Out of the three marketing concepts mentioned above, Brand Positioning is by far the most popular, used by both communication agencies and marketers. Brand Mantra and Brand Essence are generally used in more sophisticated branding projects.
How does brand positioning differ vs. brand mantra and brand essence?
Although they might all sound similar and a bit synthetic, it is important to mention that these three marketing concepts play different roles in a brand’s strategy.
First, Brand Positioning is related to the way a brand’s image passes through the filtering and storage mechanism of the human mind. Second, the Brand Mantra is a statement used to describe a brand’s deep belief and is more action-oriented. Last but not least, the Brand Essence is a statement used by branding and marketing specialists to summarize the core values of a brand.
Benefits of defining these three marketing concepts
1. Better marketing strategies
If the stakeholders learn its differentiating values and purpose, the brand owns a fertile ground to develop powerful marketing concepts and campaigns.
Who are the brand stakeholders?
- The employees
- Top management
- Marketing, HR, Corporate and Sales teams
- Customer support
- Shareholders and investors
- Business partners
Getting every category of brand stakeholders aligned with a company’s values, purpose, mission, vision, mantra and essence is a golden standard in marketing and business.
2. Endurance and consistency
A brand with a purpose is a strong competitor, especially if its mantra is visionary, widely accepted and consistently followed by stakeholders.
However, being consistent is great when building a brand mantra, but every established leader should know when its essence becomes irrelevant.
iPhone launch vs. Nokia failure
In 2007, when the iPhone was launched on the market, Nokia management was following a brand mantra for a long time (“A phone for every person”) and the famous slogan “Nokia. Connecting people”. At the time, Nokia was the global leader in mobile phones, with over 70% market share, but in less than 10 years the Apple managed to turn the tables.
What happened? The pure brand essence of Apple (built on simplicity and innovation), proven via iPhone’s new features made Nokia irrelevant. Moreover, the Finnish company was unable to adapt to the mobile paradigm change, becoming one of the biggest business failures.
Read more about Nokia failure on INSEAD’s website.
Whom should we credit for these marketing concepts?
Brand positioning (sometimes referred to as “brand positioning strategy” or “brand positioning statement“) is a concept used to gain a competitive advantage in the human mind, fighting throughout the media clutter.
For a product or service, the ultimate goal in positioning is to secure a winning concept in a target group’s collective mind.
Three Americans are credited to launch this concept and for turning it into best practice.
Probably the most prominent marketing and advertising executive in our history, David Ogilvy is the first professional recorded to use the work “Positioning” in a marketing context. In his view, the concept described how a product’s traits should be stored in people’s minds through advertising.
Wikipedia quotes him in relation to a Lever Brothers (Unilever today) campaign that Ogilvy created for Dove soap brand in 1957: “I could have positioned Dove as a detergent bar for men with dirty hands, but chose instead to position it as a toilet bar for women with dry skin. This is still working 25 years later.”
See the famous Dove 1957 TV advertisement link on YouTube.
The famous 20th-century American adman and brand strategist wrote back in 1969 that brand positioning is an organized (mental) perceptions storage system of the human mind. He relied on the fact that every person logically sorts and stores mentally the most relevant essential data about companies, brands and products.
However, the collaboration between him and Al Ries was essential to define Brand Positioning. Al Ries published in 1981 together with him the famous book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind”, a handy guide for practitioners.
The former American advertising executive is credited to build first on Jack Trout’s paper, with a series of three articles in Advertising Age magazine on Brand Positioning.
You can read more about Al Ries on Ries family website (owned by him and his daughter, Laura Ries).
A. Ries and J. Trout book is a classic guide on developing brand positioning:
- Positioning rules for leaders and challengers;
- Identify and establish brand positioning and values;
- How to seize a competitor’s weakness;
- How to create strong brand positioning in your market;
- Repositioning an established market player;
- Branding tips – How to choose a product name;
- Reduction techniques (keep things short and simple);
- Diagnostic routine for brand positioning.
Brand Essence vs. Brand Mantra
Now let’s look at the other two concepts, Brand Essence and Brand Mantra. If you search online, you may find that some websites claim that they are the same thing: a concise statement that comprises what a brand stands for.
Here I agree with the conciseness, but I disagree with the rest of the sentence.
The problem with putting the equal sign between Brand Mantra and Brand Essence is the same issue we notice when someone fails to see the differences between brand values and brand belief.
What is the Brand Essence?
It is a marketing statement in which we aim to gather in a unique way a brand’s core values and its big purpose.
Examples of Brand Essence
Here are 5 brands that managed to convey consistently their brand essence throughout the years:
- Airbnb’s – Belonging
- BMW – Driving Pleasure
- Coca-Cola – Sharing happiness
- Dacia – Pragmatism
- Disney – Magic
- Volvo – Safety
What is the Brand Mantra?
It is a motivational sentence that describes a brand’s deep belief. The Brand Mantra is action-oriented.
More importantly, a brand mantra usually correlated with brand positioning. So if a brand changes its position and importance on the global market (e.g. from challenger to leader), its mantra must be updated as well.
Examples of Brand Mantra
- Starbucks – “Rewarding everyday moments“
- BMW – “Build the ultimate driving machine“
- Disney – “Fun, family entertainment“
- Ritz-Carlton – “Ladies & Gentlemen Serving Ladies & Gentlemen“
- Nike – “Authentic Athletic Performance”
What do they have in common?
First of all, both Brand Essence ad Brand Mantra should be inspirational. This implies they should be original and concise, like Nike’s famous “Authentic athletic performance” essence.
Additionally, both aim to trigger an emotional response from stakeholders and to connect human feelings with branding assets.
Also, none of these statements is used publicly. They are mostly included in strategies or in advertising briefs, trying to nurture new relevant marketing campaign and to inspire stakeholders.
Other common requirements for Brand Essence and Brand Mantra:
- to be focused on a single idea;
- to distinguish the brand on the market;
- compatible with the Brand Positioning;
- to be generous enough, but not too specific;
- to trigger emotional feedback from the audiences;
- must be relevant for all brand’s portfolio.
Who is credited for the term “Brand Mantra”?
The person credited for the term is Scott Bedbury, Nike’s advertising director from 1987–1994. To him, Brand Mantra should be a three-word sentence that captures the meaning of the brand (what it stands for).
In Nike’s case, the mantra was “Authentic Athletic Performance”.
Who used first the term “Brand Essence”?
The jury’s still out on this topic.