For any business looking to generate and sustain long-term growth and success, having a strong brand strategy is critical. So just what is a brand strategy, exactly? It’s a forward-looking plan that a brand establishes to help it identify and accomplish its long-term goals, with the ultimate objective being to achieve familiarity and preference among its target consumers.
Among other things, this crucial plan can help the business define itself, its mission and its overarching goals, plus stay on course toward achieving them. Further, a brand strategy can serve as a benchmark for business evolution, helping the brand evaluate whether it and the business itself are moving in the desired direction.
On the flip side of the coin, without a well-planned and -executed brand-driven strategy, a brand has little hope of maintaining a unified identity over time. And without a consistent and cohesive identity, a range of the brand’s defining attributes and capabilities — from its culture and content to its marketing efforts and even its core business functionality and performance — can suffer greatly.
12 steps to a winning brand strategy
So what goes into developing and honing a brand strategy? Consider these 12 key steps to developing a brand strategy from The Brandon Agency — one of only 24 certified brand strategists worldwide:
1. Nail down your internal brand
The first step in developing a brand strategy is to lay down the foundations for the brand itself. To do this, brand leaders must carefully consider why the brand exists and exactly who the company wants to be, along the way identifying the brand’s purpose, vision, mission and values. Moving forward, all of this foundational information will help guide the brand’s principles, commitments and behaviors.
2. Determine your target market
No brand is a fit for every consumer. To truly grow and thrive, a brand must identify the specific group of consumers it aims to serve with its offerings. The more clearly the brand can define this target audience, the better it can understand its members’ needs, desires and pain points — and in the long run, the better it can communicate and connect with them.
3. … and understand its members
Once the brand’s target audience has been identified, it’s time to dig in and gain a stronger knowledge and understanding of its members. By researching the audience’s demographics and psychographics, for example, the brand can determine what makes its target consumers tick. This can be a huge help in understanding the group’s perspective, priorities and challenges, as well as with communicating and connecting with these consumers in a way that truly resonates and motivates.
4. Research your competition
It’s also important for a brand to understand the barriers that could block its path to success — and a large portion of this is typically represented by any competing brands in the market fighting to reach and serve the same target audience. By carefully analyzing and understanding what its competitors are doing, a brand can find ways to set itself apart and create a competitive advantage for itself.
5. Determine your brand positioning
Now that the brand has a stronger understanding of its target consumer audience and the competitive landscape, it can look for gaps in the market and opportunities to differentiate itself, as well as start to develop branding ideas to move the business forward. By putting together a three- to five-sentence market positioning statement, a brand can answer important questions like:
- What do our target consumers need that they’re not getting elsewhere?
- How can we meet these needs?
- What can our offerings deliver that others can’t?
- What reasons are we giving our target audience to choose our brand’s products and/or services over the competition’s?
While the positioning statement should be realistic in its assessment of the market space, its challenges and its opportunities, it should also be somewhat aspirational in setting goals for the brand to pursue.
6. Establish your brand persona and voice
Like humans, a brand should have a distinct personality that will dictate how it communicates and connects with its target consumers. In developing this brand personality, brand leaders can set out guidelines for the persona the brand will convey to consumers, including such identifying features as the voice and tone it will use in its marketing campaigns and other forms of brand communication. Of course, these decisions should leverage the already-strong understanding of the target audience and what drives its members — so that the persona will appeal specifically to these consumers and drive their interest in/loyalty to the brand.
7. Articulate your messaging strategy
Running with the brand persona developed in the step above, which establishes how the brand will speak to its consumers, it’s now time to decide what exactly the brand will convey in its brand messaging and which communications channels will be used to deliver the messages. In determining this, brand leaders should keep in mind that the ultimate goal here is to shape consumers’ perceptions of the brand and to spotlight the main selling points and differentiators that it wants consumers to understand about the brand.
8. Create your name, logo and tagline
Now that the brand audience, identity and messaging strategy have been clearly established, the brand is in a good position to develop some of its most identifiable customer-facing assets — the name, logo and tagline that will serve as the face of the brand to consumers. All of these assets should directly support the brand positioning and strive to convey the persona of the brand, as well as spotlight what makes it stand out from the competition.
9. Build your brand website
In today’s digitally-driven marketplace, a brand’s website may be the most important tool in its marketing and communications arsenal. More and more, it’s the place consumers go to get their questions about the brand answered, to communicate with customer service and to purchase the brand’s offerings. It typically houses the bulk of the brand’s owned media content, and thanks to SEO efforts, it often provides interested consumers with their first impression of the brand. For all of these important reasons, it’s critical to develop a website that clearly conveys the brand’s persona, that enables a smooth customer journey and — especially considering consumers’ growing use of smartphones and other mobile devices — delivers a mobile-friendly experience.
10. Make a marketing plan
Next, using all of the intelligence it has gathered about its target consumers and the marketplace, the brand will want to map out the best ways to effectively get its message out to its target audience. The 21st century offers a broad array of marketing and advertising channels to tap into — including paid search, social media, television, radio, print, out-of-home (OOH) and owned media, just to name a few. So the brand needs to evaluate which channels will best reach its target market, how to best leverage each and how large a share of its resources to devote to each.
11. Develop a marketing toolkit
Of course, the marketing plan is likely to employ a range of assets that the brand will need to develop, with each clearly conveying and building upon the brand’s carefully crafted brand persona. Elements of this can include determining the brand’s visual guidelines, such as the typography and color palette that will be used to create its assets. Then the brand can create collateral such as social media pages, brochures, business cards, ads, videos, posters, packaging and the like — all the while ensuring that each is a consistent fit with the previously established brand identity.
12. Launch, analyze and optimize
Once the brand is launched based on the road map developed using all of the steps outlined above, the work is not over. It’s essential for today’s businesses to harness data and analytics in an effort to continually adapt, optimize and evolve their brands. Changes in the landscape may also create a need for adaptations to be made. And by continually consulting its brand strategy, a business can better understand where it stands and which direction it needs to go, letting each of these factors inform its decision-making moving forward.
Could your brand use some expert guidance in creating a winning brand strategy? At The Brandon Agency, we’re one of only 24 certified brand strategists worldwide, helping us use a proprietary process to uncover your brand’s “WHY” in order to perfectly align your business objectives with your brand strategy. We’re also a fully integrated marketing firm that can cover the entire spectrum of your brand’s marketing needs — from content creation and SEO to e-commerce, digital marketing, web design and more. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your brand grow and thrive.