WHAT IS STRATEGIC BRANDING?

[Strategy Template To Master The Art]

Before we answer the “what is strategic branding?” question, let’s get our understanding of strategy out of the way so we’re on the same page

In simple terms a strategy is a plan to achieve an outcome.

Like anything, from a journey to a sport, you need to have a good idea of what you want the outcome to be before you set out to achieve it.

Journeys are a lot easier today than they were 200 years ago when you needed an actual map and some actual thinking to go with it.

Today you just pop where you want to go into the GPS and follow the arrow. No need for a plan. No need for thinking.

If only branding was that easy. Just pop in “Leading brand in industry” and follow an arrow to the destination.

But it’s not.

Branding… (Successful branding anyway), still requires a plan and still requires thinking.

If you’re building a brand for which you aspire success for… you’d better be strategizing how you’re gonna achieve it.

Before we answer the “what is strategic branding?” question, let’s get our understanding of strategy out of the way so we’re on the same page

In simple terms a strategy is a plan to achieve an outcome.

Like anything, from a journey to a sport, you need to have a good idea of what you want the outcome to be before you set out to achieve it.

Journeys are a lot easier today than they were 200 years ago when you needed an actual map and some actual thinking to go with it.

Today you just pop where you want to go into the GPS and follow the arrow. No need for a plan. No need for thinking.

If only branding was that easy. Just pop in “Leading brand in industry” and follow an arrow to the destination.

But it’s not.

Branding… (Successful branding anyway), still requires a plan and still requires thinking.

If you’re building a brand for which you aspire success for… you’d better be strategizing how you’re gonna achieve it.

What Is Strategic Branding?[The Video Breakdown]

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Strategic Branding vs Visual Branding

Visual branding is what 100% of all brands do.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a brand without a logo, but brands without a strategy are a dime a dozen.

These are what I call “Blind Brands”.

Aimlessly wandering in any direction without ever defining where they want to go, let alone planning for it.

They dress the part in order to attract suitors, but without a strategy to engage, resonate with and nurture those suitors, nothing sticks

Visual branding as a solitary strategy is what the early brands in the 1820s used to do.

Sticking a logo on a crate of the product was enough to stand out back then.

Today it’s a different world and the consumer is a different beast.

They have high expectations and if you’re expecting them to be bowled over by the beauty of your visual brand, brace yourself for the inevitable thud.

Why Brand Strategy Is So Important

When addressing the question “what is strategic branding?”, we need to start with brand strategy.

Brand strategy is the cornerstone of modern branding.

It’s a plan for a brand to achieve its intended outcome… but it’s more than that.

Strategic branding brings a brand to life in the mind of its audience so they see the brand as a living entity and subconsciously engage with it as such.

A brand with a belief, personality, a familiar tone of voice and a message that speaks on an emotional level to your pain-points will make a connection with you.

Visual branding has a job.

Its job is to establish brand recall to lead back to the living entity that makes connections.

If all you have is a visual brand with nothing in place to make connections it’s on a lonely road into the abyss.

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Types Of Branding Strategies

Branded House

A single brand exists which acts as the entity for all of the company’s products or services. They are promoted under the same overarching messaging strategy and positioning strategy.

Apple is a perfect example of a branded house

Although all of their products are individually branded with their own branded names (Macbook, iMac, iPhone, iPad), they all fall under the branded house that is Apple.

House Of Brands

A house of brands is an overarching parent brand that houses individual brands, which run as their own entities with their own strategies.

These individual brands have their own target audiences, positions and messaging strategies along with their own visual identities.

A perfect example of a house of brands is Unilever.

Unilever has a unique brand identity, market position and messaging strategy though it has over 400 brands that fall under its banner including Dove, Lynx, Lipton & Lux

Though the brands operate independently, they should align from an internal brand perspective (beliefs, values, etc)

1) Internal Branding

The internal brand is the guiding compass of the brand which is a core element in bringing the brand to life as a human entity.

It includes human characteristics such as beliefs, aspirations, commitments and values.

2) Audience Persona

The Audience persona (buyer persona / buyer avatar) is the profile of the audience the brand wants to connect with.

An effective persona is full of detail which goes beyond demographics and psychographics and uncovers pain-points and emotional connections.

3) Competitive Analysis

A solid competitive analysis provides the brand with a clear outlook on the options their target audience already has.

This analysis uncovers the differentiation strategies of the competition and outlines their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.

A comprehensive analysis should provide enough information to be able to identify how the audience feels about the options they have and where they may want something more or something different.

4) Differentiation Analysis

A differentiation strategy is the cornerstone of the positioning strategy and the overall brand position.

It aims to set the brand apart from its competitors by offering their shared audience something different when compared to all of the other options in the marketplace.

A unique differentiation strategy can be the distinction between a brand that is remembered or forgotten.

5) Human Brand Persona

Brands need more than a visual identity to make connections.

The brand must come alive as a human entity to engage its audience on a human level and make real human connections.

A brand with a human persona is far more likely to resonate with their audience given the human personality at its disposal.

6) Tone-Of-Voice

Just as important as what you say to your audience is the way in which you say it and an effective tone-of-voice allows brands to communicate on the right frequency.

Whether your tone-of-voice is sophisticated, witty, professional or reassuring, the audience, in their moment of need, will appreciate and resonate with a tone-of-voice which intends to help them in that moment.

7) Tagline

The tagline is not just a catchy set of words.

It’s a brand element with a job to do and that job is to work alongside the logo to achieve brand recall.

The tagline acts as a shortcut in the mind of the audience and the right tagline can help a brand to solidify its position in the mind of its audience.

8) Core Message Framework

The “core message” as most brand builders understand it is not the tool you use to connect with an audience.

A traditional core message is a distilled message, which encapsulates the brand offering though it lacks effectiveness as a tool to guide ongoing communication.

The core message framework outlines all the key elements the audience needs to understand about the brand to help the brand connect though all of the audiences’ relevant needs.

9) Storytelling Framework

We as humans remember story based information 22 times more effectively than we do facts and a compelling brand story can draw an audience in to want to hear more.

The critical aspect of an effective brand story is who it is about.

It’s not about the brand or its founders. It’s about the audience, their struggles and their path to success.

10) Brand Identity System

The brand identity system (or the visual brand) is most easily identifiable element of the brand due to its visual aspects.

We are visual beings and our brand allows us to recall visuals more easily than complex information.

Though it plays a critical role in brand recall, it needs far more behind it for the brand to connect.

#1. Internal Branding

The internal brand is the guiding compass of the brand which is a core element in bringing the brand to life as a human entity.

It includes human characteristics such as beliefs, aspirations, commitments and values.

#2. Audience Persona

The Audience persona (buyer persona / buyer avatar) is the profile of the audience the brand wants to connect with.

An effective persona is full of detail which goes beyond demographics and psychographics and uncovers pain-points and emotional connections.

#3. Competitive Analysis

A solid competitive analysis provides the brand with a clear outlook on the options their target audience already has.

This analysis uncovers the differentiation strategies of the competition and outlines their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.

A comprehensive analysis should provide enough information to be able to identify how the audience feels about the options they have and where they may want something more or something different.

#4. Differentiation Analysis

A differentiation strategy is the cornerstone of the positioning strategy and the overall brand position.

It aims to set the brand apart from its competitors by offering their shared audience something different when compared to all of the other options in the marketplace.

A unique differentiation strategy can be the distinction between a brand that is remembered or forgotten.

#5. Human Brand Persona

Brands need more than a visual identity to make connections.

The brand must come alive as a human entity to engage its audience on a human level and make real human connections.

A brand with a human persona is far more likely to resonate with their audience given the human personality at its disposal.

#6. Tone-Of-Voice

Just as important as what you say to your audience is the way in which you say it and an effective tone-of-voice allows brands to communicate on the right frequency.

Whether your tone-of-voice is sophisticated, witty, professional or reassuring, the audience, in their moment of need, will appreciate and resonate with a tone-of-voice which intends to help them in that moment.

#7. Tagline

The tagline is not just a catchy set of words.

It’s a brand element with a job to do and that job is to work alongside the logo to achieve brand recall.

The tagline acts as a shortcut in the mind of the audience and the right tagline can help a brand to solidify its position in the mind of its audience.

#8. Core Message Framework

The “core message” as most brand builders understand it is not the tool you use to connect with an audience.

A traditional core message is a distilled message, which encapsulates the brand offering though it lacks effectiveness as a tool to guide ongoing communication.

The core message framework outlines all the key elements the audience needs to understand about the brand to help the brand connect though all of the audiences’ relevant needs.