Brand development: how to create your purpose, principles and proposition

Written by Adam

July 13, 2020

brand development

In our socially-conscious world, brand principles are more important than ever. The clearer, more authentic, and better articulated they are, the more success you’ll find.

So what’s your business really about? Why do you do what you do? If your big goal is to splash profits on a flashy new car, good luck. But you may struggle to bring your colleagues and customers along for the ride.

As a brand with a defined purpose that goes beyond the bottom line, you’ll have a quantifiable advantage.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

—Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why

Brand development: “Start with the why.” 

So said Simon Sinek, brand development mastermind. He believes the most important thing we can communicate to customers is why we do what we do. I completely agree.

Defining our why goes to the heart of who we are and what we’re about. This means we can connect to our customers in profound new ways.

This flies in the face of old logic which says you should start with what you do or sell. But the thing is this: nobody really cares. If you really want to add value to your brand, connect with your customers by aligning the things you care about with the things they care about. 

All the brands you know and love have been doing this for years.

In today’s world, purpose is amongst your most valuable assets. It’s what keeps your team engaged, the reason customers keep coming back and the thing people talk about when they talk about you. As we shall come to see, your sense of purpose should lead every decision you make.

According to the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, 87% of consumers stated they would purchase a product based on brand values.

We can sum up the Why, How and What of your brand development as vision, values and service. This isn’t about lengthy prose. When defining yours, aim to keep them concise and snappy.

Here are a few examples from Your Turn:

Why – Vision

To promote a society which values ethical business and connects like-minded people.

How – Values

Work together, work passionately and work with purpose. Make friends along the way.

What – Service

Share strategies and resources, build a community and provide specialist marketing support for ethical businesses.

Positioning. Proposition. Mission.

Once you’re done defining your internal brand values, you can move onto the positioning, proposition and mission statement.

Positioning

Your positioning is a short description that encapsulates what you do better than anyone else.

You can use a formula like this one that helps identify your specific positioning:

Our [offering] is the only [category] that [benefit].

For example, mine is:

Your Turn is the only marketing blog in South Yorkshire that focuses on helping ethical businesses find their edge.

Remember to look back at the insights you collected from your marketing research. What made or could make you different from the competition? How can you move your business to a unique field and zig while the others zag?

Value Proposition

Next up is the value proposition. This takes the brand positioning a step further and articulates the functional and emotional benefits that your product or service provides. This is more concerned with how you solve problems for your customers.

A good value proposition is a boiled-down, single-sentence definition of why and who should care about your business. It should solve a problem by answering four key questions:

W = Who has this problem you want to solve?

X = What problem can you solve for your customer?

Y = How are you going to solve this problem?

Z = Why are they going to care if you solve this problem for them?

Again, your Discovery insights will help you answer the above, then use this simple formula to understand what your value proposition is:

We/I help W do X by doing Y which means Z.

For example:

I help ethical businesses (W) build winning content strategies (X) with free marketing support (Y) that helps you scale-up for less (Z).

Remember to cut the waffle. Top, tail and trim for a more succinct value proposition.

What it’s good for—headlines on websites, marketing materials and company social media bios.

The Mission Statement

And now for that gem: the mission statement. This gets right to the heart of your purpose. It’s similar to your value proposition only it’s written to inspire you and your team.

Because of this, it should embody your motivation, your passion, and your conviction. It should remind you why it is that you get up every morning, why you work to the bone and why you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here’s the secret formula…

Your company’s purpose (X) + how your company executes this purpose (Y) + why you did it this way (Z).

And, my example:

I’m here to help those helping others (X). By providing specialised marketing resources for ethical businesses (Y) I can shout up for the things I care about while doing what I love (Z). 

Where to use it—when inspiring/convincing loved ones, in your team reports, on your personal social media profile and on large format artwork on your office wall where everyone can see it.

Give the newborn a name

Newborn brands are precious. They deserve a precious name. That short combination of letters should distil your brand essence more than any other. A good brand name can be worth billions (or £80bn for Coca-Cola when valued in 2019). A bad brand name isn’t worth the stock it’s printed on. It’s make or break; Google or BackRub.

Choosing the right name will automatically increase the credibility of your brand with customers and employees. Ultimately, this means more sales and greater productivity. But it’s not only valued by how effective it is, but also by how aware your audience is of it. Consequently, its value increases with time. That means you’ll want to get it right from the get-go. 

Trouble is – with the infinite choice available – that’s no easy task. Especially with all the conflicts…

Love it with your heart; choose it with your head. Ensure it sounds great; make it look great too. Tell the whole brand story; say as little as you can. Be original; don’t be obscure. Say it as it is; be as creative as you can. The list goes on.

As ever, a little structure can bring clarity to the chaos. 

Finding the right words

This stage is all about exploring ideas and finding words or phrases that might seed a brand name.

You’ll want to get your core brand development team involved in this process if you have one, but you don’t have to do this as a group. A thesaurus makes for good company here.

Start by making a list of adjectives that describe your brand products and services. Make a second list to include words or phrases that describe how you want your customers to feel when they think about your brand. Next, write down any other words that you associate with your brand.

Name brainstorming

With your list of words to hand for inspiration, the brand name brainstorm begins. Start by writing down as many ideas as possible, then whittle this down to your top ten. To ensure you fully explore your options, group brand names into the seven categories below: 

1. Descriptive: names that describe the brand are great for instant product/service awareness and stand out in web searches. Think National Grid, General Motors, and Innocent Smoothies.

2. Invented: while lacking description, these names pack a punch with looks and sound and can still carry brand character. Due to their obscurity, you can trademark a short brand name. Think Exxon, Kodak, Pepsi, Uber.

3. Evocative: rather than drawing on words that are directly associated with your brand, these names take a metaphorical approach that resonates with your audience at a deeper level. Think Nike, Patagonia, Amazon, and Virgin.

4. Acronyms: keeping it short and sweet, acronyms carry authority and sophistication and stand for something greater than the letters alone. Think DKNY, IBM, IKEA, H&M.

5. Lexical: these names focus on wordplay. Because of this, they sound great, look great and are highly memorable. They’re perfect for fun brands and products. Think Dunkin’ Donuts, Krazy Glue, TikTok.

6. Place/founder: while this may seem a dull approach, names tell a story and humanise your brand. And don’t think you have to use a real name. If your brand was a person, what would it be called? Think Warby Parker, Ben & Jerry’s, Marks & Spencer.

7. Combined words: Two words are more descriptive than one. By merging them together you can create a new word that fully encapsulates your brand name. Think Facebook, Snapchat.

Brand development and differentiation

The kind of brand you are reflects the kind of name you want to use. But don’t make the mistake of falling in line, being another tech brand using a three-letter acronym in blue. It’s time to shake off those ingrained norms and be uniquely you. If your competition has all gone for ‘descriptive’ names choose a different category.

You can test your name against the competition by using a positioning chart like the one below. The trick is to set a relevant differentiator for the Y-axis and X-axis. Here are a few examples to try out. 

  • Formal Vs. Informal  |  Trendy Vs. Traditional
  • Fun Vs. Sophisticated  |  Long Vs. Short
  • Abstract Vs. Clear  |  Exciting Vs. Trustworthy

Once you’ve plotted your competition’s brand names, see where your new brand name suggestions appear. The further from the others, the more you’ll stand out from the crowd.

The brand name litmus test

 

Before you go any further, check that you can acquire the trademark and domain for your brand names. If not, bin them. If you’re an international business—or aspire to be one—you’ll also want to check they translate. Don’t make the same mistake as the Japanese tourist agency, Kinki Nippon, or Mazda’s Laputa, meaning ‘prostitute’ in Spanish. 

By the time you get to the evaluation stage, you should have around five names that you’re seriously considering. You may already have a feeling that one is better than the rest. But to the marketer-analyst, gut feelings or no better than sickness. We’re looking for informed choices.

To help, here’s a brand development name litmus test. 

First, write down your value proposition, then type your shortlist of brand names in a standard large-sized font (like Arial 36pt.)  

Now, ask your colleagues (and a select group of customers/prospects) to score each brand name out of five stars against the five criteria below. 

1. How your name looks.

2. How memorable it is.

3. Whether it has an emotional resonance.

4. Whether it fits your brand purpose.

5. How much meaning it has.

Once done, tot up the score and see which one wins. With a larger budget, you can do some A/B ad testing with a target audience on a platform like Facebook.

And if at the end you still want to go with that original gut feeling, well that’s your business.

Tagline/strapline/slogan

 

The brand development phase is nearly complete. All we need now is a tagline AKA strapline AKA slogan. Or do we? For some brands, taglines are defunct—just more noise in an already cluttered space. 

But if your brand name doesn’t adequately describe what you do, they’re a must. When you think of a great tagline you probably think of ‘Just do it’, ‘Finger lickin’ good’, or ‘Think different’. And yes, these are all great. But without the multi-million-pound marketing budget, you’ll need to be more to the point.

As a smaller business, your tagline should be a distilled version of your value proposition that will provide clarity about what you do for people who are searching online.

Here’s mine: ‘Content with purpose’.

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