety. Knowing your competitive advantage hones your efforts and makes it easier to show customers what sets your brand apart.
  • Build trust: A study by Edelman found that 81% of consumers need to trust a brand before making a purchase. A brand essence can help build trust by highlighting the emotive and human elements of your brand. For instance, consumers trust Apple to “Think Different” because of its consistent branding and innovative product track record. When choosing your essence, consider words that reflect the brand and embody the human characteristics of your target audience.

Now that you understand how brand essence influences your company’s efforts and customers’ perceptions, let’s go through a few examples to inspire your brainstorming.

5 Brand Essence Examples

It’s easy to think of a favorite brand’s tagline or logo, but the brand essence isn’t always so obvious. As you look through the brand essence statement examples, see if you can connect the company’s spirit to its marketing campaigns, visual identity, or product offerings.

1. Dyson: “Efficiency”

Efficiency is the crux of Dyson’s DNA. The company that gave us the first bagless vacuum makes brand essence clear through its line of vacuums, hand dryers, hair care, lighting, and air cleaners. All of the products are designed to make customers’ lives more efficient by getting rid of cords and bags and combining multiple products into one.

2. Arc’teryx: “Unrivaled Performance”

Arc’tryx is a Canadian outdoor gear company that’s known for its high prices and high-quality products. The brand essence revolves around unrivaled performance, which translates into an innovative product design process that combines science, engineering, and craftsmanship. Not surprisingly, the brand is named after the first reptile to develop the feather for flight, furthering its core as a company that’s constantly evolving.

3. Trader Joe’s: “Outstanding Value”

Everything about this grocery store centers around providing customers with value — from the products offered in stores to the way it bargains with suppliers. Trader Joe’s takes value to heart, which is why it doesn’t offer coupons, loyalty programs, or membership cards. Instead, the brand outlines the steps it takes to keep costs low and shoppers happy.

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4. Ralph Lauren: “Success and the American Dream”

What you wear matters to Ralph Lauren customers — it signals status and a commitment to the American Dream. The brand captures this feeling in its brand essence statement by focusing on the Lauren family story and creating ad campaigns that feel like snapshots into the life of America’s elite.

Brand Essence: Ralph Lauren Example

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5. Adobe: “Creativity for All”

Adobe caters to a wide variety of customers, but creativity is at the core of every product and campaign. This brand essence has helped Adobe become one of the top choices for creatives, from product and web designers to artists. It’s easy to see how creativity unites the brand’s identity and attracts anyone looking for design software.

Brand essence: adobe example

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While a strong brand essence is essential, it takes work to create one. You can get started by following the guidelines below.

Brand Essence Framework

To come up with a brand essence that fits your company and resonates with customers, you want to make sure it includes several elements. As you work through each guideline, try to find a balance between being authentic and aspirational to build trust and evoke an emotional connection.

  • Make it relevant – Brand essence is a feeling or attitude that customers desire. For instance, Apple used the rise of personal computers to introduce its “Think Different” attitude and compete against Microsoft by targeting young contrarians.
  • Make it timeless – An essence should be relevant today and consider how the brand may expand in the future. You don’t want to change your brand essence often (or ever) since it’s the core of your company’s identity. If Jeep suddenly changed its essence from “Adventurous” to “Luxury,” buyers would be scratching their heads when comparing the off-road SUV to a plush Lexus.
  • Make it memorable – People remember short, succinct, and punchy messaging, like Nike’s “Just do it.” While that’s the company’s tagline, it highlights the importance of keeping your brand essence statement two to three words. Branding experts Al and Laura Ries put it best when they said “a brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus.”
  • Make it distinct – A brand’s uniqueness highlights how it’s different from competitors. Travelers who look for unique stays on Airbnb are usually not the same people who get elite status through the Hilton Honors program.
  • Make it believable – Your brand essence must be authentic for customers to believe in it and hand over their hard-earned dollars. If every experience with Disney wasn’t full of wonder, people would doubt the brand’s “magical” essence. You can earn people’s trust by keeping all brand touchpoints consistent so the essence is always there and always clear.

Shaping a strong brand essence is no simple task, but it’s worth the effort to build a reputable brand. Once you distill your company’s core down to its most basic essence elements, you’ll be able to define your brand identity, make quick brand decisions, and build customers’ trust.

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State of Content Marketing in 2023



State of Content Marketing in 2023

I just pressed send on the manuscript for my book to be released in September. It’s called Content Marketing Strategy (snappy, eh?), and Kogan Page will publish it.

Last week, marketing professor Philip Kotler wrote the foreword. I won’t spoil it, but he mentioned the need for a strategic approach to owned media.

He writes, “(T)he company doesn’t carry an account of showing these marketing assets and their value. As a result, the company cannot show the CEO and company board members a return on owned assets or content.”

Luckily, my upcoming book shows exactly how to do that. Funny how that works out.

In any event, all this struck me that now is an opportune time to look at where the beloved practice of content marketing stands today.

First, let’s go back to 1999 when Kotler published Kotler On Marketing, one of his more than 70 books. The latter 1990s – a time of tumultuous change – fueled most of the thinking for the book. But he knew that it was merely the beginning.

Kotler concluded the book with a section called “Transformational Marketing.”  In the next decade, he wrote, “marketing will be re-engineered from A to Z. Marketing will need to rethink fundamentally the processes by which they identify, communicate, and deliver customer value.”

Well, it’s taken over two decades, but it’s finally happening.

Consumers have changed, but marketing operations are just starting to

In case you didn’t notice, almost every marketing conference these days starts with the same four or five requisite slides:

  • Digital technologies, such as search and social media, empower consumers today.
  • Consumers research, engage, buy, and stay loyal to brands in ways that have fundamentally changed.
  • First-party data and privacy are of the utmost importance.
  • Artificial intelligence begins to threaten the idea of the usefulness of search and pressure companies to deliver better and more personalized experiences.

You get it. Consumer expectations in the age of the social, mobile, and AI-driven web are different than they were.

However, the continuing challenge in 2023 is that content and/or marketing operations in enterprise companies are only beginning to evolve. Most marketing departments have remained as they were when Kotler wrote his book — they still work from mid- to late-20th century hierarchies, strategies, and processes.

Most marketing departments still work with mid- to late-20th-century hierarchies, strategies, and processes, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Content marketing isn’t new, but a content marketing strategy is

For hundreds of years, businesses have used content to affect some kind of profitable outcome. But the reality is this: Whether it was John Deere’s The Furrow from the 1800s, Michelin’s guide to car maintenance in the early 1900s, or even Hasbro’s GI-Joe partnership with Marvel in the 1980s, content was not — and is not for the most part now — a scalable, repeatable practice within the function of marketing. In short, companies almost always treat content marketing as a project, not a process.

That fundamental change will finally take hold in 2023. It could happen because of the digital disruption and ease by which you can now publish and distribute content to aggregate your own audiences. It could happen through the natural evolution that the ultimate outcome – more than the marketing – matters more.

As we roll through 2023 and beyond, content — and the exponentially increasing quantities of it produced by every organization — deeply affects not just your marketing strategy, but your business strategy. Content in marketing is now bigger than simply content marketing, and it should be dealt with as a component of that business strategy throughout the enterprise.

#Content in marketing is bigger than #ContentMarketing. Treat it as a component of the business strategy, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

In 2023, the No. 1 focus of my consulting and advisory practice these days: help companies transform content into a repeatable, scalable, and measurable function that drives value through a multi-channel strategy. It’s bigger than publishing a blog, creating a lead-generating resource center, or sending an email newsletter. Today’s content marketing team is being absorbed into marketing because marketing and its various operations are fundamentally transforming into a content-producing machine.

It is not good enough to produce content “like a media company would.” The goal must be to operate as a media company does. Your job is not to change content to fit new marketing goals. Rather, your job in 2023 is to change marketing to fit the new business content goals.

Your job in 2023 is to change #marketing to fit the new business #content goals, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The unaware builds a case for the aware

The term “content marketing” continues to evolve. Even today, I run across those who still call it “brand publishing,” “custom content,” or “inbound marketing.”

My take matches with what Kotler described in 1999. I always thought the term “content marketing” would become part of “marketing” more broadly. In 2023, that happened. So, returning to the lexiconic debates of 2013, 2014, or 2015 doesn’t seem terribly productive. Content marketing is just good marketing, and marketing is just good content marketing.

That said, two kinds of companies do well at the broader view of content marketing. Some of them, such as Cleveland Clinic, Red Bull, Arrow Electronics, HubSpot, and REI, have purposely devised content marketing strategies as differentiating approaches to their marketing. They are succeeding.

Others, like Amazon, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, and Peloton, backed into a smart content marketing strategy. But executives at those companies probably don’t recognize it as such. If asked (and some have been), they would say acquiring or launching a media company operation was just a smart business strategy to diversify their ability to reach their consumers consistently.

They’re right, of course. Many have yet to read books about content marketing, been influenced by the Content Marketing Institute, or even recognize content marketing as a separate approach (as far as I know). And they are also succeeding.

Consider this proof: As I write this article, six companies have a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion. Four of the six wholly or partially use the business model of media creation to further marketing and business strategies. Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon are all, in part, media companies that also sell products and services.

Why would you not avail yourself of that same model?

The future looks cloudy and bright

As for the overall state of enterprise content marketing, it’s in transition, as all marketing is. As a focused project-based approach, working in ad-hoc ways across a business, content marketing appears to have proven its worth. Hundreds of entries every year to the Content Marketing Awards feature myriad case studies using content marketing techniques in strategic ways to profitably affect business results.

And yet, it remains to be seen whether you can make content marketing a scalable, repeatable, measurable function within marketing.

As to what the discipline’s future holds? At last year’s Content Marketing World, one of my favorite events, the Executive Forum gathered senior leaders from brands succeeding with content marketing. As we talked about the future, one participant said: “The only certainty is change. I can’t tell you where or when, but I do know there will be change, and this is the principle we build on now.”

As for my take, Kotler’s idea of transforming the marketing function seems to have gotten lost along the digital road traveled by marketers. In so many cases, marketing – and especially content – remains just an on-demand service function within the business. Its sole job is to produce ever more voluminous amounts of content that describe the value of the brand (or its products or services) so that sales can sell more efficiently, customer support can serve more effectively, and all manner of customer interfaces are more beneficial to both sides.

However, and maybe because I need to rationalize now that my book is finished, I passionately believe it’s finally time for marketing to reclaim its ability to create value — not just reflect it in the polished shine of your traditional products and services.

Almost 27 years ago today, Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote an essay called Content is King. In it, he said that “(C)ontent is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

It certainly was one of his more prescient moments. Nearly three decades later, his words have proven true. The essay title has become the rallying cry for thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs who now make their living on creating, managing, optimizing, and measuring content on the internet. (A Google search for “content is king” nets more than 1.7 million results.)

But it’s the last line of his essay that I find the most visionary: “(T)hose who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products – a marketplace of content.”

That’s what content marketing is for me in 2023. It’s just marketing – optimizing the value of ideas, experiences, and products in a marketplace of content.

Time to get to work.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just five minutes:

Watch previous episodes or read the lightly edited transcripts.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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27 Best About Us and About Me Page Examples [+Templates]



Your about page summarizes your history, values, and mission — all in one place. That’s a tall order for just a few paragraphs. If you’re feeling stuck, turn to these about-page examples for inspiration. 

about us page example: laptop held in palm of hand


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MarTech’s marketing operations experts to follow



MarTech's marketing operations experts to follow

Marketing operations is what makes the magic happen. These are the folks who see that your martech stack doesn’t get stuck. They are the maestros, modelers and makers who make sure the trains run, the data is digestible and that you have the programs you need. Where would we be without them? That’s too scary to think about. Here’s our list of MOps experts who have the ear of the profession.

Darrell Alfonso

Darrell is director of marketing strategy & operations at Indeed and the former global marketing ops leader for AWS. He’s the author of “The Martech Handbook: Build a Technology Stack to Acquire and Retain Customers.” In addition to speaking at many conferences, Darrell was named one of the Top Marketers in the US by Propolis 2022 and among the “Top Martech Marketers to Follow” in 2020 by Martech Alliance. He’s a regular and popular contributor both to MarTech and the MarTech conference; you can find all of his articles at this link.

Eddie Reynolds

Eddie has been in business a long time, starting his first company when he was 14. “A pretty minimal enterprise,” he told one interviewer. “I had a tax ID number, a legal entity, and a company name. I even had the IRS coming after my dad for sales tax that I failed to report properly.” Today he is CEO and revenue operations strategy consultant of Union Square Consulting. He publishes The RevOps Weekly Newsletter and the podcast RevOps Corner. Eddie’s large LinkedIn following attests to the quality of the insights he shares there on  sales, marketing, service, and admin roles. 

Sara McNamara

Sara is an award-winning marketing and sales operations professional whose work has been recognized by awards from the likes of Salesforce (Pardot), Adobe (Marketo), Drift, and LeanData. She is a Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at Slack and a martech stack (+ strategy) solution architect. That and her passion for leveraging technology and processes to improve the experiences of marketers, sales professionals, and prospects, explains why she’s a regular guest on MOps podcasts.

Ali Schwanke

Ali is the CEO and founder of Simple Strat. The firm specializes in helping companies get the most out of HubSpot — from CRM strategy and setup to marketing automation and content creation. She is also host of HubSpot Hacks, “the #1 Unofficial YouTube show for HubSpot Tutorials” and has been a guest speaker at the MarTech conference.

Mike Rizzo

Mike’s career in marketing operations showed him that there is a real and significant MOps community. That’s why he founded MO Pros/, the fast-growing online community for people in marketing operations. He is also co-host of Ops Cast, a weekly podcast. 

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About the author

Constantine von Hoffman

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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