The 4 Most Important Questions Your Brand Must Answer


Critical to the development of a strong brand is the ability to powerfully and concisely answer the following four simple, but critical questions. Ask yourself whether your brand has taken the time to think through each of these areas, or whether it’s time to revisit these four fundamentals that make all the difference to your business success:

1.WHO are the most important targets for the brand?

The biggest mistake that businesses make is they try to reach every body and they end up connecting with nobody. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the narrower your target – the wider your success. Zero-in on a specific type of person and delve deep to know what makes them tick, what keeps them up at night, what’s missing that your product or service can help address?

At Brand School Master Class one of the first exercises we do is to create a Target Persona. We develop a character, like in a novel, and give them a back story. Really drill down, the more specific, the better. Think beyond standard demographics like age and gender. Do they live in the city or suburbs? What’s their family dynamic like? What keeps them up at night? What’s on their DVR? What was the last vacation they raved about? Then get more specific about their needs in relation to your category. What’s going on in their lives right now that might make them receptive to your brand message? What else have they tried to meet this need? Who are their key influencers? Some brands have one target while others have several different targets. If you have more than one, do this exercise for up to three targets – but then look for the common drivers between them. These Target Personas become the fundamental inspiration that will help you keep your branding, marketing and advertising more productively focused.

2. WHAT is going to compel them to choose your brand and stay loyal?

Once you understand what your ideal target is really searching for…how can you meet that need? Great brands don’t just help to get things done – they help people feel differently about themselves. Your Brand Promise needs to be more than about functional benefits. You need to really connect emotionally. Starbucks isn’t selling coffee, it’s promising community. Nike is not about running, it’s about achievement. At Brand School, we call these kind of benefits “top of the pyramid” promises (think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). What’s at the top of your brand’s pyramid that will really connect with your customer and turn them from an occasional user to a loyal fan? The deeper you go in your WHO – the Target Persona exercise – the easier it will be to zero-in  a compelling and differentiated brand promise.

3. WHY should these high-priority targets believe in your brand?

Now that you’ve got their attention with a powerful Brand Promise (or Brand Idea) WHY should they believe that you can deliver on this?  In Brand School Master Class we dive further into creating Brand Pillars – the differentiated and credible ways that you support your Brand Promise.

These Pillars should reflect your unique point of view in the category, how you see and do things differently. If you are a small business owner or entrepreneur, your Personal Brand is also an important Pillar. How does your personality and passion help your customer get what they need?  Share why what you do is important to you, and share your personal story or the story of how you started your business. But always keep your Target Personas in mind when developing the Pillars and avoid trite support points like “High Quality” and “Trustworthy”. Those are a given in any category and are not going to make you stand out.

4. HOW is your brand felt in every touch point?

This is where the rubber really hits the road. Any brand can say they are great, but how many can really prove it in all of the customer interactions? Look for moments of magic that are going to bring your brand to life and help you connect with your ideal target. Stay fresh and consistent with your language and visual brand representation.

Virgin Atlantic delights their flyers with tiny salt and pepper shakers shaped like airplanes with feet. Pleple were carrying them off the plane with them so Virgin Atlantic had the words “pinched from Virgin” printed on the bottom of the shakers. Snapple places entertaining facts on the insides of their bottle caps which have become collectibles. Place words of wisdom or tips on packing slips, invoices or cash register receipts to keep your brand in the eyes of your customers. Include a genuine thank you note in your packages along with a sticker of your brand’s logo. Don’t forget the outside and/or inside of packages and tote bags. The idea is to surprise your customer and create a stronger brand connection.

Answering these four critical questions will help you develop a clearer brand,  build a stronger business, grow your customer base and continue to innovate ways to serve your consumer better. Brand School Master Classour highly effective, premier branding program, delivers the tools and steps you need to strengthen your brand and your connection to your customers. See if your business qualifies for Brand School’s exclusive programs at

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Baby, You Can Drive My Brand

One of the classic symbols people associate with New York City is the yellow taxicab.  The streets are teeming with them. I’ve lived in the NYC area for over 25 years, and every time I go to Manhattan I delude myself by thinking it will be easy to hail a cab any time I need one. But the reality is that when I need one most, like when it’s raining, freezing or snowing, or it’s rush hour and I’m in a real hurry, I can never get one. This happens time and time again. Why? Because there was no other alternative – until there was UBER.


UBER is a brand that noticed how people struggled with a problem and then put themselves into the driver’s seat to solve their customer’s problem via their brand promise: to alleviate the insecurity and uncertainty in finding a ride by providing a reliable car service that’s available whenever we need it. The real need wasn’t for more cabs, the need was to make the process of getting one, better.


UBER’s taken an old-school service and reinvented it. UBER has created a hybrid car service by twisting together two traditional ideas: the call ahead private car service and the spontaneity of a yellow cab. But unlike cabs or other car services, they made the process of getting a ride easier by simply embracing today’s technology: You use a computer or mobile app to “call” for a car, right when you want one. No cash is necessary. Receipts are delivered to your cell phone or email and disputing a bill is easier with a record, which speaks volumes for their brand transparency. You know up front approximately what the fare will be and how long of a wait it will be before your ride arrives  With UBER you know what you’re getting, with no surprises and no waiting in the rain.


Focus on one specific need that your target market has. Put yourself in your market’s shoes (… desperate for a ride in the rain) to discover a solution. You’ll find ideas that will give your service, product or brand the fresh twist it needs to be truly valued and noticed.

Sometimes you need a good road map and clear directions to chart a route.  The road to developing a strong brand can have many detours and steep climbs. Brand School, our highly effective, premier branding program, gives you the tools you need to keep your brand on the high road and use it to make your business hum. Receive more information about the next semester and free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

This post is part of our Brands That Twist series celebrating innovative brands. Read about other breakthrough brands and more ways to grow your business and brand here

“Brand School had great examples of real companies. I was able to dig even deeper, think of things in a new way, and get new ideas for my brand.It was well worth the fee.”  – Brenda Dillion Cavette, Founder Fashionista Tea