6 layers to a brand strategy

A brand strategy needs to contain 6 different sorts of elements:

  1. a consistent core essence that defines what it stands for at its center, and to which individuals can relate to during every interaction.
  2. a few key differentiators that when put together make that brand truly unique.
  3. three to five items that your audience can concretely benefit from.
  4. behavior attributes that people can identify with when interacting with a brand, as if it was another person.
  5. a story that will engage an audience emotionally by transporting them through a narrative they feel part of.
  6. sensorial elements that activate as many senses as possible to deepen the connection through different levels of connection.

brand or commodity – it’s about strategy and identity

Brands compete on intangible attributes.
Commodities compete on price or convenience.

A Coke could just be yet another bottled drink. Or it can become an indispensable element of those times when friends come together, and share those so precious and unforgettable moments.

How do you want to be perceived? As a brand or a commodity?

For sure, one requires more effort and planning than the other. One requires to think through more carefully every decision. Meaning that one is way more complicated to pull off. But that same one also creates a much deeper and more meaningful relationship with people. And if you do care about that: it’s very much worth it.

Emotionally. Contextually. Consistently.

People are emotional beings. Addressing them as if they were calculating machines or the rational homo economicus that financial theories would want them to be represents a huge mistake, and a missed opportunity. So you need to establish a meaningful connection with actual human beings, as flawed as they can be. And that connection between you and your audience needs to run deep. You need to address them using words they can feel, and not only understand. But being emotional also means that we behave and define ourselves differently according to the context we are in. One does not behave exactly the same way in public, at the office or with one’s closest friends. And that’s normal. And, in those different environments and states of mind, we are receptive to different sorts of messages. So since people adapt themselves to these contexts, brands should as well. Making sure that you provide the right support, at the right time, in the right place. And still, at the heart, one needs to remain consistent.

Just like your best friend, who you are deeply emotionally connected with, would make sure to provide you with the best support he/she can according to the situation you are in, even if at his/her core, he/she consisttently remains the same person.

engage senses

One of the things I really like with Coca-Cola ads is how they engage your senses to connect with you at different levels:

  • sight is the sense of seduction.
  • sound affects mood.
  • touch creates connections.
  • smell triggers memory.
  • taste means life.

Here are some examples. Watch them paying attention to how your senses get engaged (thirst; a sugary taste; the refreshing touch of water splashes and bubbles; the smell of freshly-mowed grass; the warmth of the sun on your face; a joyful happy tune; their registered sounds of ice cubes and the “pshit” of opening their bottle…)


And the sexiness of Coca Cola Light (aka Diet Coke):


And just for fun, the 1997 version of the Coca Cola Light ad:

sound creates mood


Sounds have an impact on our mood. Who has never listened to specific songs to boost their energy or quiet down? Some noises like alarms are designed to stress us out since stress increases adrenaline production and makes you more alert and better able to react in case of life-threatening circumstances.

Many movies rely on their soundtrack to create the right mood and atmosphere at the right time.

Let’s take Star Wars by Lucasfilm Ltd., and its soundtrack by John Williams. There is a lot of literature around the Star Wars soundtrack, and how some of their most iconic tracks are based on very simple and recognizable harmonics. Try to imagine some of their scenes, but without John Williams… Here is an example with the Throne Room scene at the end Star Wars: A New Hope.

Here is the original scene:


And here it is again, without John Williams… And with a new sound for Chewbacca too!


behavior makes human

One of my favorite ads from back home (Belgium, Europe). This basically shows that even a coffee cup can behave with emotions. The way it moves. The sound of satisfaction it makes at the end. All of these are things we can relate to, and connect with. And it just looks cute.


FYI, “Bij koffie hoort Lotus” means “With coffee, Lotus just makes sense”.


when washing powder takes a stand

When I saw this add for the first time, I got goosebumps. I never thought washing powder could actually have such a deeper meaning. That it could take a stand like this. That it could try to change perception and behaviors. Or at least try to inspire society to reconsider the way things are, just because “it’s always been this way”.

What do YOU want to stand for?