There's a lot of buzz these days about having a "brand platform." Perhaps you've heard the term, but aren't sure what it means. Rest assured--you're not the only one! Even within the advertising industry you'll find disagreement over its definition. What one guru calls a "brand platform" another calls a "corporate image." Don't be confused. Regardless of what you call it, you need it. A brand platform serves as the springboard for all branding decisions.

Simply put, your brand platform is what your brand stands for. It's a strategic statement or set of statements that encompass who your company is, what it does, how it plans to succeed, and why it's unique or different. Although brand platforms vary from business to business, most consist of the following basic elements:

  1. Mission
  2. Identity Attributes
  3. Value Proposition
  4. Tagline and/or Byline
  5. Brand Story

Creating Your Brand Platform
Now that you know the five basic elements every brand platform should have, it's time to put them in writing. Here's how to begin.

1. Mission. Your mission statement should express your brand's purpose and driving philosophy in a clear, succinct and compelling way. To construct your mission statement, you must identify your brand's features and benefits, target market and competitive advantages as they stand today. You must also decided on a long-term goal for your brand. Mission statements come in all shapes and sizes. Some are specific, others leave room for interpretation. Your mission statement should be fairly brief--no more than five sentences.

For example: "Our mission at XYZ Company is to be the premier mass market provider of XYZ product on the East Coast. We will do this by selling affordably priced equipment through our network of distributorships. We will be known as a company that builds lasting relationships with our customers, suppliers and employees."

2. Identity Attributes. List words or phrases that describe your brand at its core--words you want customers to associate with your brand in lieu of other brands. This list should make your brand stand out and resonate with the desires of your target market. Keep in mind, however, that consumers can't and won't associate your full list with your brand. That's why at some point you should highlight one of these words--just one--that you want customers to most connect with your brand. You want to "own" this word in the mind of your customer.

For example: What word pops into your head when you think of Volvo automobiles? Most likely, you think "safety." And when you think of FedEx? "Overnight." In everything you do, strive to convey or exemplify that one word.

3. Value Proposition. Ask yourself: How is my brand better than the others? Where does my brand create value for consumers? What's my brand's competitive advantage? Your value proposition should differentiate you from your competition and sum up the unique benefits consumers get from choosing your brand. Distill your brand's value into a sentence or two, and try to include key features and benefits.

Example: "The high-quality material used to build XYZ product provides its corporate consumers with peace of mind so they can focus on their core business."

4. Tagline and/or Byline. I say "and/or" here because you really don't need both a tagline and a byline--whatever you choose usually appears near your logo where there's only room for one statement. A byline is a descriptor or clarifier, like "Home Electronics," while a tagline is more sophisticated. A tagline is a slogan, company statement or vision that condenses the brand essence in a way that creates interest. It should be short, pithy and smart. (Note: Taglines, slogans and positioning statements are often used interchangeably.)

Examples of current taglines are: Apple: Think different. and Target: Pay less.

5. Brand Story. Record and preserve the history of your organization in a concise and compelling way. Was there anything unusual or interesting about how your company came into being? Think through public relations angles. The media loves a good story! Your history can also make a wonderful addition to your website, where it can increase the comfort factor with consumers and help overcome the impersonal nature of online commerce.

Above all, remember that brands are created in the mind and heart of your consumer. Strive to embed an emotional tie in your brand platform. The fact is customers buy the brand they feel comfortable with--and that's not always the brand with the most features or benefits.