How to Create an Effective Brand Strategy

This article will define a high-level summary of the most important aspects of your brand: your brand vision, brand values, the identity of your audience, your brand promise, and your brand story

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A brand strategy is a plan to communicate the unique value you offer customers. It can be reflected in your logo, your customer experience, or your company culture. A well-defined and executed brand strategy affects all aspects of a business and is directly connected to consumer needs, emotions, and competitive environments. The Brand Strategy Guide is a simple framework for creating and communicating your brand strategy.

Components of a brand strategy:

Your brand vision is the ultimate goal of your company.

Your brand values are the non-negotiable core beliefs you hold.

Your audience profile determines how you position your brand to the marketplace.

Your brand promise is the tagline you use to tell your customers what you promise you’ll do for them.

Your brand story is the sum of all of these parts.

Each component of the strategy process leads up to defining your brand narrative.

Vision, Mission and Values

Your Vision or “Why does your business exist?”

The vision describes the future your company is working to achieve. This is the reason for your existence as a company. It should be positive, motivating, and fun to talk about.

  • “Advancing man’s capability to explore the heavens”. (NASA)
  • “To live in a healthy, honest and supportive world”. (Core Foods)

Customers & Competition

Target Customers

Who are the people that will connect with your vision and values? Who will connect with the idea behind your business? Demographic based descriptions like “Females 18-30 in San Francisco” do not effectively describe target customers. Instead, focus on what specific needs your business solves, and the people who have those needs.

  • Traditional furniture retailers employ sales staff, but at Ikea, the customer experience is self service. Customers navigate huge showrooms with many products on display, pull items off warehouse shelves and assemble them at home. Ikea serves people who are happy to trade service for cost and are willing to complete some of the manufacturing steps themselves.
  • Southwest Airlines offers friendly service, and short, frequent, low-cost flights for customers traveling from midsize US cities and secondary airports in large US cities. They serve price sensitive customers who value convenience.

The Competition

When running your business it can be easy to forget about the context or landscape that it exists in and miss the external forces that affect it. Competitors can offer substitutes to your product or service. By learning more about who you competitors really are you can develop a brand strategy that is different and that only you can own, so customers have no choice but to come to you.

Your Competitive Advantages

Your competitive advantage is what makes you different and better than your competitors. Companies achieve competitive advantage by performing activities differently, or performing different activities than rivals.

  • Jiffy Lube specializes in automotive lubricants (oil changes) and does not offer other car repair or maintenance services. Their focus allows them to provide faster service at a lower cost.

Focus & Differentiation

The Big Idea or “What is the essence of your brand?”

A brand is a collection of thoughts and feelings based on your experiences. Thoughts and feelings are “intangibles” while your products and services are “tangible”. Tangibles you can touch, see, smell, hear, and taste, but intangibles you just feel.

  • Riding a Harley-Davidson Motorcyle feels liberating.
  • Sending and important package via FedEx feels safe.
  • Experiencing Disney World with your children feels magical.

What does it feel like to interact with your business? It’s easy to underestimate feelings and focus only on the tangibles, but people are emotional beings. We make decisions based on feelings, so you need to be able to express what you’re all about as concept or idea that is emotionally engaging. This is The Big Idea. It needs to be focused and it needs to be different.

  • Think Different (Apple)
  • Expect more. Pay less. (Target)
  • The world’s online marketplace. (eBay)
  • Adding vitality to life. (Unilever)
  • Safety. (Volvo)
  • The world on time. (FedEx)
  • Rider Passion. (Harley Davidson)

Brand Attributes or “What does your brand look and feel like?”

Really, brand attributes are just adjectives used to describe your brand. For example, IBM is seen as “older,” while Apple is perceived as “younger.” Apple is almost known entirely for its brand personality: innovative, stylish, intuitive, cool, casual, easy-going and friendly. Defining your brand attributes is important to help you differentiate yourself from competitors, as you would want to focus on those attributes that help you stick out. They also help make sure that your activities are inline with your brand. Together this group of adjectives gives you something to evaluate things like messaging and the look and feel of touchpoints.

Brand Promise or “What are you going to do for me.”

A brand promise is what the company promises to the people who interact with it. But it isn’t a literal description of what a company does. It’s a description of the company’s character. It’s the feeling the company conveys to its stakeholders. A brand promise can be explicitly articulated to the public, or it can be come to life more subtly in the delivery of the brand experience. A few years ago, FedEx declared that it was the only choice “when it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight”—an overt promise that still resonates today. The ultimate goal of branding is loyalty. A loyal audience seeks repeat brand experiences and recommends the brand to others. Brand Loyalty drives most purchasing decisions and loyal customers are willing to pay a premium for their choice. Branding is defining, promising and delivering. When you promise and then consistently deliver you generate loyalty.

  • Your package will get there overnight. Guaranteed. (FedEx)
  • You can own the coolest, easiest-to-use cutting-edge computers and electronics. (Apple)
  • You can hire the best minds in management consulting. (McKinsey & Company)
  • Empowering you to save the wilderness. (The Nature Conservancy)
  • To be the premier sports and entertainment brand that brings people together, connecting them socially and emotionally like no other. (NFL)

Positioning

A well positioned brand clearly defines the category of the business and describes what makes it different. It borrows from the journalistic model of storytelling: WHAT, HOW, WHO, WHERE, WHEN, WHY?

  • WHAT is your category?
  • HOW are you different?
  • WHO are your customers?
  • WHERE are they located?
  • WHEN do they need you?
  • WHY are you important?

Conclusion

Once these brand elements have been determined and applied towards your brand strategy you will be taking the first steps in creating true brand value for your business.

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DeepBlue. He has been an active thought leader in the application of emerging web technologies since 1998 and is a champion of the movement to make the Responsive Web Design approach the new industry standard.

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