The essence of a brand isn't so much about rationale arguments; instead, it's how it makes the market feel emotionally. So believed the late Steve Jobs. "Nike sells a commodity; they sell shoes. And yet when you think of Nike you feel something different than a shoe company. In their ads, as you know, they don't ever talk about the product. ... What's Nike do in their advertising? They honor great athletes and ... great athletics. That is what they are about."
Perhaps no other tech giant better understood the importance of investing in a brand -- beyond a product -- than Jobs, and it's at the heart of Apple's rise to market dominance.
Objectively understanding what makes your brand unique is at the core of determining your brand's essence. True differentiation is defined as something you offer the marketplace that competitors can't claim, that you can easily prove, and that really matters to prospective customers. It's very difficult to claim customer service as a differentiator as it's both challenging to uniquely claim and easily prove until a prospect actually becomes a customer and lives your service experience first-hand. Be sure to conduct market research to ensure your customers concur with the differentiator you believe to be yours.
With that differentiator in hand, now examine how that differentiator makes your customers feel about your brand emotionally after having exposure to it.
Contemplating where Apple fit in the world, Jobs mused "what we're about isn't making boxes for people to get their jobs done, though we do that ... better than almost anybody in some cases. But Apple's about something more than that ...; its core value is we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. That's what we believe."
And that's what the Apple brand promotes. Think of Apple advertising as a subtle classified: "Seeking creative, free-spirited people with passion who believe they are capable of anything and can change the world for the better." That's the Apple brand. And it's about so much more than a logo.
How is your brand affecting consumers today? How do you aspire for it to affect them?
Fast Company reflected on Jobs' views on branding from his early days: "It's a complicated and noisy world, and we're not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us." Even a young Steve Jobs understood you only have one chance to make a good first impression -- and you better make it a clear and meaningful message capable of standing the test of time.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, Tennessee -- www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).