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In 1953, philosopher Isaiah Berlin published The Hedgehog and the Fox essay in an attempt to distinguish how people view the world. On the one hand, he identified the hedgehogs, who view the world through a single organizing principle, and on the other hand, he identified foxes, who see the world through multiple viewpoints that can be at odds with each other.
This idea seems to have come down to us from Antiquity, when Greek poet Archilochus wrote, “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Yet in the broader sense, it can be found in multiple contexts and applied to many use cases that require an overall, broad perspective over things.
If we are to extend this principle to branding, it would be perfectly represented in the brand strategy framework. This stage brings together multiple viewpoints into a unifying perspective to ensure that the brand is primed for growth. The brand strategy framework is important because it is the pillar underlying your entire brand strategy and provides a bigger picture to your branding efforts.
The Brand Framework Overview
Before you get started, it would be a good idea to establish a framework model or diagram that provides a clear overview of the brand strategy. You could opt for pyramids, prisms, diagrams, circles, and so on. Anything that would be concise enough and visually appealing to provide an at-a-glance perspective.
There are many brand framework models but most of them follow the same steps for the same desired output. One of the most frequently used frameworks is the Aaker model that was produced in the 90s by David Aaker.
The main idea behind it was that brands could stand for more than one idea at the same time. And these ideas have to be distributed in relation to the central brand identity. To organize this framework he used three concentric circles that make the ‘identity structure.’
The Brand Framework Model
To explore the Aaker model in more detail, let’s imagine three concentric circles to helps us understand the ‘identity structure’ in more detail. From the central circle to the extremity we have the following — the brand essence, the core elements, and the extended elements.
1.The Brand Essence
The brand essence sits at the center of the Aaker model because it can act as an incentive for internal communication, inspire employees and partners, and provide guidance for future brand elements. The brand essence describes the brand vision and is represented in a single thought that actually drives the business forward.
Even if the brand essence might sound like a brand tagline or brand manifesto, these are external elements and can differ significantly from the internal brand essence.
2. The Core and Extended Elements
The core and extended elements are distributed in the outer two circles, based on their order of importance. As a result, the core elements should sit next to the brand essence and include two to five principles that are the most important to the brand. The extended elements could be less important or less differentiating, and so they can be found in the far outer circle.
These elements, however, are not set in stone. Extended elements can become core elements, in time, and vice-versa.
The Brand Perspectives
To make sure that the brand strategy is considered from every angle in the corresponding framework, Aaker moves away from brand personality and values and proposes four different perspectives. Here are the four perspectives and their corresponding elements:
Uses and users
Country of origin
Local or global distribution
Visual image and metaphors
When elaborating the framework, some perspectives will be more valuable than others. It’s up to the brand strategist to determine if some would be worth including or not.
The Brand as Product
Through this perspective, brands have to define the scope of the product and determine how broadly they want to position themselves. Do they want a niche or mainstream product scope? At this stage, they also describe the features that are most likely to distinguish the product on the market and provide a competitive advantage.
Moving down the product spectrum, brands also need to zero in on their quality/value offering. Will the product be branded as a premium or affordable product? And also, when or in what context will the product be used? Branding a product for a specific use, even if its function can be extended beyond that, could be one way to position the brand.
In addition to the use, brands also have to pay attention to the users. What kind of people are likely to use the product — in terms of demographics but also psychographics. And lastly, the country of origin can also play a big role in adding certain qualities to the product in the eyes of the consumers. Some parts of the world are associated with certain qualities — Silicon Valley with innovation, the Netherlands with high-quality cheese, or France with top wine production.
The Brand as Organization
This perspective implies looking at the people behind a product and their inherent culture and values that are supported through organizational programs. These attributes are difficult to replicate by the competition and could drive the business to various areas — environmental concerns, customer focus, or inclination towards innovation.
Another aspect of this perspective is the geographical distribution and the choice to become a global or local brand. Opting for a global brand provides prestige but might add troubles when it comes to positioning on the local market.
The Brand as Person
Considering this perspective involves looking at the personality or human traits of the brand as well as the types of relationships it hopes to nurture with its customers. To zero in on the personality, brands need to build a relevant visual identity, brand voice, and advertising strategies.
On the client relationship side, the brand needs to consider the types of relationships it wants to foster. Would it mimic interactions between close friends, work colleagues, or business associates?
The Brand as Symbol
This goes beyond the logo and includes all visual elements — packaging, product design, iconic images, people associated with the brand, famous founders, and so on. When referring to the heritage, brands can bring up their history to support their brand story and add a layer of nostalgia. These are all powerful symbols that can contribute to its overall brand identity.
From the Brand Strategy Framework, Onward
The brand strategy framework is probably the last piece of the puzzle when it comes to researching your brand and finding the best way to position yourself on the market. Once you have wrapped up your framework, you are on the right track to putting the strategy into practice and get started on your branding elements.
Whether you want to grasp the basics of branding for your new business, want to work on your brand strategy, are stuck with your brand visuals or want to find branding tips on how to grow your business, check out:
- Foundations — Learn the basics of branding
- Strategy — Plan your brand strategy
- Build Story — Build a brand 1: Your brand story
- Build Visuals — Build a brand 2: Your brand visuals
- Management — Control your brand: Brand management
- Growth — Grow your brand: Brand marketing
- Improvement — Improve your brand: The rebrand
- Measurement — Measure your brand: Brand analytics and KPIs