What the hell is a “Brand Essence” and why do I need one?

NOTE: This is the second in a series of four posts, outlining my view as to what is involved in developing powerful, branded marketing communications. Post #1(October 17) below provided an overview. This Post #2 will explain the “what” and the “why” of the Brand Essence. It will be followed by two subsequent posts, presenting the Unique Selling Proposition (U.S.P.) and Individual Sales Messages.

Sometimes when I talk to SME marketers and mention “Brand Essence,” they get a strange look on their faces. I can tell they don’t know what I’m talking about, but usually, out of politeness or, not wanting to seem ill-informed, they play along.

Oh, they may have heard of or know (think they do) something about a “U.S.P.” Other marketing communication terms that many times comes flying in from left field are “Positioning,” “Mindmap” and “Brandscape.” And recently in a meeting, an SME marketer sprung “U.B.A.” on me. I had never heard of it, nor had Google or Bing. Seems it’s an acronym for “Unique Buyer Acquisition,” or something along those lines. Of course, as we talked about it, it came out that it really is pretty close to “U.S.P.”, but in this person’s mind it was very different and “U.S.P.” was “old school.” I’ll explain a bit more about “U.S.P.” in a subsequent post, but right now let’s leave it that there is a lot of free-floating terminology out there in Branding World. No wonder some SME marketers are confused.

That’s why I’m going to explain “Brand Essence,” perhaps for the 10,000th time … that’s part of my expertise and my knowledge equity. I like to doing it and it should help some SME marketers reading this blog.


A “Brand Essence,” many times overlooked, is the required foundation for consistent, long term marketing communications with a competitive advantage. It must fully recognize the target audiences’ emotional underpinnings and how those emotional chords are tied to and interact with their more rational perspectives. Too many SME’s neglect doing this required emotional homework and go right to “making ads,”  focusing on their rational offers and rushing right behind that to visuals and type size.


But even before starting actual development a “Brand Essence,”  there needs be rigorous defining of the target audience. Who are these people? What drives their potential connection to our brand? How is it different from that connection to our competitors’ brands?

Once you’ve done your Target Audience work, it’s time for the “Brand Essence.” Remember, it is the foundation of all that will follow an amalgam of the brand’s rational and emotional components. From it will be drawn via the required “U.S.P.”, the selling messages and communication tactics ranging from TV commercials to Facebook pages to customer sales presentation and other materials.


I think the process for generating the “Brand Essence,” is relatively simple, but not easy. Some significant mind-work should be involved, combined with a decent measure of creativity and open minded willingness.

.And this is the point where I and my consultancy, SME Brand Leverage, come in. The process we use draws on my more than 40 years of building brands. We conduct a session that is both collaborative (the clients and I TOGETHER, no sitting on the sidelines, please) and dynamic (we share and interact for anywhere from a half to a full day …yes, there are bathroom breaks). Remember that after all, it is your brand…you have to help build it.

In this session we interrogate the brand, disassembling all its pieces from its rational  features (“28 flavors”, “guaranteed 24 hour delivery”) through how that benefits a customer (“wide variety of choices”, “last minute timing”)  to how that makes them feel (puts me in control,” “less worries about last minute order”). Then we re-assemble them all up into one “Brand Essence”, balancing them as appropriate. It is here that you can either decide ON JUDGMENT which one works best OR should market research be used to evaluate alternatives.

Of course, you still need a U.S.P. and sales messages. Preparing those will be covered in future posts, and will have to wait till next week.

Next week’s post: “The U.S.P. A most powerful business-building tool.”

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