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What is a brand strategy and why do you need one?

Imagine you’re walking around in the Gramercy Park feeling hungry. Out of the blue, someone offers you lasagna on a paper plate for $30. Would you buy and eat it? You have no idea who made it or what they put in it. Besides, there is nothing appealing about lasagna on a paper plate. Without any context, connection or trust, you’ll probably keep walking.

Now consider this: You see a Maialino’s Italian Restaurant with a chalkboard outside where the daily specials are written by hand. You notice they feature home-made recipes and use fresh, local ingredients. Peering inside, you see charming candlelit tables, smiling wait staff and warm colors in the decor. You feel confident that they serve an authentic meal and pleasant experience, so you go in and order the lasagna special for $30. 

That’s the difference a brand strategy can make: a happy, loyal customer or a passerby. This applies to any business – corporate or entrepreneur – and it’s particularly critical in a world full of digital products and services where everyone is vying for attention.

Brand strategy is the ambassador for every customer touch point and the foundation for a successful marketing plan; it creates a consistent and actionable impression that resonates with target audiences.

Let’s see how a brand strategy fits into an overall marketing plan and why it’s becoming essential for designers, content developers, and marketing execs to develop this skill. 

Customer engagement is often 95% emotional. If you want the consumer to remember your product or brand, they must be engaged and impassioned by the interaction with your company.

“How Customers Think” by Gerald Zaltman

Brand strategy as part of a successful marketing plan

Without a brand strategy, marketing doesn’t have the impact it needs to make waves in the industry. This applies to all types of businesses, from a big software corporation to a solopreneur massage therapist who sells essential oils.

A successful brand strategy can deliver:

  • Improved customer perception of the brand
  • Increased stickiness with your product or service
  • Increased lifetime value of your customers
  • Increased number of sales
  • Increased number of sign ups on your website (newsletter, etc.)

A well-produced brand strategy comprises 65% of the success formula that drives qualified leads to a business.

Who needs a brand strategy?

Imagine a SaaS company with big goals, fierce competition, and a desire for recognition. They’re equipped to take on larger markets, compete on a global level. They have a clear vision and a solid marketing plan but haven’t given enough time to think through their brand strategy.

Here’s what might happen: they move forwards with force and conviction but aren’t able to maximize their conversions because they aren’t able to attract every potential customer out there their way. First impression is important and a clear brand strategy will ensure that every touchpoint (especially the initial ones) with your customers will create a thread that pulls your people your way.

Brand strategy isn’t just for the biggies – it’s also essential for small businesses and solopreneurs. Because of their size, budget, and the type of products they sell, a small business might not be able to make a sweeping change in the market. A wiser choice would be to compete through their authenticity. A good brand strategy should amplify that and help to generate loyalty and repeat business from existing customers.

Whether large or small, every business wants to make a positive and lasting impression and sales that can help them grow and thrive. With an authentic and relevant brand identity, those that have strong ideals and missions will be ready to ride those big waves world-wide.

How to measure the success of a brand strategy?

Brand strategy is a continuum; it doesn’t end with creating and launching a brand, a website or a social media presence. It keeps evolving together with your business.

Part of a brand strategist’s role is to provide ways for businesses to determine how well their brand identity is performing. This can be done by setting the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Here are the KPIs we’d recommend using to measure the performance of your brand strategy:

  • number of actions taken on your website (downloads, newsletter sign ups, etc.)
  • number of enquiries received through the contact form
  • number of qualified leads generated
  • number of sales made.

Unfortunately, many business owners don’t have the time, patience or knowledge to tackle in depth on these metrics. When you have the skill and know-how to suggest the right KPIs for your client, your value as an effective brand strategist greatly increases.

Who stands to benefit from brand strategy?

Nearly every business needs a brand strategy. When done well, it can be transformational for everyone in the company.

That said, the professionals who stand to gain the most are entrepreneurs and marketing executives who are ready to hop on the next big wave of success and take both themselves and their company to the next level. They’re already poised for success and ready to elevate their brand.

A good brand strategist will partner up with them to give them the extra momentum and an extra pair of wings (i.e. an additional team of people, resources, know-how) to move things forward faster and with a splash. 

Who can become a brand strategist?

Brand strategy is a passion for many professionals – us included! Because it involves skill sets that are both analytical and creative, a brand strategist is both a surveyor and a visionary. When you master the brand strategy process, you can increase your value to clients by offering a more complete package of skills that will help their business grow and thrive. 

Here are some professions that benefit from adding brand strategy skills to their toolkit:

  • Content Writers or Designers: You’ve developed creative skills and yearn to stretch your wings to encompass the big picture and the complete marketing plan. You’d like to provide more strategic advice to your clients and be involved at the very early stages of the decision-making.
  • Agency Leaders: Pros in branding and marketing who are already creating and implementing strategies. You want to sharpen your skills, streamline your process and come up with more playful, more efficient solutions that drive growth and success for your clients.
  • Marketing Heads:Already at the helm of brand strategy development and implementation, you’ve gotten here by being open to new solutions and methodologies for repositioning and refreshing your brands. You are always on the look-out for new ideas and inspiration that would help to move your brand forwards.

How long does it take to develop a brand strategy?

Each company will start the process with different levels of groundwork already completed so every situation is unique. The time from initial vision to launch could take 2 months or 12+ months. It’s a journey that needs to unfold, from accurately determining the target audience, to identifying and elaborating the company mission, to researching competitors and establishing uniqueness. All of that is wrapped into a cohesive package that includes the story, the voice, and the visuals.  

As a complex, multi-disciplined part of business, good brand strategy should be given priority but the process should not be rushed. It’s essential to allow enough time for research and data collection, as well as creativity and playfulness. You want everyone to feel like they are part of the interchange.

How to develop a brand strategy?

The brand strategy development process is so much more than designing a logo. Rather, it involves positioning a brand in a competitive way on the market, producing compelling messages and visual identity that will attract and engage the right target audience across all the touch-points.

If you’re a brand strategist, a marketing consultant, or a designer who wants to guide your client toward growing their business through an effective brand strategy, you need to have mastered the brand strategy development process which is part of brand experience design.

Here’s a rough overview of the key phases in the brand strategy development process.

1. Defining Purpose

In this first phase, your initial groundwork preps your client for a successful experience. The process starts with you asking your client critical questions about why they’re creating or rethinking their brand. Then you help them create practical statements about why they are in their business and what they wish to accomplish. 

Next, you’ll delve into the product or service details, identifying its provided value and authentic points. This phase involves guiding the client to clarify their vision and goals in a way that empowers their branding choices.

2. Defining the Ideal Customer Profile 

Ideal Customer Profile included in our Brand Strategy Kit.
Ideal Customer Profile included in our Brand Strategy Kit.

You’ll kick off this phase by helping your client identify their Ideal Customer Profile. This is a very important part of the process and should be taken care of seriously. Our Brand Strategy Kit includes a template for defining the Ideal Customer Profile. With an effective brand strategy in place, you’ll ensure that the right people will come your way.

3. Defining the Positioning Statement

Next, you’ll  focus on crafting a positioning statement and distilling a core message that pulls all this information together. This sets the foundation for creating a consistent brand story and messaging that encapsulates the brand’s essence across all customer touchpoints.

The Positioning Statement included in our Brand Strategy Kit.
The Positioning Statement included in our Brand Strategy Kit.

4. Defining the Brand Personality

In this phase, you’ll help your client create a personality for their brand, setting the tone of voice and style that resonate with their target audience.

Using what we’ve learned so far in the process, we can now start weaving all the details together in order to create a brand identity that moves customers to purchase, come back, and spread the word about the brand. 

The Brand Canvas is a perfect tool to consolidate all the information uncovered during the brand discovery process into one place. Catch it here.
The Brand Canvas is a perfect tool to consolidate all the information uncovered during the brand discovery process into one place. Catch it here.

👉 Dive deeper into how to run a brand strategy workshop