4 steps to start developing a brand strategy

Aug 17, 2020

All in all, branding comes down to telling your own story in a compelling, earnest and consistent way. We, as consumers and customers, all enjoy a story that captures our attention and inspires us to action, but when you share your story with the world, you need more than just a few good details; it’s brand strategy that steers the ship.  

 

What is brand strategy? 

 

Brand strategy is a complex term that can be interpreted in many ways. It is a set of rules of what to do and what not to do in the name of your company, a set of goals to achieve, and a game plan on how to go about achieving those brand goals. The most essential part of your brand strategy, in our opinion, is being true to who you are. Your brand strategy needs to identify what you do, what you believe in, who you are serving and in what way. It’s about consistently acting, communicating and presenting your core to your stakeholders and wider audience.  

 

Brand strategy influences the entire business 

 

Brand strategy affects more than just your social media content calendar, marketing campaigns, and your visual style. At its core, brand strategy impacts everyone: customers, employees, shareholders and new hires. A well-defined brand strategy affects every aspect of evolving business, and people can tell (really!) when there’s a coherent brand strategy at work.  

 

Things fit together, messaging is clear and in line with operations, and there’s a consistent tone everywhere you look. On the flipside, if brand strategy is messy and incoherent, people can tell—right away. When people align with the work you’re doing and see the value you are providing, you’ll attract them organically. They’ll buy from you, invest in you, tell all their friends, and if, or when, they’re in the market for a new job, they’ll be submitting their resume to join you.  

 

We all want to be that amazing brand that is innovative, that is fair and consistent, that is considered top quality, that is doing good for the environment and society, and that manages all this while being profitable. It can be very enticing to create a brand identity and strategy that reflects on who your company wants to be while ignoring who you really are. Don’t make this mistake. Your people are smart and will see through your green/white/blue washing 

 

To create a brand strategy that accurately reflects you, consider these things: 

 

  • How does your brand talk? (Voice) 
  • How does your brand act? (Personality)  
  • What’s your brand’s story and overall mission? (Reason for being) 
  • What are your values? (Why should people care) 
  • What problem are you solving? (How you are making a difference) 
  • How are you different from your competition? (What sets you apart) 

 

Each department will have their role in bringing brand strategy to life. Your best brand strategy will ripple out to meet your consumer’s needs, determine how you’ll tap into human emotion, and, if you’re lucky, help you outshine your competition.  

 

4 steps to get started with brand strategy 

Let’s get started by reviewing the first four steps to get started with your optimal brand strategy. 

Don’t rush this part of the process  

 

First of all, take your time with developing a brand strategy that works for you long-term. We have a tendency to fly through the initial strategic steps and get onto the “good stuff” like trying things out and implementing ideas on social, but a solid brand strategy will make your life easier later on. Ever heard of “scope creep”? Everything should be counting towards something. Put intention behind every move you make. When you’re not in-line with your brand strategy, you’re veering off the path and wasting valuable resources.  

Get clear your purpose and your promise 

 

What’s your reason for being? What’s your story and what’s your mission? Knowing these important details that are unique to you and your business allow you to get clear on what you actually offer to customers and how you deliver on those promises. Brand sentiment, or how people feel about your brand, is one main metric for measuring brand success. Do people see you as you see yourself?  

 

Document all this information in a Brand Book so that everyone in your organization knows what your company stands for. Find out how to best do this by downloading our free Brand Book creation guide. 

 

Let’s take a real-world example:  

 

Beautycounter is a clean skincare company with a mission to get safer products into the hands of everyone. The founder and CEO, Gregg Refrew, launched the company because of her passion around eradicating harmful ingredients in everyday products and working towards updating outdated legislation that covered the industry. The brand formulates safer beauty and hygiene items free from 1,800 ingredients that are either harmful or questionable.  

 

Beautycounter’s brand strategy is not just delivering safe products, but they also embrace a core pillar of education and advocacy. They educate the public on this need for change and they leverage awareness all through their sales force, people who have decided to become activists. Embedded in Beautycounter’s DNA is a brand strategy to fight for change.  
 

Tap into what it means to be human 

 

We relate to one another creatively. We love details and we crave personality. Part of brand strategy is figuring out how your company is human and getting your employees involved. Make sure everyone is trained on how your brand talks and how your brand “acts” and what values matter most. The more human you can be and the more emotion you can elicit from your target audience, the more power there can be!  

 

Let’s take another real-world example:  

 

Alaska Airlines is the fifth largest airline in the United States, and as a brand, they pride themselves on delivering low fares with genuine, caring service. Their strategy is likely rooted in how they can fill planes and sell more plane tickets. A segment of their target audience is surfers and get-up-and-go, wanderlust travelers who will click “Buy” when there’s a really good deal.  

 

Back in November 2019, Alaska tapped into a creative way to “speak” to their audience. With the launch of Swell Deals, Alaska partnered with Surfline (a global surf forecasting website) and offered discounts based on the height of waves in Hawaii. The bigger the wave that day, the bigger the discount. People paid attention, and the Swell Deals campaign drove bookings and earned nearly 1B media impressions 

 

Aim for the long-term but adapt as things change 

 

Okay, let’s talk Netflix, a brand we’re all familiar with. If you’re looking to stay relevant in the real-world, you’ve got to think on your brand strategy long-term, but you also need to adjust accordingly. Some ideas may work one season and won’t work another. Originally, Netflix was an online DVD rental business that specialized in the niche indie films, ones you probably skipped right over at Blockbuster. Netflix gave these films a fighting chance.  

 

Remember when they mailed you DVDs to your house? Netflix built their business around individualized and curated movie recommendations based on what you watched and loved and, over time, grew into something larger. Now Netflix is a streaming service, film production company, and film distributor, all-in-one. Make time to evaluate feedback regularly, so you know when markets, environments, audiences, or your competition has changed.  

 

Once you really know your business identity and your brand, brand strategy is how you effectively share your story and do business with the world. If you look closely, you’ll start to see at the heart of every powerful logo there’s a crystal-clear brand strategy driving their success  as long as their strategy reflects on who they are and what they do 

 

If you’d like to learn more about how you can get started in creating or improving a brand, pivoting a brand or you just want to deepen your branding expertise, join us in our free e-course on Building a Brand. 

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