Finding Your Brand’s “North Star”: Three crucial elements to help refine your brand
In recent months, we have had several brands reach out looking for guidance on their brand strategy or creative. In the process of helping each one understand their goals, needs and challenges, we realized that for several outdoor marketers, there are some key terms that require explanation and clarification. Our goal is to help shed some light on these terms, highlight the role each plays in the larger context of brand marketing, and help showcase how to get there.
If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to identify why your brand’s creative feels like it’s lacking emotion, or just seems “off,” despite utilizing clear logo and identity guidelines and being rooted in well-established brand standards, and with clear brand values, it might be that you’re missing a few ingredients.
Let's start with a few definitions.
While there are many crucial components to a well-articulated and strategically-sound brand platform, we’re focusing on three that are particularly important to the development of clear, consistent, and effective creative. These are, in no particular order:
Brand Essence (aka “North Star”)
Your brand essence is a deceptively simple one-to-three word statement that reflects the distilled essence of your brand. Or, as we define it to our clients, the single, intangible, unique, and reliable core characteristic that defines who you are in your heart and soul.
We say “deceptively simple” because while an effective brand essence is intentionally clear and concise, the process of creating it might not feel quite so quick and easy. But that’s ok, because part of the value of a brand essence is within the process of creating it, which compels you to think deeply and clearly about what your brand truly stands for.
What does a brand essence do? In short, it provides a clear and memorable filter you and your team can use to evaluate your brand’s creative and messaging. Your brand essence is generally not a consumer-facing piece of language (though there are exceptions to this rule), but it will help guide your external communications and ensure consistency of tone across all channels. It’s also valuable for helping to align your internal team on the foundational elements of your brand.
Your brand POV is rooted in an actionable statement that inspires and guides all creative output and connects with your audience. It’s an articulation of the unique perspective your brand takes on whatever market it serves. While it’s always important to evaluate your creative through the filter of your essence, it’s your brand’s POV that will really help to differentiate your brand in the eyes of the consumer.
As with the essence, a brand POV is not typically communicated verbatim, though its influence will be felt across all consumer touch points.
Brand Value Proposition
A brand value proposition is a summary of the functional and emotional value you offer your customers. It’s a fairly tactical piece of language, intended to be more informative, than inspiring, and it builds a bridge from your target audience, to your brand’s offerings, to the emotional self-expression your audience realizes through your brand. It’s a great tool for helping to quickly and concisely align your internal team on a number of important facets of your brand.
At Origin, it’s most common for us to generate these three critical brand elements during the development of a brand platform, which contains numerous other elements that bring a brand to life in even more detail. While it’s certainly ideal to incorporate these elements into the initial platform development process, it’s also very possible to bring them to life after other aspects of the brand are well-developed.
Recently, we were approached by a client who had an established brand platform with a tremendous amount of information about target audience, brand attributes, and visual identity. Yet they were struggling to connect with consumers on an emotional level; their brand had a lot of brains, but it was lacking heart. After reviewing their platform, we noticed the absence of a brand essence and POV, both essential tools for developing a more emotional connection with your target audience.
Because much of their brand platform was intact and working for them, there was no need to start from scratch. Instead, we did a deep dive into the brand, as well as its competitive set, looking to understand how it was positioned within the market, and also what differentiated it from its competitors. This research, combined with a relatively short discovery session that allowed us to hear directly from the client about their perception of (and hopes for) the brand enabled us to craft an essence and POV that aligned with the existing platform, while also articulating the elements necessary to begin forging the emotional connection they lacked.
If you’re finding you and your team are struggling with these (or any other) aspects of your brand, reach out. We love this stuff.