5 Core Concepts to Define Your Brand

Understand the concepts behind the world’s strongest brands and apply them to your own business.

Many small business owners feel that thinking about branding is only for big businesses that have the resources to invest in marketing and hire an advertising agency. The truth is that every business, no matter its size, will benefit from defining their brand. It simply requires some thought and a structured look at your business.

A brand is simply how a business is perceived in the mind of someone who has experienced it in some way. These experiences are known as brand touchpoints. Brand touchpoints could be an online review, word-of-mouth referral from a friend, magazine article, piece of packaging, or a mention on social media. Branding is the process of controlling how your business is seen and understood. It’s all about defining how you would like customers to think and feel about your brand.

There are 5 key concepts which branding agencies use to help define a brand. This article will help you understand those ideas and use them to define your own brand.

  1. Purpose: Why does your brand exist?
  2. Vision: What would the world look like if you succeeded in your purpose?
  3. Mission: How are you going to achieve your vision?
  4. Values: What do you stand for?
  5. Positioning: How are you different from the competition?

The goal is to answer each of these questions in a simple, clear statement that feels absolutely true to your business. These are the building blocks of a strong brand, which will help you connect with your customers, communicate difference, and ultimately create additional value for your product or service.

Purpose: Why does your brand exist?

The first concept goes to the heart of why you get up in the morning and do what you do.

If your immediate answer to “Why does your business exist?” is “To make money,” then this a good time to dig a little deeper. There are countless ways to make money, so why did you choose the business you are currently in?

More likely than not, you felt there was an opportunity to create value in market that wants what you are selling. Profit is a side effect of capturing that value. So, what exactly is the value you’re creating?

Imagine you are a plumber. You might describe your business as installing and repairing water supply lines, waste disposal systems, and related appliances and fixtures. You pride yourself on the quality of your work as a trusted tradesperson and offer a speedy same-day service.

A quick search online will show the majority of local plumbers make the same claims, so why would a potential customer choose you? Online customer reviews will definitely influence a decision, but the customer will no doubt check out your website to see what they think and feel before they hire you.

This is where branding comes into play.

Your brand purpose is essentially a short statement that describes your unique take on your business above the functional elements of the product or service.

Perhaps you worked for a plumbing firm before you started your own business. You noticed that customers were often in a state of distress as losing hot water and heating can be incredibly disruptive to daily life. Maybe you noticed many other plumbers can be a little careless in other people’s homes and fail to tidy up after carrying out the work. You also noticed that some plumbers only accept cash, which can be inconvenient for customers.

In short, you see the potential to create a better experience for the customer. On a personal level, you get a kick out of seeing the look of relief on a customer’s face and like the idea of building a business around that satisfaction.

You decide your brand purpose is to deliver “painless plumbing” with a focus on providing a great, disruption-free experience. That’s what you want to be known for, and that’s what you would be proud to deliver. Based on your experience, you believe that customers would value that approach.

Can you sum up the brand purpose of your own business in a sentence? It’s a crucial step; this will influence how you business is represented on all of your brand touchpoints. It’ll also affect how your business lands in the mind of a potential customer.

Vision: What would the world look like if you succeeded in your purpose?

Writing your brand vision is a way of connecting with customers who share your view of the world. If a customer believes that you are a good fit for them, you’ll have built a valuable connection with them.

Sit and think for a moment about what the world would look like if your business delivered its brand purpose. A furniture maker who only uses repurposed wood might imagine a world where no tree is ever wasted. A chef who sources their ingredients from a sustainable supply chain might imagine a world where every diner understands where their food comes from.

As you start to imagine what the world can look like through the lens of your brand purpose, it becomes clear what value you are adding to the world. Running a small business comes with its own challenges, but having a firm vision of how you are contributing to a better world is a strong and reassuring motivator.

Mission: How are you going to achieve your vision?

Sometimes, lofty visions can feel unrealistic. To make things feel more practical, try writing a short mission statement on how you are going to make your vision a reality.

Imagine again that you own a small plumbing business. You have a defined brand purpose to deliver “painless plumbing.” You have a vision of a world where no person has to suffer unnecessary disruption due to a plumbing breakdown. To achieve that vision, your mission is to restore hot water and heating to homes in the quickest and most efficient way possible.

In practical terms, that means leaving the customer’s house exactly as you found it. It means allowing the customer to pay by card by carrying a portable card reader and not insisting on cash. It means respecting that you are in someone’s home, offering to take your shoes off as you enter. Everything about the experience should live up to your brand purpose.

It may not sound like a heroic, world-changing mission, but for anyone who doesn’t have heating in winter, suspects a gas leak in their home, or can’t shower before work, getting a household running smoothly again is a blessing. The brand purpose, vision, and mission are all joined up and are brought to life through the customer experience.

Values: What do you stand for?

Brand values are simply a set of guiding principles that are true to you and your business. They affect how you behave and what actions and choices you take. To avoid clichés, try and think beyond generic values that you may have seen before: trustworthy, reliable, friendly. Is there a more specific way to describe exactly what you stand for?

Thoughtfulness is an unusual value for a plumber, for example, but it could be a brilliant differentiator. Discovery by comparison is useful here. Look at your competitors and see where your values might differ or be similar.

Positioning: How you are different from the competition?

A brand positioning is the special place a business occupies someone’s mind. Imagine an astronaut planting a flag with your logo on it onto your customer’s brain. You have managed to cut through the clutter and get a tiny piece of real estate in the thoughts and opinions of someone.

It’s not easy to establish a clear brand positioning, but if you can define your core brand elements, you’ll have a strong foundation in place for your business.

Written by Mo Saha for Mailchimp. Mo is a branding expert for small businesses.