How to Develop Your Brand Concept: A Comprehensive Guide

Category

Branding

Read Time

13 min

Published

06 November, 2023

Brand concepts rarely get discussed.

People talk about their brand strategy and the elements that make up your strategy document, their brand identity and all of the great looking visuals elements, and their brand rollout and marketing.

But never their brand concept.

Which is weird, because without a concept or idea behind your brand, you’re pretty much pissing in the wind.

The Branding Brief Template

The Branding Brief Template is a free template that will help you get the brief for your branding project right. W...

It’s a funny one. You have to have your brand concept identified before you even start working on your brand strategy.

Think of building a house. If your brand strategy is your foundation, and your brand identity is the house itself, then your brand concept is the plot of land you’re building on.

You can’t dig the foundation without the plot. You can’t create the strategy without the concept.

Ready to identify your plot? Let’s dive into developing a compelling brand concept.

What is a Brand Concept?

A brand concept is the idea upon which your business and brand are built.

It’s the plot in which you dig the foundations for the house. It’s the starting point. It’s the overarching idea behind your brand.

Your brand concept is ever present. It acts as a guiding principle for all brand-related activities and communications.

A brand concept is a general idea and the feelings and emotions a brand evokes in the minds of consumers. Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap

Here are some famous brands and their brand concepts. From these you can see what emotion or feeling they’re trying to communicate with to their audience:

  • Apple: Simplicity, innovation, and user-centric design.
  • Slack: Streamlined communication and collaboration for modern teams.
  • Disney: Magic, imagination, and timeless storytelling.
  • LinkedIn: Professional networking and talent solutions for businesses.
  • McDonalds: Quick, consistent, and affordable comfort food.

Notice with a brand concept, it’s not a marketing message.

Apple never say they’re simple and focused on innovation and user-centric design. But it bleeds through into everything they do.

Their products are simple, innovative, and they’re focused on giving users the best experience possible.

McDonalds don’t talk about their quick and consistent approach to food. They don’t talk about affordability directly, but they did introduce a Saver Menu.

This is exactly why having a compelling brand concept is critical.

For example:

If all McDonalds spoke about in the marketing was high quality gourmet burgers, introducing a Saver Menu would go against their brand concept.

Your brand concept is an easy-to-understand idea of exactly what your brand is all about.

The 3 things a powerful corporate brand should do

Why Your Brand Concept Matters: Recognition, Credibility, and Beating the Competition

Your brand concept is the starting point for 3 big wins every brand should be chasing:

  • Be different
  • Be consistent
  • Be memorable

Here’s why these matter and how a solid brand concept sets you up for success:

Being Different Helps You to Get Recognised

A solid brand concept makes you the one brand people remember in a crowded market. The easier it is for folks to pick you out of a lineup, the more customers will come to know, like, and trust you.

Standing out from the crowd helps build brand recognition.

Being Consistent Helps You to Earn Trust

When people can see that you know your stuff, they’re way more likely to trust you. And if your brand’s vision aligns with your customers’, that’s the start of a winning relationship.

A consistent approach to your brand helps to build that trust.

Being Memorable Helps You to Beat the Competition

A killer brand concept is your secret sauce. It’s what makes you you, and what keeps customers coming back for more instead of checking out other companies.

Data shows that strong brand concepts lead to higher customer loyalty and better sales numbers.

By making an impression, you’re giving potential customers something to remember when they’re making their buying decision.

Now, you might be nodding along thinking, “Sure, makes sense,” but this isn’t just talk. Your brand concept isn’t just more mystical marketing bullshit.

Your brand concept will carry through your entire brand building exercise and beyond, giving you a guiding light to make decisions against, and other people a way to quickly understand you.

Identifying your target audience

Understanding Your Target Audience

In branding, your target audience is always important. It comes up in everything you read about the subject.

Here’s why:

  • Audience-First Approach: Understanding who you are trying to reach helps you to craft a brand concept that will resonate with them.
  • Precision: By knowing your audience, you can adapt your brand concept to specific needs, desires, and pain points, making your brand more relevant and compelling.
  • Testing and Validation: You can also test your initial brand concept ideas with your target audience to see if they resonate before you fully commit.
  • Evolution: A brand concept isn’t set in stone. It can evolve as your understanding of your audience deepens, or as the audience itself changes.

However, in some cases, a brand might be built around a strong concept or mission first, with the audience identified later.

This is an exception though, not the norm. The risk of things happening this way round is that the brand concept may not resonate with an audience as effectively as it could have.

Seth Godin says:

The more clearly you understand your audience, the more powerful your brand concept will be.

When one of the most renowned figures in the world of marketing suggests you go audience first, you go audience first.

yellow customer persona worksheet

The Customer Persona Worksheet

We’ve covered creating customer personas and their importance over a million times on the Canny blog.

The easiest way to do it is to read our post about defining your target audience, then download the Customer Persona Worksheet.

To get this information, you can use a mix of:

  • Surveys and Questionnaires: Google Forms, SurveyMonkey or similar.
  • Analytics: Data from your own website and social media accounts, Hotjar, VWO etc.
  • Customer Reviews and Feedback: First hand interviews with your existing customers.
  • Competitor Analysis: Use a tool like SEMRush or AHREFs to review your competitors.
  • Crowdsourcing Platforms: See what people are talking about related to your industry or product. What questions are they asking? What problems do they have?

By employing some of these tools and techniques, you can gain a quick yet effective understanding of your audience, enabling you to craft a brand concept that really hits the mark.

Remember though:

It’s your “ideal” customer persona. Not the everyone and everything customer persona.

Not everyone you’re connected with or following you will be your audience. Only try to survey existing or potential customers.

That way, your document will be more effective and give you something inspirational to create your brand concept around.

Step by Step Guide to Developing Your Brand Concept

How to Develop a Compelling Brand Concept

With your audience persona in hand, let’s look at developing your own brand concept.

Start With Clarity

Before diving into thinking about your brand concept, have a clear understanding of what a brand concept is.

Remember, it’s not a marketing message you’re creating, but an overarching idea behind your brand. It’s the emotion, feeling, and general idea your brand evokes in the minds of consumers.

Top Tip

Revisit brands you admire and try to understand their concepts. Building your understanding of real-world applications will offer a clarity that theoretical definitions don’t.

Review Your Audience Persona

Revisit the audience persona you’ve crafted. Understand their needs, desires, and pain points. Your brand concept should align with these to help formulate a brand that people will come to know, like, and trust.

Top Tip

Audiences change. They grow older, more mature. Markets change. Advancements happen, the world goes on around them. Update and refine your personas regularly based on how things change.

Brainstorming Session

Dedicate a session for brainstorming. Surround yourself with the right people. You want your big picture, diverse thinkers in the room. Jot down words, emotions, and ideas that you want your brand to evoke.

Top Tip

During brainstorming, consider using mind mapping tools or software to visually represent ideas and how they interconnect.

Draft a Brand Story

Storytelling is integral. What story does your brand tell? Is it one of innovation? Sustainability? Reliability? Draft a brand story that can support and be supported by your brand concept.

Top Tip

Read your brand story out loud. Hearing it can help you identify gaps or areas for improvement.

Distill and Simplify

From your brainstorming and brand story creation, pick out recurring themes and ideas. Try to distil these down into a concise and compelling brand concept.

Top Tip

Less is more here. Remember from the examples at the beginning of this post, short and snappy clarity over cleverness is the way to go.

Framework Creation

Build a decision-making framework. Define the macro (overall direction, big picture) and micro (day-to-day decisions, specific initiatives) aspects of your brand and see how your concept fits or guides both.

Top Tip

Your brand concept can be used as a tool for things to say “yes” to, and things to say “no” to. If an idea fits your concept, consider it. If it doesn’t, bin it off.

Test the Concept then Iterate

Before finalising it, test your brand concept. This can be through surveys, focus groups, or even informal discussions.

The goal is to see if it resonates with your target audience. Based on feedback, refine and iterate on your concept.

Top Tip

Test with a diverse subset of your audience. Different demographics may perceive your concept differently.

Document Everything

Ensure your brand concept and all its nuances are well-documented. This will be a reference point for all future brand-related activities.

Top Tip

Create a centralised and accessible digital repository for your brand strategy and guidelines documents to ensure consistency across the team.

Implementation

Begin to weave your brand concept into everything your company does, from marketing and product design to customer service and communications.

Top Tip

Educate every member of your organisation about the brand concept, not just the marketing team. Every interaction, regardless of department, reflects on the brand.

Review and Revise

As with all things in branding and marketing, periodic reviews are essential. As your company grows and the market changes, your brand concept may need tweaking.

Top Tip

Schedule regular brand audits. Consistent check-ins will ensure your brand concept remains relevant and effective over time.

Brand Concept Examples: Using Your Brand Concept in the Real World

With your brand concept ready, let’s look at how you utilise it to create a brand strategy, visual identity, and strategic initiatives.

Apple logo and devices

Apple: How Your Brand Concept Impacts Your Brand Strategy

Your brand concept serves as the cornerstone for your brand strategy.

It’s the central idea that you want to convey, while your brand strategy is the overarching plan on how to communicate and reinforce that concept to your audience.

For example:

Let’s look at Apple. Their brand concept revolves around simplicity, innovation, and user-centric design. This concept translates into their strategy:

  • Product Design: Apple products, from the iPhone to the MacBook, embody simplicity in their design and interface.
  • Innovation: Regular product releases, with features often ahead of the curve, demonstrate their commitment to innovation.
  • User Experience: The ecosystem, with integrated services like iCloud, Apple Music, and the App Store, offers a seamless experience to users. Their in-store experience is just as frictionless.

Top Takeaway

A clear brand concept offers a roadmap for strategic decisions, ensuring all choices (product development, communications, user experience) align with and reinforce the brand’s core concept.

Slack UI simplified design

Slack: How Your Brand Concept Impacts Your Brand Identity

Your brand identity (or corporate identity) is the visual embodiment of the brand’s concept. It consists of elements such as your logo design, colour palette, typography, and imagery. A cohesive brand identity is crucial as it’s often the first thing your audience will engage with.

For example:

Consider Slack, which prides itself on “Streamlined communication and collaboration for modern teams.” Breaking down their logo and identity:

  • Colourful: Their bright, playful, colour palette and hashtag logo design convey the idea of connectedness, communication, and ease.
  • Rounded: It’s rounded, and smooth, reflecting their concept of streamlined.
  • Connected: It’s connected and intertwined, referencing collaboration for teams of different people.

Top Takeaway

The brand concept serves as the guiding principle when crafting a brand’s identity, ensuring a visual style is created that aligns with the underpinning concept and strategy.

Disney logo and mouse reference

Disney: How Your Brand Concept Impacts Your Strategic and Marketing Initiatives

Your brand concept should become instrumental in shaping strategic marketing initiatives, ensuring campaigns, content, and communications are consistent and aligned with the brand’s core idea.

For example:

Disney’s brand concept of “Magic, imagination, and timeless storytelling” comes alive in all their marketing initiatives:

  • Film Trailers: Each trailer, regardless of whether it’s for an animated film or a Star Wars instalment, emphasises the magic and wonder synonymous with Disney.
  • Theme Parks: Every aspect, from the layout to the smallest interactive elements, is designed to immerse visitors in a world of imagination.
  • Merchandise: Their product lines tell stories, whether it’s a princess dress that makes a small child feel like royalty or a toy that continues the narrative of a beloved character.

Top Takeaway

A brand concept acts as a compass for marketing leaders, ensuring every campaign or initiative not only promotes a product or service but also reinforces the brand’s core concept and strategy.

Your brand concept is the land on which your brand is built.

It directly influences business strategy, brand identity, and marketing initiatives, ensuring a cohesive and consistent brand experience at every touchpoint.

Understanding and leveraging your brand concept is key to long-term success and building awareness and resonance with your audience.

FAQs about Brand Concept

  • Is a brand concept only relevant for B2C companies, or is it also applicable to B2B?

    A brand concept is crucial for both B2C and B2B companies. Regardless of the target audience, every brand needs a guiding principle to maintain consistency in messaging, create brand loyalty, and establish a strong market presence.

  • Can a brand concept evolve or change over time?

    Absolutely. As markets shift, consumer preferences evolve, and companies grow, it might become necessary to revisit and adjust the brand concept. While the core values of a brand might remain steady, the way they are presented or emphasised can evolve to reflect current market realities and customer needs.

  • What is a brand concept map?

    A brand concept map is a visual representation that showcases the associations and relationships consumers have with a brand. It often resembles a network of interconnected nodes, where the central node represents the brand, and surrounding nodes represent attributes, emotions, benefits, and other elements consumers associate with the brand.

    By mapping these relationships, businesses can gain insights into how their brand is perceived and where there might be opportunities or challenges in their positioning.

  • Who should create a brand concept?

    The creation of a brand concept is typically a collaborative process that involves a mix of key stakeholders, including brand strategists or consultants, marketing leaders, and often the company’s top leadership. It’s beneficial to incorporate insights from people who understand the company’s mission, vision, and values, as well as those who have a keen sense of market dynamics and customer preferences.

Brand concept underpinning strategy and identity

The Enduring Impact of a Strong Brand Concept

In a sea of branding buzzwords, the humble “brand concept” stands out as one of the most undervalued, yet foundational components. To truly build a brand with depth and staying power, one cannot merely slap on a logo, craft a catchy tagline, or deploy a brilliant marketing campaign.

At the heart of it all, the brand concept is the bedrock – the plot of land upon which your brand stands.

The biggest brands in the world, from Apple to McDonalds, each have clear and distinct brand concepts that shine through every element of their business, driving decisions, informing strategy, shaping perceptions, and helping them make key branding decisions.

A compelling brand concept is a necessity. It provides clarity amidst the noise, direction amidst the chaos, and forms the core DNA of your brand’s very existence.

As you set out on this pivotal branding journey, remember the home-building analogy: prioritise the plot (concept) before laying down the foundation (strategy).

By doing so, you anchor your brand with a solid concept that will guide you when moving forward.

Hey I'm Tony, Founder and Director of Canny Creative. I eat, sleep and bleed Canny to be honest. I'm an absolute workaholic (and yes, I know that's not a good thing!).

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