What is a Brand Strategy? 7 Positive and Powerful Steps

June 21, 2024
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A ought to be something any organisation should have in place, or know why they should have one.

A brand strategy sets out how over the long term, you are going to establish what your brand stands for, and how you're going to communicate this.

Is a brand strategy different from a strategy? I'd say yes. The brand strategy is focussed on your brand itself, has longevity, and should be closely aligned with your strategy.

Your marketing strategy is a year by year plan on how you invest to support your business goals. Your marketing strategy may change as you execute individual marketing plans

What is a brand strategy overview
Where does a brand strategy fit into an overall marketing package?

What is a Brand Strategy : Purpose and

Consider two very different business types:

  1. A high street discount retailer
  2. A high end business consultancy

What is the inspiration behind each which might motivate engagement and sales? Consider a one sentence ‘elevator' pitch for each, which every staff member should know.

1) We sell everyday products at prices everyone can afford

This sentence captures what the business does, who it does it for and why.

What about the consultancy? They sell into a market of high paid, high skilled and educated people, so price isn't the main consideration.

2) Our [market specific] expertise boosts your business to another level

This one is harder and more abstract as consultancy can cover many different specialist areas. You want to imply the recipient is better off with your services without making unfounded promises “make your business the market leader”, unless this actually something you commit to doing. Here's an example from a real business I know of: “We are industry experts with a proven track record, who understand your business” – still generic.

The point of the sentence is to capture your business and the value it brings to the recipient, in as few words as possible. The better this sentence, the easier the rest of the brand messaging becomes, as you expand on this once sentence into longer expressions.

For instance:

FormatText
One sentenceWe sell everyday products at prices everyone can afford
Two paragraphsWe sell a range of key household products. We aim to be the cheapest on the high street.
LongerWe sell household products on the high street which people need regularly. Our pricing is aimed to be cheaper per item than other retailers, and offer discounts for bulk.
LongestUsing our knowledge of households we stock the items that people need to run their home and buy in a regular basis. We buy in bulk to get the best discounts which we pass on to our customers. We aim to sell most of our products at a lower price than other retailers local to our shops.
Expressing a brand purpose

What is a Brand Strategy : Position in the market

By what metric or measure do you compare your business to others who compete with you? Examples might be:

  • Price
  • Location
  • Stock range
  • Services range
  • Business size
  • Depth of expertise

Some are easier than others to quantify but you need to do your research (which really belongs in your commercial strategy) to know where you win and lose. You don't want to waste marketing and sales effort on a strategy which targets the biggest strengths of your competition, and your weakest spot.

Find your competitive advantage and use it to grow market share e.g.

  • We are cheaper than X
  • We are local to you
  • We have X product lines, more than our competition
  • We have services X, Y and Z which exceeds our competition
  • We have X employees enabling us to serve you better / nearer / quicker than the competition
  • We specialise in X more than anyone else

Knowing where you stand in the market leads directly into your brand messaging and advertising and is crucial to a good brand strategy.

What is a Brand Strategy : Audience needs

Corresponding with your competitor research is finding the hard truths about what your audience (or customers or supporters) want. It's easy enough to jot down a few sentences by I've learned that the needs of the few can be outweighed by the needs of the many (quoting Mr Spock).

e.g. The needs of your perfect customer may only represent 10% of your market, whereas the other 90% have less easily defined needs and take more effort to land as sales.

How do you find out the truth about what your target audience really want? When asking people, there an are a variety of reasons why your sample size needs to be around 1,000 people. You/we need to find at least that many people, who aren't your current customers and ask them carefully crafted questions.

Asking closed end questions which lead to confirmation bias won't help – leading people to confirm what you think you know isn't useful. What you want to learn is what you don't know, which is hard.

Firstly consider where you can reach out to at least 1,000 people. Perhaps you have a sales prospects email list, or followers on social media, or by buying responses at random from SurveyMonkey. Whoever they are, you need to know if they are an existing customer or not, to differentiate their feedback.

Next consider the report you want to write from the data. Construct the charts and lists you want to produce and use made-up data to draft them. Working backwards from the report format will lead you to create survey questions which provide the input data you need, otherwise there is a risk

Consider these two questions:

  1. Which of these is important to you? Pick those that apply
    • Choice A
    • Choice B
    • Choice C
  2. Please rank these choices in order
    • Choice A
    • Choice B
    • Choice C

Question 1 will deliver the equivalent of a vote, counting the number of times they rank Choice A. Question 2 will give you subjective information on the relative importance of the choices, differentiating between each.

Other considerations for learning audience needs:

  • Consult existing customers with questions to find out how well your product or service actually meets their needs
  • Ask your own staff questions on what they think the audience needs and compare with what the audience says
  • Find out from your respondents whether they've spent money with your competition and why

What is a Brand Strategy : Your offering

Assuming you've done your research into your target audience and competitors, this gives you direct input into defining (or updating) what you offer and why. For a company selling physical products you now have the information you need to decide on pricing, and which products to promote as sales leaders. I worked with a beauty products firm who made sure that they sold one leading product range cheaper than everyone else, to ensure their firm showed up first in the Google Shopping results.

For a service based business, the way you describe what you offer and the order in which you explain the benefits should be driven from the research. At the same time, you have the knowledge to explain why prospects should choose your firm over another.

Creating this internal document will need a 360° view using the research plus all the company stakeholders. The output is a document which sets out your catalogue of products and services, how the compete, and the priority you give to each in your sales approach.

Your offering document needs to contain:

  • Your list of products and services
  • How they compete with your competition specifically
  • The sales priority you want to place on them, and therefore marketing investment
  • An expression in words of the Value Proposition in the eyes of the buyer

What is a Brand Strategy : Character

How is your firm going to communicate in public? Here's one way of attracting attention on socials:

A deliberate strategy to seem ‘unhinged' online when in fact a UK TV company wants to adopt the same casual tone online as many people do.

The same approach won't work for all businesses and especially not for B2B enterprises unless you plan carefully and be brave.

Here's one way of capturing where you stand on your corporate tone of voice:

Channel 4 is clearly in the humorous and casual quadrant, but where is your firm now, where are your competitors and what tone would make sense to your prospects? Knowing this and making a decision on the future will underpin your copywriting for brand messaging and sales.

Another way of considering your firm is the culture, here's another example:

An innovative and modern firm may feel that using humour will express that culture. Some firms may realise that taking more risks to be modern and innovate is the future of the firm. A workshop on this topic is a great way to find out what sort firm you are now, and where you want to be in the future.

What is a Brand Strategy : Visuals

And finally the bit which seems easy but usually generates passionate arguments, how you express your firm visually. The underlying components include colours and fonts, but also styles of illustrations, photography, patterns and shapes and biggest of all your logo.

You only need to dig a little to find that major corporate logos get updated more often that you realise. When you see the small differences you wonder sometimes why they bother – given how many real world items will need to be redesigned and reprinted with a new logo.

Personally I think the Apple logo has got more and more boring over time. I can see the cost benefit of a single colour but they've certainly moved from ‘casual' to ‘corporate' on the culture chart.

One day I'll write about colour theory and psychology but for now the chart above serves to show how closely some of those brands match on the precise colours they use.

The deliverables you need as the basis for your brand include:

  • A colour palette with at least 5 complimentary colours. One is your main brand colour, the rest are there for practical purposes as highlights or backgrounds
  • At least two fonts, one for headings and one for body text. Using more than two in your designs will confuse people unless there's a functional purpose
  • A logo, both in colour, monochrome and on various backgrounds

My advice is to argue about the main brand colour first, get that agreed and then fill out your palette. There are many colour tools available for you to try, but in my experience an experienced designer is the best way to find a good colour. Here's one AI based colour tool, plus another where you can try out your colours with sample contexts such as shop fronts and websites.

For font choices, be aware that commercial fonts come with licensing terms. They require you to license the font per computer, per page view or per document usage. Designers tend to choose commercial fonts because they're embedded in font libraries within Adobe tools and other platforms.

My advice is to choose a Google Font, it's completely free and usually has enough style choice to meet your brand needs – no licensing at all. Here's another source of high quality free fonts too.

What is a Brand Strategy : Approach

All of the above takes considerable time and effort to do well. I've seen brands transformed through this process, as it extracts and inner character of a firm and how they're going to market themselves in future. My advice is this:

  • Run a series of workshops to explain this process and discuss each step
  • Iterate – you won't arrive at final decisions until you've had time to reflect
  • Experiment – try things, see how the combination of visuals and tone of voice can bring different perspectives
  • Test – try things on your prospects, find some individuals willing to give you honest feedback on how your ideas affect them
  • Keep the end in sight – all this is meant to give new energy to your company identity, leading to increased sales

What is a Brand Strategy : Resources

Find out more from other sources such as these:


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