Your brand essence is a real thing, and it is almost quantifiable.
However, you have to understand what makes up a brand essence to figure out what yours is.
This article lays out the many pieces that make and create your branding model.
Your Brand's Goal Is To Educate People About Your Brand Principles
Branding is not a selling tool.
Branding is a process that is used to educate people about your brand principles.
The fact that branding makes selling easier is neither here nor there.
Branding is the act of teaching your target consumer what your brand principles are so that your target consumers know where they stand with you or your company.
In other words, if your target consumer has been educated about your brand principles, then your target consumer knows what to expect when exposed to your brand.
Your Brand's Function Is To Link What You Do To What You Have Taught People
The function of your brand is to link the brand principles you have taught people to what you do.
For example, Volvo built its brand on safety.
Their brand principle is that safety is their biggest concern.
Their brand's function was to link that “Safety” principle to their cars.
What few people realise is Volvo's brand function may be used elsewhere.
For example, if you put the “Volvo” logo on the side of a roller coaster, people would honestly believe that the roller coaster was an exceptionally safe one.
That link between what you do (make cars, make roller coasters, etc.) and what you have taught people (safety-first) is what your brand's function is.
Your Brand's Actions Are Guided By Its Principles
It stands to reason that if your branding goals are to teach people about your brand principles, then your actions should be guided by those principles.
If your brand principles are that your company produces the very highest quality silver products, then an economy line of silver products should never appear in your inventory.
If your brand of comedy is a no-holes-barred view on life, then you should never cow-tow to PC bullies who tell you which words you can and cannot say.
Alternatively, if your brand is one of a family-friendly pub environment, then you should not allow female entertainers (the naked type) when boys have stag nights in your pub.
What Is A Brand Essence?
Your brand's essence is the implied meaning of its goals and function, which are directly related to how your actions are guided by your principles; your reputation is a side effect of those actions. In short:
Brand Essence = Goals (educating) + What you do + Function (linking goals to what you do) + The direction you take your brand (the decisions you make)
Some people may also include “Exposure” into that equation, but if famous dead artists have taught us anything, it is that exposure is not always required to build a brand essence, (regarding the artists who died long before their paintings became famous).
Your Brand Essence Has Nothing To Do With Your Logo Design
A logo has nothing to do with your brand essence.
A logo design is a quick and easy way to use (and exploit?) your brand and your brand's function.
Remember that your brand's function is to link your brand principles with what you do.
Recalling the Volvo example, one could write on the side of a roller coaster, “This was made by Volvo with great dedication towards safety.”
Alternatively, you can put the Volvo logo on the side of the roller coaster cars, and it says and means the same thing.
In the minds of your consumers, your logo forms a quick-and-easy link to your brand principles.
Your Brand's Reputation Is A Side Effect Of Its Essence
As mentioned earlier, if you are running a family-friendly pub, then being family friendly is one of your principles.
The brand's function is that the family-friendly atmosphere is linked to your pub premises (related to a location).
The essence of your brand (family-friendly pub environment) is going to create a reputation through your brand dissemination and brand education efforts, and it will establish a reputation almost as a side effect, an inference, or by accident.
For example, a desperate man is looking for narcotics or a fight, is he going to choose “Burt's Biker Bar” or “Franny's Family Fun Pub?”
There is nothing in Franny's branding that says her place never has drugs or fights, there may be six or seven fights per night between angry fathers, but by almost inference or by accident, the desperate man does not go to Franny's for a fight or narcotics.
Your Brand's Essence Is Perverted When It Acts Out Of Character
Arnold Schwarzenegger built a brand where he was powerful and masculine without being aggressive.
In his movies, he continued to build his brand where he was strong and masculine, but he was only ever aggressive to the bad guys.
People who knew of his brand were also happy to watch his movies, even if some of them were a little “meh.”
Those same people were devastated when Arnold tried his hand at comedy.
His magic ticket, toy chasing, baby daycare ways were a slap in the face to his fans because it was a perversion of his brand.
His branded essence was perverted because his brand was acting out of character, ergo the fans who loved his name were appalled.
When your brand acts out of character, then your brand's very essence is perverted, and such damage takes time to repair.
It takes more than the top resume writing services to rebuild a personal brand, just like it takes more than a good publicity company to restore a business.
Acting out of character will often pervert a brand's essence.
For example, Colgate (famous for toothpaste) tried making healthy snacks.
People hated them because they associated Colgate with toothpaste.
It was not just their snack sales that fell; their entire toothpaste line stopped selling as well because the essence of the brand had been damaged in the eyes of the public.
Harley Davidson tried expanding its line.
They expanded so much that they were selling their line of Body Wash.
This was a perversion of the brand's essence because people were used to Harley Davidson's macho brand image, which didn't sit quite well with the idea of soapy suds.
Sales dipped to where even the bikes were not selling very well.
Harley had acted out of character, which perverted their brand essence, which led to lower sales across the board.
It was not an isolated branding incident; the entire essence of the brand had been damaged.
There Is A Difference Between Perverting Your Brand And Wrecking It
If your brand essence is perverted through a few silly decisions, then whatever is lost may be regained through going back to what the brand essence was before the perversion.
For example, Arnie acted in the comedy “Kindergarten Cop” in 1990, and his brand essence was perverted.
He was a big strong man, and his brand principles were that of being brave, strong and masculine.
Arnie was able to recover from the damage by going back to doing action movies with the massively popular Terminator 2 movie in 1991.
There are plenty of stories of a perverted brand being recovered, from tales of Microsoft making MP3 players to New Coke.
The perversion of a brand essence is very different from wrecking your brand.
The owner of Ratner's jewellery empire destroyed his own company when he called his own jewellery “s**t” on TV.
After that point, he could not go back to saying his jewellery was of the highest quality.
Boris Johnson spent months claiming that the UK should be its own boss, should be independent, and shouldn't be part of Europe, and then gave a big pro-Europe speech when people in the UK decided to leave Europe.
He could not go back to promoting UK independence because he had wrecked his brand.
What is Your Brand Essence? How Does One Find It?
Consider what your branding goals are.
What brand principles are you trying to disseminate?
Also, what are you trying to teach your target audience about your brand principles?
What do you do, or what does your company do, and how are you going to link that to your brand principles?
Are you keeping to your brand principles?
Are you being guided by your brand principles?
You have taught people about your brand principles, are you acting in a way that lends itself towards those principles and their associated goals?
Are you perverting your brand essence?
Do you set up expectations in the eyes of your consumer and then meet those expectations, or are you acting contrary what they expect?
Finally, what do you want your brand essence to be?
Can you piece together the many elements that have been laid out in this article and form your brand essence?
Maybe you would prefer a little reverse engineering by starting with your brand essence and then working back towards your function, your brand function, and your brand principles.
Author Bio: Julie Petersen is a writer and an editor. She is inspired by writing and branding. You can find her on Twitter.