Brand strategy jargon buster

Short Read

When it comes to brand strategy, there’s often confusion over what the different terms mean.


Here’s a simple guide that explains the most used concepts — and to illustrate them let’s first imagine a business.


Let’s call it Solco.


Solco has invented new, cheaper, easier to install solar panels. They are building manufacturing plants across Europe and will be selling them direct to consumers at a price that’s far cheaper than any other competitor. Imagine Solco being a forward-thinking tech company in much the same way as Tesla. Let’s now look at the different aspects of brand strategy and how they relate to Solco’s brand.




This is the ‘why’. The higher reason for an organisation to exist. Not to be confused with specific business goals, this is the North Star; a powerful, emotive rallying cry. Nike’s purpose is “to use the power of sport to move the world forward.”

Solco’s purpose is that “Solar energy should be maximised, for the good of everyone.




The ‘what’ — what does your organisation want to achieve? Vision gives direction– it says what an organisation wishes to be in the future. It should address the future of your brand, and be aspirational in nature. Tesla: “To create the most compelling electric car company of the 21st Century”

Solco’s vision is simple, it’s to be “The world’s leading solar energy company.”




The ‘how’ — it describes what an organisation does to get to where it wants to be. The mission is what drives the brand forward. Virgin America’s is “an airline that’s on a mission to make flying good again, with brand new planes, attractive fares, top-notch service and a host of fun, innovative amenities that are reinventing domestic air travel.”


Solco’s mission statement is more pragmatic and less emotive than the vision and purpose. It talks about how Solco will deliver on the purpose and vision: “We make solar affordable for the masses by researching new tech and investing in our own manufacturing bases from the ground up.”



Brand values (sometimes called behaviours)

These are the attributes and behaviours that help a company deliver on its brand purpose, vision and mission. They should be emotive and give guidance on how to act. Avoid being bland or generic — if they apply equally well to a competitor’s brand, your values aren’t unique. Don’t compromise on a single word if more than one says it better.


Solco’s values are: solar evangelists, opportunistic developers, progressive technologists.



Value proposition (or proposition)

This is a simple statement that sums up the benefits that a consumer gets out of your brand. It’s not the strapline, although if it works equally well for internal and external audience, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be.

Solco’s value proposition is “Smarter solar for all.”


Finally, let’s talk about…



Brand essence (occasionally brand spirit)

This is the feeling and intention of a brand articulated in the form of a couple of words or a short phrase. Nike’s is “innovation and inspiration.” Airbnb: “Belong anywhere”, Coca-Cola: “Happiness”.


For Solco, an appropriate brand essence might be “bright future.”



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