How to Brand - Part 2: Identify Brand Values

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Posted Aug 03, 2011
Susan Gunelius

As you learned in Part 1 of the How to Brand series, the first step to branding is researching your market and consumers. Next, you need to identify your brand values, which starts with defining your unique value proposition.

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I’m not usually a fan of buzz words and jargon, but the term unique value proposition really does work when it comes to branding. In simplest terms, your unique value proposition should accomplish three things:

1. Benefits

Explain what you can do.

A well-defined unique value proposition clearly identifies the benefits that your brand brings to the table. In short, it should answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” for consumers.

2. Differentiation

Explain why you do it better than competitors.

A well-defined unique value proposition clearly identifies your brand’s strengths versus your competitors based on the opportunities you defined when you researched your market and consumers (see Part 1).

3. Quantifiable Proof

Explain how you can prove what you can do and why you can do it better than competitors.

A well-defined unique value proposition provides some form of evidence that your brand is better than others on the market and can deliver better results.

Whether your brand is a business-to-consumer brand, a business-to-business brand, or a business-to-government brand, it needs to have a unique value proposition as defined in the three points above. Without a unique value proposition, your brand lacks focus and leaves consumers confused. Confusion leads to reduced trust, and we all know what the end result is when people don’t trust your brand. You lose sales.

However, brands aren’t built on a single value proposition alone. The more value that your brand brings to the market and to consumers, the stronger your brand can be (as long as those values support the overall brand promise and unique value proposition). Therefore, your work isn’t done once you define your unique value proposition. Hopefully, as you did your research and developed your unique value proposition, you discovered a wide variety of benefits and differentiators that make your brand unique. Don’t throw away that list! The items on that list are all brand values.

Think of it this way. What is the unique value proposition of H&R Block? It is cheap tax return preparation that saves consumers time, headaches, and money in comparison to CPAs while delivering the same results -- a completed tax return. It’s a unique value proposition that H&R Block customers want, need, and believe.

However, for consumers with more complicated tax returns and higher disposable incomes, cheap tax preparation doesn’t necessarily match their wants and needs. The brand doesn’t hold the same level of trust outside of the H&R Block target audience. H&R Block understands their target audience, and does try to expand that audience to reach broader demographics, but the company has yet to reposition its brand promise based on its unique value proposition in order to be widely accepted by those broader audiences.

To further demonstrate this point, following are two ads from H&R Block. The first highlights the fast aspect of the brand’s unique value proposition, and the second highlights the cheap aspect of the brand’s unique value proposition.

Is there more to H&R Block’s brand than fast and cheap? Absolutely. However, at the heart of the H&R Block brand promise are those two core values.

Still not clear on what a unique value proposition is? Think about your favorite brand. What unique value does it deliver to you that causes you to choose it above all others?

Grateful Dead

Consider brand values from a different perspective. What is the unique value proposition of the Grateful Dead brand? Marketer David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan, CEO of, wrote an entire book about Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead. This is a brand with a clear unique value proposition.

When it comes to branding, you need to identify your unique value proposition and the additional values that tell your brand story and support your brand promise. Then you have to share them with the consumer audience through messages that help to build your brand image. That’s the topic for Part 3 of the How to Brand series, so stay tuned to the blog!

Stay tuned for part 3 of the How to Brand series: Brand Messages.

Image: Flickr

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