A brand vision is an articulated description of the aspirational image for the brand. The brand vision, sometimes called brand identity, should reflect what you want your brand to stand for in the eyes of your targeted audience. This includes customers, employees and partners.
Many companies skip the process of establishing a brand vision because it can seem unwieldy and the ROI fuzzy. But skip this step at your own risk. It’s the brand vision that ultimately drives the ability to create a foundation for establishing the brand as a leader.
What is a Brand Vision?
A successful brand vision will support your overall business strategy, while helping differentiate your brand from competitors. This helps you establish a brand relevance market position, rather than a brand preference position in the market (read this blog post for more on brand relevance versus brand preference).
The brand vision model is a framework for establishing a unique position in the market. This helps you distinguish your brand from others in six ways.
First, a brand is more than a snappy or memorable tagline. Most brands cannot be defined in a single thought or phrase. The process of trying to find one tagline that encompasses the essence of your brand can lead you down a fruitless search for meaning that could leave the brand with missing elements or a lacking vision. A brand’s vision elements should be prioritized into between two and five that are the most compelling and differentiating (called the “core vision elements”). Others are labeled as “extended vision elements.” Core vision elements will set the course for determining a brand’s value propositions and programs.
Second, a brand’s extended vision elements add texture to a brand vision. This can lead to teams making better decisions about whether or not a campaign or program is “on brand.” Extended band elements help set the foundation for important aspects of a brand such as brand personality and quality; components that may not be part of the core vision elements, but important nonetheless.
Third, the brand vision model is flexible in its structural framework, avoiding a one size fits all mentality. Contexts for brand vision components vary according to the brands customer segments and environments. For example, organizational values and programs are likely to be important for service and BtoB firms but not for consumer package goods brands. Personality is often more important for durables and less so for corporate brands.
Fourth, a brand vision is aspirational and can differ from the current image. A brand vision reflects the associations that a brand needs to have moving forward based on the business strategy, not necessarily the current existing image. Brand planners should feel comfortable expanding the horizons of a brand’s current image, especially if the longer term strategy is to advance the brand into new markets or segments.
Fifth, the brand essence represents a central theme of the brand vision and is optional. That said, when the right brand essence is found, it can be magic in its communication capabilities to all stakeholders. Consider “Transforming Futures,” the brand essence of the London School of Business. Or “Ideas for Life” for Panasonic. Or “Family Magic” for Disneyland. The brand essence provides an umbrella over what the brand aspires to do and become.
Sixth, the brand position is a short-term communication guide that often expresses what will be communicated to what target audience, with what logic. A brand’s current positioning should emphasize the brand vision elements that are credible and deliverable in the current context. As the market matures or changes, the brand positioning message may need to change with it.
We’ll cover the process of creating and establishing a brand vision in another blog post. For now, remember that the key takeaway is that, while skipping the process of establishing a brand vision might be tempting due to perceived time constraints, the consequences in the longer term could be higher marketing costs and diminished market presence and impact.
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