Brand Pillars 101
What are brand pillars?
Every brand has a set of defining principles at its core. Consumers, employees, owners and the general public engage with and buy from brands that they genuinely trust. Just as we value and judge our peers on their integrity, we as consumers also engage with brands based on the authentic value they can add to our lives.
As a company marketing itself in 2019 and beyond, you need to be able to clearly and consistently articulate who you are and what you stand for as you attempt to stay relevant with your audience. You also need to know how you will speak with your audience, what you want them to take away from interactions with you and what you don’t offer.
This may sound like common sense. If you’re doing business in any kind of market/niche, you know that you help a specific group of people solve a specific problem. However, knowing is completely different from being able to articulate it clearly in your marketing.
There are many interpretations and ideas for what are considered your brand pillars. As with most things, this is just my opinion based on what we have found works best for businesses.
Your brand pillars are made up of the following elements:
Let’s walk through each of these individually and look at some examples.
It all starts here. Every piece of marketing content that you produce should ladder back up to your mission. At its root, your mission is your overall business philosophy combined with the goals you want to achieve. When you weave these two together, you get something like “Instill courage and hope while providing mental and emotional support to single moms everywhere.” We just made this up, but you get the gist.
Vision and mission are sometimes (mistakenly) used interchangeably by companies in the planning phase. Where a mission is how you identify yourself as a company, your vision statement tells us where you want your company to be in the future. It is an aspirational, inspirational idea that presents a challenge to your employees to make it come true. Things like “eradicate hunger, one meal at a time” or “build the world’s fastest, most efficient hang glider.”
As The Wire’s Omar Little says, “A man got to have a code.” A brand’s values translate into the core tenets or principles that it vows to uphold. Values are traits that define who your company is and what it stands for. Many companies define their values with words like “trustworthy” or “friendly,” but terms like these don’t serve to differentiate your brand from the guy or gal down the street. Instead of listing off “nice” words, try thinking about the company you don’t want to be and work backward. Sick of eating frozen, processed food? Make one of your company values something like “Always fresh ingredients. Always made to order.” Choose a rule you won’t break.
It’s not enough to simply do what you do. In today’s crowded marketplace, you have to establish yourself as an expert in your field. Take a look at your competitors. Where is the gap in value that you can fill for your customers? Although there are exceptions to the “don’t be a master of none” mindset, for the most part you should choose a niche and go all in. Are you the king of rare indoor house plants in southern Indiana? Hell yeah you are. That’s your positioning. Plant your flag in the ground and let that thing wave proudly.
Here’s where we dive a little deeper past “who you are” and “what you say” into “how you say it.” Are you a bubbly, energetic straightforward type? Does your brand prefer dry humor and sarcasm? Do you want to be known for optimism or roasting people on Twitter? Do you want to attract professional musicians with your lingo or appeal to repairmen in search of a reputable supplier? Your tone should echo your mission, vision, values and positioning and should inform all aspects your messaging, from welcome email to billboard copy to customer service representatives. Once you know how your brand speaks, you’ll have the guided constraints needed to spread the word about your company through marketing.
Visuals are incredibly important in today’s media landscape (duh). Whether someone is scrolling through their social feed or catches a bus wrap out of the corner of their eye, you have mere seconds to form an impression through a quick visual interaction. As with all aspects of brand pillars, your visual identity should echo your mission and vision. It should complement your values and supplement your message. Beyond your logo, you should nail down which colors, fonts, placement of elements and photography with which you want your brand to be associated. Start by getting together with stakeholders in your organization to create a visual mood board that best represents your brand’s look and feel. Hire a designer to help create brand guidelines so that you can remain consistent in your promotion. Constantly re-evaluate your look and feel. Don’t be afraid to rebrand or refresh assets every year or two. Your company evolves — why not let your brand identity evolve with it?
Your company evolves. Why not let your brand identity evolve with it?
As we mentioned earlier, this is simply an intro class to brand pillars. There are many elements within these terms that we have outlined, which we can explore in further posts. This, however, should give you a basic sense of the pieces you need to complete your puzzle. Don't be afraid to deviate or replace any of these elements with ideas of your own. There is no right way to market yourself, and you should establish the brand pillars that work for you. The important thing here is that you actually have them in place and consistently refer back to them as you promote your brand.
If you’re interested to learn more or would like to connect with us to discuss where you stand in your marketing efforts, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a comment on social or tweet at us @toucanads.
Toucan Advertising is a New Orleans advertising agency.