Brand strategy, the key to greater profits?
In part one, we defined what a brand is. In part two, we determined how substantial the payoff can be when investing in developing your brand. Cool, you say, but how do we go about growing your brand?
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 had a plan 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, and this article will give you an idea of what goes into a brand strategy.
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 no longer works. It is why it is imperative that you, the CEO, need to remember one crucial element: developing your brand is a long-term endeavour.
Here is another fun fact, the creative process of designing the logo, colour palette, and website is essential and fun; however, this is the last part of the process. 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 shortlist of some of the important topics that go into a brand strategy session:
- Brand audit
- Mission + Vision
- Who is your audience/Audience personae
- Brand personae
- Competitor audit
Let’s look at them one by one.
A brand audit determines your current position in the marketplace by evaluating your 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 for you – Why do you do what you do, that is, 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 towards you because of the deep connection you will foster.
Patagonia is a clear example. My next article is all about a case study featuring this company.
Mission + Vision
Aren’t they both the same? Not so fast.
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.
Take Tesla, for example:
“Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
The above statement contains both mission + vision.
Unlike the brand’s purpose, your brand’s core values tell your audience how you do things. It is 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 value:
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 just because they sound friendly and awesome. These values must have meaning and authenticity. If you are not 100% behind these values, you will be found out.
- As CEO, it is your absolute duty to communicate these values to the business. If you do not know what your values are, how in the world do you expect the employees to know?
Who is your audience/Audience personae
If you don’t 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 they like
- What they don’t
- What they fear
It’s not just demographics but also psychographics—more on this in another article.
Your brand should not be bland. It should be a living, breathing entity capable of communicating with its audience on a human level. A strategist often 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 used 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 how about 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, then trying to sound like Kevin Hart may not reach your audience the way you 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. Do not copy what others are doing; if so, your brand will drown in a sea of noise. Instead, the competitor audit looks for gaps in how you can stand out more, giving you an edge.
The above list is by no means exhaustive, and there are other elements such as SEO and communication strategy that 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 typical strategy session can last anywhere from 6 hours to 16 hours, usually stretched 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.