If you’ve attended a marketing or branding conference, you’ll agree there are dozens of definitions of the term “branding.” From the creation of an identity to the production of a commercial, the word certainly gets a lot of use (and misuse) and is attached to many meanings. I recently attended Brand ManageCamp, a global gathering on branding where many well-known experts and authors shared their wisdom. David Aaker, considered to be today’s branding guru by many and author of the recent “Aaker on Branding,” spoke and his insights helped me round out the right definition of the term.
I will admit, however, it’s tough to sum up “branding” in a single statement, so here are the “5 E’s of Branding,” to put on your mental shelf next to the “4 P’s of Marketing.”
As Aaker explains, the brand essence is the first step in determining your brand strategy and reflects “the higher purpose of your brand and the reason it exists.” The essence includes your brand differentiation, benefits provided, and proof points. In “essence,” it’s the essence of your brand’s being. The starting point to determining your brand essence is to clearly identify the innovation and inspiration behind what gave it birth in the first place, whether a unique niche or consumer benefit.
Tactically speaking, this is the step in the branding cycle where great naming and identity strategies are born that visually and verbally reinforce the unique essence.
Great brands create certain expectations before a consumer even uses them for the first time. The benefits they provide are promoted through all media; paid, earned, and owned. A key component of any brand strategy is how and when these expectations are created through advertising, public relations, social media, digital marketing, website development, and other media channels both traditional and on-line.
This is where the “rubber hits the road” and great brands deliver on their promise as well as the expectations that have been created. The importance of communicating the brand internally comes to life during this stage, especially for service brands that rely on stakeholders and their customer service experience to support the promise.
One of the authors/speakers at Brand ManageCamp, Lou Carbone – CEO and Founder of Experience Engineering – talked about the outcome of a positive (and negative) experience as “effect.” What long-term, long-lasting “effect” will your brand have on someone’s life? Will they have an emotional or rational outcome based on the experience your brand provides? In his book, “Clued In: How to keep customers coming back again and again,” Mr. Carbone asks the question: “Is your company a ‘firm of endearment?” Well, is it?
The affect of your effect can be measured by the level of engagement your consumers have with your brand. Have they “liked” it and now have it on their personal news feeds? Are they a part of an “owned” audience where you can now channel your brand messaging in the most efficient manner? Do they become immersed in your brand events or offerings? Creating a loyal user today goes even deeper to converting a consumer to a brand enthusiast. Someone who becomes totally immersed in your brand and engaged in its culture and lifestyle. Remember, they don’t buy your brand, they give you permission to sell to them.
Branding is a long-term strategy involving many steps. No wonder it’s hard to create consensus around one specific idea or definition. However you choose to define it, keep the “E’s” in mind. Hopefully they will help ease your mind when it comes to the fun and challenging task of creating a brand.