A simple tool: the Brand Hexagon

Achoo on hexagon

Attention-grabbing marketing activity gets headlines and might drive short-term sales but some marketing actions also help build your brand and others don’t.

How to tell the difference?

Attention-grabbing or brand building?

As marketers, we are constantly being asked to come up with innovative ways of breaking through the clutter of communications to draw attention to our brand.

But some attention-grabbing initiatives are just that and don’t always help with longer-term brand-buildng. How do you decide which activites will be best?

I was reminded of that question when I read this excellent post by Nigel Hollis of Millward Brown.

Beyond core

Nigel highlights some good and less good examples of brands creating value “beyond core purpose”, examining Citibike by Citibank, My-Achoo from Kleenex and Green Giant’s new ‘X-rated’ web video.

He makes some clear points about how the initiatives connect (or not) with the brand’s core purpose, citing My-Achoo from Kleenex as a particularly powerful example because it offers customers a flu prediction service giving them time to stock up on tissues etc in advance.

We agree and we’d like to offer a simple tool that marketers can use to to help find similarly powerful intiatives.

A simple tool: the Branding Hexagon 

We use a simple brand hexagon to help marketers manage the most important aspects of their brand. For example, the Personality segment should contain three key personality dimensions so that a brand manager can use it as a checklist to be sure that each new activity is consistent with the brand personality.

All the elements are important but there are two that are central to choosing the right brand positioning: the Brand Role, that describes how the brand improves the life of the customer and the Driving Value that describes the motivation behind the creation of the brand.

Let’s use the hexagon to explore the three case examples


My-Achoo from Kleenex is an online service that warns users when flu will be arriving in their area. This is very closely related to the Kleenex brand role of supporting and caring for us when we are poorly. MyAchoo reinforces that and extends the brand’s presence usefully to the time before flu hits by providing supportive predictions and advice.

This is absolutely the most powerful place to be with your marketing activities. If you can reinforce your brand role and extend your brand’s presence in your customer’s daily life you are more likely to achieve short-term sales lift as well as longer-term brand strength.


Citibank in New York sponsors Citibike, a bike-sharing scheme for locals and tourists. This is not directly related to Citibank’s financial services role in the customers’ lives but it does seem to fit well with their values. Citibank describes it as “for the New Yorker in all of us”, reinforcing their commitment to the ‘citizen’.


This is also a powerful position but, because it is not directly related to the brand role, it is less likely to have an impact on short-term ‘sales’ for Citibank. By demonstrating the brand’s values, it should however reinforce and create positive associations for Citibank.

Green Giant

Green Giant’s new ‘X-rated’ web video tells the story of a husband who mistakenly thinks his wife is cheating on him when she is actually eating “bigger” vegetables in the bedroom. This is harder to place on our hexagon. It is not obviously consistent with the brand personality although we could argue that it reinforces the brand competence of hunger-satisfaction.



The video is targeted at young women and I expect Green Giant have good research evidence that it appeals to their target and stands out from the clutter in a highly competitive market. But will it help both short-term sales and longer-term brand-building?

 Find your own MyAchoo

Use the brand hexagon as a quick check on any new marketing initiative and try to focus on initiatives that reinforce your brand role in customers’ everyday lives and demonstrate your brand values.

After all, if you find your own MyAchoo, that’s not something to sneeze at!




This post has previously been published at www.opento.com/blog

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