In a previous article, we defined what a brand is. Here we determine how substantial the payoff can be when investing in developing your brand. How do we do that exactly?
Glad you asked.
Think back on the time when you developed your idea for your business. Did the product materialize out of thin air? Doubtful. You likely planned to create your product, the materials needed, how much, thoughtful spending, etc. Then came the business itself, the name, the business model, the advertising, etc.
Branding is no different. To develop your brand, you need a strategy; this article will give you an idea of what goes into a brand strategy session.
Where do we start?
First of all, while I hate the be the bearer of bad news, you should know that the old “if I build it, they will come” philosophy does not work. As the CEO / business owner, developing your identity and brand is one of the best business decisions you can make to ensure longevity.
Your identity results from discovering who you are, what you stand for, and why your audience should care about you over your competitors.
Here is a short list of some of the important topics that go into a brand strategy session:
- Brand audit
- Competitor audit
- Determining your Purpose
- Mission + Vision
- Who is your audience/Audience personae
- Brand personae
- Capturing your voice
Let’s look at them one by one.
A brand audit determines your current position in the marketplace by evaluating your current strength and weaknesses:
- Evaluation of competitor brands
- Your website performance (Traffic, bounce rate, etc.)
- Survey (employees, customers)
Simon Sinek is fond of saying, “it starts with why.” He wrote a whole book about it (highly recommended reading, by the way).
So here is a question: Why do you do what you do? Beyond making a profit, what is your brand’s purpose?
Having a higher purpose to champion will attract an audience like no other. People who value the same goal will naturally gravitate toward you because of the deep connection you will foster.
In future articles, I will feature brands that fit this criterion—Nike, Patagonia, Apple, and more.
Mission + Vision
Aren’t they both the same? Not so.
A vision is where you want the brand to be in the future. A mission is what your brand is doing now to reach that future.
It is essential to make this distinction, so your audience knows where you are and where you’re going.
Unlike the brand’s purpose, your brand’s core values tell your audience how you do things based on a belief system adopted by everyone, from the CEO to the customer service agent. These guiding principles define who you are.
An example would be Apple’s diversity + inclusion:
“We’re all in.
Across Apple, we’ve strengthened our long-standing commitment to making our company more inclusive and the world more just. Where every great idea can be heard. And everybody belongs.“
While I will have a separate article that talks about values, I will mention two things:
- Do not pick random values because they are the flavour of the month. These values must have meaning and authenticity. You will be discovered if you are not 100% behind these values.
- As CEO, it is your absolute duty to communicate these values to your business. If you do not know your company’s values, how do you expect the employees to know?
Who is your audience/Audience personae
If you need to know who your audience is, how do you expect to resonate with them?
In this part of the strategy, we often develop a customer personae based on what we know to be true:
- What do they like?
- What do they not?
- What do they fear?
It’s not just demographics but also psychographics—more on this in another article.
Your brand should be a living, breathing entity capable of communicating with its audience on a human level. A strategist sometimes depends on Jungian archetypes.
Archetypes are used to explore what your brand looks like in the eyes of your potential customers. There are twelve archetypes when developing a brand’s persona:
- The Innocent
- The Sage
- The Explorer
- The Outlaw
- The Magician
- The Hero
- The lover
- The Jester
- The Everyman
- The caregiver
- The Ruler
- The Creator
Are you a Hero type, an explorer or a caretaker?
Which one do you think Harley Davidson is? The Outlaw or The Caretaker?
What tone of voice does your brand use? How do you sound to others? Are you trying to be funny or serious?
This is where developing your target audience and brand personae come in handy. If you’re an outlaw, trying to sound like Kevin Hart may not reach your audience as intended.
A brand strategist will often compare your brand with that of your competitors. Unlike the brand audit, this research aims at comparing you with others in your field. Refrain from copying what others are doing; if you do, your brand will drown in a sea of noise. A competitor audit looks for gaps in how you can stand out, giving you an edge.
The above list is by no means exhaustive, and other elements, such as SEO and communication strategy, go into brand development. However, I want to point out some of the important ones you will likely see in any brand strategy session.
A strategy session can last anywhere from 6 to 16 hours, usually over two days. Some strategists include material ahead of the session so you don’t go in blind.
Above all, you must ask questions before hiring any agency to determine if you are a good fit.