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Brand essence: what it is and how to identify it

Brand essence is the foundation of every brand. Identify yours, and then track how your brand performs over time.

You want customers to walk away feeling a certain way—a good way—when they buy your product or service. This unique feeling should reflect the satisfaction of using your brand. That kind of feeling will differentiate your brand from others. It's called brand essence.

In this article, we’re going to go in-depth about what brand essence is and why it’s so important to your brand identity. We’ll also follow up with examples of brand essence statements with well-known brands, so you’ll get a better understanding how effective having a brand essence can be for your business. 

Brand essence represents the heart and soul of a brand. It’s an intangible marketing strategy that makes up the DNA of a brand identity. It's a feeling that defines what your brand stands for, invoking a particular emotion, feeling, or thought. All of these intangible feelings are succinctly defined like a tagline. It's next to impossible to duplicate the unique essence of a brand. Of course, many businesses may try to imitate a brand's essence, which will be obvious to customers because it's not authentic. 

True brand essence has a meaningful, customer-defined message projecting a company’s brand identity and purpose. It should entail what a business does along with its values and principles. The essence of a brand should remain consistent with whatever new product or service the company presents to the marketplace. Furthermore, brand essence should be a scalable and sustainable message that resonates with the company as it grows and expands. 

You can attract customers with a great marketing plan and products priced to sell. But to establish a loyal customer base, you'll need to get a little personal, and brand essence is the way to do it because it invokes an emotion that can stay with customers long after they've engaged with your brand. This emotion can build trust with customers and influence their brand-buying decisions. From a marketing perspective, having brand essence can give your company a competitive advantage and optimize targeted marketing efforts. 

Let’s take a closer look at how brand essence can work for your business:

Brand essence is like the foundation for your brand mission and vision statements. It should influence every business decision you make and help you remain consistent with your core values and goals. For instance, if you want to expand your business by partnering with another company, you can verify if the essence of their brand complements yours. You might be presented with an attractive business opportunity. Still, not all prospects are the best fit for your brand vision; this is where brand essence helps with informed decision making. 

You can optimize a certain niche in a widely-competitive brand that can set your brand apart from the rest. For instance, the fashion industry is a highly competitive market. If you want to sell clothing, it's best to find a niche within that industry few are using. Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Clothing offers fashion for women of all shapes and sizes without isolating that demographic. She targets this market using models conventional clothing lines might not have used in the past. The inclusivity of women who, in the past, have been overlooked for not fitting certain beauty standards gives Savage X Fenty a positive brand essence.

Many consumers need to be reassured their hard-earned money is going toward a product or service that delivers. Purchasing goods and services is the customer saying, "I trust your brand." Before a consumer gets to the point of becoming a customer, they must first believe and trust in your brand–that your product or service delivers on your promise. You'll build trust if you're successful and remain consistent with that promise. But what's going to help with trust is highlighting the elements of your brand that evoke good sentimentality. 

In addition to being the heartbeat and foundation of your brand identity, brand essence is also the framework for how you will build and expand your brand. When you get a clear purpose of your company's mission and vision, you can optimize the people most likely to buy the product or service you're selling. Campaigning and surveying a target audience can save money in marketing efforts. Get the ultimate guide to brand strategy to learn how to optimize your next marketing campaign.

If you're looking to define your brand essence or want to refine the one you already have, you should always consider how others see you. From that point, you want to ensure that your brand essence leaves a meaningful and memorable impact on your customers. The only way to make sure all of this happens is to offer a unique perspective about your product or service. And if you're planning to scale your business, your brand essence should be relevant and adaptable enough to adjust to any changes in the industry. 

Let’s take a closer look at the brand essence framework: 

Having an authentic brand essence means being true to your business mission and vision based on the values that make your brand unique. However, it would help if you considered brand perception. How customers perceive your brand can help or hurt your business. How you see your brand and how customers perceive it can also differ. Use your customers' perspective to learn how to position your brand better to serve their needs.  

When developing brand essence, it's important to establish brand identity to reflect the here and now, but it's also important to think about the future. Will your brand be able to adapt to the ups and downs of market trends, or is what you're selling a ‘here today and gone tomorrow’ type of brand? Think about how your brand can serve customers in the present and the future because this will help your brand become more scalable as market demands change. 

What are the new trends? Even if they don't seem to be related to your product or service, do more research and find a logical way you can connect your brand to what's going on in the world today. This approach is how your brand essence becomes relevant. Another way to remain relevant is to research what's working for your competitors. Find out their marketing techniques to increase sales and maintain customer retention. 

Remember, brand essence is more of a feeling. It can also be an attitude that resonates with customers. This feeling or mood is usually provoked with a brief phrase that's easy to remember. This phrasing should summarize your brand mission and vision statement that should inspire customers to subscribe to what your brand is selling.      

What makes your brand different from competitors? The essence of your brand should answer this question for customers in a way that increases your brand awareness and recognition. Brand essence should be a familiar feeling, thought, or attitude customers get whenever they engage with your brand—it'll be the inherent identifier of your brand. The more unique your brand essence is, the stronger familiarity your brand should have, which ultimately establishes trust with your customers. 

For your brand essence to be meaningful, it must first be believable. In other words, the essence of your brand needs to be authentic. That authenticity should reflect the values and beliefs that led you to launch your brand—and that should ultimately echo how you want to make your customers' lives better with the product or service you're selling. 

So what is a brand essence statement? It provokes the intangible feeling, thought, or attitude of brand essence. Let's take a look at a few examples of brand essence statements:

“Driving pleasure.” Two words. BMW uses 2 words to invoke thought, feeling, and attitude. "Driving pleasure" is what a customer does when utilizing a BMW car, and it's also a driving feeling of pleasure after they've used the product. This brand essence statement also defines the company, complimenting its brand identity. 

Patagonia, a high-end and sustainable outdoor clothing wear and gear company, faces substantial competition from The Northface, Columbia Sportswear, Carhartt, and others. So, what brand essence can they invoke in customers to strengthen their brand awareness and recognition? While the company's brand essence isn't clearly defined as one tagline, it's embedded through the wording of its website. For example, their navigation bar is a message: "Shop, Activism, Sports, Stories." And their second navigation bar reads: "Patagonia, Worn Wear, Food + Drink, Take Action." 

Perhaps one of the most well-known brand essence statements would be Nike's "Just Do It." It embodies everything they want the customer to do: buy and use their product. Because Nike sells sporting goods, the act of "just doing it" also applies to any sports-related way customers use their product. The essence of Nike's brand resonates with customers on multiple levels making it one of the best examples of the company's tagline. 

“Meet me at Starbucks.” Starbucks' brand essence almost transcends the product by focusing more on its location. Because Starbucks has scaled itself to partner with other businesses to sell its products, it is taking a grassroots approach to bring people back into its stores. This approach sells the brand essence of an experience at Starbucks. To "meet me at Starbucks" is to engage the company's product in a unique way they wouldn't get if customers bought their product anywhere else.

Composing a good brand essence statement means researching what’s important to your customers. Develop and refine your brand with market research solutions. Then track your brand to monitor its performance in the marketplace and against competitors. 

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