brand (noun) 1. a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name: a new brand of detergent.
I almost audibly squeal every time I see a new friend wearing an Apple Watch. I've also been known to salute other Prius drivers as I pass them on the road. What are these brands to me? They're a collection of values I share, personalities I can relate to, and consistently superb experiences that keep me coming back.
Those are the traits that define a great brand, and I know I can count on these brands because they've built brand consistency. Brand consistency means making sure your colors and your tone are on-brand, but it also means that customers have a consistently good experience every time they interact with you on any of your channels.
Here at Lucidpress, we came across a powerful exercise for building and maintaining a consistent brand like the ones we admire. It's called Purpose, Position and Personality, and in this post, I'll tell you what we learned from it.
1. Brand purpose
This process starts with defining your brand's purpose. "You have to articulate it in clear and unmistakable terms. Your purpose is how you want to change the world for the better," says Jackson. A diagram from Jackson's article neatly summarizes how you can go about doing this:
Jackson describes the diagram this way: "In one circle, you have cultural tension. This is what's happening in the world that's relevant to you. In the other circle is your brand's best self. This is what your company delivers at its prime," says Jackson. "The intersection of these two areas is... 'the big ideal'—or your purpose."
This model was helpful because it invited us to consider not only what we want to accomplish, but the current state of the world as well. Understanding where you fit in current events gives important context for a discussion on brand. If you want "buzz" around your brand, it has to be relevant.
A word on relevance: Being relevant doesn't mean you have to bend to expectations or be something you're not. (I mean, just look at the quotes on this post!) It means you're self-aware and recognize how you can address current issues.
"Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own."
Another benefit of this model is the distinction it creates between what you want your company to do well and what your purpose is. Check out some big ideals of successful companies to get an idea of what I mean:
In these examples of brand purpose from Dove and eero, notice that the brand's best self is what people are going to experience while using the product. The big ideal (or purpose) is how Dove and eero hope the world will change for the better because of their brands. Jackson recommends that you create your purpose so it can last for about 10 years. That way, you have a guide that will help you maintain brand consistency as your company grows.
"The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique."
There are two pieces of advice I'd give from our experience establishing Lucidpress's brand purpose. First of all, I'd just emphasize thinking really big on your purpose. Shedding as much as possible and really getting to the core of your brand is what you're going for. I think we did a fairly good job, but we could have peeled away even more layers to create a purpose that has more mileage as we grow.
The second piece of advice is to clearly write out the "cultural tension" and "brand's best self" elements of this exercise. Those are valuable concepts to be aware of, and recording them rather than just talking about them makes it easier to remember and utilize your discoveries. Advice aside, if you're wondering what we decided on for our brand purpose, here it is:
For Lucidpress, the world would be a better place if everyone could create content they're proud of.
2. Brand positioning
The idea behind brand positioning is taking the grand expectations of your purpose and making them actionable. "No business would survive only staying in the lofty atmosphere of its purpose. You actually have to sell soap or a router replacement," writes First Round Review. There's a handy template for this phase of the process as well:
It looks a little confusing at first. For clarification, the article by First Round Review gives Gmail's original positioning (as of their launch) as an example:
Basically, you're defining who your product is for, what problem they have that you're solving, what main benefit your solution has, and what sets you apart from the competition. The easiest thing to get tripped up on here is the difference between the key benefit and the statement of differentiation.
The key benefit is more about what the customer is experiencing while the statement of differentiation is the reason behind their experience. "Think of your benefit as the thing your best customer would tell another potential customer if they were to say why they should sign up for your product. Now your point of differentiation is your reason to believe your key benefit," says Jackson.
"Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring."
Your brand position should be good for about 18 months. It's more transient than your purpose, but it shouldn't be so far from your core that it's changing drastically all the time.
3. Brand personality
This is my favorite part. After making sure you know the reason for your company's existence (existential crises are always the priority), you can start thinking about what kind of company you want to be. Jackson has some great advice for this process: "Ask yourself: 'If you met your company at a party, how would you describe him or her?' List as many adjectives as you can and then pick the top three."
She goes on to describe the kind of "person" that she created for eero: "Imagine you have a super smart architect friend who's always flawlessly dressed, deliberate in his actions and somehow funny and approachable at the same time," she says. "Can you picture this guy? I can. He's married to my friend in Brooklyn." Flawlessly dressed, deliberate, funny and approachable.
Sounds like a job for Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt, and it's a tall order even for them. But that's what's great about this—if you can dream it, you can do it.
"You are you. Now, isn't that pleasant?"
Of course, you do have to exercise some restraint—mostly in making sure that your personality works for your customers and not just for you. That's one thing we learned while working out our brand personality. It was sometimes hard to determine if the personality we were discussing was the one that appealed to us or the one that appealed to our customers.
Thinking back, though, I wonder if that's how we should have approached it. It might've been more productive to think about what kind of person would most effectively execute our brand purpose. You can't be everything to everyone, but you can stick to your guns and pursue what you're most passionate about.
Once you have a good list of attributes and feel like you have a good sense of the personality you're trying to capture, the next step is to boil that down into one sentence that summarizes your brand's personality at a glance.
Here's the sentence we made for Lucidpress:
Lucidpress surprises you with its intelligence, wit and ability to get the job done.
A little tip that I find helpful is to think of celebrities that fit your brand's personality. When I thought of a match for Lucidpress's personality, Mark Ruffalo came to mind. That may just be because I'm a huge fan, but he seems to embody the low-key intelligence and competence as well as the wit we're going for with the Lucidpress personality.
This brand consistency process might vary a little depending on the stage your company or product is in. If it's brand new, you largely create your purpose, positioning and personality from scratch. That's a great position to be in. If you've been around for a while and are trying to hone in, then it's part-creation and part-discovery of what's already there.