How to Master Brand Strategy
In a tech-savvy world, where we make many of our choices based on convenience and social media, businesses have to reflect on and change their methods of marketing and branding.
Trends change…. a company’s branding methods should keep up with the times, as the brand itself endures.
In order to be successful businesses have to be “THE diamond in a pile of pebbles”. So what exactly will make a business stand out amongst its competitors?
Identifying, creating, and developing a mindful brand strategy.
History 101: Branding
Brand strategy, what is it?? Back in the ’50s and '60s when branding became more mainstream, companies like Tide and Lipton Tea created unforgettable logos that paralleled with a quality product.
During this era quality meant everything. Most companies did not need to have a marketing department to set their business apart from others. They simply needed a unique product, catchy logo, and the quality or addictiveness that would keep customers coming back for more.
It was in the early 1990s that companies realized that if they had a quality product they could maximize their growth by improving their marketing plan.
Fast forward to the present day, a well-known logo simply isn’t enough. According to Forbes, “Branding isn’t about your logo; it is about your message.” A-men!
There are many quality products on the market, each with competitors that are equally as great. Branding is much, much more than just a great logo, slogan, and marketing.
What is a Branding Strategy?
In a world where you have choices; Uber vs. Lyft, Chipotle vs. Qdoba, how do these businesses grab your attention away from those evil competitors? Well, maybe not evil, but you get the idea.
Assuming you have a viable business and product, a successful brand strategy is almost always the difference.
A branding strategy includes determining what kind of product or service you want to market, what kind of goals you envision, and how you will implement a long-term plan to achieve those goals.
Building a branding strategy is essential in the early part of growing your business. If you are stumped on what to think about when building your brand, here is your roadmap to success.
Building a Brand Strategy in 12 Steps
1. Choose an idea, product, or service that you will create into your business.
When developing this idea, ask yourself these three key questions:
- Is it something that excites you?
- Does it stand out?
- Is there a need or desire for this idea?
Can you shout from the mountain tops how great your idea is? You need to be able to believe in your business and the benefits it can provide your targeted audience. Brands that have internal ownership and consumer buy-in will be more successful over time.
2. Choose a name.
This may or may not be an easy task. First, check the availability of your potential names. Is there a product or company that already has it? Think about what you want the name to portray. Keep it simple, avoid unusual spellings, relate the name back to what your company does. You want the consumer to know a little bit about what to expect from your company based off of the name. Avoid unusual spellings or names that will confuse the customer into thinking your company has something else to offer.
3. Think about how you want your company to stand out? How will you make your brand different than your competitors?
This is brand positioning. Positioning your brand can be done by highlighting the product attributes, product benefits, or the company’s beliefs and values. If we use the example of two competing laptop companies Mac vs. Dell.
Product attributes are simply the specifics about each of these products. Perhaps Apple is marketing the thin, sleek look of their Macbook Pro. This is the attributes of the product.
Product benefits are how the product will help the customer. Apple might market that their thin, sleek laptops will benefit the customer by making them more lightweight and easier to carry. While Dell might market that their products are high quality, cheaper in price, and will benefit the customer by saving them money.
Beliefs and Values engage the customer’s feelings. How they perceive a product and how they may be perceived if they are using it.
4. Develop a positioning statement.
Your brand positioning statement should be three to five sentences that really reflect what your brand is telling about your company and its products.
For example, Aveeno’s brand statement is as follows:
“To women who believe nature has the power to enhance health and make life beautiful. We are the brand of skin and hair transformation. That provides naturally healthy hair and skin. So that you feel naturally beautiful. We have/are/do Active Naturals which are selected from nature to deliver safe and effective skin/hair benefits. Proven by scientific testing. Recommended by professionals.”
They identify their target audience as being individuals looking for a natural option for hair and skin. Their statement remains clear, concise, and consistent with their vision. They also portray that their customers should entrust them because professionals back them.
5. What are your objectives? Who do you want to target with your brand?
Choosing a target audience is important when determining what your brand strategy will be. It will help to focus the direction your brand strategy will go.
6. Research. Study your customers.
You will have to really get to know your target audience…really, really well. Making business choices based on your audience is important in being successful. Make decisions that target their interests… target their income…. age. Jobs. What makes them feel alive.
7. Define your market. Who are your competitors?
Determine what makes you different than the others. What makes your brand stand out? Think about what your product is and why it is something that your target audience should want to buy. Find your niche within the industry that your product or service aligns with.
8. Identify what you envision for the future of your brand.
Think about the potential changes that may occur within your industry. Try to use your fortune-teller abilities and think 5-10 years down the road. Can your brand evolve within the industry and to remain unique from your competitors?
9. Identifying keywords within your website and online content can make your company more visible.
Keywords are considered the building blocks of your brand (online and offline), and they can help define your target audience to identify what your specific brand has to offer.
10. Market your brand.
How are your going to market your product? Increase your visibility and reputation. For example, are there social media sites that align with your marketing strategy? With so many marketing options today it is important to make sure that everything remains consistent, clear, and portray your branding strategy appropriately.
11. Create a website that supplements your marketing strategy.
Choose a website name that is the same or very similar to the name of your brand or logo. Research the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) and how the internet can help boost your business. Create your website based on the values and beliefs of your marketing strategy. Make it visually appealing to your targeted audience.
Consider a color system when choosing a website or any other visual marketing tools. A color system is a brand’s master color guide. For example, consumers relate all varieties of green to relate to earth, recycled, or environmentally friendly.
The strategic selection of color, tones, and hues can evoke emotion towards your brand, therefore, it needs to remain consistent throughout.
12. Evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing strategy.
Is your company where you want it to be? If not create a timeline with company-specific goals. Strong brands don’t happen by accident. They require focus, coordinated effort, and consistent resources over time.
If you are not reaching your identified goals it may be time to reposition your marketing strategies and position statement.
When Is It Time To Reposition Your Brand?
- Your brand no longer fits the category of product you are trying to promote
- Your key audience has shifted and you are not targeting your targeted group of people
- The market is defining you differently then you envisioned
- Your business is no longer aligned with your brand strategy
- Your messaging is inconsistent and your company is not reaping the benefits it should be
- Growth within your company has stopped
- You are being out-branded, out-marketed, or out-sold
- Your competitors are winning
Brand Boosters vs. Brand Killers
Booster: One of the key areas of importance that has been identified with successful brand strategy creation is to really decide on your target audience and get to know them.
Killer: A mistake that businesses make with their branding strategy is to attempt to target all audiences. If you direct your money and time towards the general population much of your efforts might be lost.
For example, if a real estate agent decides to create high-quality expensive flyers it is in his best interest to hand these out in a targeted area that may have a lot of homeowners moving. If he doesn’t do his research and choose a targeted consumer majority of his flyers will be thrown into the garbage resulting in lost money and time.
Booster: Creating visibility for your brand.
Killer: Relying on the idea that “our work speaks for itself”. You should not leave it up to the consumers to promote your brand and make your company visible. Quality doesn’t always translate into a strong brand because it lacks visibility.
Booster: Creating a unique brand within your industry that really promotes your niche.
Killer: Developing a branding strategy to fit in with your competitors. Accepting that your brand looks like everyone else’s will not make you stand out. Really highlighting your differences and spinning your brand around those differences and towards your targeted audience will.
Booster: Really ensuring that your brand revolves around something that you believe in or enjoy. If you believe in it and back the business you will likely be able to focus on how to create an authentic brand to show your audience that they should love it too.
Killer: At the risk of stating the obvious. Don't phone it in. More than ever people know when someone is full of shit or not. There are so many choices at our finger tips. Be you and do it mindfully and intentionally.
Key Words to Consider when Creating your Branding Strategy
Brand Ambassador – This is the person or persons recognized to be the face or spokesperson of the brand. This can be the CEO, a loyal customer, employee.. anyone who really believes in the brand. At Marcus Theaters the CEO and former CEO (father/son duo) are well known in branding their own company.
When you are sitting in the theater right before the show starts the current CEO (the Marcus son) gets on the screen and thanks everyone for choosing Marcus Theaters. Then an older man pops up right next to him and includes a sentence about how with Marcus Theaters the sequel is better than the first. Meaning his son has created a better business then he was able to. When you think of Marcus Theaters it is easy to recall the two of them there sitting on the screen. They utilize the fact that it’s a family-owned business to target their audience on values and beliefs.
Brand Attributes – This is how you will better describe how your business or company is unique. It sets the tone-of-voice for all communications/marketing regarding your brand. Is your brand cost effective? Functional? Innovative? Indispensable? These attributes need to be your cornerstones when making decisions for your brand.
Brand Identity- This is the outward expression of a brand within a market. It should be consistent amongst all elements including brand, logo, taglines, tone, and typography.
Brand Positioning - The distinctive space that a brand occupies in its competitive environment to ensure that individuals can recognize and select the brand over others. Brand positioning involves the careful manipulation of all marketing elements in order to claim the brand’s desired market position and clearly establish its unique impression in the customer’s mind.
Brand Management - This is an important piece in your brand strategy. Evaluating the execution of your brand identity. Is your brand identity consistent? It has to remain consistent over time. This means on social media, in blog posts, with customer experiences. All of this has to remain cohesive in order for your brand to continuously be portrayed the way you envisioned. In order to do this someone has to manage and evaluate all of these areas continuously over time.
Key Benefits of a Great Branding Strategy
Get Recognized – Businesses that have a better reputation coupled with a high level of visibility to their target audience have a strong brand. People outside of your target audience may even recognize your brand. A strong brand equal strong consumer game.
The Halo Effect – People tend to view performance as all good or all bad. For example, if a man owned a Dodge truck that broke down prematurely he will likely say something along the lines of “I’m not buying another Dodge vehicle they are made poorly.” Likewise, other people “only” purchase cars from a specific brand that they feel are good quality cars. Honda, for example, is thought to make cars that last well over 100,000 miles. When a business develops a great quality product consumers feel like their other products are just as good.
Employee Satisfaction - Employees enjoy and feel satisfied when working for a reputable, well-known company. A company that develops a strong branding strategy will attract employees that align their beliefs and values with that of the business. Coupled with increased employee satisfaction you will likely have a decreased turnover rate.
What Is A Branding Agency?
So you have come up with a really great business idea. You are so excited, you love your idea, and you believe others will too! … but there is one problem. You don’t have the background or knowledge necessary to successfully create a brand that will portray your idea the way you want it to. Where can you find the help you need to tell the world about your exciting new business adventures?
Or perhaps after reading this blog post, you are still unsure as to how you are going to create your best brand and brand strategy….
Consider using a branding agency. A Branding Agency specializes in the strategic brand building and management of that brand. This is separate from a marketing agency. Marketing is considered just a piece of your brand. It should be consistent and reflect your brand, however, as discussed a brand is much much more.
Branding agencies focus on brand positioning to identify the uniqueness of your business idea, identify and create a target audience, and position your brand effectively amongst competitors within your market. They also focus on identifying with the mind of the consumer rather than focusing on communicating with the customer.
Brand Strategy Summarized
Recapping the important ideas from this article. Brand selection, brand positioning, and brand strategies are all essential pieces to a powerful, well-known business. It will set you apart from others within a saturated market. Make sure that you research your market and target audience. By researching and reading about the importance of brand selection, brand positioning, and creating a brand strategy you may have the key to a successful brand right in the palm of your hands.