What is brand strategy and what does it have to do with your business?
Think about it in terms of goals. To satisfy the needs of your business, you’ll likely have short-term goals and long-term goals.
Brand strategy addresses the demand of your shifting needs. Perhaps you’re looking to grow or expand, competition has gotten fierce and your voice is getting drowned out. Or maybe whatever you’re doing now is getting stale, so you need to revisit a few areas that could be improved. It could be that you have nothing currently in place and are only just thinking about it now.
Figuring out what’s working and what’s not is the first step. That can be achieved through data, research, interviews and so on. Maybe you have an exciting new product launch and you’d like to ensure it hits the mark right out of the gate.
Having a plan is one thing, seeing it through and keeping on top of it is all part of a successful outcome.
Brand direction is usually a document paired with some form of a guide that will lay out goals, positioning and messaging that will tie into things like your print, web and campaign pieces. A well-thought-out action plan organises things that are already working and elevates everything else by adding any accompaniments that will help round out any gaps.
Getting it right is important and it needs to align with marketing. Appealing to benefits in a clear way will help. Knowing what you stand for is one thing. Cohesively communicating your brand in a concrete fashion activates potential.
This is where having a brand strategy and content strategy in tandem is highly effective.
Tomato, tomato - call it consistency, whichever. This is making sure you stay true to the plan during the execution phase. If you spent a lot of time and money on a beautiful brand and then decide to use off-brand cliche stock photography in marketing material, you’ve got a consistency problem. Stick to the plan and constantly ask “Does this fit with our brand?”. Does it look like our brand? Does it feel like it? If you think it does fit, but it doesn’t the better question to ask is “Do I understand our brand?” or “Am I following the brand strategy?” or really, “Do we have a brand strategy”.
Assessing your internal communications, values, external communications and partnerships will ensure everything aligns and every participant is on the same page.
Further, communication to your audience is ideally well received. Are you relatable? Have you over-thought or over-complicated things to the point that leads to confusion and frustration? People don’t have the patience to figure things out all the time. Make it easy for them.
Don’t be afraid to change as needed dependent on how the tide is going. Being able to adjust as needed in a quick fashion can be instrumental in ensuring success. An extreme pivot is hopefully not necessary, but often you’ll find while underway that new insights are gained that will load you with actionable direction.
Remember, your brand is ever evolving just like your customer. People shift gears, grow up, get new tastes or interests. Understanding this, it’s best to revisit your strategy annually. Evaluate things and see if you need to change it up.
Make sure your team is carrying the torch so to speak. This is important because internally teams need to work together to make sure that all the effort thus far was not all-for-nothing.
A successful brand strategy makes sure your customer will understand everything you offer, perfectly. Familiarity breeds comfort and it makes your job that much easier.
If done right, you’ve answered Maslow's hierarchy for the brand. You’ve fulfilled basic needs and are now ready to respond to the harder questions like why customers should love you. Appealing to make them feel good about their decision and finally, should you reach self-actualization you will know who you are and so will your customer.
Be weary of brand strategists coming in and selling their hearts out throwing around a lot of buzz-words and telling you everything is great and wonderful. It’s all fun and exciting but leaves a lot to be desired. Usually, their knowledge on brands and doing the actual work can create a disconnect where things get lost in translation. They’ll tell you a lot of great things but have poor follow-through. Good brand strategy with good brand execution is everything.
Don’t expect results overnight. But a well-thought out and crafted strategy when implemented should reap the rewards in the foreseen future. Trust the process and stick with it. You may just love where you end up.