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What Is Brand Essence? 5 Examples

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What Is Brand Essence? 5 Examples

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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MARKETING

MOps leaders as psychologists: The modern mind-readers

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MOps leaders as psychologists: The modern mind-readers

This four-part series presents a framework that describes the roles and responsibilities of marketing operations leaders. This part discusses MOps leaders as psychologists, in addition to their roles as modernizers (see part 1) and orchestrators (see part 2).

Exposure to marketing during my early educational journey was limited. With a heavy math/science background, I chose the “easy” path and majored in engineering. I struggled in advanced engineering classes but thrived in electives — communications, business, organizational behavior — which was a sign for my future in marketing.

Because of my engineering background, I was fortunate to get an opportunity to join GE Healthcare through its entry-level leadership development program. There I was exposed to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). 

MRIs had become go-to diagnostic devices and subsequently were used in neuroscience. I was fascinated by their eventual application in fMRI: Functional MRI. These extensions helped us understand the most consequential medical mystery: how (and why) people do what they do.

fMRI uses the same underlying technology as conventional MRI, but the scanner and a medical contrast agent are used to detect increased blood flow in response to a stimulus in what is commonly referenced as “hot spots.”

fMRI reveals which of the brain’s processes “light up” when a person experiences different sensations, e.g., exposure to different images in common studies. As a result, we now know what parts of the brain are involved in making decisions.

Successful marketing ‘lights up’ customers’ brains

Traditional marketing campaigns and measurement left gaps in understanding how and why people choose to buy. We were dependent on aggregated data. 

With digital channels, we gain first-hand insights into an individual’s response to a stimulus, i.e., content. Here’s where the comparison picks up: 

  • We can observe nearly anything and everything that customers or prospects do digitally.
  • Most customers know that we can track (almost) everything that they do.
  • Because of that knowledge, customers expect contextual, value-based content, forcing marketing to provide more value in exchange for the permission to track.

Our goal as marketers is to make our customers and prospects “light up” with pleasure or satisfaction at each interaction. And, we now have the technology to track it. We are effectively reading minds — just as if it were an fMRI scan.

Here’s an overview of three of the primary psychology “tactics” that every marketer should know: 

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  • Priming is the attempt to trigger a subconscious reaction to stimuli that influences our conscious decisions. The most common application is in branding and first click-through impressions. If a customer continues their journey, then the use of aspirational product or service images in content are common priming approaches.
  • Social proof is perhaps the most common example, given the impact of word-of-mouth influence. It is commonly seen in product reviews and ratings. Content marketing often relies on case studies and customer testimonials to hear from “people like us.”
  • Anchoring refers to marketing’s role in pricing and discounting. Most decisions people make are relative to the initial set of information they have received.

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MOps leaders manage the mind-reading stack 

MOps leaders are modernizers that now manage the mind-reading martech stack. We then lead the orchestration efforts to analyze the response (the “scan” data) and “prescribe” the next steps of the campaign.

Two catalysts spawned the emergence for martech applications:

  • New channels that delivered stimulus (content) and collected responses: search, social media, retail commerce channels, etc.
  • Tools that organize and manage all of that response data, from foundational CRM platforms to marketing analytics and data enrichment.

These developments led to the new psychological skills that have become essential to the role of MOps leaders. 

Processing and interpreting intent data is an example. ZoomInfo illustrates how B2B marketers are accessing this capability. The company now provides buying signals to marketers based on their customers’ behaviors, in addition to the basic contact information that was the origin of its business. 

Intent data is already in widespread use. Six in 10 companies responding to a recent survey said they had or planned in the next year to implement intent measurement data solutions. 

The top challenges for effective intent data utilization fit squarely in the role/responsibilities of MOps leaders include:

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These trends support the conclusion of the first three parts of this series — that MOps leaders should aspire to be: 

  • Psychologists who elicit responses (i.e., “light up” the brains) of customers and prospects and interpret those signals for the business. 
  • Modernizers who adopt the technology that enables the activation of those signals.
  • Orchestrators who are cross-functional project managers and business partners with IT, legal and compliance.

Next time, I’ll complete the framework with a discussion of how the role of MOps leaders includes being a scientist, constantly testing and evaluating marketing efforts with teams of analytics specialists and data scientists. 

Editor’s note: This is the 3rd in a 4-part series. In case you missed them, part 1 (Modernizers) is here and part 2 (Orchestrators) is here.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Milt is currently Director of Customer Experience at MSI Data, an industry-leading cloud software company that focuses on the value and productivity that customers can drive from adopting MSI’s service management solutions.

With nearly 30 years of leadership experience, Milt has focused on aligning service, marketing, sales, and IT processes around the customer journey. Milt started his career with GE, and led cross-functional initiatives in field service, software deployment, marketing, and digital transformation.
Following his time at GE, Milt led marketing operations at Connecture and HSA Bank, and he has always enjoyed being labeled one of the early digital marketing technologists. He has a BS in Electrical Engineering from UW Madison, and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management.

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In addition to his corporate leadership roles, Milt has been focused on contributing back to the marketing and regional community where he lives. He serves on multiple boards and is also an adjunct instructor for UW-Madison’s Digital Marketing Bootcamp. He also supports strategic clients through his advisory group, Mission MarTech LLC.

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