What is The Kapferer Brand Identity Prism?

By Woven Agency, Friday April 6, 2018
6 Minutes

Before introducing the idea of the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism, let’s first play some word association: what do you think of when you think of Land Rover? Their superior off-road capability, perhaps, or their rugged and honest design? Their heritage-laden legacy, maybe, or their versatility and durability?

Land Rover Defender

Whatever you think of, it’s likely to be positive. And why is that? The answer’s simple: because Land Rover have done a brilliant job defining their brand. Powerful brands like Land Rover are easy to recognise: their values are clear and they nurture the type of customer loyalty that businesses crave.

Now, not all of us have the available resources of a well-established brand like Land Rover, but that doesn’t mean we can’t aspire to achieving the same goals: displaying brand values clearly, consistently and in a way that’s true to the business’ ethos.

And, whether you’re a sprightly start-up or an industry powerhouse going through a rebrand, one way you can do this is by applying the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism to your business.

First thing’s first: what is a brand identity?

You understand the origins of the term ‘branding’, right? The notion of stamping a mark on something – cows, usually – to denote ownership? Well, whilst matters are slightly more subtle than that, this simple truth remains at the heart of what a brand identity is – a consistent visual projection of your business, products and services.

David Aaker, hailed as the Father of Modern Branding, defines brand identity as, “…a unique set of brand associations that the brand strategist aspires to create or maintain.”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon overlord and world’s filthy-richest man, puts it in slightly more colloquial terms: “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Whilst our very own Managing Director, Mark Bower, says: “Your brand identity is how you project yourself to – and how you want to be seen by – the outside world.”

The Kapferer Brand Identity Prism

A diagram of Kepferer's Brand Identity Prism

Inscribed on the hearts of marketing graduates worldwide, Jean-Noel Kapferer’s Brand Identity Prism is a model that helps businesses build strong, enduring brand identities that reflect their core values. It proposes that a brand’s success is driven by a company-wide utilisation of the following elements:

  • Physique

The physical characteristics and iconography of your brand. Think of the dynamic Nike swoosh, the sleek styling of Apple or the bold orange pantone of easyJet. Kapferer said the physique should be considered the basis of the brand; it is the clearest visual representation of your brand’s aspirations and how you wish it to be perceived.

In determining your brand’s physique you should consider what your products or services look like, what emotions they inspire and how that might look like in their physical form.

  • Personality

How a brand communicates with the outside world, which is expressed through its tone of voice, its design and its copywriting. Coca-Cola’s happy and playful persona is expressed through its bold colour choices, scripted font and brand messaging that centres on having a great time with friends and family.

A brand needs to define its tone of voice and its design assets and then integrate this into all communication touchpoints: website, apps, direct mail, emails, internal comms and so on.

  • Culture

The value system and the principles on which a brand bases its behaviour. Tesla’s culture, for example, encourages its workforce to innovate and throw in ideas to keep the brand at the forefront of technological change. Google’s culture, recently voted as the best in the tech industry, promotes flexibility, creativity and a fun environment – all things that it wants to be known for outside of its colourful and inspirational offices.

  • Relationship

The relationship between the brand and its customers, and what the customer hopes they are getting from the brand beyond the actual product or service. John Lewis are famed for their product warranties and after-sales service, which has helped them foster a relationship of trust and mutual respect between buyer and seller.

  • Reflection

The stereotypical user of the brand. A brand is likely to have several buyer personas but they will have a go-to subset of their target market that they use in their messaging. Apple, for example, appeal to all kinds, but associate their products with vibrant, adventurous and energetic people, irrespective of age, weight, race, etc.

  • Self-image

How the customer sees their ideal self. By understanding a customer’s ‘ideal identity’ – how they want to look and behave; what they aspire to – brands can target their messaging accordingly. Is your customer’s ideal self outgoing, intellectual, extroverted, refined, cheap-and-cheerful, rich-and-also-cheerful-on-account-of-how-rich-they-are? Work out what your customer wants to look like and make your brand’s aspirations reflect theirs.

A little homework for you

Child doing homework

To solidify what your brand should be all about, ask yourself the following:

  • What do I want to be known for? (Write a mission statement to sum things up.)
  • What are my brand values? (Think of at least three.)
  • What do I want people to say about me when I’m not in the room?
  • How do I visually convey my brand values?
  • What is my preferred tone of voice? (Chatty, refined, informal, authoritative?)
  • What does my buyer persona look like?
  • If my brand were a celebrity, who would it would be?

Once you’ve answered these questions, take a bash at completing your own Brand Prism – and email it over to me at [email protected] I’ll be happy to give you any pointers!

And, don’t forget, if you need Woven’s help on your brand strategy and development then you know where we are. (Here, just in case you’d forgotten.)

Written by Aqib Hamid

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