The humble Brand Key – managing your brand starts with a single page!
If you’re in the world of brand and marketing, you’ve probably heard of a brand key. It’s a framework that captures the key attributes of a brand in one place.
A brand key can be used to guide all aspects of managing a brand, from messaging and advertising to product development and customer experience. It is essentially a summary of a brand’s distinctive identity – who you are, and positioning – where you compete.
The power of simplicity
One of the main benefits of using a brand key is that it captures all the essential information about a brand on just one page. This makes it easy for everyone involved in a brand to understand and bring to life its distinctive identity. It also ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to making decisions about that brand.
It provides a framework for creating consistent messaging and visual identity across all touchpoints, from advertising to product design. This consistency helps to build brand recognition and loyalty from customers.
A tool with many names
In addition to a brand key, several other names and shapes are used. Some of the most common ones include a brand wheel, brand pyramid, brand onion and brand house. Shapes and models can be customised to fit a brand.
With our founder Susie Partridge having trained at Unilever where the brand key is used, we opted to use the brand key when recently developing the brand strategy for a client.
The components of a Brand Key
The circle on top is all about who you are as a brand, your brand identity. It typically includes the brand’s values, personality, benefits and reasons to believe, centred around a brand promise.
The brand promise is closely linked to the customer insight, the unmet need or motivation of the target audience, and the brand’s foundations, e.g. its origins, history and other assets / credentials. To develop a distinctive positioning – where you compete – it’s important to be clear also on who your customer is, your target audience, and your close competitors.
We use the following definitions to explain each of the components:
- Brand values are guiding principles or beliefs that define a brand’s behaviour and decision-making, e.g. Strava, an app for tracking and sharing exercise activity, has values of anti-racism, authenticity, balance, craftsmanship, commitment and camaraderie.
- Brand personality is a set of characteristics or traits that a brand wants to be associated with and which help to establish a more emotional connection with customers; it defines how the brand looks and speaks, e.g. Nike as a person would be exciting, provocative and innovative.
- Brand benefits refer to the key advantages that customers associate with a particular brand; they differentiate a brand from its competitors, create value perceptions and influence purchase decisions; effective branding efforts focus on communicating and delivering these benefits to customers in a compelling and consistent manner, e.g. the iPhone offers both, functional (tangible) benefits, such as its high-quality camera, advanced performance and user-friendly interface, as well as emotional (intangible) benefits, such as status, prestige and creative expression.
- Brand promise is your unique value proposition or commitment that a brand makes to its customers; it encapsulates what the essence of what the brand stands for and sets expectations to the overall customer experience, e.g. Amazon’s promise is ‘to be the most convenient company with the lowest prices and best customer service out there’.
- Reasons to believe (RTBs) are the proof points to support your brand promise, re-assuring your customers that your brand will deliver what it promises, e.g. Amazon’s proof points are their next day delivery service, quick response on customer service and easy customer journey.
- Customer insight comes from understanding deeply what your target audience believes, wants or needs, and is written as a summary of the underlying driver to the way in which they behave, e.g. Patagonia knows that their customers are outdoor lovers who care about the environment; this insight informs their brand identity and positioning as the brand who’s mission is ‘to protect the home planet’.
- Target audience is a description of the people that the brand wants to serve, including key demographics, attitudes and behaviours as relevant to the brand, e.g. Airbnb primarily targets travellers or individuals seeking unique, personalised accommodation experiences and are budget conscious.
- Competitive environment highlights dominant products that fulfil similar needs to the brand and which are therefore competing in the target audience’s mind with the brand, e.g. Sky streaming services would see Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV as direct competitors, and they could also consider music concerts, theatres or gaming apps competing with them for customers’ entertainment time.
- Foundations are strong assets from the brand’s past which can be leveraged in the future, e.g. The University of Cambridge has been at the forefront of academic study and research for over eight centuries.
In conclusion, a brand key is a powerful tool for managing a brand. It captures all the key attributes of a brand in one place, making it easy to communicate and understand. It also provides a framework for consistent brand management across all touchpoints. If you’re looking to build a strong brand identity, consider creating a brand key to guide your efforts.
Author: Christina Bertram
Christina is a brand and marketing specialist, adept at combining a clear strategic vision with commercially driven execution. She has been delivering successful brand positioning and marketing plans for iconic brands for over 20 years, including for Tesco, Aviva, Cambridge University Press & Assessment and various spirits brands including Absolut Vodka, Campari, as well as launching Aperol Spritz into the UK. Christina is passionate about connecting brands and consumers through relevance, emotion, and purpose.