Before we talk about brand strategy, we should first define the word brand, especially because there are so many interpretations of what it means.
You might assume a brand is a company’s logo or its website. You might assume it’s broader than that, including all the messaging and marketing material associated with a company or product. Or maybe a brand is how your company chooses to communicate with customers, both in person, and across various digital and social media channels.
Some people have a different perspective, suggesting a brand is not what is intended by a company but how it is interpreted by its customers. That means that whatever your customers believe or think about your brand feel is definitive – no matter what you may have intended.
All of the above is true.
That’s why it’s so critical to develop a strong brand strategy. Your brand is your DNA. It’s the foundation of everything you do and the single most powerful asset you have as you launch, grow or redefine your company.
Defining a brand and building brand equity is critical to all those things.
Your brand is your DNA. It’s the foundation of everything you do and the single most powerful asset you have as you launch, grow or redefine your company.
What is brand strategy?
At a high level, a brand strategy is a strategic blueprint for how your brand will achieve its goals over a medium-to-long timeframe. A comprehensive brand strategy first defines the core elements of your brand and then articulates clear brand guidelines and plans for how you’ll promote it in the market.
At Tiller, we often work with companies to build their brands from the ground up. That starts with defining the company’s core brand elements. Core brand elements vary a bit depending on the specific needs of a business but typically include both conceptual and written elements, which then inform the visual elements of your brand. All three of these things work together to create the foundation of your brand.
Here’s a quick overview of the elements you’ll need to craft a compelling brand strategy:
This is a big one and it includes a few elements. What is your brand’s core reason for existence? What’s the mission you’re on for your customers? How are you positioning your brand in the market? What values underpin the work you do day-to-day? What’s your vision for the change your company will make in the world? A clear brand purpose creates alignment inside and outside your company. Inside many companies, employees are often confused about a company’s purpose. If your employees aren’t clear about your brand purpose, your communications, marketing and the way your brand is perceived by clients and potential clients will be a problem.
Key customer/stakeholder personas.
Personas are a useful way to define your archetypical customer. A persona creates a representation of a customer that incorporates their key needs, problems, goals, and paints a picture of them demographically. Some businesses will have a single persona they’re serving while others may have multiple personas. With defined personas your company can better understand who you’re engaging as part of your brand strategy and what will move the needle for them.
What is the competitive landscape for your brand? Are you working in a well-defined or mature market where your prospective customers clearly understand the value of your offering? Here, you would expect to have multiple existing competitors and you’ll need to understand who they are and how they are presenting themselves to the market so you can separate yourself. If you’re offering an innovative product or service, you may have fewer competitors but a greater need to educate the market on why your offering has value at all.
What makes your brand different and better and uniquely valuable compared to your competitors? Getting your differentiators exactly right is one of the most important things you can do when building a brand strategy and developing marketing plans – because it becomes the basis for what you highlight and what you don’t. In fact, the disciplined, strategic marketing of the wrong differentiator can cost you months or years of time – and thousands of dollars.
Brand voice can be a tricky term for some businesses. What we mean by voice is how your brand chooses to communicate – on your website, in your marketing materials, and in communications with the public. That incorporates both the kind of language and visuals you’ll use and the brand personality that resonates in the combination of those two things. Some brands are dead serious, authoritative and commanding. Others are playful and human. Others may be deliberately provocative and disruptive. Equipping your company with a defined brand voice enables everyone from your marketing team members to your customer service people to nail the right tone when they’re representing your company.
A defined set of key messages provide your team critical guidance in a number of areas. They help creative agencies develop an informational structure for your company website (what are you saying and in what order). But they go beyond that. They are, on a single page, the key ideas and details that will inform all your marketing efforts as you go from brand strategy creation to brand strategy execution.
Visual brand identity.
A brand’s visual identity is connected to everything noted above, but in particular your brand purpose and brand voice, which provide guidance for the creation of a brand logo and every other visual asset you’ll use as you execute your brand strategy.
The importance of brand strategy in 2019.
Imagine you didn’t have any of the items above defined. Think of how erratically you might communicate and execute your marketing plans. You will likely get certain things right even without a brand strategy. But you’ll make more mistakes – and you may not even realize you’re making them. Consider the opportunities that could elude your business with a muddled brand strategy: new partnerships, new customers, new revenue growth. All gone. Without those things, your company may stagger along, never achieving its potential. Or it may die out altogether as customer, employee and investor confidence wanes.
Marketing is more challenging than ever in 2019. There are endless places you can put your money and time. You can buy digital and physical ads. You can invest in a massive number of marketing technologies. You can devote endless time and money to a seemingly endless collection of social media channels. You can work with consumer influencers. You can put your money into industry conferences. You can effectively target one geographic market or all of them. This list and this paragraph could go on forever. Endless choice can be paralyzing.
But a brand strategy gives you a meticulous, thoughtful way to focus your efforts in the places that will create the most value for your company. You can consider your options more carefully by comparing your brand strategy and goals to the specific tactics you can use. What fits? What doesn’t? Your marketing plans will take shape more easily.
Then, as you execute your marketing plans, you can assess not just whether your customer base and revenues are growing but the value and perceptions of the brand you’re creating inside the market. That brand equity is, in the end, the true engine of your business.
The bottom line about brand strategy.
The most successful brands have clearly-defined brand strategies.
Investing in a brand strategy consulting service. will help you acquire new customers and expand your revenue growth. It will make all your subsequent marketing efforts easier and more focused. It will help you meet your business goals.
If your company has been in-market for months or years without a formal brand strategy, developing one can help you get smarter and more effective about communicating your business value to your key audiences and driving revenue growth. It can also address any hidden weaknesses about your brand you may not be able to identify.
If you’re just launching your company to the world a strong brand strategy can create a roadmap to differentiate from your competitors, build up brand awareness, grow your audience, build a client base and scale business and revenues. All while reducing risk.
A brand strategy will help you acquire new customers and expand your revenue growth. It will make all your subsequent marketing efforts easier and more focused. It will help you meet your business goals.