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Developing a long-term plan for building your brand can seem like an overwhelming task. Where do you start? Here are five tips for building an effective brand strategy.
An effective brand strategy should communicate a company’s purpose clearly and concisely. This is especially true when businesses are starting out because the company purpose becomes its guiding light or north star. It’s not enough for businesses to just conduct business for the sake of profit. Consumers are weary of these kinds of businesses which are hard to scale and spread to a wider audience.
On strategy for revealing a company’s purpose is to work through what Simon Sinek calls the Golden Circle. In his research and eventual world-renowned book Start with Why, Sinek discovered the most powerful messaging hierarchy—Why, How, What.
Most companies talk about what it is they sell—computers, candy, soda, tennis shoes. And while the actual thing they sell is important, it’s not interesting to people outside the company. For the perfect brand strategy, talk about why the company does what it does. Nike, in all of its marketing and brand positioning, talks about its mission and why they sell their products: Every Body is an athlete; the ‘why’. From there, they talk about how they create products in light of this mission: they keep you warm in the winter months, let you run further with less pain, help you to not sweat too much before that morning meeting; the ‘how’. Only at the very end of there messaging and brand strategy is the shoe, sweatshirt, or tights they are actually selling.
Define your company’s purpose at the start of a brand strategy session and the rest of the process will be a breeze.
Next, define your business niche. What do you offer? Who are your ideal clients? How will you differentiate yourself from competitors? Once you've answered these questions and many more like them, think about how you'll position your business within your industry. You might choose to focus on one particular aspect of your product or service, such as customer service, quality, or price. Or you might decide to emphasize a broader set of values, such as sustainability, innovation, or community involvement.
A particularly valuable strategy for defining your business niche and market strategy as part of your brand strategy is to develop brand matrices. A brand matrix is a simple comparison of two things on which you compare competitors and yourself. For example, a new car company who wants to compete with BMW might put all BMW cars on axes that compare price vs. luxury, family friendliness vs. affordability, integrated technology vs interior finishes, etc.
By placing competitors on these kinds of graphs, companies can develop a visual of the marketplace in order to define open niches and market opportunities as part of their brand strategy.
Next, conduct research to determine what people associate with your brand. This includes conducting surveys, analyzing social media posts, and talking to current and potential customers. Ask them what they expect from your brand and why they chose to work with you or not.
Companies can also survey the market to uncover their actual needs. Whether companies do this with actual research studies or by developing user journeys in an integrated design process, research of this kind can be invaluable.
There is always the dichotomy of what brands want to say versus what customers want to hear.
The process of conducting brand research reveals what connects with customers. This in turn allows brands to develop a strong and compelling message as part of their brand strategy.
Once you understand who your ideal customer is and how to speak to them, you need to develop a unique selling proposition (USP) that will help differentiate your product or service from competitors. One of the best resources on this is a book by Alex Hormozie titled, “Million Dollar Offers.” In it, author and entrepreneur Alex Hormozie outlines a formula for what exactly makes the best offers.
With all the other steps in place, companies need to communicate their brand visually. Brand identity design is a process that can incorporate all the previous steps in order to develop a unique visual system. With a proper brand identity, companies are able to effectively communicate their purpose, values, message, and offer through their website, social media, and other channels.
All too often, companies lose thousands of dollars due to unclear brand communication and experiences. Part of the brand strategy is effectively communicating the what a company offers throughout its entire customer experience. Whether a physical space or digital journey, customers are looking for fully developed brands to trust.
In 2018, Starbucks revamped its brand strategy and brand touch points. They overhauled their digital experiences first, as more and more customers were moving to purchasing online and through apps. They made purchasing on a mobile app seamless with the in-store experience so customers could get the same product with less headache. Then when the pandemic hit, they took advantage of their empty physical stores to roll out new brand experiences in light of their new brand strategy. The new stores shifted the focus away from the coffee and onto the customer experience in the store. Out with the dark and moody coffee bean, in with the light and modern work environment.
A brand starts with you but, ultimately, it ends with the perception people have of your business and the actions they do or don’t take as a result. By shaping every aspect of your brand purposefully, you can have a positive impact on the perception and response of your audience, not to mention supercharge your advertising.
Whether your business is large or small, old or new, prioritizing your brand strategy will pay off in more ways than one. From stronger relationships with your audience, a better reputation, more exposure, and increased revenue, brand strategy can improve every aspect of your business.
We covered a lot in this post, so here is a simple list of the five tactics we provided to help you develop a winning brand strategy.