How to Use a Brand Identity Prism

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Image for post

“Having an identity means being your true self, driven by a personal goal that is both different from others and resistant to change.” Jean-Noel Kapferer

There are many models and frameworks for branding. Unilever created their own patented “Brand Key”, Proctor and Gamble developed the “Brand Asset Valuator” to assess the value of a brand. Any of these models might be useful, but we think the most useful of all for the small professional services business is The Brand Identity Prism, created by Jean-Noel Kapferer in 2008.

The brand prism consists of six facets, some are under the control of you, the company, others are on the receiving side of your clients and customers. This is what it looks like.

brand identity prism
brand identity prism

On the right-hand side, we have the internalised facets. These are things below the surface of visibility but are within your organisation’s control.

The goal in developing the prism for your business is to add three or four (no more than four) words to each facet. No words should be used more than once.

Each word you choose should be as strong and clear as possible. The hallmark of good identity prisms is the strength of the words they use. No wishy-washy, half-baked sentiments will do. It requires conviction.

Here is a brief outline of each facet. You don’t need to do anything yet.

This facet has been defined by the pioneer of branding, David Aaker, as “the set of human characteristics associated with a brand”.

In other words, if the brand were a human being, what personality would they have? This doesn’t necessarily mean our brand’s personality should be exactly the same as yours. Some of our clients, after all, may be similar to us but that doesn’t mean they want a relationship with a brand that is just like them. As professional service providers, this relationship is and will be key to our business success.

The brand’s Culture includes the workplace, staff relationships, morale, the corporate values and ideals.

This is your clients’ view of themselves and is the result of our research, whether that be observation, studies, your own insights, interview and so on. This is where we get under the skin of our targeted client and identify their lifestyles, frustrations, and aspirations. This is our target market from a psychologist’s perspective, not just a demographer’s. It’s not just some checklist of how old they are, where they live and what level of education they have received, it is what they think, what they want, what they feel, what they dream of.

This is how we take these insights of Self-Image and reflect them back to our target market so they can relate to our brand. In fact, we not only have to reflect our client’s self-image, we need to reflect their Ideal Self-Image, being who they would like to be.

This facet describes the way you conduct your contact with your client. What are the contact points. Here, it is useful to do an ‘Experience Audit’ from a client’s point of view. We want our clients to feel a certain way about us and our brand, this is where we design means to achieve this.

Finally, we get to the physical facet. Funnily enough, this is where most people start their brand creation and where they finish! This includes all the physical elements that represent your brand. We can’t develop the physical dimension before we understand its core substance. These things are the opportunity you have to use signs, symbols, colours, shape, texture, type, even music or sound to create brand recognition and convey your brand essence. We will also include staff uniforms, the servicescape and furniture in this category.

We believe this should be done last, when all the other facets of the business and the service design have been thought through. The Physique is the seal of authenticity.

Finally, the brand essence is the ‘soul’ of your brand. It’s the single, pithy description that sums up what you and your business stands for. It goes in the centre of the prism. It may be related to values, lifestyle, heart, or mind.

To get a grasp of how simple and how powerful this brand identity prism can be, let’s consider a few examples you should be familiar with. Some of these are courtesy of Jean-Noel Kapferer and David Aaker, and some have been ‘imagineered’ by us to help elucidate the concepts.

Visualised from notes by Kapferer (2004).

Ralph Lauren POLO brand identity prism
Ralph Lauren POLO brand identity prism

American Express

This example is the result of various sources including CEO Kenneth Chenault.

Americxan Express brand identity prism
Americxan Express brand identity prism

Of course, no article on branding would be complete without the obligatory inclusion of Apple, the world’s most valuable brand (valued at $154 billion according to Forbes is 2016), so here it is:

apple brand identity prism
apple brand identity prism

Try this delightful tool yourself. You could download the blank at the top of this article,


  • only four words or phrases each facet
  • don’t repeat any


Originally published at My Virtual Marketing Manager.

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Writes about strategy, storytelling, messaging, and communication…Prone to bouts of fiction.

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