building a brand - 1 OF 5

know yourself

We all know how ‘personalities’ become brands, but are less aware of the flip side – that product and company brands develop personalities, with an age, a gender, a status, emotions… even a sense of humour. Nurture this personality and a brand can really stand out. Neglect it and a brand will become like a person with no character – ignored.

The first and most obvious step in building a brand is to ‘Know yourself’. In other words, you have to define very clearly who you are, where you have come from and what you deliver. Sometimes called defining your “brand blueprint”, this will vary slightly depending on whether yours is a product or service brand, or a corporate brand – but the principles are basically the same for all.

All brands basically consist of three elements:

  • Rational – the body
  • Emotional – the heart
  • Spiritual – the soul


This is the physical ‘body’ of the brand and concerns all its physical attributes. If it’s a company, this will define its business focus, capabilities and size as well as the tangible benefits it brings to its customers and other target audiences. For a product this will describe the product functions and features, and the practical benefits to the customer.

This is the heart of the brand and describes its personality. This is what can provide the greatest differentiation because the personality of your brand, and how it relates to the consumer, is very difficult to copy. Human character traits, such as ‘young, outgoing, down to earth’ etc. should be identified. It should also describe the intangible benefits it provides to the customer. In other words, what emotional rewards does the brand give to its users?

This is the soul or conscience of the brand and describes the values it stands for. Bearing in mind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, this is a very important dimension to the personality of the brand, and a unique differentiator – if it is genuine and you can leverage it. If it’s a corporate brand it should describe the values the company lives by in terms of its dealings with all its stakeholders, for example, staff development, CSR outreach, or the environment. It should also describe the intangible benefits this brings to the customer, e.g. a sense of affinity, of shared values, etc.

For simplicity’s sake all the above should then be summarised in terms of ‘The brand promise’, a simple statement which defines the core benefit the brand delivers to the customer. This brand promise should be as short and easy to understand as possible, preferably without limiting the brand to any particular product or service category. For example, Nike defines their brand promise as “Authentic Athletic Performance”. Disney defines theirs as “Fun Family Entertainment”. While Starbucks defines theirs rather too loosely as “Rewarding Everyday Moments”.


Once this basic brand DNA has been established, everything the brand owner does should reflect this genetic blueprint, but in order to ensure that the brand is embedded in the culture of the company and its key stakeholders, you need to give your brand a voice and pump the message out.