What Is Brand Essence — and Brand Essence Exercises

What is Brand Essence?  At the core of your brand strategy is your Brand Essence — your Brand Essence is what you stand for.  Brand Essence is often thought of as your brand DNA, the essential value of your brand, or the ultimate role your brand plays in the world.  It’s a critical element of your strategic brand platform because if you want your customers to be clear about what your brand stands for, you must first be.

Brand Essence examples

Brand Essence is usually articulated in the form of a couple of words or a short phrase. Nike’s Brand Essence is “innovation and inspiration.”  Southwest Airlines’ is “freedom.”  “Belonging” is Airbnb’s and Facebook recently changed its to “the social infrastructure for community.”

Some companies specified their Brand Essence when they were founded, but others haven’t ever taken the time to clearly articulate theirs.  This post is for the latter.

Brand Essence exercises

The following are five Brand Essence exercises to help you identify your Brand Essence.  These originally appeared last month in a series of #BrandTools articles on LinkedIn.  Now all five Brand Essence exercises are here in one place.  If you haven’t yet articulated your Brand Essence or you are looking to change it, try one — or several — of these.  I’m confident you’ll be able to uncover and crystallize your Brand Essence.

Brand documentary

Create a brand documentary video, compiling clips that capture different elements and expressions of your brand.  Give the video a title that epitomizes the content. Translate those words or phrases into your Brand Essence.  Get detailed instructions and descriptions of how the tool has been used here.




Brand obituary

Think of your brand as though it were a person who just passed away.  Write an obituary that would appear in the newspaper and include a headline.  The words and phrases in the headline will reveal key ideas for your Brand Essence.  Learn more about this exercise here.





Use brand levers that form the acronym B.A.R.A.T.A. (Benefit, Attribute, Role, Attitude, Territory, and Awareness) to classify the unique and essential nature of your brand.  Based on your dominant lever, articulate a specific descriptor of lever for your brand.  Use that description as your Brand Essence. You can find step-by-step instructions for this exercise including a visual map to help you here.



Brand on trial

Stage a mock court “trial” on your brand, with people arguing for and against your brand’s impact on the world.  At the conclusion, examine the brand values and attributes discuss and distill them down into a singular idea that encapsulates the Brand Essence.   Learn how to execute this exercise here.




Brand archetypes

Analyze your brand through the lens of storytelling archetypes.  Describe your primary and secondary brand archetypes in a short phrase.  This will either point to — or in some cases directly articulate — your brand’s core essence.   Get a complete list of possible brand archetypes and instructions how to use them here.




Hope you’ve found these exercises helpful.  Please let me know how you’ve used them.  And if you use other Brand Essence exercises, please share.

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