The six Ps of branding

You’ve probably heard of the four Ps of marketing. Welcome to the six Ps of branding. They are:

  1. Purpose: Why are you here?
  2. Principles: What are the values that guide your behaviour?
  3. Positioning: Where will you play, who will you serve and how are you different?
  4. Promise: What is the pledge you make to your customer?
  5. Proof: Why should your customer believe you?
  6. Personality: How will you look, sound and behave?

There are many versions of this list, with various labels. What we call principles, others call values. What we call proof, others call reasons to believe. What we call purpose, others call vision. The “six Ps” is just a mnemonic device.

Let’s go through each one in a little more detail.


Why are you here?
Purpose can be defined as your company’s fundamental reason for being. We know that if you are in business, you’re in it to make money. That’s the table stakes. That’s the reward for making something great, making it relevant and making it different. It’s the return for knowing your customer, valuing your employees and keeping an eye on the competition. But it’s not why you are here.

Your purpose must be about social impact. It must demonstrate that you are conscious of the communities you operate in and depend on. It should reach higher than simply being the leader in your category or industry. You also need to lead in making the world a better place to live.

Read more: Purpose: What it is and why it’s important for your brand


What are the values that guide your behaviour?
Everybody has principles, but they may not have ever named them. These principles are demonstrated by your behaviour and your attitude toward employees, stakeholders and customers. You can glean them from the kinds of things people say about you, or you can examine your own behaviours and attitudes for evidence.

Once you have identified these, ask yourself if they truly represent who you are today or if they are aspirational. If they are the latter, ascertain what you can do to achieve them. For example, if one of your aspirational principles is “empathy,” ask yourself what capabilities you need to deliver that—and determine whether you already have those, or how you can cultivate them if you don’t.

Read more: Principles: What they are and why they’re important


Where will you play, whom will you serve and how are you different?
Positioning lies at the core of brand strategy because it is what distinguishes you from your competition in the minds of your employees, stakeholders and customers. Differentiation is the key element of any successful brand.

The whole point of a brand is to set yourself apart from the others in the category. A positioning statement identifies what you are, what category or industry you play in, who your target customer is, what needs or desires your brand aims to satisfy and why anyone should believe you.

Read more: Positioning: What it is and why it matters


What is the pledge you make to your customer?
Your brand promise is a pledge of value. What are you going to do for your customers that is so special? In a way, the promise distills your brand positioning—it is generally captured in a few words, as opposed to a positioning statement, which by definition is long, awkward and never meant to be read by the outside world. Keep your brand promise concise and compelling.

The promise often takes the form of a slogan that appears in all marketing communications. Through its repeated use, you remind everyone of how you are different and what value you bring. It should pique the interest of potential customers.

Read more: What a brand promise is and why it matters


Why should your customer believe you?
Proof points are reasons to believe in your brand promise. They are the experiential evidence that you’re telling the truth about who you are and what you have to offer. They show that you’re making a promise you can keep. Your proof points might be about the unique skills you bring to the table or your proprietary technology or the way you treat customers. For example, if you’re promising customers that they’ll save money by using your product, you’ll need proof. How will you help them save money?

Read more: Proof: What it is and why it’s important


How will you look, sound and behave?
Brands are like people. They look, sound and behave a certain way. Your brand personality will emerge one way or another, but the point of a branding exercise is to identify the personality traits you would most like to project.

Personality guides the tone and manner of brand communications. It’s also called “brand voice.” When writers and art directors and designers are briefed, they always get a reminder of the brand personality traits so that they create words and images that repeatedly and consistently reflect those qualities. Repetition is reputation.

Read more: Personality: What brand personality is and why it matters

Next in this series

Upcoming articles in this series will take a more detailed look at each of the six Ps and feature exercises you can use to discover and articulate them.