Brand Ideas: Getting to the Heart of Brand Expression

Think of your favorite brand. Now, think of the words you associate with that brand. What words come to mind?

You might’ve picked some words you associate with the brand’s product. If you thought of Carhartt, you might’ve thought of “durable” or reliable” because of how trusty those canvas pants are.

Or perhaps you picked words that describe the brand’s vibe. For a brand like Nintendo, you might think of “fun, exciting, nostalgia.” These words certainly take some influence from Nintendo’s products as well, but it goes a little deeper than that. These words speak to the emotions you feel when interacting with the brand or its products and services.

This is beyond the physical manifestation of a brand. It illustrates the notion of brand as a concept—a brand idea that plays to your feelings, thoughts, and values.

What Is a Brand Idea?

A brand idea is the pump at the heart of your brand. It’s a mission statement that comes from your company’s purpose, vision, and values and emanates into everything you do, from branding colors to customer service. 

Put another way, it takes your brand from a functional perspective and elevates it to an emotional one. This added emotional dimension gives you a much-needed lens into how you should express yourself in any scenario, making it easier for your patrons to identify your brand at all times.

What Makes a Great Brand Idea?

Coming up with a brand idea is easier said than done. If you’re a new brand, you may still be trying to figure out what you stand for. Or if you’re in the middle of a brand refresh, redefining the core idea can be an even greater challenge.

Even if it’s just a few words, there is an enormous amount of meaning you need to cram into your brand idea. To steer you in the right direction, here are a few tenets of great branding ideas:

  • Easy to understand: Your brand idea should be an easy concept to grasp and remember, even if you’re only using it internally. Even if it’s just a few words long, your brand idea should never be vague or leave too much to interpretation—the emotion you’re targeting should be abundantly clear.
  • Distinct and disruptive: Consider your positioning statement and strategy. What do you bring to the table? How does your POV differentiate your brand from the competition? This should all be crystal clear in your brand idea.
  • True to your people: Your brand idea relates to how your audience interacts with the brand. So if the idea doesn’t resonate with your audience, it won’t work. Root your brand idea in the needs, wants, and challenges that bring your audience to your product.
  • True to you: The best brand ideas are authentic to the brand itself. It reflects your history, the energy you bring to the market, and the long-term vision you strive for.

Is a Brand Idea the Same as a Tagline?

A brand idea can be a tagline, but not all taglines are brand ideas. We have a kind of “fingers vs. thumbs” scenario on our hands. It’s up to you whether you want to combine them in purpose, but the brand idea you land on will ultimately decide how you should use it.

The Case for Non-Tagline Ideas

Starbucks’ brand idea positions them as the “third place” in your life—a place outside of work and home where you can gather and feel a sense of community. This longing for connection is true for both their customers and themselves.

However, Starbucks never used this brand idea outwardly. Even though their customers could grasp the concept, there is simply too much storytelling surrounding the idea to make a coherent tagline. Instead, they used the idea as the core for other taglines, like “It’s not coffee. It’s Starbucks.” or “Share Joy” during the holidays. 

The Case for Tagline Ideas

There are plenty of examples of brands that effortlessly balance the weight of their ideas with their tagline. But this is only possible when the idea succinctly and clearly articulates what the company aspires to do. 

Here are some of our favorite champions of this idea:

  • “Just do it” – Nike
  • “Think different” – Apple
  • “Real beauty” – Dove
  • “It’s Miller Time” – Miller Lite

Search for the Singularity

We’ve given you a lot to think about. To help hone your thoughts and inspiration into a usable brand idea, here’s one more bit of advice: Look for the one value, one purpose, or one philosophy that propels your brand forward. Something that makes it resonate in the hearts and minds of your customer. 

Whatever makes you distinct and relatable to your audience will emanate from this singularity. You’ll know you’ve struck gold when you can apply the idea to every aspect of your business—what you do, how you do it, and why you do it.

If you need a digital marketing agency partner to discover that singularity—reach out. Mabbly’s got your back.