The Branding Triangle

by Adam on October 7, 2012

I was in San Francisco recently for a Board Meeting as part of my involvement with The International Association of Culinary Professionals (as the name would make it sound, a trade organization that brings together food writers, media, chefs, cooking school teachers, the list goes on and on). As part of our strategic initiatives discussions throughout the weekend, it was decided that we needed to start first by refining the IACP brand by articulating what functions it served for its audience(s). To do this, we went through an exercise that was rather blandly (but accurately) called “The Branding Triangle.” I found the exercise quite useful on the micro-scale of IACP, but the broader implications are useful on the macro-scale when thinking about branding in general.

The gist is relatively simple, in that a branding triangle has three parts (much like the triangle itself). Start by drawing said triangle on a piece of paper. Each point in the triangle represents one piece of the branding discussion:

  • At the top of the triangle is your audience. Who are you trying to reach and who are you serving? Keep in mind that each branding triangle should only have one audience, so if your company serves multiple constituents, you’ll need multiple triangles.
  • On the left-most point, articulate the product/service that you offer that audience. Again, the product/service can differ with each audience that you elaborate on via each triangle. The product/service might also be something intangible, like access to networking opportunities, or something concrete like web development consulting services.
  • On the right-most point, explain what the benefit is when that audience engages with that product/service. And once again, remember that the benefit will vary depending on the criteria around the two above points. The benefit can be any range of things, from monetary, to relationship-management oriented, so there is a lot of latitude to detail the benefits of your company’s offering to that audience.

In fact, the great thing about the branding triangle is that you can get very granular about the products/services and the benefits to the audience(s) you define. In so doing, it helps in finding various points of competitive differentiation that you might not have considered as part of a larger service offering at the outset.

From there, you can distill the above work into a branding message, which can range from very simple to more complex. A simple example is below:

COMPANY offers AUDIENCE the PRODUCT/SERVICE, which BENEFIT.

The above statement may seem a bit elementary, but once you start plugging in the blanks around those three main areas, you’ll find that you get closer to a branding message and a unique value proposition.

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