How To Develop a Brand Strategy
Take a moment to think about your favourite brands. Whether they’re food and drink, clothing, consumer electronics or automobile brands, consider your reasons for returning to them time and time again. Think about the kind of words you’d use to describe each of your preferred brands and, more specifically, how you feel when you remember your experiences with your products or services.
Amazingly, none of how you feel about these brands is an accident, it was all done by design. Each of those companies continuously crafted their products or services until they had the desired emotional connection with consumers.
Well, the great news is, it’s entirely possible for you to establish such a relationship with your customers too. You just need to be purposeful in your branding efforts and to do that you need to develop a branding strategy.
So, with that goal in mind, this post explores the idea of a branding strategy, why you need one for your business, and how to create one.
What Is a Branding Strategy?
Before we explore how to create a branding strategy, it’s a good idea to define what a brand actually is. Your brand is the psychological and emotional connection that consumers have with your products and services. Put another way, your brand is how consumers feel about your business and its offerings. and is the sum of their memories of past experiences and expectations for future purchases.
What most people consider to be a brand, such as its logo, main colours, and tagline, is really its brand identity and has to be designed in such a way to provoke the desired feelings and create the desired connection with consumers. We detail how to do this in our post on how to create a compelling brand.
A brand strategy is your long-term plan for achieving your company’s specific branding goals (smart). It’s how you intend to occupy a particular place in the minds of your target market and get them to perceive you in the desired way. A brand strategy should clearly outline your customer value proposition: its unique values and characteristics and why someone should choose to buy from you rather than your competitors. If you think of your brand as being your company’s ‘image’ – then the brand strategy is the process of cultivating the right image.
A brand strategy should include:
Brand Purpose: This is why (aside from a desire to generate revenue and turn a profit) your company exists. It’s what you’re setting out to achieve as a business and the kind of impact you’d like to have within your chosen market.
Your brand purpose represents the big picture: how you aim to change the world and, ideally, and if everything went your way, the kind of legacy your business would leave behind.
One of the most important parts of your purpose is your brand values: the principles you stand for as a company. This could include being customer-centric, environmentally-friendly, innovative, passionate, and so on. In fact, ‘Australian Made’ is a prominent example of a brand value, as it shows a company’s commitment to ensuring all the parts or ingredients of their products are sourced from within the country and supporting the Australian businesses and the economy as a whole.
As well as influencing the brand’s outward-facing elements, namely, its brand identity, the combination of purpose and values form a company’s internal brand. This is its culture, how its employees find meaning and satisfaction in their work and why it’s desirable for people to work there.
Brand Positioning: This refers to how you want customers to perceive your brand in relation to your competition. It’s how you intend to position your brand in the eyes of consumers.
First, to correctly position your company, you need to establish your target market, and, potentially, different target audiences within it, so you know who your customers are and whose perception you’re trying to influence.
Once you understand your target market, you can set goals for how you wish to be positioned for how you want existing and potential customers to feel about you.
Brand Identity: These are tangible elements that most people consider to be the brand, as opposed to the connection and relationship you have with consumers. Brand identity consists of:
Visual Identity: Logos, colour scheme, icons, typography, etc.
Brand Messaging: This is your brand’s voice – how you convey the features of your products or services and convince consumers of how they will solve their problems and/or fulfil their needs.
It includes your tagline and the content featured on your website in promotional material and social media posts, etc – collectively known as brand collateral.
Brand messaging also includes the tone you strike: whether you’re serious, detail-oriented and technical, empathetic, funny, quirky, irreverent, etc.
Brand Story: This is your brand’s backstory or history and how your company came to be. You can also think of it as how you came to discover your purpose. Your story can be a powerful part of your brand because customers find a narrative compelling: it’s something they can relate to. It gives your audience a look at the people behind the business – and individuals are far more relatable than organisations.
For example, the story of global behemoths like a Google and Apple starting in garages are woven into the fabric of society as the ultimate underdog stories. They give every budding business owner, or, for that matter, anyone striking out on their own in any endeavour, hope and inspiration.
Similarly, there’s the story of how Sara Blakely invented her shapewear company Spanx, by cutting the bottom out of her pantyhose in an effort to look better in a pair of trousers. This is so powerful because most, if not all, women can relate to not being satisfied with what they’re wearing and having to improvise.
What Is the Difference Between Brand Strategy and Marketing Strategy?
Because a brand strategy deals with identifying customers and developing the best way to reach them, it’s natural to wonder what makes it different from a marketing strategy. Now, while there is some overlap, like defining who your customers and competitors are, there is a (distinct) difference between the two.
Brand strategy is all about how you intend on establishing your brand: defining the relationship you want to have with consumers. Your marketing (fundamentals) strategy, meanwhile, is shaped by brand strategy. It consists of details of how you’re going to carry out your branding strategy and get your brand in front of the right people.
While branding is adopting the right mindset and packaging and positioning your products or services to appeal to a specific group of people in a particular way, marketing is the process of actively promoting and selling them. It’s concerned with putting the right products in the right place and at the right price so they capture the attention of the right people.
Because you’re taking the product to the consumer, marketing is a push strategy. On the other hand, in the long term, branding is a pull tactic. Once you’ve established trust with consumers and created a connection, then they’ll keep returning to your products and services – brand loyalty.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that both your branding and marketing strategies are part of your overall business strategy – which may also contain separate strategies for sales, research and development, growth and acquisition, etc.
Why Do You Need a Brand Strategy?
So, now that you know what a brand strategy is and how it differs from a marketing strategy, the question is, do you need one? Let’s take a look at the many advantages of brand strategy for your business.
Helps You Articulate and Communicate Your Core Values
Firstly, a strategy causes you to carefully consider your brand purpose, positioning and messaging, so you have a better idea of your values as a company. As a result, you’re better able to communicate those values to your target market and create the desired connection with them.
Your core brand values will come across more clearly in your brand voice and you’ll be more effective in speaking to your potential customers’ problems and needs – and how your products and services will make their life easier or better.
Helps You Identify Weaknesses in Your Brand Experience
Your connection with consumers is based on both their prior experience with your brand and their future expectations. Customers expect consistency whenever they come into contact with your brand or they’ll begin to lose trust in it – and without trust, there’s no relationship. A branding strategy allows you to find these inconsistencies and preserve the bond you have with your customers.
Filter Out Ill-Advised Ideas That Would Damage Your Brand-Building Effort
A brand strategy keeps you focused on activity that applies to your products and services and how you wish to position them within your target market. This then prevents you from succumbing to ‘shiny object syndrome’: which sees you jump on the latest marketing idea, tactic, or platform that promises lots of reward for little effort.
A brand strategy provides you with a set of actionable objectives which you have to successfully implement if you want to ultimately achieve your brand purpose, as well as your overall business goals. Each objective gives you something to measure against, and determine whether you were successful or not. If you weren’t successful, you have to hold yourself accountable, examine exactly why you fell short, and make necessary changes to get it right.
Achieve Laser Focus in Your Marketing Efforts
A brand strategy, much like a marketing strategy, forces you to understand your target market and any separate target audiences within it. From there, you’ll be able to create a series of buyer personas that represents each audience and hone your marketing efforts to effectively reach each one. This includes knowing the right way to communicate with them, the best places where to reach them, how to price your products or services, etc.
Increases The Valuation of Your Company
Building a strong brand takes effort; it takes time to develop trust with consumers and for them to form a connection with your company. When you achieve this, you create brand equity, whereby consumers are willing to spend more on your offerings than those produced by your competitors. Sometimes, a customer’s relation to your brand can last for their entire life. In addition to generating more revenue in the short term, brand equity makes your company itself more valuable over the long term.
Helps Designers and Creatives Do Better, More Effective Work
By developing a brand purpose and branding guidelines, you give creatives a framework to work within. Being aware of what you’re trying to achieve as a customer and the emotional response they’re looking to provoke within consumer will guide their creative process.
Gets Everyone On The Same Page
Once you’ve developed a brand strategy, everyone within your company better understands what you’re working towards, who you’re trying to appeal to, and how to best communicate the benefits of your products and services to position them correctly. And if you’re a small company or a sole trader, you can better communicate your goals and vision for your business to those you bring in to help you, such as graphic designers, marketing agencies, writers, etc.
How to Create a Brand Strategy
Find Your Brand Heart
The first step in developing your brand strategy is to find your brand heart. This is composed of your:
- Brand Purpose: This is your mission – what you want to achieve with your products or services, how you want people to feel when they use them, and, ultimately, how you seek to change the world. Put another way, what would the world look like if your company achieved its highest ideals and fullest potential?
- Brand Values: What your company stands for and its core characteristics.
This is the core of your brand from which everything else will flow. Better still, cultivating the other aspects of your brand becomes far easier when you have a deep understanding of your brand heart.
Articulate Your Messaging
When you know what your brand stands for and what you want to achieve, it’s time to work out to best communicate that to your target market. You want your brand messaging to be as honest, authentic, consistent, and persuasive as possible. This includes your:
- Website and promotional copy
- Brand Story
- Social media posts
A key part of this process is crafting your brand voice, which is the way you speak to your audience. This includes your general tone, which should reflect how you want to make consumers feel and how you want to position yourself within your target market.
Your brand messaging also needs to communicate your brand’s value proposition. This is a concise explanation of the benefits of your product or services provide to your target market and how it solves their problems and fulfils their needs. More importantly, it’s why they should go with your brand over your competitors. The more clearly you can distinguish yourself from available alternatives the better you’ll be able to position yourself.
Design Your Visual Identity
Your visual identity is the part of your brand that’s visible to consumers: it’s what they will consider to be your brand. What’s more, it’s what most business owners think a brand is, and consequently, what they spend the most time on. Fortunately, however, designing your visual identity is easier when you’ve spent time developing the other aspects of your brand: It includes your:
- Logo: This is likely to be the first thing consumers notice about your brand. Ideally, you want to design a logo that reflects your brand but that’s both simple and memorable.
- Fonts (Typography): This is the design style of the text featured throughout your branding. The most important example of this is how your company name is displayed within, or next to, your logo. Your typography should complement your logo, colours, and brand messaging.
- Colours: While many business owners select their brand’s colours based on personal preference and what works, your choice of colours needs to be more considered. This is because there’s a strong psychological element to colours and they need to reflect how you want consumers to feel and how you aim to position your brand. We explore the meaning and associations behind different colours in our post on creating a compelling brand.
- Imagery: This includes all the photography, pictures, illustrations, animations, and iconography used throughout your branding. These complement your brand messaging and need to be consistent with the other elements of your branding.
Create Your Brand Guidelines
Once you’ve crafted your brand heart, messaging, and visual identity and messaging, you can create your brand guidelines.
These guidelines act as a set of instructions, or playbook, for anyone involved in developing your brand – whether they’re they work within your business or are external agencies or freelancers. They enable you to maintain consistency and quality across your branding, allowing you to keep it strong instead of diluting it. Your brand guidelines should cover both your verbal identity (brand messaging) and visual identity:
- Brand voice and tone
- Value proposition
- Imagery (photography, illustrations, animations, etc.)
To get consumers to purchase from you, they need to trust you. The more they trust you, the greater the connection and the stronger the relationship with your business. The most effective way to create this trust is by creating a compelling brand, and a brand strategy provides you with a systematic way of achieving that.
A brand strategy requires you to take a deep dive into your business, define what makes it special, and articulate why customers would buy from you instead of your competitors. You can then implement what you discover and will be far more effective at communicating the benefits of your products and services to your target market.
A brand strategy ensures that your success isn’t an accident – and creates consistency in your brand experience, so your customers’ expectations are met, or maybe even exceeded every time.