In a recent post, we covered six steps to creating a powerful brand vision. But before getting ahead of yourself in following these steps, we want to explain why a brand vision is even necessary.
A brand vision model provides ongoing direction, inspiration and justification for the brand-building process. It should be multidimensional, with core and extended elements, an optional essence. It should be aligned with the brand’s purpose, have aspirational components and be flexible enough to be able to adapt to discrete markets and regions.
In creating a brand vision, the aspirational component is critical. In the planning stage, brand aspirations can and should be clustered in affinity groups and labeled accordingly. As part of the process, it’s important to clarify the distinction between “wishful thinking” and realistic aspirations. Building a brand vision around wishful thinking (i.e. “be the world leader in our category in one year,” for a new brand) will quickly suck the life out of the brand vision process, alienating key stakeholders in the process.
Developing a brand vision starts with a baseline of context and strategy. This should include an in-depth analysis of customer segments, competitors, market trends, environmental forces, a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), and the business strategy, which should include a marcom plan, value proposition(s) and the key support stakeholders.
Next, it’s important to identify all aspirational associations. These should be aggregated into like groups (i.e. customer service leader, responsible corporate citizen, etc) and all grouped together. Be patient! This process can take some time, and remember, to keep your team engaged and progressing — there are no bad ideas! These aspirations should reflect reality for the brand — even if the brand’s current status doesn’t match, there should be a good chance that the new components can be filled without a change in the business environment.
Associations can be in the form of attributes, functional benefits, applications, brand personality, social benefits and more. Associations should support the value proposition by reinforcing a point of differentiation based on the marketplace. Sometimes, in crowded or mature markets, a clear point of differentiation is not realistic or achievable, so aspiring for a parity match to a competitor’s key dimension is acceptable. The goal in the associations planning process is to make sure your brand is in the consideration set for the market segment.
Third, it’s important to prioritize the brand vision elements, especially the core vision elements. These will become the primary drivers of the brand-building strategy and programs. What are the most important brand tenants?
The next step is to create a brand essence. This is a singular thought that reflects the core meaning of the brand vision. For example, Panasonic’s “Ideas for Life.” Or Apple’s “Think Different.” This will become the centerpiece of your overall brand vision framework.
Finally, you have reached the point where you articulate the brand vision. This is often best represented by a visual, showing all of the Extended Identity and Core Identity components together, with the Brand Essence statement pictured in the middle.
This visual, once all of the components are shown together should snap the brand framework into view. If it doesn’t you should go back and work more on the Extended Identity and Core Identity elements, and make sure those elements support the Brand Essence statement.
A successful Brand Vision acts as a compass and reality check in the messy world of day-to-day and competitive marketing. It’s a stress reliever in the sense that, even though market conditions may get tough, you can rest assured knowing that you’ve got a roadmap and framework to steer you. And that, chances are, a great percentage of your competitors have not prepared in this way, resorting to luck and favorable winds to get them through tough times.
Bill Threlkeld is the president of Threlkeld Communications, a marketing communications and public relations firm that helps businesses develop the right marketing strategies to grow their businesses and meet financial goals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org