How Strong is the Brain of Your Brand?

The brand you put into the world is part brain and part heart. This week, let’s dig around in the brain – the what, how, and whom questions that belong in formats like business plans, Linkedin profiles, and About Us pages.

Most organizations are pretty good at articulating their positioning statement and core offerings list, particularly if they have a habit of building and measuring strategy. The same processes you use to create these ‘brain’ statements also help to shape Go to Market plans, outline sales enablement efforts, and establish success metrics.

Brand Brain Exercise

Let’s pretend we’re back in elementary school, diagramming sentences. Check out the example then try the exercise:

We are Widget Brand. We design and produce custom-fit widgets from seven different densities of plastic for roller skate manufacturers.

  1.  Who are they?  Widget Brand
  2. What do they do?  Design and produce custom-fit from seven different densities of plastic
  3. Who do they do it for?  Roller skate manufacturers

Seems simple enough. You try.

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. Who do you do it for?

Put it all together into a 20-second statement:

Congrats! You have something on paper – a solid start for your brand story. (You also have a functional elevator pitch.)

You’re not done yet. The exercise you just completed gets you to table stakes. It helps you point to the industry where you play (e.g., widget production) and should start to clarify your competitive landscape (e.g., other widget makers, roller skate manufacturers who make their own parts). Do you know how you stand out in the marketplace or what target audiences need you most?


Start to Uncover Distinction in Your ‘Brain’ Messages

Your brain has lots of wrinkles. Those wrinkles are where the good stuff lives. If your “who are you/what do you do/for whom” messages are the brain of your brand, the wrinkles are the sweet spots that make you stand out. Here’s where you begin to show how your positioning and offerings are distinct in the marketplace – and (so importantly) why your core audiences would want to choose you over the competition.

Let’s do a sweet spot exercise. For each thing you do or produce, ask four fundamental positioning questions:

  1. Does this serve the specific needs of a specific customer?
  2. Does this serve the specific needs of many customers?
  3. Does this serve the broad needs of a few specific customers?
  4. Does this serve the broad needs of many customers?

Here’s what your answers mean.

  • If you serve the specific needs of a specific customer, your brand story should be a conversation. You should tell what you do in a way that clearly shows your audience that you understand them and exist to satisfy their most pressing needs and wants.
  • If you serve the specific needs of many customers, you may be competing in a commodity market. Think about vitamins as an example – each kind of vitamin provides specific benefits for the human body. While there are many vitamin makers on the market, each one satisfies fundamental human needs in its own way. That “own way” is their differentiation in their shared marketplace. Your brand story acknowledges that you exist in a proven space, and you are different and better because of how you do or offer your products and services.
  • If you serve the broad needs of a few specific customers, you’re lucky! You’re a go-to resource. Make sure your brand story lets those customers know you are in business to collaborate with them, help them to identify opportunities, and to take care of their needs and wants.
  • If you serve the broad needs of many customers, you’ve got the ultimate commodity story. You’re eggs and milk, toilet paper, or gas. Chances are, your brand story isn’t going to stand out because of what you do or offer. Unless you’re competing on price, you have to take your story to the next level.

That next level is the heart of your brand. It’s the why and how you do what you do. And whether you have a commodity or a bespoke offering, the heart of your brand is a story that you need to tell. People do business with people. Stories are what make people truly interesting and memorable. We’ll go into that in our next post.

In the meantime, if you didn’t already answer the questions, challenge yourself to put your answers on paper. It’ll come in handy. The next step is to channel your inquisitive inner three-year-old until you run out of answers. Need help? Get in touch!


Justin Peterson