What Is Brand Strategy? – Top Tips for Designing Yours
A brand strategy and a business strategy are both needed for starting a company. They may overlap at certain points, but there are key differences between the two. Remember the “I’m a Mac” / “I’m a PC” adverts? Your business plan is kind of like the PC. It’s concerned with how you’re going to make money. It worries about the revenue and the projections and the operations. It needs a formal mission and vision statement, competitor and segmentation analyses, a business model, and a marketing budget.
Your brand strategy will look much more like the Mac. As with all things branding, this is where it gets a little more human. It will outline your brand’s unique characteristics, values, and positioning. It will act as a guideline for the specific ways you will connect with your customers, such as what their experiences and problems are, and how you’re going to solve them.
In other words, while your business strategy answers the question of “what do we do?” your brand strategy answers “who are we?”.
What is a brand strategy anyway? Key components:
- Customer profiles: Who is your target customer? What do they look like? What do they value?
- Brand values: Why did you start? What are your core beliefs? What will you never compromise on? How do your values align with your customers’?
- Brand story: What were the events, processes, or ‘eureka moments’ that led to the establishment of your company? Is your personal history relevant? How?
- Brand tone of voice: What is your brand’s ‘personality’? How will it speak? Is it relaxed, authoritative, formal, jovial, etc.?
Why do I need a brand strategy?
Essentially, the idea is to create a manifesto for the image you want to present to the world. The benefits of doing this are threefold.
- A brand strategy keeps everybody on the same page. This is a document that you, members of your organisation, and any external contributors like designers, copywriters or PR agents can refer to. This is worth its weight in gold when deadlines and budget pressures start to crowd in. It acts as a vanguard against brand dilution or any off-brand messaging.
- Your strategy reminds you of why you exist. Not you personally, that’s kind of a bigger question. But your brand. Outside of making money, why are you here? This is the key to crystallising the brand values that will set you apart from the competition. This will keep you grounded when success, investment, or changes in structure or management start to pull you in different directions.
- Having an established strategy allows you to measure progress. If you revisit your original document after a year, you may find you’ve deviated considerably from your intended path. This empowers you to decide whether to revisit original values, or recalibrate them. It might remind you of what’s important, or clarify what needs reevaluating.
What is brand strategy? - practical tips for figuring this out
When we talk about branding, it’s a lot of theory. Here are some practical ways you can start pulling together your brand strategy document – dedicating a page or slide to each of the following:
- Identify your customer. You can orient a campaign towards a customer when you don’t know who they are. Create an ideal consumer profile – Hubspot’s amazing customer persona tool can help with this. You can then check back in with this persona to make sure your decisions align with their values.
- Establish where you are now. If you’re starting from scratch, look around at your practices, your commitments, your beliefs, and your staff. If you’ve been in business for a while, look at your customers. What is your brand saying to the world? This will largely be done via honesty and introspection on your part, but if you have staff and customers, this is a great time to ask them how you’re coming across too. Consider questionnaires, surveys, and prompts like “what springs to mind when you think of us?” and “how you would describe [our brand] in 3 words?”.
- List your core assets. This is a great time to lay down your brand personality traits, story, tone of voice guidelines, and design collateral such as logo, typefaces, and Pantones. Make sure they’re in alignment with the principles outlined by you and your stakeholders above. Are they clear and memorable? Do they elicit the right emotions?
- Establish where you want to be. Now that you’ve distilled what you stand for, ask yourself: how do we align with the current market? With competitors? With trends? What opportunities can your brand values help you seize? Check out this article for some guidance on brand positioning.
What do I do with my completed brand strategy?
If you thought you were done with your strategies, you’re almost right! You’ve got another to think about: your marketing strategy. This should be the easiest yet, as your brand strategy has already formed the basis. Your marketing strategy is much more practical, outlining exactly how your brand is going to be implemented and sold to the world. Herein lies the function of the brand strategy: to act as a blueprint (or bible, depending how evangelical you want to be) for all future outward communications and presentations of your brand.
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