Whether you have a thriving small business that you’re comfortable maintaining or have dreams of international distribution with a global clientèle, you need a brand strategy to support the longevity and durability of your business.
Brand strategy is a long-term plan that treats your brand as an important part of your business. Branding expert Marty Neumeier explains it best: “a brand strategy is a plan for the systematic development of brand in alignment with a business strategy.”
Why You Need A Brand Strategy
Suppose you haven’t developed your brand strategy or aren’t sure how to change your bad branding strategies. In that case, it’s highly likely you’re already running into some common problems related to business growth and maintenance.
For example, chances are, what you’re selling isn’t the only product or service of its kind. That’s not to say that what you have isn’t valuable; it’s just that there are already versions of it available.
So how do you make yourself stand out? Your brand. And how do you best use that brand to your advantage? Your brand strategy.
Your strategy will be what sets you apart by communicating the value and uniqueness of what you’re offering and why customers should choose your version over the competition.
If you don’t have a brand identity, your customers will identify you by your product instead, which means you’re at the mercy of their need or desire for whatever you’re selling.
In the same vein, you can have a great brand identity, but without a proper brand strategy, you won’t be able to properly integrate it with your business. Instead of being something that attracts and invites, your brand will just be a pretty ornament on a shelf.
What’s In a Brand
In the global marketplace, your brand can be the most valuable asset your company has.
Your brand isn’t your business name, logo, or the products you make. Your brand isn’t anything so tangible, but instead, an idea—a series of associations.
A good way to frame it is like a reputation: what does your brand promise, and how does it keep its word? When it delivers on that promise, how does that make people feel?
Let’s say you sell fruit. You don’t want to just be a place that sells fruit. You want to be the ideal place to buy fruit! You want to communicate that your fruit is the best, and buying fruit from you makes people feel good.
Strong brand identity and a good brand strategy will take you from “fruit vendors” to The Fruit Company. Suddenly, customers can build a relationship with your brand. When they think of your business, they have positive memories of good times with good fruit.
So how do you do that? Let’s start by looking at how to develop your brand identity.
Developing your brand identity
When developing your brand identity, your focus should be on building something that evokes specific, positive feelings when your customers think of you.
Think about that other famous fruit-related company: sure, they have products people want, but their success wasn’t built on what they were selling, but their brand.
More than a product, they sell the idea that they’re on the cutting edge: they’re smart and exclusive, and buying their products makes you a part of that, and that feels good.
These qualities may or may not be real, but the investment in brand identity and strategy makes them real and turns consumers into fans of the brand, and by default, the company and its products.
If you’re not sure where to start on developing your brand identity, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What problem does my brand solve best?
- What kind of image does my brand portray?
- What’s my brand’s origin story?
- Who is my brand (and who is my brand not) for?
- Who is my competition, and how does my brand feel about them?
- How does my brand make my customers feel?
- Why should my customers trust my brand?
Another way to frame brand development is the creation of the perfect (for you) person.
Companies often use celebrities as short-hand to communicate brand identity. When they associate someone widely admired with their company, they create a strong, positive association between that famous person, and they become a part of that brand.
So what if you imagined your brand as a celebrity. Who would they be? What’s their personality like? What tone do they use to communicate?
Don’t be afraid to get hyper-specific: is your brand a gentle grandparent whose down-to-earth wisdom makes everyone—no matter their age— feel like their favorite grandchild? Is your brand a self-serious person (but in a funny, ironic way that lets people in on the joke)?
Your current brand identity
After you’ve figured out your ideal brand identity, find out how people currently feel about your brand, or if your business isn’t up and running, how they feel about your main competitors. There are a number of ways to do this, the most common among which is a brand audit.
Ask people what they think of your company, your product, and what makes them choose you over the competition (or vice-versa.)
By polling colleagues and your existing customer base (as well as the customer base you want to capture), you can figure out your current brand and use it as a starting point to implement your brand strategy.
Creating Your Brand Strategy
Investing in the brand
It may be difficult to get everyone involved to buy in on investing in brand strategy. The things they create aren’t instantly tangible: you can’t buy more products or pay your staff with your brand strategy.
But it could be the difference between working for a few years and getting by financially and being a successful enterprise that creates jobs and builds careers.
As previously explained, when someone is looking to purchase a product or service, your brand is what’s going to make you stand out from the competition. And the consistency of that brand will create trust and goodwill, creating loyal customers and fans.
Ideally, brand strategy development happens alongside the business model: while you’re figuring out how to produce and distribute your product or service, you’re thinking about brand identity, how to communicate it to consumers, and how it will support your success.
Developing your brand strategy
If your company is already up and running and you don’t have the capital to invest in a firm that specializes in branding and brand strategies, don’t worry. You can still work on yours by figuring out these key elements:
- Your brand identity (who they are, what’s important to them, what’s their purpose)
- Messaging (what does it say, what tone does it use to say it)
- Visual (what does your brand look like, how does it reinforces identity and messaging)
Sorting out these main elements will be key in determining how to implement them consistently. But before you begin doing that, you have to figure out where you currently stand.
Implementing your brand strategy
Once all the elements of your branding strategy, your next step is to strategize implementation alongside your existing business strategy. What can this look like? The possibilities are almost endless:
- Create position statements that clearly state what’s at the core of your brand. These can be used as slogans or taglines in promotional material.
- Choose a unified visual language through color, fonts, and graphics that tie in with your identity. Make sure they’re universally used and adopted throughout your company and in all the marketing. That way, when people see elements of your visual language, they’ll see your brand.
- Figure out how your employees are going to look, work, and address the customer. Do you want a uniform, or maybe ask them to dress in a certain color palette? Do your employees have the ability to self-determine how they present to customers? Is there specific language that they should be using?
The Bottom Line
Spending time, energy, and money on something as intangible as a brand and brand strategy may feel like a waste. Still, if you take the time to develop and implement yours properly, it could become as important as any other asset that your business possesses.
By getting your brand strategy in place and keeping it in mind when you develop any part of your business, your investment will pay dividends. BRANDefenders provides the services you need to deliver on your brand strategy. The best decision you can make for your brand is just a click away.