If you want to know how to create a brand strategy & build strong brands that go beyond aesthetics then you’ve come to the right place.
Now don’t worry.
I’m not about to unleash “A brand is not a logo” speech on you. (You don’t deserve that monotony).
You want actionable steps you can take to build brands through strategy, am I right?
Well, that’s what you’re getting in this article so let’s not flaff about and get stuck in.
How To Create A Brand Strategy
[The Video Breakdown]
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What Is Brand Strategy?
So, let’s clear up the basics before we go on.
When you build a brand, for yourself or a client, you’re building an entity to connect a business with an audience.
Try as you might, no shiny brand identity or logo will get the job done.
In order to make that connection, you need to first understand what that audience wants.
Then you need to devise a plan to not just tell them you have what they want, but show them why its different and the value it will bring them in a way that makes them feel connected.
This plan is the brand strategy and every business needs one.
Why Is Brand Strategy So Important?
Well, this is straight forward given the previous section.
If you have plans to promote your products or services in order to grow your business, then you’re going to want to give yourself the best possible chance to be successful.
Every professional sports team on the planet takes the time to work on their techniques, understand their opponents, look for weaknesses and then devise a strategy to beat the competition.
Why do all professional teams do this? Because it’s a proven formula for success.
Does it mean that every team with a strategy wins?
No. But every successful team has a strategy.
If you want your brand to be successful, it needs one too.
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How To Create A Brand Strategy
[In 14 Easy Steps]
Now that you know your brand needs a strategy, you just need to whip one up and head out on the success train, right?
You see, strategy is an art form. And just like any other art form, it takes some time to learn and more time to master.
But there is a roadmap for success which has been laid bare by the most successful and most loved brands in the world.
If you follow this formula, you’ll know the path and you’ll simply need to work on mastering it.
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Develop Your Internal Brand
The very first step sets in place solid foundations for the rest of the brand.
Even those who believe in the idea of strategy, often skim past this section or overlook it completely.
But you can’t build a house on sand. And if you don’t take the time to build a solid foundation for your brand, it won’t take long for cracks to appear.
Your internal brand comes before your visual identity. It starts with “Why” and defines the internal “Who” of the brand.
These elements must be defined with direct contribution from the brand leaders as they represent the beliefs, commitments and behaviours of the brand — all of which are driven by the leaders.
Define Your Target Audience
In order for your business to survive and then thrive, it must have something of value that a certain group of people want.
This group of people is the brand’s target audience.
The more vividly this group of people is defined, the better you can understand them and ultimately connect with them.
Emotions are the key to successful branding and understanding their challenges and pain-points are the key to unlocking those emotions.
Starting with their psychographics and demographics, you can carve out a silhouette of their circumstances and behaviours though you need to take the time to dig deeper in order to truly understand them. This is called a buyer persona — a fictional representation of the individual you’re targetting.
Map The Competitive Landscape
A critical task in any strategy is to understand the hurdles to success.
One of the most obvious hurdles for any brand are the other brands that exist in the market that are competing for the same audience. If you’re launching a new product in the sportswear space, for example, you’ll conduct market research and quickly find a successful brand like Nike as your top competitor.
Your brand needs to stand apart from these competitors as the brand of choice.
To be successful in standing out, you must first understand what your competitors are doing — then do things differently to them.
If you simply replicate what’s already in the market, you’re not giving your audience anything new. Therefore, you’re simply contributing to market noise.
Uncover Your Positioning Strategy
When you know your audience and what they want and you know your competitors and what they offer, you have a clear map of your market landscape.
This map is a tool you can use to identify gaps and opportunities for your brand to take advantage of.
What does your audience want that they’re not getting from your competitors?
What do they want more of?
What do they want less of?
Where do they want an alternative or a better way of doing things?
How can you do things better?
Can you save them time?
Can you save them money?
Can you save them stress?
This is where brand differentiation starts. Answering these questions opens up possibilities for you to position your brand as an alternative or better version of the competition, ultimately giving your audience a justifiable reason to pick your brand over theirs.
Shape Your Brand Personality
Once you’ve defined the position you want to take in the market, you need to devise a strategy to convince them that you provide more value, a better experience, or a more convenient solution than your competitors.
How you define your difference will be key in developing your communication. But “How” you communicate will play a vital role in whether or not that message is well received.
As humans, we all connect with other humans through personality and the characteristics we display.
As we’re all different, we all display a variation of characteristics and we decide subconsciously whether or not we like them based on their characteristics.
We connect with brands in exactly the same way.
If you can identify the characteristics that your audience are most attracted to and develop a brand personality to connect through those characteristics, your brand messages are far more potent.
As an exercise, consider some of the world’s biggest brands and dissect their personality. Think about Coca-Cola (or choose a brand you connect with personally) and consider aspects like how it communicates, its tone of voice, how its values and messaging impact its audience, and how its visual identity reflects all these factors.
Identify Your Tone Of Voice
Much like the uniqueness of your personality, how you speak is also unique to you.
And like your personality, your brand voice sends out signals, which carry the characteristics you display.
When we hear a tone of voice that displays characteristics we’re more attracted to, we’re far more likely to listen to what they have to say.
Once you’ve identified a personality which is most aligned to attracting your market audience, you must then enhance the believability of that personality with a tone of voice to match. This is all about brand alignment.
This doesn’t mean you need to record audio to capture that tone (though this is a technique you can use). But identifying the characteristics you specifically want your brand voice to carry is a fundamental part of an effective brand strategy because it will deliver your brand message as it’s intended.
Develop Your Messaging Strategy
Through your personality and tone of voice, you’ve defined “How” you’re going to deliver your brand message.
Now, you need to define exactly “what” message you want your audience to receive.
It’s critical that you quickly satisfy the burning subconscious decision we all have when we’re confronted with something new. That is:
“What’s in it for me?”
This will tie in directly to the position you defined in an earlier step.
Your message’s end goal is to shape the perceptions of your brand in your audience’s mind.
Defining what you want your audience to understand about your brand will go a long way to deciding whether or not your brand will be successful in earning that position in their mind.
Craft Your Brand Story
We’re all fascinated by story, but why is this?
It’s because we’re pre-programmed to listen to stories as it want to primary source of knowledge transformation from one generation to the next for millions of years.
Throughout these years, our DNA has evolved to raise our attention levels when we hear a story as traditionally, stories have been a vital source of information to assist in survival.
This instinct within us is more alive than ever before as our brains work overtime to filter out unnecessary information.
If you can wrap your messaging up in a story or a series of stories to help your audience to understand why your brand is valuable to them, their biological makeup means they’ll instinctively be more attentive to what you have to say.
Develop Your Name & Tagline
This step might seem out of place so far along in the brand development process.
But both the name and the tagline are simply forms of brand communication.
Yes, they play a vital role in your audience remembering your brand and recalling why it’s important, which is precisely why the brand name and tagline are developed so late in the game.
At this stage you’re clear on what your audience wants, why you’re different, the value you offer, the characteristics you want to display and the message you want to deliver.
It’s obvious then that a name and tagline developed with this information are far more likely to act as a strategic branding tool than if they were developed before.
Design Your Identity
This is where the term “a brand is not a logo” really has some context.
At the point you design your visual brand, you have already developed 90% of the entire brand.
This doesn’t mean that the brand identity and the logo design is not important.
On the contrary;
a brand identity and logo that can be developed with such strategic insights is far more likely to appeal to who the audience is and the characteristics they’re attracted to.
Your brand identity includes:
Whether you’re designing this identify yourself or simply managing the process, it’s imperative that your design team is armed with this strategic knowledge for design direction.
Craft Your Brand Collateral
The brand identity, laced with its strategic insights, should pave the way for a consistent suite of brand collateral which may cross digital and physical products.
This collateral is the first blank canvas for both your strategy and identity.
Typography (aka fonts)
They all make their debut in the brand collateral development, which can include
Social Media Pages
Point of Sale
The brand collateral development is the dressing room for the brand’s opening performance. Your collateral is a way of guaranteeing that your potential customers perceive your brand cohesively in all touchpoints of your marketing efforts. Marketers keep brand identity cohesive across all channels by using a strict style guide and, oftentimes, creating templates for everything from social media to newsletters and packaging.
Define Your Brand Awareness Strategy
Your target audience development sets the groundwork for your marketing strategy. And the brand awareness strategy is the first campaign.
At this stage, you already have a crystal clear picture of who your audience is, including what they like and where they congregate (eg forums, magazine sites, meetups, social platforms and groups etc).
These congregations are key in developing your brand awareness strategy.
However, identifying where your audience congregates is only half of the battle.
A great strategist also identifies the potential effectiveness of each of these congregations, prioritises your efforts based on this potential and then develops the messages for each direction.
In other words, you need to know where they’ll be most open to your branding messages and develop the most appropriate messages for that environment.
Content marketing is a great tool for brand awareness. Once you’ve identified where your audience spends their time and where they’re more likely to be receptive to you, you’ll be able to create content that attracts and engages potential customers. You can use a mix of social media and other digital marketing channels to increase exposure and generate interest.
Either way, it’s important to set expectations and define what success looks like before launch.
Launch Your Brand
Once you have all of your collateral, a plan of attack and branded messages at the ready, it’s time to launch.
Depending on whether or not you have a budget (and the size of that budget) will determine how quickly you make an impact and raise your level of brand awareness.
Keep in mind that a comprehensive brand strategy doesn’t necessarily equate to a massive budget. If you don’t have much of a budget at all, then much of your work will be through guerrilla tactics and hard work (such as visiting forums and groups to answer questions and contribute to conversations).
If you do have a budget, you need to quickly keep control of spend and ensure your initiatives are moving the needle.
Analyse, Optimise & Evolve
Whether this is you or someone you’ve brought in to help you, you need to have a firm grasp on your metrics to understand what’s working and what’s not so you can pivot, optimise and improve your brand and business strategy.
Before the digital revolution, advertising was reserved for big brands with big budgets and even then, there were no analytics to make strategic decisions if something wasn’t working.
Today, even a small business owner with five dollars can get their message in front of a highly targeted audience.
The key is in understanding the tools and knowing how to leverage them.
Luckily, they’re available to everyone and it’s your job to understand how to use them effectively.
If you’re building a brand and you’ve made it to the end of this article, then you’ll know that a logo on its own is no longer an option. Instead, starting with a solid foundation requires you to define the core of the brand. Aspects like brand values, brand promise, value proposition, mission statement, target market, and long-term goals are fundamental before you even think about the visual components like brand colors.
Brand building is a strategic process with many moving parts you need to understand.
Luckily for you, 90% of your competitors don’t understand them.
So make that advantage count, follow this roadmap and build a strategic brand.
Are you building a brand and if so, which of these steps will you implement first?
Let me know in the comments below.
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