Building a brand is like composing a symphony. Each element needs to be carefully arranged and harmonized to create a cohesive and impactful final product. Brand Strategy is the foundation of a successful business and it touches every aspect of a company. Building a strong brand strategy takes time and effort, but it is essential for success. It’s not just about a product, logo, website, or name.
A strong brand strategy encompasses a combination of tangible and ethereal elements such as voice, storytelling, brand identity, values, and communication. It focuses on creating a preferred image in the minds of customers by building identification and favorability for the brand. A well-defined brand strategy helps a company stay relevant in the long run by creating a competitive advantage and satisfying customer needs.
What is Brand Strategy?
A brand strategy serves as a company’s blueprint, informed by market research, that helps to create a unique image and connect with the target audience. It guides the company in communicating its promises to customers while standing out among competitors on how these promises will be met, resulting in a preferred and distinct brand identity.
First things first, A Brand is not a Logo. A logo can be part of your Brand Identity but, a brand is a representation of the thoughts and perceptions that an audience/customer base associates with a business. Not what the business says about itself. One famous example of a successful brand identity is Apple Inc.
The iconic Apple logo, the clean and modern aesthetic of its products and retail stores, and its carefully crafted brand messaging have all contributed to Apple’s reputation as a hip, cool, and creative-minded premium brand that consistently delivers cutting-edge technology and high-quality customer experiences. And Apple’s advertising campaigns and product launches are like well-choreographed mesmerizing dance performances! solidifying its position as one of the world’s most valuable and recognizable brands.
Consumers often identify with brands, viewing them as an extension of themselves. Research has shown that most people relate to brands in the same way they relate to people. The relationship between a consumer and a brand can deepen to the point where they feel like family. In a 2023 Edelman Survey, 63% of Global Respondents said that they buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values. This can shape the way they behave and even cause them to defend the brand if it is attacked.
What is Strategic Communication?
At its core, strategic communication is about communicating with purpose while showcasing value, in order to achieve a specific outcome. The ultimate objective of strategic communications is to evoke specific responses from your target audience, whether it’s your spouse, boss, or audience. This means that strategic communications help you get what you want out of a situation, while also allowing both parties to feel like they are getting what they want.
To master the art of strategic communication, First and foremost, it is imperative to determine the objective, to clarify the desired outcome, whether it be securing a partnership with a major brand or getting across what the company is about. Next, a thorough understanding of the audience must be acquired, by researching their values, inclinations, and interests. This insight will aid in presenting the value proposition in a manner that resonates with them.
Then, the value of the proposal must be communicated, demonstrating the benefits of the partnership or the desired outcome. Finally, the need for a mutual agreement must be expressed, using the shared value to persuade the parties that the union is in their best interest. By following these steps, one can overcome the obstacles that often accompany communication and speak with clarity and purpose. Strategic communications are not simply about what is said, but also how it is expressed.
Ingredients of an Effective Branding Approach
When you master this, you will be able to distinguish yourself from your competitors. An effective branding strategy is important to the success of a business; it is the key to having a long-lasting, significant presence in your industry. It’s not just a good method to Brand; it’s the only way. This is how the big brands did it. This is how you can develop a long-term presence.
Understanding Your Brand’s DNA
1. Brand Story
Your brand story is like your company’s soul, it’s a quirky and captivating tale that showcases all the goodness of your biz – from your products and services to your values. And, nope, it’s not just a boring rundown of what you do. It’s a way to connect with your peeps on an emotional level, making them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s basically the origin story of why you exist and has the power to inspire and leave a lasting impression on your audience, setting you apart from all the boring competitors out there. By weaving a memorable and relatable tale, you establish your brand’s identity and plant yourself firmly in your target audience’s minds. Basically, a killer brand story helps you stand out and be unforgettable.
A strong brand story can also help a company to charge a premium price for its products or services. By establishing a unique and compelling narrative, a company can differentiate itself from its competitors and create a sense of exclusivity. Although some companies go ridiculously overboard with this notion, Customers are willing to pay more for products or services that they perceive as being of higher quality and value.
Basecamp: Excellent Story Tellers
Basecamp is a prime example of a company that has effectively leveraged the power of brand storytelling to differentiate itself from the competition. The story behind Basecamp was masterfully crafted by its co-founder, Jason Fried, to showcase the company’s unique approach to project management and collaboration.
They keep things simple and straight to the point with their brand story – it’s all about giving teams a break from the chaos and clutter, offering a solution that’s easy to use, and helping everyone stay focused on what matters most: getting things done. The story of Basecamp is everywhere you look – from their website (even on the home page) and marketing materials to interviews with Jason and the team. Keeping the story front and center has been instrumental in establishing the company’s identity and positioning it as a leader in the project management software space.
How to craft the Perfect Brand Story
- Define Your Unique Brand Voice and Tone: Figure out what makes your company unique and use that to create a voice and tone that best represents who you are. In our BaseCamp example, we can see a clear quirky, humorous, and straightforward (in a “they mean business” way) tone that sets them apart from other project management tools.
- Know Your Target Audience: Understanding who you’re talking to is key to creating a story that resonates. Get to know what makes your target audience tick and craft a story that speaks directly to them.
- Set Yourself Apart: What makes you different from the competition? Your brand story should highlight what sets you apart and help you stand out from the crowd.
- Craft a Tale: Figure out the main themes and key elements of your story. This could include how your company got its start, the challenges you faced, and how you overcame them. Make sure to include your company’s personality and values in the mix.
- Make it Emotional: A good brand story should connect with people on an emotional level. Think about how your story can inspire, motivate, or connect with your audience.
- Make it Pop: Use visuals, videos, and graphics to help bring your story to life. People are more likely to remember your story if they can see it in an engaging and visually appealing way. Again coming back to the BaseCamp example: clean, crisp, and uncluttered is the name of the game when it comes to the company’s branding.
- Keep it Consistent: Once you have your brand story, make sure to keep it consistent across all your marketing materials. This will help to reinforce your brand and build a strong, memorable image in your customers’ minds. (Stay on Brand)
- Refine and Improve: Don’t be afraid to revise and improve your brand story over time. As your company evolves and your target audience changes, your story may need to change too. Keep it fresh and relevant and your brand will continue to connect with customers for years to come.
Read: The Story of Google
2. Brand Vision
Beyond a tagline, there is your brand vision statement, which is a declaration of your company’s purpose and the impact you hope to make in the world. It should be a concise, memorable, and inspiring statement that encapsulates your brand’s values and aspirations. Your brand vision statement should be a true representation of who you are and what you stand for. It should be a guiding light that informs all of your brand’s decisions and interactions with customers.
Things you want to put into your Brand Vision:
Purpose: Why does your company exist?
Focus: What are your brand’s core values and beliefs?
Aspiration: What impact do you hope to make in the world?
Best Brand Vision/Mission Statements
- Shopify: “Make commerce better for everyone, so businesses can focus on what they do best: building and selling their products”.
- Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.
- Nike: “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”.
- Tesla: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”.
- IKEA: “To create a better everyday life for many people”.
- Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company”.
- Microsoft: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”
- TED: “Spread ideas”.
3. Brand Promise
An unwavering brand promise is the cornerstone of any successful enterprise. It must resonate with the intended audience, be simple in its articulation, and yet, steadfast in its delivery. To achieve this, one must craft a promise that is easy to remember and recall, for it is a symbol of a company’s ethos and the standards it sets for itself.
A lot of people confuse Brand Promise and Brand Vision. A brand promise (closely related to Brand Mission) is more like a contract between a company and its customers, but a brand vision is more like a grand plan for the future. It’s the real deal. It’s what customers can expect every time they interact with a company. A promise fulfilled = a brand that customers believe in and that staff is proud of.
“What you do” and “Who do you do it for?” is the essence of a brand promise. A brand promise is crucial because it sets customer expectations for the quality of products or services, and it is a critical part of the brand identity. When a promise is broken, a company can lose its reputation, customers, and market share. In fact, according to an Accenture Study, 42% of consumers walk away from the brand in frustration. One in five (21 percent) never come back.
How to Create a Strong Brand Promise
Crafting an excellent brand promise requires three key elements. The first is to keep it original but not predictable. A brand promise should reflect the brand’s identity and what it is known for. It should be something that the company does better than anyone else, that customers and prospects are aware of, and that the company feels confident in delivering time and time again. A brand promise is not just a marketing tool, but rather a driving force for growth and something that should be incorporated into the company’s day-to-day operations.
Step 1: Identify your target audience. This will help you understand what they expect from your brand and what they need from you. (For example, your Target Audience could be “conscious consumers who prioritize the environment and want to make a positive impact with their purchasing decisions”.)
Step 2: Pinpoint your unique value proposition. The point of your existence is that you either did something that’s never been done before or you did it better/differently than how everybody did it before. (in our above example this could be “top-quality eco-friendly products”)
Step 3: Emotion, Emotion, Emotion. Think about the type of experience you want them to have when they interact with your brand. What feelings do you want them to associate with your brand? What benefits do you want to offer them? (in our imaginary brand this could be something like “help the planet enrich your daily life”)
Step 4: Simplify and Make it Measurable. Unique, and Inspiring Your brand promise should be simple, clear, and to the point. It should be easy to articulate in one sentence and easy to measure. If you’re having trouble coming up with a concise brand promise, it may be a sign that you haven’t fully defined your brand’s purpose. (“free shipping or pay for shipping and plant a tree”)
Step 5: Follow through with action, Always. Make It Meaningful. Make sure to deliver the promise and make sure that you have backup processes to eliminate the possibility of this promise failing. Always fill up your online presence with proof of this promise being fulfilled.
Best Brand Promise Examples
- Coca-Cola: “To refresh the world and make a difference”.
- Amazon Prime: “Same-Day, One-Day, and Two-Day Delivery on millions of items”.
- McDonald’s: “make delicious feel-good moments easy for everyone”.
- Visa: “remove barriers and connect more people to the global economy”
- Pixar: “reflect the diversity of the society we live in”
Tell Me More About Brand Positioning?
Brand Positioning is how a brand distinguishes itself from its competitors. For new brands entering the market, this is especially crucial, as they need to show why they’re different from their competitors and why their audience should choose them. Understanding the mind of the audience is a critical aspect of an effective positioning strategy. To achieve this, it’s necessary to know who the audience is, what their journey is, what they desire and fear, and what outcome they hope to achieve. Only with this information can you effectively position your brand.
An effective position is defined by the difference you will make in the lives of your audience. It’s about defining what your brand will mean to them and what they will remember you for. Whether it’s faster service, superior design, or more luxurious products, it’s important to own a difference in the mind of your audience. The key to identifying an effective position is to understand what it is your audience really wants.
A brand positioning statement should succinctly describe the target market, how you want the market to perceive and experience the brand, and the core benefits your product or service offers compared to your competitors. To create your own brand positioning statement, answer three crucial questions:
- Who are my customers?
- What benefits does my product or service offer its users?
- And, who are my competitors and how do they differentiate and position themselves compared to your brand?
For example, let’s say you run a sports gear company. To position your brand, you might focus on the quality and durability of your products, but you should really hone in on that one thing that can’t be paralleled! This might be a 15% performance enhancement in pro athletes let’s say.
To illustrate this, the template for creating a brand positioning statement is “For [target market], [brand name] is [differentiating benefit] by [what makes it possible].” For example, Starbucks is a “premium coffee house that adds an intimate and valuable experience” by integrating caffeine with a comfortable environment. Or in our Sports Gear Company example, [Brand] is “For pro athletes that want to increase their performance by 15% using innovative technology”.
4. Target Audience
By definition, Target Audience is the elusive demographic of individuals most likely to be captivated by a company’s offerings. Knowing your target audience means focusing your resources on a specific group of consumers rather than casting a wide net and hoping for the best. Target audiences share common demographic markers such as age, gender, location, education, and socioeconomic status. This information is critical to a business’s ability to craft marketing strategies tailored to its core customers.
The process of determining your target audience is multifaceted and requires careful analysis of consumer data. The following steps will help you zero in on the individuals most likely to purchase your product or service.
- Analyze Your Customer Base: Start by examining who already buys your product or service. The age, location, and interests of your current customers should provide a good baseline for determining your target audience. Engage with customers on social media or distribute customer surveys to gain more insight.
- Conduct Market Research: Look at the trends in your industry and identify the areas where your product can fill the gaps. Look at what similar products are doing, and then focus on your product’s unique value proposition.
- Analyze Competitors: Studying your competitors can be very instructive. Take note of who they are targeting, how they’re reaching them, and which channels they’re using.
- Create Personas: Creating personas helps you focus on specific segments that make up your target audience. Personas should be developed based on data and survey results, as well as information from digital engagements, and should include information such as demographic data, personality traits, and consumer needs.
- Define Who Your Target Audience Isn’t: It’s important to determine who is not part of your target audience so you can avoid wasting resources trying to reach them.
- Use Google Analytics: Google Analytics can provide extensive data about the users visiting your site, including where they’re coming from, what type of content they’re engaging with, and what channels they’re using. This information can be leveraged to make more data-driven decisions during the media planning process.
In addition to the above steps, monitor the individuals who engage with you on social media. If someone is willing to engage with you, then they’re likely part of your target audience. Remember that even customers who’ve only purchased from you once are still part of your target audience, and it’s important to maintain a relationship with them even after the sale is complete.
Finally, remember that what’s cool, interesting, and good for you may not be for your customers. It’s important to consider their biggest difficulties, problems, and desires when defining your target audience. Your relationship with the customer should remain intact after the purchase, and the post-sales process is critical to keeping your customers happy and engaged.
5. Brand/ Marketing Objectives
No, we’re not talking about brand goals in terms of vision (we’ve covered that already). We are talking about a tangible aspect that requires a deliberate and methodical approach. Brand objectives, in particular, represent the defined aspirations and targets that a company seeks to achieve using its marketing maneuvers.
Examples of Brand Objectives can be Diversifying product offerings, Enhancing customer experience, Increasing customer loyalty, Expanding into new markets, Strengthening brand reputation, Increasing customer retention, and so on.
6. Market Research
Market Research in a Nutshell
Market research is a vital tool in the business world, enabling businesses to gather information on consumer behavior, market trends, and economic shifts, which is essential for evaluating and enhancing customer needs and guiding the business toward success. Through careful examination of key questions such as market demand, a saturation of similar products, competitor’s price points, and demographic information such as age, gender, income, and interests, you can improve your products and user experience.
You can craft marketing strategies that attract quality leads and improve conversion rates. Although market research can take time to paint an accurate picture of the business landscape, when combined with other data sources and business experience, it can provide valuable insights and benefits that can contribute to the success of a business.
Market Research Data
- Primary Research: involves collecting first-hand data through focus groups, surveys, interviews, observations, and market segmentation.
- Secondary Research: involves accessing existing data and information from credible sources such as newspapers, government statistics, and industry reports.
Market Research Sources
- Surveys: gathering data by questioning a sample of individuals from the target market. The data gathered can be either qualitative or quantitative and is used to gather information about the target market’s opinions, preferences, and behaviors.
- Focus Groups: bringing together a small, diverse group of individuals from the target market to discuss and provide feedback on a specific product or service.
- Observational Research: observing and collecting data on the target market’s behavior and actions in a natural setting. This type of research provides a more realistic understanding of the target market’s behavior and can be used to gather information on purchasing habits and product usage.
- Online Analytics: gathering data on the target market’s online behavior and interactions. This can include data on website traffic, social media engagement, and online purchases. Favorable for software services and digital products.
Brand identity is the culmination of all the deliberate efforts an organization puts in to cultivate a distinctive image in the minds of its customers. It encompasses tangible elements such as logos, design, and color schemes that aid in quick recognition and differentiation from competitors. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, 55% of brand first impressions are visual.
A strong brand identity is crucial for the success of any business, as it creates customer loyalty, stands out in a crowded market, builds recognition, drives clarity and focus, fosters emotional connections, and ensures consistency in all interactions with customers. For example, what comes to your mind when you hear the word “Under Armour”, or when you see this?
To build a positive, impactful brand identity, one must analyze the company, its market, and its goals, understand its customers and messaging, and implement consistent marketing and messaging strategies. Social media is an indispensable tool in this regard, as it plays a pivotal role in creating brand awareness.
Crafting a better brand identity than the majority requires taking a holistic approach that considers all elements of brand building, from the intangible (values, purpose) to the tangible (design, packaging). It entails understanding the target audience, analyzing the competition, and identifying what sets the company apart.
7. Brand Image
Brand Image is the coalescence of every interaction a customer has with a brand, molding their perceptions, beliefs, and ideas about it. In Sprout Social Research, it was found that when consumers don’t feel connected to a brand, 70% are less likely to shop there over a competitor and almost two-thirds (61%) will spend less with that business. And yet, for many entrepreneurs and small business owners, the idea of the brand image often goes overlooked as an added expense with little to no tangible value.
Here are some memorable brands and what their brand image looks like. What you can do is learn from them and come up with ways how to make sure your customers remember something about you, the name of the game is consistency.
- Coca-Cola: Classic red and white logo
- Apple: iPhones and sleek design
- McDonald’s: Golden arches and Big Mac burger
- Mercedes-Benz: Luxury cars
- Amazon: Convenient online shopping and fast shipping
- KFC: Fried chicken and the “Finger-Lickin’ Good” slogan
- Walmart: Affordable shopping and a wide selection of products
- Pepsi: The iconic “Pepsi Challenge” taste test
8. Branding Guidelines
A branding guideline is a comprehensive guide that outlines the rules and standards for representing a brand to the world. It is essentially a “rulebook” for centralizing the overall look and feel of a brand’s identity. The purpose of having a branding guideline is to ensure consistency and clearly communicate what the company is, what it does, and what it stands for. When creating a branding guideline, there are several key elements to consider. These include:
- Information about the brand’s history, mission, values, and vision
- Guidelines on logo usage, including color palette, file format(s), minimum and maximum sizes, contexts, spacing, and usage permissions
- The color palette, including RGB and CMYK codes
- Fonts and text sizes (both print and digital)
- The tone of voice and grammar rules
- Web-Design elements and UI/UX
- Types of imagery, icons, and photography to be used
- Business card and letterhead designs
While the above elements are frequently included in branding guidelines, the exact formula is not strict and other elements can be added depending on the specific needs and wishes of the brand. You don’t necessarily have to handle this yourself, you can easily outsource this to freelancers.
It is important to keep in mind that branding guidelines not only keep your brand consistent but also help build trust and authority for your business. From visual aspects such as logo usage, color palette, typography, design elements, and photography to the brand voice and tone used when speaking on the company’s behalf, a well-defined branding guideline helps to establish a strong and recognizable brand identity.
9. Brand Awareness and Online Presence
The whole point of brand awareness is to become the first option that comes to the mind of your customers when they think of products/services you offer. Brand awareness is a crucial step toward` building brand loyalty. Customers can only love your brand if they are familiar with it and can recognize it. Brand recognition and Brand Networth have a direct correlation.
To increase brand awareness, there are key tactics you can adopt. Firstly, you must create a recognizable brand by having a clear idea of what your brand represents. This includes defining your brand voice, aesthetic, and values that align with your target audience’s beliefs. You should also create a unique logo and tagline that will become the currency of your brand. Secondly, tell a brand story that goes beyond your brand values and voice, giving customers a deeper understanding of your brand and how it came to be.
How to Boost your Brand Awareness?
Social media is a must-have tool in the brand-building toolkit. Utilize platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to engage with your audience, share content, and promote your brand. It’s important to determine which platform is most popular among your target audience, and invest the time and effort to establish a strong presence on that platform. Regularly scheduled posts, prompt responses to customer inquiries, and interactive content can all help build brand recognition and establish trust with your audience.
Referrals are also a powerful tool for expanding your reach and building brand awareness. Encourage your customers to spread the word about your brand by offering incentives such as discounts, gifts, or exclusive deals. Dropbox is a great example of how effective referral programs can be, with the company offering extra storage space to users who refer friends to the platform.
Sponsoring is another strategy to consider. Partnering with festivals, concerts, or sporting events that align with your brand values and target audience can help introduce your brand to thousands of people in one go. By associating your brand with a well-known event, you can build recognition and gain exposure in a highly targeted manner.
Podcasts are another effective way to connect with your audience and promote your brand. Whether you’re sharing informative content, entertaining listeners, or educating your audience about your brand, a podcast can help build trust and establish a relationship with your target audience.
Guest content is another avenue to consider. By publishing high-quality, memorable content on other blogs and websites, you can introduce your brand to new audiences and make a lasting impression.
PPC advertising and remarketing campaigns are effective strategies for boosting brand awareness. PPC advertising can help you show up at the top of Google for relevant searches, even if users don’t click on your ad. Meanwhile, remarketing campaigns involve showing ads to users who have visited your site but haven’t yet converted, helping to build brand recognition and familiarity with your target audience. Paid social advertising on platforms like Facebook and Twitter can also be a cost-effective way to get your brand in front of potential customers.
While not for everyone, taking a controversial stance on a hot industry topic can also help attract attention to your brand. Of course, it’s important to approach this strategy with caution and consider the potential impact on your brand’s reputation.
Measuring and Adapting Your Brand Strategy
To measure the success of your brand strategy, set specific, measurable goals and track your progress over time. Regularly evaluate your brand strategy and make adjustments as needed to ensure you are reaching your goals and achieving the desired results. Your results can be tracked by either sales or visitors.
It is also important to gather feedback from your customers, employees, and other stakeholders to get a comprehensive understanding of how your brand is perceived. Consider conducting surveys, focus groups, and other research methods to gather feedback and insights.
In conclusion, a successful brand strategy is a critical component of any business’s success. By applying the steps provided in this article: establishing your mission and vision, defining your target audience, developing your brand personality, creating a unique value proposition, building a consistent brand identity, and measuring your success, you can create a strong and effective brand strategy that will help your organization achieve its goals and succeed in the long term.
Brand Strategy Vs Brand Identity
The former refers to a series of research and discovery steps that are done to position a company or brand in the eyes of the consumer, while the latter involves creating a visual image to represent the company’s brand strategy. Both share the same mission of creating a perception of what the company stands for, what makes it unique, and why it exists beyond making money.
What should I do to continually improve my brand strategy?
To continually improve your brand strategy, consider the following:
- Analyze and understand your target audience, their preferences, and their behavior.
- Stay informed on market trends and your competition’s strategies.
- Encourage and act upon feedback from customers and employees.
- Consistently evaluate and fine-tune your brand messaging, visuals, and marketing efforts.
- Continuously strive to deliver exceptional products, services, and customer experiences that align with your brand promise.
- Stay committed to your brand values and maintain brand consistency across all touchpoints.
Brand strategy vs Marketing strategy
Brand strategy and marketing strategy are often used interchangeably, but they are different concepts. The brand strategy focuses on the development and management of a brand, including the creation of a unique brand identity, determining the target audience, and defining the brand’s values and mission. On the other hand, marketing strategy involves the planning and execution of promotional activities to increase the visibility of the brand and drive sales. The two strategies are interrelated, but they have distinct goals and objectives. To build a successful brand, a company must have both a strong brand strategy and a comprehensive marketing strategy that aligns with its brand goals.
What About Personal Brand Strategy?
The same strategies apply to Personal Brands as well with minor modifications, You should identify your strengths, values, and passions, conduct a competitive analysis, and consistently communicate your brand through various channels such as social media, networking events, and personal branding materials. A well-crafted personal brand strategy can lead to increased visibility, career advancement, and professional success.
Harvard Business Review: A Better Way to Map Brand Strategy
“The Brand Gap” by Marty Neumeier
Coursera: What Is a Brand Strategy? And How to Create One
Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger