Over the years, the marketplace has moved from being company-centric to customer-centric. This has created the need for companies to build more meaningful brands that their customers can join and co-create.

Companies are now using various tools, like the brand pyramid, to 'humanize' their brands, making it easier for them to connect with their customers on an emotional level. It is these emotional connections that makes the customers feel as though they are part of the brand and that the brand part plays an important role in shaping their own identities and lives.

The primary function of a brand pyramid is to give the brand direction, allowing it to develop in a consistent and meaningful way. Traditional brand pyramids are made up of 5 sections, with each tier tapping into different aspects of the brand.

A traditional brand pyramid.

Essence - The core value that drives the brand's performance

Brand Personality - The manifestation of the brand in human characteristics

Emotional Benefits - The emotion that results from interaction with the brand

Rational Benefits - The benefits that distinguish the brand from its competitors

Functional Attributes - The features, services, or goods that the brand provide

The Mäd approach

Due to similarities and overlaps of the rational and functional benefits, we, at Mäd, have streamlined them into a single tier. This has helped our clients avoid confusion and focus on what really matters - HOW their brand is different to that of their competitors. To achieve this, it is important that at least one of the functional benefits stipulates the brand's differentiating feature.

Brand Essence.

The peak of the pyramid and the pinnacle of the brand is the brand essence. This is defined as the core value that drives the brand's performance. It is the key element that sets the brand apart from its competitors. Every business and design decision is made with the brand essence as the guiding factor.

Here are the brand essences of well known brands:

Nike: Authentic athletic performance

Walt Disney World: Magical

BMW: Sheer driving pleasure

Apple: Think different

The brand essence is often the most difficult tier of the brand pyramid to define. If need be, completing the rest of the brand pyramid and circling back to the brand essence will help inspire ideation.

The Brand Essence.
Building a brand is an exciting process, and at the heart of it all, is the brand essence.

Brand Essence vs Slogan

It is important that the brand essence is not confused with the slogan. The difference between a brand’s essence and its slogan is simple. The brand essence is used internally, and the slogan is customer facing.

The brand essence is a short, impactful value or statement that instantly communicates to any new employees what the brand is about while the slogan is a short, memorable phrase that is used to differentiate the brand in the minds of the its target audience.

Let's have a look at Nike to demonstrate the difference between a brand essence and slogan. Nike has taken the world by storm with their slogan, Just Do It, yet their internal brand essence is Authentic Athlete Performance. Nike wants their employees to work towards creating authentic athletic wear aimed at high performance, allowing their customers to Just Do it.

Mäd's brand essence is Growth through design. The core reason our team gets out of bed in the morning is to help our clients’ grow their businesses through purposeful and impactful design, in turn, allowing our own business to grow. Our slogan, on the other hand, is Make It Happen.™ No matter business needs and goals of our clients, we Make It Happen.™

This being said, it is possible for some brands to use their brand essence as their slogan, if appropriate.

Unlike Nike and Mäd, Apple's brand essence, Think Different, is also their slogan. Not only do they want their employees to think different about the technology they create, but they also want their customers to think different about the way they experience Apple's technology.

Brand Personality.

The second section of the brand pyramid is the brand's personality. This is the manifestation of the brand in human characteristics.

Examples of popular brand personality traits.

Think about it like this: If your brand was to walk through the door, what would everyone in the room say about them? How would they be perceived? How would they behave? How would they interact with others?

Even though a brand may have a range of personality traits, it is important to define and focus on the most appropriate and impactful. We have found that sticking to three personality traits results in brands that are memorable and distinctive.

When looking at Mäd's brand, the personality traits we chose to focus on are insightful, driven, and purposeful.

These traits guide our approaches, processes, the way we interact with our clients, the content we create, and the awesome results of our client projects.

Our ever expanding library, culture for continuous learning and the content we create for our website and social media platforms are all examples of our insightful personality trait in action.

Emotional Benefits.

The next section is the emotional benefits. These are the emotions that your customers feel after each interaction with the brand. These interactions include every brand touchpoint, from your website and social media presence to your businesses cards, product packaging, and the way you interact with your customers.

The emotions we strive to elicit at Mäd are assured, impressed and valued. Our clients feel assured that they are working with experts, they are impressed with our thinking and executions and they feel as though their opinions, hopes, and dreams have been understood and valued.

It is important to ask yourself: How do you want your customers to feel?

Your brand isn't what you say it is. It's what they say it is. - Marty Neumeier

Functional Benefits.

The last section of the brand pyramid is functional benefits. This can be defined as the tangible features, products and services of your brand. While the brand essence focuses on the soul of the brand, the functional benefits refers the actual benefits the distinguishes the brand from its competitors.

Mäd has focused on 3 simple functional benefits. Quality, Multiple Design Disciples, and Organization.

Our strategic and purposeful approach allows us to execute high quality projects that achieve impressive results.

Our team members are experts in multiple design disciplines, allowing us to provide our clients a broader understanding of their goals and a more effective way of achieving them.

All of our internal admin and client projects are run on an easy to use project management software called Bloo. This allows us to spend less time on admin and more time delivering results. This also allows our clients to track their projects in real time while keeping all ideas, comments and files in one place.

How we do it.

We believe that the best brand pyramids are crafted through collaboration. We do this by using our Design Sprint methodology to create our client's brand pyramid at the beginning of each brand related project. This ensures that everyone has a clear vision on what the brands is and what it needs to achieve, allowing for smooth a project with great results.

At Mäd, we firmly believe in working with our clients, not for them. By allowing our clients to join in the creative process, we ensure that we produce something that everyone is excited about.

Design Sprints with Mäd - Why, What, and How.
Design Sprints are co-creation workshops that we use at Mäd to help us and our clients create effective solutions to business problems in record time.


Customers are no longer focused on a company's products and services, but on their purpose and values. Having a well crafted brand pyramid will allow brands to cultivate a space in which their customers can find meaning. Often, hyper-successful brands create a 'tribe-like' following, whereby customers buy into a brand so much that is sewn into the fabric of their own individualism.

Request a Proposal.

If you would like to #workwithmad then send us an email at hi@mad.co and let's Make It Happen.™