Leadership Marketing Part III: Defining the Brand

 Michael Marino

Michael Marino / Founder & CEO

Our last post revealed that brands build sustainable bonds by consistently tapping into one specific human need:

  • The need to do something [Doing]
  • The need to define oneself [Being]
  • The need to fit in [Belonging]
  • The need to improve and grow [Growing]

Leadership brands answer primarily only one of these needs, and reinforce their positions by following a consistent and unique strategic approach (depending upon the need being satisfied), which we have documented over the last 20+ years.  Four distinct types of brands emerge from this methodology, which we call the Leadership Equity Model.

Power Brands are based on the doing.  They differentiate based on their unique performance benefits in straightforward, literal terms.  Think “product-as-hero.”

Identify Brands focus on the user.  (Think “user-as-hero”).  They typically provide a self-defining emotional benefit in quite a literal method, typically through a logo or symbol.  They are also known as Badge Brands.

Icon Brands, the polar opposite of Power Brands, focus purely on higher-order emotional benefits and communicate their benefits symbolically, typically through the use of myths, larger-than-life promises and archetypes.

Explorer Brands, while anchored in performance, leave it up to the user to personalize the benefit, which is rendered more symbolically than the literal demonstrations of Power Brands.

The chart below demonstrates the interrelationships of the four brand classifications. This simple grid allows us to contrast and analyze customer and competitive relationships based on the focus of their messages and the promises they aim to provide.



Each of the four universal needs can be translated into a unique and differentiating core brand strategy, each of which will be explained in our next four posts.

Interested in learning more? Subscribe to our Leadership Marketing series below.

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