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Core Branding

The Brand Prism as part of brand identity.

Brand Prism Revisited

This is one of the most constructive brand tools made and is a favourite as it is simple to understand, easy to articulate your brand’s identity and to communicate across different legs of execution (digital, packaging, in store, Outdoor, etc.)

This concept was first developed by J. N. Kapferer in his path breaking book “Strategic Brand Management”. Essentially, the prism has the style and themes of the marketer (sender) on one side which are being received by the consumer (recipient) on the other side. The other axes of the prism define the level of internalisation or externalisation of the activities. When flipped over, the brand identity prism is an integral part of the brand identity pyramid – which has 3 parts – (i) The Brand Kernel which is the ultimate essence or core of the brand (ii) The brand style – Which brings about the brand personality from the essence and (iii) Brand themes – or executions of the styles.

While more elaborate tools (eg. brand keys) are being put to use today, this is still our favourite (especially when we need to quickly understand a new brand or a competitor).

Brand prism and Pyramid


Making your brand ‘Shine through the Prism’

For any brand to succeed, it needs to present a coherent image in the minds of the consumer. All the 6 facets of the brand need to tie in with the central brand essence. As soon as all the elements come into place, it just clicks ! Lets take the example of Marlboro – developed as a ladies brand (in 1924, with “Mild as may” !!! as the tagline), and later re-positioned in 1954 using a ‘mythical cowboy’ – The new campaign raised sales by 3241 % within the year !!. Many other similar masculine platforms were tried, later returning to the cowboy theme – lasting till today and becoming one of the most quoted examples in Positioning. Here in lies the power of brand coherence or a consistent positioning of all these elements.

  • Physique – These include tangibles or salient aspects which come to mind when reminded of the brand. Typically includes Packaging, Logo, Functional differentiators (caps, handles etc.), product shapes, etc. You would also notice how most successfully positioned brands have a predominant colour and a flagship pack.
  • Personality – These are the values that the product would bring in case it was personified. These also get defined in the style or tone of communication or in effective use of celebrities or spokespersons.
  • Culture – The values that feed brand inspiration or passions of the brand. Where important it could also communicate the source origin or country (swiss for watches, chocolates, etc.) but at times, it may not necessarily help (Marlboro was orignially named after the Great Marlborough Street in London).
  • Relationship – In short, this is what the consumer feels he / she gets on purchase of the product – The ‘exchange’ beyond a transaction.
  • Reflection – The stereotypical user of the brand as generally reflected in communication. Do remember that this is mostly a subset of the ‘Target group’ of the marketer. While soft drinks manufacturers target a large portion (young, mature and the old, for example) of society, they would typically project teenagers as their users.
  • Self Image – This is the internal mirror which shows how the consumer wants to be seen. This is very important in imagery based products. Ideally, a few characteristics from different elements need to fall on this side of the prism.

Here’s the Coca Cola example of how multiple facets come together in the prism – all to deliver happiness to the consumer making him feel a strong bond with the bottle.

Coca Cola Brand Prism - Brand Identity

Another favourite – Dove – which has become more than just a white bar of soap.

Dove Brand PRism - BRand IDentity

The Marlboro example as quoted earlier…

Marlboro Brand PRism - Brand Identity


And finally, our view of Redbull. ‘Owning’ sponsorship of almost all extreme sports events across the globe has solidified its positioning in the industry and given it a clearly differentiated – while relevant platform. This part of the brand is now so ingrained it is not just a part of the marketing mix – it is part of their culture.

Red Bull BRand Prism - BRand IDentity

In fact with every passing year, these are able to ‘challenge their own limits’ – to stratospheric levels.




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