Brand pillars are the core values and characteristics of your brand. They are what you want the world to see when they think of or interact with your brand – whether that means customers, stakeholders, or employees.
When you put it like that, it sounds important – right? But why exactly do people need to know this before they buy a product or service from you?
Why do you need brand pillars?
So why can’t you just jump in and start marketing without thinking about brand pillars? Well…it’s sort of like trying to fill out a Tinder profile for someone you know nothing about. Impossible! Or at the very least, pretty difficult. After all, how can you craft a good summary of a person without knowing who they are, what they like, what they stand for, and why people connect with them on a personal level?
Defining your brand pillars helps you to clearly articulate who you are, how you reach your target market, why they like you, and how you promote yourself. They are crucial to refining your key messaging, advertising, and values – all things which set you apart from the competition.
How do you define brand pillars?
First off, know that defining your brand pillars isn’t a case of you needing to pick a handful of random traits and run with them. Luckily, there are universal guidelines in place!
Brand pillars are typically divided into five categories. Although you may see some variations on the five – after all, marketing is always evolving – the five P’s are typically the most universally agreed-upon pillars:
- Personality (sometimes referred to as ‘identity’)
So how do you use these five P’s to define your own brand pillars? Here’s how to approach each one.
Your purpose is your “why.” Why does your business exist?
If you’re a law firm, do you work with a market that is traditionally underserviced? Do you aim to make law services more accessible? Or do you want to be the best divorce lawyer in the state?
Clearly and concisely articulating your purpose can help you convey your goals both internally and externally. Often, your brand values will fall under your purpose too. Your clothing company might be aiming to focus on sustainably sourced, ethically produced clothing, for instance.
To get down to the real core of what your purpose as a business is, try asking yourself these questions:
- Why does your business exist? Why was it created? Is there a problem it is solving or a solution it is providing?
- Do key people within the business have personal experience in solving the problem you identified above?
- What are your brand values?
- What do you want people to remember the brand for?
The way your brand is perceived forms the second brand pillar. Perception can change quickly, especially in the digital era. When it comes to defining perception as a pillar, it’s important to recognize that some of it falls outside of your direct control. You don’t have the ability to change how people think and interpret everything, and a poor online review or lapse in judgment when it comes to a tweet could have serious repercussions for how your brand is perceived.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be considering how to best ensure your brand is perceived in a positive light. Luckily, a lot of it can be managed through proper care and consideration. Using certain language, addressing (or not addressing) particular topics, thinking about the way you describe yourself, the colors and design you use, and the way in which you handle customer experience and after-sales support all contribute to creating a positive perception of your brand.
Remember, perception as a brand pillar doesn’t just extend to potential customers or the general public either. Your employees, suppliers, and other people associated with your business have a perception of it as well!
Personality and identity are often used interchangeably when it comes to brand pillars. Remember that a brand – like a personality - isn’t something you possess, but something you are.
Brand personality, therefore, is an all-encompassing term that includes things like what you stand for, your voice and tone, your colors, and the way you build connections and relationships with your audience.
The personality of your brand is what creates a great first impression and what makes people feel connected to your business. Think of when you’ve seen a hilarious advert or social media post and immediately liked that brand more, for instance. Ultimately, this is what influences people’s perception of you.
When you’re formulating your brand personality, keep the following questions in mind:
- If your brand was a person, how would you describe it?
- How would your brand talk and write if they were a person?
- What is the company culture like?
- Do we look, act, and sound similar to our competitors? If not, why?
Brand positioning, perception, and personality are all closely linked. The brand positioning pillar helps you define where your brand is in the market, and how that shapes the way you communicate with your audience. The way you approach, advertise to, and communicate with customers and potential customers is shaped by your brand position.
While perception is more about how people see your brand, positioning relates to the way in which you differentiate your brand from competitors as well as the how, where, and why of where that brand sits in a customer’s mind. Of course, your long-term goals might involve changing or improving your brand position.
For instance, two online clothes shops could be positioned very differently even if both are perceived well. Shop A has a wide variety of items and ships quickly, making them the go-to choice for someone who needs an urgent outfit for themselves and their partner to attend a wedding. Shop B is the go-to choice for someone who wants a very specific, tailored suit for a wedding but who doesn’t need it within two days. Because of the way they are positioned within the market, Shop A’s style of communication with customers would be very different from Shop B, even if both of them have an audience of ‘people aged 30-45 in need of formal wear.’
When crafting your brand position pillar, ask yourself these questions:
- Who is your target market and what are they looking for?
- What do people like about your offering?
- Are your current customers or market the ideal ones, or is there room for improvement? Do your future goals fit this target market?
- How do we differ from competitors in terms of positioning?
Brand promotion is probably one of the most obvious brand pillars. As you might have concluded, it refers to the different ways in which you reward, incentivize, entice, introduce, and encourage customers to choose your brand or company over others in the market. It essentially refers to the awareness you create via different forms of advertising, marketing, and PR.
This encompasses everything from communication channels you use (e.g. the types of email marketing you opt for, whether you have a blog or a YouTube channel, your social media platform choices, billboards, radio ads), the customer experience you create, your unique value proposition, your CSI efforts, and more.
But there is one major thing to keep in mind – brand promotion is not simply product promotion. Brand promotion is designed to encourage people to choose your brand over and over again, rather than as a once-off interaction for a product or service. The goal is to create a relationship with current and potential customers so that you are top of mind when they need whatever it is you offer.
How do you choose how and where to promote your brand? Consider the following:
- Do we want to build brand awareness? What is the current level of awareness within our target market?
- Where do/would customers find us?
- In what situations do customers need our brand?
- Who is the ideal customer – is there an influencer or ambassador who is the perfect profile?
- How are we currently promoting our brand? What works best?
- How do we build a relationship and engage with customers when they’re not currently looking to buy a product or service?
- What customer experiences do we create?
Once you have your brand pillars defined, go ahead and lean on them! They should support everything you do and say as a business. If the process seems overwhelming, don’t be afraid to enlist expert help - like the team from DirectLync. Our all in one marketing tool gives you access to email marketing, CRM, website content management, and more.