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brand essence (brand mantra)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Brand essence, also known as a brand mantra, is a short statement that expresses the core of what that brand represents or the image it seeks to project. A brand essence statement is often just two to three words. Although formats can vary, the statement's tone is most important. A statement usually uses a series of adjectives to describe a brand and may or may not contain the brand name. The athletic apparel company Nike, for example, may use statements like "Authentic athletic performance" or "Nike is inspirational."

A brand essence expresses emotional and intangible associations that try to inspire a connection between the customer and a brand, which can take the form of the general sentiment that the brand inspires. A company’s tag line is often its brand essence statement and, as such, integral to brand recognition.

Criteria for a brand essence statement include:

  • A single-focused message.
  • Differentiation of the brand from competitors.
  • An evocation of customer experience with the brand.
  • Consistent delivery.
  • A representation of the reality of what a customer might feel.

Marketing teams put time and deliberation into selecting the terms used in a brand essence. A marketing team finds terms that describe sentiments experienced when using a product. Laddering is a process used to come up with a brand essence. When laddering, brands are typically examined and attributes are selected from what the brand’s features imply. Attributes are considered the bottom rung of the ladder. The functional benefits that those attributes bring are examined for the second rung of the ladder. The third and final rung involves an examination of the emotions that the benefits bring to a customer.

The language in a brand essence reflects the particular company and its products and, as such varies a great deal from one company to another. Harley-Davidson might choose liberation as one of its terms whereas Palmolive might choose cleanliness. A business chooses a brand essence based on the consistent experience it delivers and the emotional response it evokes in its customers. Through this consistency and the emotional response, it seeks to interest new customers that are attracted to those qualities and to reinforce brand loyalty in existing customers. Marketers usually put considerable time into creating a new brand essence statement for rebranding efforts.

This was last updated in July 2017

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