Brand Strategy Explained

The majority of small businesses waste a lot of money on marketing. The most common cause of this is that they are unable to communicate their purpose clearly because they have no defined brand strategy.

How are clients supposed to figure it out if you can’t clearly communicate it? Why would clients do business with you if they can’t figure out what you do or why you’re doing it?

Brand strategy is not about how to design your brand so it looks great on your website or social media. Brand Strategy is the only BS you’ll  WANT in your business.

Why? 

Brand Strategy helps you achieve your business plan. 

Your brand strategy determines how you’ll differentiate your business and influence people’s perceptions of you. 

People don’t necessarily buy the programs, products, or services that are the best; they buy the ones that they relate to and make them feel good. 

What’s brand strategy?

Despite common misconceptions, a brand strategy is not a logo. Brand strategy is not the promise you make to your clients nor the reach, impressions, or touchpoints you’ve created with your clients as part of your marketing strategy. 

It’s not the colours you use or which social media platform you’re on. Branding is the gut feeling that your ideal clients have about you. So if you’re the brand, it’s the feeling about you. If your business is the brand, it’s the feeling about the programs, products, or services you offer, your employees, your visual appearance, and much more. 

Your clients get those feelings when they hear, see, think or touch things associated with your brand. Memories are the result, and those memories can impact your reputation. 

Your brand is your reputation. But it’s not what you think your reputation is. It’s what your clients and prospective clients say it is.

“Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.” – Marty Neumeier.

What does a brand strategy do?

Brand strategy sets the foundation for all of your branding and marketing. 

It’s a way to create the reputation that you want intentionally. It differentiates your business from others in the market by visual identity, tone, personality, programs, products or services, customer experiences, culture, purpose, and every other aspect of your business.

In the same vein, your brand strategy impacts your business’ culture even when you’re a solopreneur.

As your team grows and expands, they too create a “vibe or feeling” that your clients sense. By factoring your values and brand strategy into your interviews for new hires, you’ll be better able to keep the “vibe” going the way you want it. 

Coaches, entrepreneurs, and small business owners often overlook brand strategy when their business is snowballing and they need to hire help. For instance, the very fact that the business is snowballing is because of the brand and incredible reputation they’ve built.

In addition, your brand strategy helps you tell your business’s story.

What’s included in a brand strategy?

Here are the Primary elements. 

Purpose 

The primary element of a strong brand strategy is the ‘Purpose’, the WHY behind the business. 

It’s the business’s raison d’être.

A brand’s purpose is generally linked to the business making money and a more significant ideology where the business impacts the world somehow.

According to Verne Harnish, research shows that “they will give you 40% more discretionary effort” when your team is in tune with your purpose. 

To help you find your brand’s purpose, check out Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why” or his Ted Talk on the same topic.

Vision

The brand’s vision refers to its aspirations and how it wants to see itself in the future. It speaks to WHAT your business will achieve.

A great brand will articulate and embody a clear direction and point of view on what its purpose is destined to achieve. They will look into the future and determine where they’re going. They’ll look internally to ensure they’re not straying from that future vision and to ensure that everything they’re doing is keeping them on track to making that vision a reality.

To help you get clarity on your brand vision, consider at a high level what you will accomplish due to your purpose. 

You can learn more and find examples about your brand vision from the Harvard Business Review article “Building Your Company’s Vision” by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras.

Mission

Your brand’s mission is the plan of HOW you will fulfil your purpose and vision whilst staying true to your values. It can be what differentiates you from your competition using your unique framework or roadmap.

Often with a mission, there will be a timeframe. It can be the timeframe over which you help your clients or the timescale by which you will achieve your company vision. 

Break down what your mission is, by considering the following:

  1. Who is your target audience?
  2. What is the timeline for the delivery or achievement of your vision?
  3. What is the delivery method?
  4. What problem will it solve for your target audience?
  5. What’s the destination for your mission?

Values

Your brand values are the belief or characteristics that shape the culture of your business and influence behaviours and decisions. 

In a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum across 25 countries, an average of “70% of respondents say they buy from brands they believe reflect their principles.”

To help you with identifying your brand values, ask yourself.

  1. What is important and meaningful to me?
  2. What beliefs would I be willing to stand up against others for?
  3. What behaviour do I value so much that I become very passionate when I speak about it?
  4. What behaviours do I demonstrate or believe are essential when deciding on my business?
  5. For any values you are considering for your brand, aim to articulate them by doing the following.
    1. Write out one sentence to provide some context that explains your values. 
    2. Add to that sentence an example of how you’d like to see that value demonstrated in reality.
    3. Outline what action or behaviour would be the opposite of that value and unacceptable in your business.

Other core elements in a brand strategy are:

Customer Identity – Who will you serve to achieve your business goals and objectives?

Core Aims – What the business aspires to achieve and how.

Design – The brand’s visual identity which will be attractive to clients.

Program/Product/Service/Framework – How you will fulfil your purpose. Your delivery method as such.

Story – The message that your brand portrays in which you invite your ideal clients into a story with your business. 

Competitive awareness – Understanding who your competitors are so you can differentiate your brand from them and stay ahead of the curve.

Archetype – A method to decipher your brand personality, behaviour, tone, and that of your ideal clients.

Consistency – ensuring each element of your brand works in harmony with the rest over time.

Emotion – Determining the emotional impact and benefits of what your brand delivers.

Flexibility – Being open to trying new things.

Loyalty – Finding ways to deliver experiences that are so exceptional you’ll never lose a client again.

Why do I need a brand strategy?

This is perhaps a question you’re pondering now, having read the above. So let me ask you, why do you need a business plan? Why do you set business goals? 

Just as you map out a business plan before you start your business, you need to develop a strong brand strategy for your business. 

Do you want to know how strong your brand strategy currently is? Take the free brand quiz and find out.

What is a good brand strategy?

A good brand strategy contains all the elements above, each of which has been carefully considered and researched. 

One of my brand strategy idols, Denise Lee Yohn, says seven brand-building principles separate the best from the rest. These include:

  1. Great brands start inside, i.e. primary brand elements outlined above
  2. Great brands avoid selling, i.e. they speak to emotions and benefits whilst inviting clients into a story with them.
  3. Great brands ignore trends, i.e. they don’t jump on every fad or into every new social media platform just because it’s the latest. They give careful consideration before changing their business as usual operations. They anticipate and advance cultural movements, connecting internal primary brand elements to create their future and vision.
  4. Great brands don’t chase customers, i.e. they use storytelling, visual identity, and experience design to become magnetic.
  5. Great brands sweat the small stuff, i.e. they value each customer and demonstrate this at each touchpoint. They are in pursuit of perfection in this regard.
  6. Great brands commit and stay committed, i.e. to their primary brand elements and their ideal clients. 
  7. Great brands never have to “give back”, i.e. they start with the end purpose in mind whilst making a better world by inspiring widespread change.

What’s brand positioning? What are some brand strategies?

Brand positioning is how you differentiate your programs, products, and services in the eyes of your ideal clients to achieve a competitive advantage. You can do this by applying any or a combination of:

  • Making your offer perform faster and easier.
  • Providing better value by making your offer cheaper.
  • Styling your offer in such a way that it’s sexy and attractive gives that sense to your ideal clients, so perhaps they feel that way when they engage with your brand.
  • Providing a more luxurious offer that is higher in quality and price.
  • Being disruptive means doing things differently from your industry’s norm or introducing new concepts that change the market entirely.
  • Consistently innovating using technology and breakthrough programs, programs, or services. 
  • Sustainability, environmental and conscious missions within your business to enhance the world we live in.
  • Focussing entirely on the service so that your clients receive a higher level of service and customer care.

What’s brand marketing? What is a brand awareness strategy?

These two are intertwined, so let’s look at them together. 

Brand marketing is your business’s long-term strategy to increase your brand’s position, reputation and people’s recognition of it in the marketplace.

Brand awareness is the metric of how well your audience recognises your brand, its programs, products, or services.

What’s the difference between a brand refresh and a rebrand? 

Here’s an analogy to help you understand the difference between rebranding and a brand refresh. 

Imagine you give your living room a complete makeover. If you’d get new furniture, change the colours, carpets, etc., that’s the equivalent of a brand refresh. You change some elements of your brand without overhauling the entire home. So in the instance of a refresh, you might change colours and fonts or make minor changes to your logo.

A complete rebrand, on the other hand, is like knocking down your home and starting from scratch with the foundations. It’s about building every room in a new and often very different way to what was there beforehand. Therefore, a complete rebrand creates all of the above elements from scratch. 

When should I do a brand refresh?

A refresh might be required when:

  • You want to expand your reach to a new audience
  • You want your image to remain relevant in the marketplace
  • You want to spice up your brand
  • You need to preserve the integrity of your brand
  • You feel you need a deeper connection with your audience
  • You need to change direction, so your business remains relevant
When should I rebrand?

When should I rebrand?

Here are some reasons that would call for you to consider rebranding.

  • Your audience’s perception of what your brand is does not match your perception of your brand.
  • Your target audience has changed drastically due to situations such as a global pandemic or situations like war, or Brexit.
  • Your business model has changed, including changes to your core program, product, or service.
  • Your industry is rapidly evolving due to technological changes and advances, and if you don’t change, you’ll get left behind.
  • Your business name is causing issues whereby it is not memorable, it’s too literal, or it’s too generic.
  • You’ve outgrown your brand. You’ve achieved what you’ve set out to achieve, and now you’re ready to go bigger and better.
  • Your reputation has suffered irreparable damage.

The whole concept can appear intangible until your brand strategy is articulated visually and verbally. It’s one hundred per cent worth it to create and define a playbook that outlines your brand strategy and guidelines. You can get these for free on Canva, and I’ve got one you can purchase on my website that has a detailed breakdown of how to complete it for your business. 

Is branding worth it?

100% Yes. And getting help with your branding is the equivalent of going to the salon for a haircut and blowdry instead of doing it yourself. It always turns out to be that bit better than the result you get when you do it DIY.

It’s often easier to get someone to help you with doing what they’re experts at, so don’t feel this is a journey you have to go on alone. 

Conclusion and key takeaways

There are many common misconceptions about what constitutes a brand strategy. Building a great brand takes time, effort, and consideration. Essentially, when you do build it, you have an encyclopedia for everything in your business. You must be consistent for your brand to generate the results your business would like. 

Deirdre Martin is a business mentor that specialises in brand, marketing and customer experience. She is a keynote speaker, business award winner and bestselling business author. For a FREE business breakthrough call, go to Deirdre’s calendar and find a time that works for you. Follow on LinkedIn!

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