This is How to Build a Brand With Soul



Posted: In: Blogs Musings


Even though there’s more data to work with than ever, it’s still terribly important to stick to the soul of your brand. For example, if you’re a PR professional representing a home décor site known for its eclectic items, and the data shows that customers are purchasing your least on-brand pieces during a certain time of year, it doesn’t mean you should change your brand’s unique qualities or identity just to match that short-term behavior.

This raises the question of how and when to listen to the data, so you’re not compromising your brand unless a rehaul is really required. I know, I know. We’re usually talking about becoming BFFs with data, but the counter to this argument is important, too, as we explore tactics for data-driven PR and brand building.

Pretty much anyone can incorporate a small business and launch a company these days. But to build a brand with which customers actually engage over the long haul requires far more than buying a domain and publishing a website.

So what makes a brand breathe? For one, the brand needs a clear purpose. Fabian Geyrhalter, Founder and Principal of brand consultancy FINIEN and author of the #1 Amazon bestseller How to Launch a Brand, believes every booming company must be built upon a solid brand platform from the get-go, which is different than a business plan.

  • A business plan lays out a company’s goals and strategy
  • A brand platform is created to define a target audience and create brand personas that speak specifically to that audience

Geyrhalter believes “brands with soul” have unique qualities that set them apart from competitors. He cites how Bridget Field, Client Services Manager at Small Business BC, calls this the “so-what factor.”

Opening a new eatery on a popular main street is great, but so what? There are tons of places for local residents to eat, so what makes yours special and how can you build your brand around that?

Consider the emotional benefits

In his book, Geyrhalter mentions brand consultant Derrick Daye’s analysis of Lever 2000’s launch where the product was touted as the soap “that does it all,” a rebuttal to Ivory’s being the best at cleansing, Dove’s being the best at moisturizing, and Zest’s being the best at deodorizing.

Lever 2000’s tagline made the other soap products seem incomplete. Sure enough, Lever 2000 sales increased exponentially, but likely due to the fact that it offered an emotional promise, not because the other soaps were actually inferior.

“Smart brands make an emotional promise,” writes Geyrhalter. “These emotional benefits may include safety, affection, status, self-fulfillment, knowledge, independence, and stability.”

Understanding the needs of your audience

To reach a niche audience, brands should aim to think like them, not just of them. Aim to understand your ideal customers on a deeper level by picturing an average day in their lives.

Geyrhalter writes, “(Consider) what brands they prefer, whether or not they impulse shop, whether they’re bargain hunters or social shoppers, and whether they have any specific interests or family concerns.”

Geyrhalter suggests that brand and PR teams try creating mood boards or collages for targeted audience personas that can put them in the shoes of those they’re trying to reach.

Constructing a philosophy

Certain brands make emotional connections with customers because they aim to sell an ethos, a way of life. Harley-Davidson, for example, sells freedom and rebellion. As an employer, Google sells hard work, excellence, and silliness.

Few lending companies have been able to build brand equity and mindshare as rapidly as Kiva. Kiva’s brand philosophy helps to set it apart from other lenders. Its mission is as follows: “We aim to drive social impact and enable opportunity while providing a borrower-to-lender connection: ‘Loans that change lives.'” That’s some serious soul.

Every company has a sweet spot when it comes to developing a brand that evokes emotion and genuinely helps to solve a problem in its customers’ lives. So if you’re in the early stages of building a company, remember these tips for building a brand with a soul. If you nail it, your customers will stick around for a very long time.


A version of this article originally appeared on Inc. Magazine.