Creating a brand identity is no easy task. If a brand claims to be what others are, there will be no real brand personality to own, protect or build upon. For a customer to connect with you on a deep level, your brand must stand for something that sets it apart.

Brand image, on the other hand, isn’t entirely up to the marketer. While you may be able to research and craft a brand identity or personality, customers’ perceptions may alter that persona, thus being the ultimate determinant of a brand’s market positioning.

Marketers know that connecting a consumer to their brand on an emotional level is one of the most powerful forms of advertising. This process is sometimes called “brand laddering.” This technique drives increased brand loyalty and sales by “climbing” from the lowest rung of –– product features, functionality, and attributes to the highest rung of  shared values and beliefs.

Example: TOMS does a great job of getting customers to buy a pair of their shoes by indulging their altruism and tugging on their heart strings. The result? People who buy TOMS shoes feel good about themselves for donating a pair of shoes to people in third-world countries, and they get a cute (albeit, pricey) pair of kicks out of it, to boot (pun intended!)

Here are a few examples that illustrate how Fortune 500 companies distill and hone their identity, revealing the essence of their brand in one single, basic universal message or theme:

Coca-Cola

Theme: Happiness

"In 2009, the "Open Happiness" campaign was unveiled globally. The central message of "Open Happiness" is an invitation to billions around the world to pause, refresh with a Coca-Cola, and continue to enjoy one of life's simple pleasures."

Source: The Coca-Cola Company

Source: The Coca-Cola Company

Source: The Coca-Cola Company

Source: The Coca-Cola Company

McDonald's 

Theme: Love

McDonald’s recently refreshed the long-running “I’m lovin’ it” tagline by putting more focus on the lovin’ with the “Pay with Lovin’” campaign. "Each day, we hope to do our part to put just a little more lovin' in the world because a little more lovin' can change a lot," the brand says. The concept is definitely a gamble for a brand with so many haters.

Oreo

Theme: Play

Oreo’s parent company Mondelez targets our inner-child (and our actual children) with this new campaign (still under the “Wonderfilled platform”) called “Play With Oreo.” "Fans have always played with Oreo in a number of unique ways by twisting, licking, dunking, rolling, stacking and dipping the cookie. Now, the brand is on a mission to inspire imagination and play around the globe, not only with the cookie itself, but in consumers' everyday lives," Oreo explains.

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