To succeed, a business needs to develop a brand strategy.
A set plan of action to direct you and your team on where you want to be and how you plan on getting there. Without a brand strategy, you’re setting your business up to fight in a lose lose situation.
How do you want your brand to eventually look and perform – and how are you and the team going to get there?
Your brand strategy will dictate how you intend the customer experience with your business to go, from start to finish, and how things are going to work for your brand along the way too.
If your goal is to build a brand so strong that eventually you wont need to tell potential customers who you are, because they’ll already know – we can tell you that you won’t be getting there without a solid brand strategy.
Your brand strategy is the skeleton that your business will then flesh out, without your skeleton, you’re not getting very far.
Starting without a strategy will mean a hell of a lot of guesswork and assumptions – and we all know what assuming makes!
But creating a brand strategy isn’t just an exercise for huge global enterprises, it’s for start up businesses too.
For any company to get to where they need to be, stand out from the competition, and avoid any unnecessary (and potentially expensive) mistakes – investing time into creating a clear brand strategy is an essential step to take when you start out or consider rebranding your business.
Your brand strategy will give your business and members of your team a document or guide to consistently refer back to, to remember the higher level plan for the brand, and constantly question whether the branding efforts are in line with the original brand strategy.
It helps everyone to work towards the same goal, and achieve it.
Do I Need a Brand Strategy?
To put it simply – yes!
Business is about taking risks, calculated risks, not risking sloppy preparation.
Winging it might scrape a win on The Apprentice but in the real world (especially in the current Covid climate), giving yourself the best possible head start is essential.
Not allocating time and energy into creating a bulletproof brand strategy will come back to bite you.
What is a Brand Strategy?
Your brand strategy document is your brand bible, but by no means does it have to be the length of one.
Depending on what your business is offering, a one sheet document might hold all the information you need to encapsulate your brand. Short, sweet, and concise. If you have more to say, then it’s going to be a bigger file but it should always be an easy to digest format that everybody in the business is able to refer to.
Brand strategy documents usually come in the form of a PDF file.
They contain all of the relevant information about building your brand, and what you believe in.
Read on to find out what should be included, (and make sure you download our ebook for a step by step method to creating your own.)
How to Create a Brand Strategy
Starting your brand strategy from scratch might seem like an overwhelming task. But if you’re truly passionate about your business and have a good idea of what you’re trying to achieve, then all of the elements of your Brand Strategy already exist in your head.
It’s just about getting it down on paper in a structure that makes sense to your colleagues, competitors and customers.
We’re not saying idiot proof it, but someone with no previous experience in your industry should be able to read through your brand strategy document and have a good idea of where you’re trying to go with it. Remember we have an easy guide to help you, download it here.
In the same way a brand guidelines document acts as a visual reference for your brand, your brand strategy document takes care of the business strategy and high level thinking.
So, what should go into creating your brand strategy? We’re going to give you a template to help:
This is where it all starts. Ask yourself who you are trying to engage with your branding.
Who are your customers and what can they teach you about your brand? You might have an idea of your customers, but creating detailed customer personas and looking deeply into the people you are trying to sell to, means a more targeted approach.
Don’t just shoot your shot – prepare, take aim, and fire.
Customer personas are a key piece to any brand strategy or marketing puzzle. Without them, you’re shooting in the dark and missing opportunities left, right, and centre.
You might think you “know” your customers – but get them documented in your brand strategy. That way, you have them to refer back to, and can also share them with others.
Who are your biggest competitors and what can you do to stand out? By taking a deep dive into investigating your competitive landscape, you are able to begin to paint a picture of where you sit and how you can grow to exceed customer expectations.
- What are they up to?
- What are they doing on their website and social media?
- What does their customer service process look like?
- What keywords are they targeting?
Is there a gap that they aren’t filing that you could? If they run a successful Facebook page, but are quieter on Instagram, step up and fit yourselves into that space.
This relates to where your brand will sit compare to other brands on the market.
Where does your brand sit in the market and where do you hope to go?
An easy way to give yourselves an idea on where to position yourselves in your marketplace is to answer these questions.
- Who are our biggest competitors?
- What is our USP / how are we different?
- Who is our cheapest competitor, and who is our most expensive competitor?
- How do our target markets align?
- Where on the scale do we place ourselves among these competitors?
Your brand positioning is a different ball game to your brand strategy.
Your brand strategy incorporates your brand positioning yes, but a lot of people get hung up on positioning and end up mistaking it for strategy.
Let’s take a small time out, and talk about beans.
In the UK, here is ASDA’s (aka Walmart) offering and their respective per can pricing;
- Supermarket’s Smart Price Range (23p / 30¢)
- Supermarket’s Own Range (30p / 40¢)
- Branston Beans (65p / 86¢)
- Heinz Beans (60p / 80¢)
The inside products are relatively identical, but everyone has their own preference.
But why, what’s the difference? Why do some people go for one type over the other?
The Supermarket’s Smart Price Range are the basic of all basics. White label. Simple font. Picture of beans. No frills here. It looks like you get what you pay for.
The Supermarket’s Own Range is slightly above the Smart Price range in terms of quality. They actually have a label design, making themselves more appealing to the eye.
Branston Beans are the rogue choice. They’re actually more expensive than Heinz, but don’t have the same quality reputation, which is weird, because they taste better (see, everyone has a bean preference!)
And then Heinz. The “Heinz Means Beans” campaign completely dismissed any other bean on the market, leaving them redundant in comparison. They’re hands down the most popular choice of beans in the UK.
But hold on, they’re actually cheaper than Branston. The people that actually price beans at the supermarket obviously agree that Branston are at the top of the mountain. How does this relate back to brand positioning?
Smart Price beans are targeted at super-low income earners. They’re basic. They’re cheap. You can eat them. If you don’t care about beans, but you eat them, then these are for you.
The Supermarket’s Own Range are made to look slightly better. They’re positioned above the Smart Price range, even though they’re probably made in exactly the same factory and will taste pretty much the same.
They’ll do, but they’re by no means the best. They’re just your average beans. Nothing great.
Branston beans aren’t looked down on (unless you’re a Heinz snob.) They’re quality beans, from a reputable company famous for their tasty condiments. But they are still an outsiders choice.
Branston are positioned well above the Supermarket’s options. And on a level with Heinz. But apparently you’re crazy for liking them. Why?
Because Heinz have positioned themselves as the only beans to have, the best of the best. And the British public believe them.
“There’s only one brand of beans. Heinz.”
Heinz have been working on their brand positioning for years. It factors into every bit of their marketing. They have cemented their position as the top dog of the bean world. And they take every opportunity to remind people that they’re at the top of the food chain in their advertising.
And that is brand positioning.
It’s how your business and brand sit among the competitive landscape.
So, are you Smart Price or Heinz?
This the meat of your brand as it’s time to think about what your brand does and why.
What led you to where you are today?
You need to look at this as a literal story and keep thinking, is this something customers are going to buy into? Are they going to be gripped and care enough to spend their money with us?
Have you shown enough of your brand story and personality in your branding to showcase yourselves as you wanted? Make sure your story answers the questions, “Why do we do what we do, and why are customers going to choose us?”
What really matters to you? Avoid cliches that get repeated brand to brand…everybody has heard it all before that a brand is reliable and honest. We expect people we deal with to be honest with us, don’t we?
Tell your story differently.
If you run an environmentally friendly company, shout from the rooftops about that.
That’s your niche, it sets you apart and it’s something you really believe in, encapsulate this in your values and your story.
The ‘why’ of your brand relates to why your business exists in the first place.
Why do you do what you do? What is your company’s purpose? Your brand mission statement should talk about how they are going to accomplish this. It’s there for you to talk about how you’re going to get to where you want to be (your brand vision), and how you plan to make a difference.
Your brand mission is the definition of the purpose of your brand and how you plan to fulfil your objectives and customer needs. Have a think and answer the question, “What do we do, and how do we do it differently?”
This involves figuring out how you’re going to get your brand in front of customers.
How do people interact with your brand? Brand touchpoints are the interactions your brand can have with a potential customer.
You should be thinking ‘Yes, How?’ for each of these;
- Events and Networking
- Word of Mouth
- Direct Mail
- Social Media
- Interviews and FAQs
- Case Studies
- Public Relations
How are you communicating what makes your brand unique? Your brand messaging, or brand marketing message is what you put out into the world that reflects your values, mission, story, and positioning, preferably in one smart tagline.
For McDonald’s, it’s “I’m Lovin It” accompanied with a catchy jingle and audio branding that instantly makes you instantly salivate at the thought of a double cheeseburger.
Your brand messaging should talk to:
- Prospective clients / customers
- Prospective employees
- Referral networks
- Potential influencers
- Potential partner brands
While your core brand message should be consistent across each of these audiences, it would normally be tailored slightly depending on who you’re talking to.
There are several brand messaging frameworks you can follow to help you to create and refine your message.
Tone of Voice
How do you use words to channel your brand values? Choosing an appropriate writing style is super important.
If your product is made for children, writing like you’re down with the kids is not ok. It’s the parents who are buying the product, and coming across as a safety conscious and reliable company is paramount to get those sales. But of course, you should still have fun with it!
We’ve created this handy guide to help you find your brand tone of voice.
How is your brand visually represented? Developing your brand identity is the fun bit, the bit that everybody thinks of first when they imagine marketing a brand.
There are a huge range of elements that combine to create a strong and consistent brand identity. These usually include (but most definitely not limited to);
- Logo design, both vertical and horizontal lockups
- Website design
- Colour palette
- Typeface selection
- Stationery design (letterheads, business cards etc)
- Marketing materials (flyers, leaflets, brochures)
- Digital templates (invoices, quotation documents, Powerpoint slides)
- Social media imagery
- Tone of voice
This is detailing where you want your brand to be. Where you visualise your brand heading, right now and in the future. What are your current brand and marketing objectives, and what’s the end goal?
You may want to keep things brief, or create a timeline and detail where you want to be set out in weeks, months, and years.
All these factors tend to get put together into a brand identity guideline document, which can live alongside, or within, your brand strategy document.
These tie in to all areas of your business.
If you’re struggling with the process of creating your brand strategy, you’re probably over complicating it and going about it the wrong way.
Let’s simplify everything and throw it back to Year 4 English lessons… read on below.
The Five W’s of Brand Strategy
Everyone learnt the 5 W’s in school, but this structure is actually a really useful starting point for your brand strategy, as it gets you to delve into your customers personas and your own . What is their consumer behavior? How are you going to solve their problems?
This gives you a great foundation for creating your brand strategy.
- Who are your target audience?
- How old are they?
- What are they interested in?
Knowing who your intended audience is, their age range and interests just isn’t enough.
We need to get personal.
- What issues do they face?
- Where do they live?
- What lifestyle do they lead?
- Where do they work?
- How do they get around?
- What is their family structure?
Investigating your customers’ family structure might leave you thinking – eh?! And feeling like a creep, but that’s ok. It’ll put you one step ahead of competitors who didn’t make the effort to do this legwork.
By investing time into going down these avenues and creating the answers to these questions, you get a great idea of what your customer’s day looks like. What is the best way to target them, and when.
This avoids some pointless trial and error and lets you cut out time wasting practises.
Age is a huge factor when deciding how to target customers, you wouldn’t target an online music streaming system aimed at teenagers by blasting classical music in the ads. You would go with whatever crap is in the charts at the moment.
How are you going to capture their interest?
You need to think about what your customer does with their time, and if you’re going to hit that time best through on or offline methods.
What websites do they visit? What papers do they read?
How are you going to effectively communicate your USP’s with your customer?
How do you want customers to interact with your brand? Are you going to keep things private or utilise social media?
The biggest how;
How are you actually going to get your customers?
Without acquiring customers, you have no business. And therefore, no money.
Developing customer personas is absolutely vital, as they’re the backbone of your brand strategy. They tell you all you need to know about your target audience, and how to market your product or service to them, how and where they are going to see you. This is integral to your brand visibility.
Are your customers in the wedding and events industry? Make an effort with your Pinterest account and and get yourself pinned to those #WeddingGoals boards.
Are you selling to senior citizens, who will be at home when the free paper comes through the door? A traditional flyer drop will obviously be more beneficial than a social media campaign.
Detail the dream that you are selling to people.
What are you offering them? What problem does your brand solve?
Customers need to align with you. If they’ve bought into your story, they’ve bought into your brand.
Give people a reason to connect with you. Tell your brand story in an emotive way. Tell the story of the customer experience from start to finish.
Why is the customer going to go with you over other businesses?
Why are they going to pick you over anyone else?
Pinpoint your USP and shout it from the rooftops.
What do you do that sets you apart from the other brands on the market? Why should your audience put their faith in you?
You need to really sell your brand story and values here, and conducting some thorough competitor analysis will be crucial in helping you to come up with a strong answer to “why.”
Where are you positioning yourselves in the market?
Everyone thinks their business idea is the best, but being honest with yourself from the off about where you sit in the marketplace against your competitors is essential.
Aiming high or being modest is great, but not being transparent with yourselves will result in mismatched branding, wasted advertising and reduced visibility to your target audience.
Lidl are well aware that they are a budget supermarket, and they aren’t ashamed of it.
They know that people turn their noses up at their brand because of the price point, and they pointed this out in a series of ads in their #LidlSurprises campaign.
They invited people to try their unbranded produce and in turn published genuine tweets of people’s surprise at the quality on billboards and TV. Lidl know that people look down on the brand, so they ran with it and totally turned it around.
Everybody knows that Lidl is the cheaper option when choosing somewhere for your big shop, they are happy to sit comfortably on the lower end of the supermarket scale, but they firmly positioned themselves as a customer favourite by directly challenging people’s opinions on the price vs. quality debate, and their adverts showcased and cemented their position perfectly.
Asking these questions helps give you the base to develop your brand strategy. Answering these questions gives you a direction.
How to Develop a Successful Brand
We provide the full shebang at Canny, and we like to think we know our stuff.
Here’s 8 essential steps a full brand strategy should include;
Consider your Overall Business Strategy
Your brand strategy should always align with your business strategy to give you a high chance of success, what do you want to achieve with your business? Are you going to grow your business organically or do you have a large marketing budget for an advertising campaign?
Identify and Research your Target Market
We’ve already spoken about this (a lot), but properly identifying your customers is essential. The narrower you can focus your target audience, the faster you can position yourself in the market and the faster you can grow your business.
Putting in the investigative research into your target audience lessens the risk of going off track and missing the mark.
Create your Brand Strategy
We treat our Brand Strategy Book as a handbook. And we refer to it when we have dilemmas, when we make new hires, when we have disagreements, and so on.
By having something to refer back to, your core goals, your mission, story, and vision, you can always ask “Is this what we set out to do? Will this help achieve our goals? Is it inline with our brand strategy?”
Your brand strategy should help you kickstart ideas and answer the tricky questions when they come along the way.
A well defined and developed brand strategy will touch on all aspects of your business in great detail. Your brand strategy should outline beliefs, visions, goals, and plans, that can all be achieved as your brand grows and develops.
We’ve told you how to do this all already, but here’s a brief recap before you scroll back up.
- Your brand values are what you hold most dear to you
- Your brand mission is what it is you’re setting out to do
- Your brand positioning is where you place your brand in the marketplace
- Your brand story is how you communicate that and why you’re doing it.
A lot of new businesses prefer to have a rough idea of their values, mission, story, and positioning before bringing in a branding service agency to help with their identity.
Others prefer to bring in a branding agency right from the start.
Design your Brand Identity
Your brand identity isn’t just a logo, a logo is a visual representation of your brand.
Your brand identity encompasses everything that you put out about your brand, on and offline, which customers then form an idea of your brand from. The personality, the chosen colour palette, tone of voice; the ways in which you project your message to your customers through your branding.
Develop your Website
Your website is the first port of call for a customer to check you out and form an opinion, and boy, do first impressions count.
A dysfunctional website makes your company appear outdated, incapable and ineffective at what you do. A slick, clean website with functioning CTA buttons is essential. An agency offering web design services will be able to weave your brand identity through your web pages, creating a seamless customer journey through your site.
Your website represents your company 24/7. It carries on working whilst your team are asleep, not optimising this opportunity can be business suicide.
The website is the backbone of your brand strategy and must showcase your brand identity and effectively communicate your values, mission and story to your audience in a way that they can easily soak up the information.
As times change, business changes. It’s important to have a fully flexible website that can be easily changed and updated, that works across various devices like phones and tablets as well as the standard desktop.
Create your Content Marketing Strategy
This should be a non-negotiable part of your marketing plan. The return that this can bring to your business is super high.
For some context, Canny now gets 90% of our new leads and clients coming to us directly from our blog.
Churning out fresh, relevant and readable content will give you front of mind awareness in your industry, as well as positioning yourselves as a leader in your field and building trust with the customer.
Build out your Marketing Materials
In this day and age most of your marketing materials will be digital, printouts are few and far between. Your chosen agency will be able to work with you to create quality branded marketing materials such as;
- Sales sheets
- Powerpoint presentations
- PDF overview documents
- Pitch decks
- eBrochures and more.
Implement, Track, Adjust, and Pivot
Your brand strategy is an ever evolving, living, breathing document, just like your brand guidelines and is subject to changes in direction, switching things up, trial and error and amendments.
Once you have initially implemented your brand strategy, track the results. What has the reaction been like on social media? How are customers responding to your direction?
Take stock, if things are looking good – jackpot! If it’s not what you hoped for, note where you need to make tweaks and adjustments and go for it. If your brand strategy is not hitting the mark as you thought it would, don’t be afraid to change it how you see fit.
As Dr. Pepper would say… What’s the worst that could happen?
How to Find the Right Agency to Help with Your Brand Strategy
When you’re putting together your branding, most companies bring in a branding agency when they’re ready to talk about brand identity. The shiny bits. Colours! Logos! Layouts!
A step too late in our opinion.
It is imperative to go with a professional agency when developing your brand strategy.
Developing your brand strategy in isolation rarely works. It’s the one area most of our clients struggle with the most, which is why we recommend working with a professional agency to help!
Branding agencies are experts for a reason – we aren’t just here to make your logos look pretty. Agencies have seen where other companies have succeeded and failed, they’re your fast track to a smooth and successful branding journey.
It’s super beneficial to bring in an agency from the beginning who can work on your brand strategy alongside your team and lend their expert advice to give you the strongest starting point possible.
This in turn makes creating the brand identity process super simple, with a lot less to-ing and fro-ing.
Take a look at previous work the agency has done, do they offer a start to finish service? Have they worked on a similar project with results you’ve been seriously impressed by?
We’re an agency, and we know we’re great at this, so we’re going to sing our own praises. but if you are going to have a crack at putting together your brand strategy yourself, you can find our ebook here.
Conclusion: The Ultimate Brand Strategy Development Guide
Your brand strategy is the foundation of your business and should be your top priority when starting out.
By using our guide; Your Brand Strategy Made Simple, you’ll help yourselves by taking the time to understand your brand and standing out from the crowd, going the extra mile.
You’ll gain a unique insight into what you do, why you do it, who you do it for and where you are going with it.
Without your brand strategy, your brand lacks direction. Branding is something we know a lot about here at Canny, check out some of our case studies if you don’t believe us!
Or if you’re already convinced that you need our help, all you need to is reach out to a member of our team.