The Why, What and How of Branding

Aug 31 2014

There are many frameworks for developing brand identity, including prisms, onions, pyramids and a multitude of shapes and structures. In Brand esSense I use a simple framework of Why, What and How to think about the different touch points that communicate brand identity, and this is the framework that TapestryWorks use in our Brand esSense® workshops with clients, taking the ideas beyond touch points to consider all relevant elements of brand strategy and execution. This is a powerful and simple way to think about the most important truths of your brand and business.

Start with “Why?”

In Start With Why, Simon Sinek writes convincingly about the importance of answering the question “Why?” in defining a business strategy, and TapestryWorks’ Brand esSense framework borrows some elements from his model (which he calls the Golden Circle). He argues that in business why you do things is more important than what things you do. One of the examples he uses is Apple (writing in 2011), who have (or had) always had a clear idea of why they were in business from their very first day (in the mythical garage).

He illustrates this by writing what Apple might say if they were any other company:

“We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and friendly. Wanna buy one?’

Compare this statement with a more typical Apple communication:

“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly. And we happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one?’

Apple spent much of its life as a Rebel archetype, even if they have shifted a little in recent years (they are now much more an Artist).

The fundamental question for any brand to ask, before it thinks about anything else in its strategy, is “Why do I exist?”. The question of purpose and mission is far more important than the question of what you can make or do. This question is often best answered by considering what problem in the world is your brand solving, and why can your brand solve this problem more credibly than any other. In the case of Apple, the problem was (and is) bad design and poor user experiences, and they have been uniquely placed to solve this problem because they care intensely about designing great experiences (in a way that other brands do not).

What does that mean?

Having answered “Why?”, then you need to think about “What?”. What does this mean for customers, users, staff and stakeholders? What is the benefit to them and how would this make them feel? This helps define brand personality and symbolism, and other key attributes of the brand. It should also define what the brand is NOT. To use Apple as an example again, they have often talked very openly about what (and who) they are not, a powerful way of communicating who you are (they were not IBM in the early days, and then they were not Microsoft).

IKEA are a brand that wants to make “affordable solutions for better living”, fixing the problem that too often well-designed furniture was unaffordable for many people. IKEA follow the Everyman archetype in almost everything that they do, communicating meanings of inclusion and equality in what they say and also in the experience of shopping in their stores (where everyone follows the same path and products are displayed in a variety of typical ‘real home’ environments). Even their restaurant provides cheap everyday food at the end of the shopping trip.

How do I deliver?

Having defined “Why?” and “What?” you can turn to “How?”. How does the brand deliver on the promise. Building on the brand’s core strengths, consider what products and services match the business’ core competencies. Also consider, what the experience of using the product or service might be like, given the meanings that are relevant to defining the brand, as well as other aspects of execution.

Dettol are a brand on a “Mission for health” and choose the Warrior archetype in much of their marketing, with a little bit of Caregiver in focusing on the importance of protecting the family. Their symbolism is linked to meanings of strength and efficacy, in their tagline “Mission for health” and their logo is a sword with a flash of light at its tip. Also the design of the product experience connotes the same meanings, with a strong efficacious smell and a visually powerful white cloud effect when dissolving in water. The brand has focused on product extensions that support health and cleanliness.

Again, when defining how brands should also define how not. For example, I recently wrote about a packaging redesign for Dettol shower gel where I think the brand has not been consistent with its brand identity in moving to pastel colours. If the brand stands for strength and efficacy, do pastel shades communicate that value?

These examples demonstrate the power of being clear on why you are in business, and using that knowledge to define a personality that can embody your own values and match these to customer goals (through archetypes).  Asking why helps to define why your brand exists, leading to what the brand can mean to people and ultimately how your business can deliver on your brand promise.

If you would like to know more about how to build your Brand esSense, please contact [email protected].


Brand esSense: Using sense, symbol and story to design brand identity by Neil Gains

Start With Why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action by Simon Sinek

No responses yet

Leave a Reply