Understanding the Four Pillars of a Brand

Trust is the underlying substrate of every decision we take, so much so that it is evident in everything we do. The more difficult the choice, the more it is pinned on the essential intangible of trust. Let’s take relationships, politics, and commerce. Though the three streams may seem distinct and discrete, the trust (or lack of it) in one, can impact the others, either positively or negatively, depending on the disposition of the person making the trust decision. Contrary to what may seem, and a little counter-intuitively, most trust relationships depend more on our own behavior rather than that of the environment.

A brand (or a person) may be able to alter or adapt to a few behaviors of trust temporarily, but the innate 'behavior tendency', the natural conduct of the brand, becomes an overwhelming factor in the results of its interactions with the world. For a brand to build permanent trust relationships, therefore, behavior changes must be or become natural to it, blending in as an intrinsic part of its existence.
The four behavior pillars on which the 'outlook of brands' are dependent are the core factors that need attention when dealing with a brand's intangibles. These are the brand's Values, Culture, Vision, and Knowledge. The outcome of these four also includes trust, though it is not the only result these four come together to create. To understand these four behavior pillars is to understand a brand's core.

Values are key determinants of attitudes and behavior of a brand, and are defined by the thin decision-line that segregates its 'right' and 'wrong'. This resultantly also measures the integrity of the brand. The Culture of the brand is demarcated by the brand's ideas, customs, and social behavior that define its uniqueness and make it belong to a class. Culture is basic to a brand and develops over a period depending on the emergence of the collective design from individual actions. It can be said to be the 'pattern of behavior' rather than behavior alone. The brand's Vision is an articulation of the brand's larger purpose, one that it should and will pursue irrespective of all circumstances and distractions. It is what the organization, as individuals and as a collective, must strive to achieve in all its actions.

Knowledge is the combination of a brand's self-awareness, self-consciousness, social awareness, environmental consciousness, and intellectual capability. This last pillar expresses itself directly in every brand action. In order to impact the trust of its stakeholders, a brand should adapt its internal factors as much as its external behavior or communication. However, to be sustainable, these must be aligned with the brand's core behavior pillars elaborated above.

The promise of intent of the brand is important, but the most imperative hinge of trust is always in its delivery – be it a product, service, or an idea. In one sense, trust is the delivery of the brand's promise. Brands that act towards enhancing the value of their intangibles will make big and permanent gains. Brands that only continue to focus on numbers may survive, but will not come close to making a mark among historic brands.