Branding has significantly shifted since we live in a digital world. Where branding was once about your colors, logo, and products, it now incorporates personality, purpose, and positioning. How do you create a brand personality and identity with a purpose and positioning that resonate with your target market? You start with brand pillars.
Consider this definition of pillar: a thing regarded as reliably providing essential support for something.
Brand pillars form the support structure for everything about your brand. They are the fundamental characteristics that differentiate your brand from the competition. They include values, strengths, and traits that add dimension to your brand. Your brand pillars can be any attributes that are important to you and your customers and make you stand apart from your competitors.
Careful consideration must be used when identifying your brand pillars because everything from your products to messaging to packaging all relate back to these foundational elements.
In this digital age, building trust and earning loyal customers is more difficult than ever. Your brand pillars help generate brand equity, a critical part of your successful branding strategy. Your brand pillars showcase what sets you apart from the competition and are the foundation for the rest of your brand identity.
Brand pillars go beyond your marketing efforts. Every stakeholder in the company should care about the brand. They ARE the brand. And they should exemplify the brand pillars, especially in interactions with customers.
Brand pillars are the structural center that sets your brand apart from competitors. Brand attributes are the qualities that make up each pillar and support the creation of your brand personality. Brand pillars are defined before brand attributes are assigned.
Brand attributes are also used to define and add breadth to brand pillars. They may be evergreen as a core trait or temporary for a marketing campaign. But keep in mind that even temporary attributes must align with your permanent pillars—consistency is key. Whatever attributes you choose, their main goal is to make your brand distinctive.
There are several brand pillars: purpose, perception, identity, values, brand experience, position, promotion, etc. Let’s look at frequently used pillars to see if they apply to your brand.
Your brand purpose should tie directly to your brand goal. It is what attracts employees and customers who share similar values. Your purpose is an appealing introduction to your company’s story. Four main components inform your purpose:
The perception pillar is based on how stakeholders and customers perceive your brand. It considers your messaging, advertising, design, and reviews—all things that lead to an impression of your brand. Align your internal and external communications to foster a single brand perception from your workforce and customers.
Find out what your employees and customers currently think of your brand by using our free brand perception survey template. By understanding your current brand perception, you can make informed decisions about your strategy for creating the brand perception you desire.
The identity pillar is all about your brand personality. The attributes associated with brand identity define your brand voice and tell customers what to expect when interacting with your brand. Identity includes your brand colors, logo, design, tone, voice, and other factors that create a connection with your customers.
Consumers choose to buy from brand personalities that reflect their own, so it’s important to carefully curate an identity that will appeal to your target market.
Not sure about how to define your brand personality? Carl Jung proposed that all personalities fall into four categories and 12 archetypes. Choose the category that is aligned with your brand goal, and find the archetype that best suits your brand. From there, you can fine-tune your brand identity.
Carl Jung’s personality categories and archetypes:
Which category and archetype will fit your brand identity best?
Brand values include your brand purpose and mission. They are the fundamental principles that are the basis for everything your company does. If values are presented effectively, customers will reflect those values in brand interactions. Do not hesitate to post your mission and values on your website. Web visitors will applaud your authenticity and transparency.
Today’s competition is fierce. Your products compete with other brands, and customers make purchases from brands they like. Creating a positive brand experience will increase the likelihood of people making purchases from your brand and becoming repeat customers.
Ensure that your customers enjoy an experience that is aligned with your brand pillars. By using your pillars as the basis of every customer interaction, there will be no disconnect between experience and brand perception.
Your brand positioning may be defined by your customer service, product attributes, dedication to causes, or something else entirely. It should send the message of who you are, why you are different from your competitors, and what your brand stands for in your customers’ minds.
For successful positioning, you need to consider what your customers want, the strengths and weaknesses of your brand, and how your competitors are positioning themselves.
Your brand positioning includes your positioning statement (that is based on your market research) and a value proposition statement (that gives meaning to your brand by solving your customers’ unique problems).
Brand promotion is how you communicate your brand personality to your target market. It focuses on the awareness raised by your marketing and advertising. This should not be confused with sales promotion (a short-term incentive to convince consumers to buy your products).
Images, graphics, written and verbal communications, and other sensory elements are all parts of bringing your brand personality to life—and the promotion of your brand personality must be consistent and true to your pillars. Your brand promotion should completely align across platforms so that customers always feel like they are picking up where they left off in a conversation they are familiar and comfortable with.
Every company is different, and its brand pillars will reflect that difference. Let’s look at the brand pillars we’ve discussed so far and figure out how you can identify your brand pillars, including some helpful questions to ask yourself during the process.
Before you can begin communicating your brand pillars, you must identify your brand’s purpose. Remember to keep it in line with your brand identity.
These questions will help guide you to your brand purpose:
Brand perception influences your customers’ purchasing decisions and brand loyalty.
Ask yourself these questions to determine how you want your customers to perceive your brand:
Your brand identity is what makes you recognizable to your customers. You should have a clear image of your target market’s demographics, interests, and purchasing habits. This will help you understand how to develop a personality that resonates with your customers. Refer to Carl Jung’s model for a starting point.
To figure out your identity, ask yourself the following questions:
Define what you, as a brand, care about. This will be what stands behind everything you do. To find out what values you share with your customers, you can conduct a feedback survey that asks what your customers want, expect, need, and care about.
These questions will help you pinpoint your values:
Identify what kind of experience you want your customers to have with your brand. This will also provide a basis for perception and personality.
Consider why customers should choose your brand. This will guide your positioning.
This pillar impacts your reputation. Plan what channels you are going to use to interact with your customers. Test various social media platforms and avenues for online advertising to see which ones are most effective. Keep an eye on your social media metrics and ad analytics to see what messaging results in interaction with your customers.
For this pillar, spend some time answering these questions:
This successful outdoor clothing company uses position, promotion, and perception brand pillars. Patagonia's positioning is to build the best product and cause no unnecessary harm. Its promotion is in the way they are not bound by convention. And its perception is evident throughout its brand personality and identity.
Nike is synonymous with athletic performance. This is thanks to its consistency across the board with its brand pillars. Purpose, positioning, and personality are at the forefront of every Nike interaction. Whether it is sponsoring an athlete, championing a sport, or announcing a new innovation in athletic footwear, Nike is true to its pillars.
Coca-cola clearly states its brand pillars right on its website: loved brands, done sustainably, for a better shared future. They create refreshing products that people love, made in a way that is dedicated to a sustainable future, as they seek to improve people’s lives. Coca-cola strives to be a force for progress and good.
Apple, under the direction of Steve Jobs, was positioned around simplicity, creativity, and humanity. That positioning became the basis for the brand pillars of personality (minimalist, user-friendly, accessible to all), promotion (clever marketing and advertising that is true to the brand identity), and of course, position (as an inclusive, responsible brand).
They list their values in the footer of their website: accessibility, education, environment, inclusion and diversity, privacy, racial equality and justice, and supplier responsibility. They have pages dedicated to each value.
This article discusses seven brand pillars. Still, as you’ve seen in the examples, there are many more, such as mentoring, innovation, reliability, sustainability, etc. Identify the characteristics that you want to convey to your customers as the base for your brand. Those are your pillars.
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