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How to define your brand proposition and experience (Article 2 in the series)

Last month we discussed how to identify the opportunity or 'sweet spot' for your brand or idea. Now that is decided, how do you start telling people about it? What is it that you should actually be saying and promising? And what is the experience that you want to create – how should it feel when your customers interact with your brand? (November 2009 Marketing Mix)

The answers to these questions lie in defining your brand proposition and brand personality...

Your brand proposition

This is a promise of what you will deliver if a customer buys/uses your brand. It should summarise the single most compelling reason to choose your brand - which could be a functional or emotional benefit or attribute of the brand.

Good propositions:

  • are easy to understand
  • are based on great customer insights and therefore are engaging and relevant to customers
  • are unique and help to differentiate the brand from its competitors
  • are believable and authentic - promise something the brand can credibly and consistently deliver.

To help you write your proposition, try completing this sentence:

Only  (brand) delivers  (unique benefit) to  (target customer).

This sentence shows that before you can develop your proposition you need to have defined who your target customer is. We discussed this last month when we defined the brand sweet spot - one of our focus areas was who your customers were and what they were looking for. We need to call on this insight to ensure that the proposition we develop is engaging and relevant.

Also, for you to be able to claim that 'only' your brand can claim that benefit, you need to know who your competitors are and what it is that they are offering so that you can ensure that your brand will be unique and different.

Once you have defined these you can use the unique benefit to build your proposition.

Some examples of great propositions:

  • Nike:  We bring innovation & inspiration to every athlete in the world
  • Starbucks:  The 'third place' - your home away from home.

These propositions are expressed in all that these brands say, do, offer and sell.

You will usually not actually write the proposition out word for word in your communication but the essence of it needs to be conveyed. You could choose to develop a pay-off line to succinctly express your proposition to your target market eg Nike expressed their proposition with the pay-off line "Just do it".

Your brand personality

Now, we need to define your brand personality. This is the experience  that your brand will create, because, after all, a brand is much more than a name; it is your reputation as perceived by your customer as a result of all that they know, see, hear and feel about your brand. By defining your brand personality, you will have clarity on the tone and style of your communication, on how it should feel when a client walks into your offices or a customer enters your store, how your people conduct themselves, etc.

To define your brand personality, consider, 'If my brand was a person, how would I describe him/her?' - eg friendly, generous, professional, helpful, honest, etc.

Think of the type of person that your customers would like to meet... brainstorm a list of attributes/descriptions. From this list you will need to choose three to four words that best describe your desired personality - use the checklist to help you:

  • Is it credible - who you really are?
  • Is it relevant - what consumers want/expect?
  • Does it make your brand distinct & help you to stand out from your competitors?
  • Does it motivate and feel right for you and your team?

Some examples of brand personalities:

  • Nike: Reliable, intelligent, successful
  • Starbucks: Pioneering, passionate, personal.

Putting this into practice

Once you have these two critical components of your brand defined, you should use them when briefing any agency or partner, creating any communication about your brand or business, planning any event, designing packaging or a retail environment, recruiting and training your people. They are fundamental tools in building and living your brand.


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