Let's start with a metaphorical cliché. With no map the traveller is likely to wander off track. As you ask your colleagues and customers to travel with you towards your vision, a brand strategy is that map.
For this reason, I would suggest that the brand strategy is one of the most important documents your business could produce.
Don't have one? Let me try and convince you to take steps to get one.
What a brand strategy is not.
Firstly let's be clear. A brand strategy is not a business or marketing strategy. A business strategy is a high level plan for reaching specific business goals. These are typically growth goals. A marketing strategy is usually a response to a business strategy, in how marketing will be used to reach those goals. These strategies are typically set out or reaffirmed on a year by year basis with details of regular activities, marketing channels, metrics and budgets. Business and marketing strategies are temporary. They are full of facts and figures. They are full of pie-charts and tables. They put the business first, not the customer. Most people in your company will never read them or ever want to read them.
A brand strategy is altogether different. It is eternal and universal. It should outline the sum of all of the items we have looked at in the process thus far. It should define the brand, why it exists, the audiences it is serving and the narrative which needs to be told to those audiences. It is customer centric. It outlines how the brand should communicate. It is the high level principles upon which the brand operates. It should underpin the business and marketing strategies that the company produces.
Benefits of having a brand strategy
So. Why should you take the time to create a brand strategy?
The benefits of having an effective brand strategy are:
Unity - Your colleagues can unite around a clear vision of what the brand stands for enabling joined-up and effective decision making. You look forward and have a foundation on which to continue to build your brand.
Clarity - You can communicate clearly allowing for prospects and customers to understand exactly what you deliver. It becomes easier to attract and begin dialogue with new prospects because they quickly understand what you stand for. You acquire loyal customers quickly because your prospects’ experience with you supports everything you say.
Ultimately having an over arching strategy in place will affect your bottom line. It will help you attract the right customers and staff because people will better understand your cause and be able to join it.
Once a brand strategy is in place, your marketing team has a framework to look at how they can take that story and tell it effectively. If you have physical spaces, such as a retail store, the interior designers have a basis for decision making - indeed, because it is a clear, emotional strategy, it can become the basis for any creative brief.
I’ve known these used in HR and induction packs to help with hiring and set expectations of new employees. I’ve also seen these used as a check point for business decisions.
Don't have one? Get one.
What should a brand strategy contain?
It's not rocket science. But it's not easy to produce a brand strategy.
A brand strategy is the emotional compass of a business. It should be inspirational, punchy, engaging and clear. It should be well designed in keeping with the brand personality which it is explaining. Ideally it should be no longer than 20 pages long, with each page containing no more than 400 words (even less if possible!).
If I were writing up a brand strategy I would typically ensure it contained the following areas:
Brand DNA: ‘Why’, ‘Who’, ‘How’ and ‘What’ of the brand.
Brand audience - the personas the brand exists to serve.
Brand personality - based on an archetypal character.
Brand manifesto - what we do and do not believe in.
Brand story - a one page emotional brand story which describes why the brand exists
Brand mantra & motto - 3-5 words for within and for without.
If you are interested in finding out more about these subjects I blog about them on this website regularly.
After viewing this strategy the reader should be left in no doubt about why the brand exists, what the brand stands for, what it does not stand for, who it serves and its overall behaviours and beliefs. Ideally if they are the right audience for the brand they will be excited by it.
Without defining the brand’s personality and story it is so difficult to unite teams so that they all pull in one direction. For these reasons having a brand strategy is crucial for any business with growth ambitions or that values it’s branding. A brand strategy is the foundation stone in managing the meaning of a brand.
How to produce a brand strategy
There are really two ways of going through the processes above to create a solid brand:
Do it yourself - Someone within your organisation could lead the charge and set out a process by which the relevant workshops and work can be undertaken. The benefits of this is that those involved know the brand and it’s offer as it stands.
Get outside help - You could look at getting a consultant or branding agency in to help you and your team. Using this method you would get access to tried and tested processes and these would be coupled with the goals and knowledge of the leadership team. As outsiders they might also bring interesting insights into the offer of the brand, especially if they are connected to research methods. The other great thing about an outside team being brought in is that they have no part in the internal politics of a business. They can remain objective and deliver advice which can go against the grain because they will be judged on the basis of the success of the brand and project.
Photo by Daniil Silantev. Source Unsplash.
As time goes on, the universal principles your brand strategy contains can be referred to again and again. If you want to create a business that is customer centric with a consistent story, then your brand strategy will become the guide to all decisions which affect customers.
Going back to our metaphorical cliché. With a map in play, the traveller will not wander off track. As you ask your colleagues and customers to travel with you towards your vision get yourself a brand strategy. It is your map.