Brand Essence: Develop a North Star for Your Brand

brand essence develop a north star for your brand

A corporate brand is a very sophisticated concept that is especially hard to grasp but too valuable to ignore for non-creative companies. Though, in this article, we will try to make your creative juices flowing by explaining how RGray approaches branding. We will start with ideating a brand essence!

Brand essence is the first step of a successful brand development process. In a nutshell, it really is the North Star that shows the way not only for your creative department but also for every other member of your team – from the sales representatives to the accountants.

So, let’s not postpone your essence branding any further by defying what it really means and digesting how exactly it would benefit your company.

What is Brand Essence All About?

In a nutshell, brand essence is a couple of words most precisely describing your company. It is the synergy of your emotional, semantic, strategic, idealistic, and product-definitive peculiarities collected in a couple of words or a short phrase. 

Brand essence – is a verbal representation of your brand soul, which should not be mixed up with your slogan or naming. In fact, your clients won’t even have to interact with it. Of course, nothing is stopping you from making your brand essence into a slogan but it would be going against the purpose of brand essence.

The main function of a brand essence is to guide the entire creative process of creating a brand as well as the further brand management. For a reason, it is called a  “Brand’s North Star” often even influencing business strategy and product line. In concept, slogans or namings have to be based on the brand essence. This way, a slogan may change from time to time while staying consistent and relative to the brand, thus not confusing the customers.

You can see the consequences of not following the brand essence in our brand attributes article. Spoiler: Michelob sales have plunged 450% between the 80s and 90s due to the inconsistent messaging experiments.

Brand Essence Examples: How Does It Work in Practice

People usually tend to draw brand essence examples from the most popular companies: Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, etc. But this is so wrong! Their brand essence would never be disclosed under any circumstances. We can only guess how to define their brand essence by looking at their positioning and design.

Don’t be fooled by generic and false brand essence examples

Many branding specialists distill such sophisticated and thought-out brand essences into generic words like “Happiness” or “Safety and Family”. And, if you were fooled by the articles that really oversell these words to be “the brand essence of Coca-Cola and Subaru”, don’t be mad! We are going to share a professional and insightful example that is more than just a generic word:

Brand essence example by the High School of Branding

Unfortunately, we can’t share any brand metaphors of our authorship due to the client’s confidentiality but we have found a great example made by the students of a very respected Russian school of branding – Higher School of Branding. Arvesta is a unique tour agency that distributes trips filled with creative tourist activities by digging deep into the cultural peculiarities of Armenia. Thanks to the creative research of the hardworking Russian students, Arvesta’s unique product received bright and sustainable branding, of course including the brand essence.

Make your brand essence with your designer in mind

One more thing that differs quality brand essence from a generic or oversold bunch of words – relevance to the designer. Just think it through: all the research and brainstorming have brought you to “Happiness” – being the brand essence of your company: OK, but how exactly would it translate into your brand identity aside from colors and textures? A good brand essence has to contain value for the designer in order to help him with the creation of a unique brand identity that will differentiate you from the competition visually. Just look at Arversta’s “Mosaic of Culture” – it gives a tone of room for a designer to explore and guide the creative process.

The Recipe for Your Brand Soul

At this point, you might think of brand essence as something completely unfathomable for the mind of a mortal bring. But we say that with the right approach even a team of complete rookies can come up with a decent brand essence. RGray is ready to become “the guiding North Star” for you!

The workflow starts with simply surveying your team and collecting brand perception data from your customers. At this stage, you will have to understand what people (both inside and outside of your company) think of your business. Ask about strengths and weaknesses, lovable features, analogies, and feelings that your brand associates or should associate with. Add the questions regarding the mission and vision of the project, growth plan, various queries about the product that would highlight the most popular differentiating features. If your product hasn’t seen the light yet, consider finding a focus group. We use SurveyMonkey in such cases.

Deep creative research of the target audience, industry, and main direct competitors should be narrowed down to just product and messaging.  In order to craft a reliable base for the further stages the brands’ communicative approach should be assessed and custom buyer personas created.

The next stage in our methodology is Brand Model creation, where you will organize the collected data into a surprisingly coherent system. Brand essence is actually a part of the brand model, fitting nicely at the final stage of the brand model development. 

It consists of three stages: ratio, emotions, and brand essence. The first one is completed after establishing short and to-the-point answers to the following questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What is your main offer for the TA?
  • How are you different from the competitors?

The emotional stage is different in nature as it needs more creative and smart answers that might already hide a particular concept that may spark a brand essence – not like the short and dry answers at the previous stage. The questions are as follows:

  • What would a person say after using our brand?
  • What emotions do we bring up?
  • What is our social mission?

Answers to these questions should be constructed using the previous research and surveys.

After completing all the research and basically finishing your brand model, you will have to construct a brand formula that would serve as the final push before the numerous brainstorming sessions that would give birth to the brand essence. The brand formula is simply a distilled version of the answers from before:

Brand formula

And here you go! By receiving a brand formula that meets your expectations, you have done everything required to start successfully brainstorming your brand essence. The research done is necessary to ensure a relevant brand essence that would differentiate you from the competition, satisfy the TA, and highlight your product.

GOOD Brand Essence Definition

At this point, almost nothing should be standing on your way to creating a sustainable brand essence that would aid your growth strategy. Only the lack of experience might become a time-consuming obstacle for your brand development process. Nevertheless, to be sure of your final result consider matching your brand essence with the following list of criteria:

Characteristics of Brand Essence

Taking everything into consideration, we understand if you might see such a pivotal task to be too risky to execute without the needed experience. This is precisely why we suggest turning to the professionals and forgetting about any probable risks.

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