You (yep, you who are reading this) have a brand. Period.
But are you in control of it?
A brand is who you are. Every person, business, and organisation has one. Brand strategy is about applying intent to your brand and making it one that people like, trust and remember.
Want to monetise your brand? Read our guide to types of branding strategies below.
Do You Really Know What a Brand Is?
Some professionals struggle with the concept of “branding,” mainly because it’s a somewhat elusive term that’s difficult to connect direct return of investment and value to. Social media and content marketing suffered from the same judgment at their inception. Before the advancements of insights and analytics tools, it was challenging to see how these marketing efforts translated to reaching specific goals.
But, experts are starting to see that good branding is a core differentiator between businesses that scale and are ultimately successful and ones that stay stagnant. So, what is a brand? It’s a lot of things.
A brand encompasses your values, how you speak, what you say, and what you look like doing it. Good brands have an authentic personality that differentiates them from others in their industry and market.
Some pros of brand strategy include:
- Getting more loyal customers
- Pricing your services and products higher
- Improving word of mouth marketing
- It can increase the worth of your organisation
Some cons of brand strategy include:
- Costing more to develop
- It takes longer to see a return on investment
- Investing more in company culture to maintain consistency
- It can take years to build and seconds to destroy
Step 1: Who Am I? Crafting Your Brand Identity
Like we said at the beginning of this article, every person and business already has a brand. A good brand strategy takes that and simply polishes it, and applies intention. Whether the brand is good, bad, or polarising, a good strategy is highly creative and finds a way to make it work to their advantage.
Too many strategists make the mistake of creating a separate brand identity and sticking it to a person or organisation. When a brand feels inauthentic, this is usually the root cause. If you’re investing a lot into creating a brand but are failing to earn the trust of your audience, a lack of authenticity is likely to be, at least, partially to blame.
Step 2: Finding Peace with Your Customers and Competition
So, how do you find out what your “authentic” brand is? Start by taking an honest look at your customers and completion. Tuning in to the chatter of what people think about your products and services and what they’re saying about you will help reveal who you really are to your target audience.
There are many different ways to do this; at a basic level, social media and SEO practices are great avenues to collect this type of data. Conduct a competitive analysis to get actionable information about your competition. Your goal of this phase should be to create one to five detailed, clear, and realistic buyer personas after you’ve collected and analysed data.
But, don’t fall into the trap of mistaking who you want your audience and competitors to be, with who they really are. This is what we mean by “finding peace.” Sometimes who we actually are can be a disappointment, but the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can direct your efforts towards it.
Step 3: Defining Your Story and Your Values
Establishing your target audience and your competitors with research and competitive analysis will give you a good scope of where you stand in your industry and market. You should really start to see where opportunities are, and your brand should be a little more clear.
Next, you need to get even more specific by committing to a simple set of brand values and a brand story. You can establish your story and values at the same time or one before the other. They should be consistent and complement one another.
Creating Your Brand’s Story
Your brand story will give your brand that human touch, and ultimately what will help your customers trust and connect with you emotionally. It can also be a helpful roadmap internally for maintaining brand consistency as you develop campaigns, products, and other initiatives. Regardless of your story, make sure it’s meaningful, authentic, accurate, and unique.
Here are some ways to develop a brand story:
- Writing down your past, present, and future.
- Define a clear turning point by writing your brand’s story in classic story arch format
- Find your story in the “why” and “how” of your mission statement
Establishing Your Core Values
A solid brand has less than five core values. You can find many sheets and lists of values to choose from on the internet. James Clear has a helpful core values list and many other great resources for defining your identity personally and professionally.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you narrow down and prioritise your values:
- What do you value?
- What do you do better than anyone else?
- What are your limitations? Your morals? Your code of conduct?
- What excites you the most?
- How does your brand make people feel?
Your core values, along with your story, should be the guides you choose to drive decision-making moving forward. Sticking to these will make your brand consistent and enable people to quickly understand who you are and what you bring to the table.
Step 4: Creating Your Visual Brand
logos, colours, typography, and other visual elements are what’s commonly thought of when people think of a “brand.” You can spend a lot of time at this step, and that’s OK. Your visual brand is significant and will likely be one of the key ways your brand is remembered and identified.
You’ll want to start by developing a brand kit or a brand style guide. This will essentially be the outline of what your brand is and isn’t visually. Brand kits can be simple digital booklets or in-depth guides that contain every template to build every asset.
Here’s what every brand kit should include:
- Logos and logo treatments
- Colour palette and uses
- Fonts and typefaces
- Guidelines for additional visuals like photos, videos, and social media graphics
Most companies start with a more straightforward digital book that includes the items above. Then they evolve their brand kit or style guide as they create more templates and assets.
Step 5: Finding Your Style, Tone, and Voice
Finding your brand’s voice and writing largely depends on the writers you hire to develop it. It’s great when you find a writer whose natural style emulates your brand, but it’s challenging to teach someone a voice and find writers with indistinguishable copywriting styles.
Style, tone, and voice encompass the attitude and character of your brand. We all know that how you say something can mean more than what you say sometimes, and that philosophy extends to brands.
Style is formed by word choice, writing patterns, grammar, mindset, and many other things. The tone and voice you choose will influence the overarching style your brand becomes recognised for.
Voice is what you say, and tone is how you say it. Your voice is your personality or worldview. It doesn’t change.
For example, your voice could be open-minded, diligent, loyal, outgoing, combative, easy-going, negative, or positive. These are all core traits that remain consistent in a person and should be compatible with a brand.
But, a tone is something that changes. You can think of a tone like a mood. When your mom scolded you as a child, her core values of loving you weren’t changing, she likely changed her tone in a moment of intense feeling.
An open-minded company may shift its tone between writing a press release and a blog post. It doesn’t mean it’s changed its viewpoint or mission; it’s just a formality. Similarly, you may dress or behave differently in a formal or professional setting than you would at home alone.
Managing Your Brand
Once you’ve completed all of the steps above, you’ve really only begun your branding journey. All of the time and money you’ve spent to develop your brand positioning strategy will be wasted if you don’t have a maintenance plan. This is because consistency is such a massive part of creating a successful brand.
Think about a person you just can’t seem to figure out. Is one of the reasons you may struggle to “define” them (at least in your own primitive-cognitive way) because they aren’t consistent in their actions, appearance, or beliefs? Probably.
An inconsistent brand can have the same effect as a teenager who shows up as a hardcore punk one week and a cheerleader the next (forgive the narrow example). It shows others that they don’t really know who they are or what they’re about yet.
So, how can we ensure that we are perceived as a well-rounded, evolved brand that people should trust? By establishing guidelines for every aspect of your business. Then, establishing a routine reporting strategy that checks in to your brand’s success.
Digital Marketing and Advertising
Digital brand strategy includes digital ads, social media content and profiles, blogs, website design and content, and apps. A brand’s website and social media channels should look like they belong together. Your brand development strategies need to extend to the types of advertising you choose.
This doesn’t necessarily mean everything has to be identical, but they need to complement each other. For example, if your brand uses a triadic or complementary colour palette, the primary hues between each platform could be different.
However, they will likely be the same degree of saturation, tone, and shade. Most big brands, like Apple and Addidas, for example, nail this.
Packaging and Print Advertising
All of the visual and vocal rules that apply to digital assets should translate seamlessly to tangible ones. During the pandemic, many brands turned to creative packaging as an advertising tool. For example, crafting unboxing experiences that customers will share on social media.
That tactic might not work for your business. But, at the very least, your packaging and print assets should be distinguishable from other brands and look like they belong to your brand.
Communications and Events
Your brand’s visual and verbal elements need to be consistent regarding managing and appearing in the press. Press releases should look like they match the other aspects of your brand. Likewise, the publications you’re featured in, and the quotes a publication uses should be consistent with your core values and brand story.
This aspect of a brand can feel out of your control, and in some ways, it is, but you can take a lot of control back with proper planning. You can designate a trained spokesperson to be the point of contact for the press. Or, you could conduct media training for your executive staff.
Internal communications are one way to maintain a consistent company culture. Company updates, newsletters, and memos shared with employees and stakeholders should all be an extension of your brand’s messaging.
Think about the tradeshows and conferences you participate in. Consider how your brand is being reinforced by an event your organisation hosts.
Employees and Culture
Your employees can be your secret weapon to conquer your brand or destroy it. The trick is to have an authentic culture that emulates the brand values you preach. If your company is constantly promoting its core value of “honesty” but is staffed by dishonest leadership and conducts dishonest business, your employees won’t take anything your brand says seriously.
This goes back to sticking with who you actually are. First, take the time to hire people who naturally align with your values. Then, extend your values into every aspect of company culture–from your time off policies to the benefits you offer and the type of workspace and flexibility you provide.
For example, many outdoor recreation companies offer employees designated time during the week to be active outdoors. Progressive, women-focused organisations provide onsite discounted (and sometimes even free) childcare to support their working women.
Sales and Customer Service
Everyone has had a bad customer service experience. Whether with a sales associate at a brick and motor store or online via chat, angry customers can have a massive impact on your brand if they share their experience online or with the media.
So, you must choose customer service and sales methods and invest in a staff that will enforce your brand and creates a positive experience.
Partnering with a Brand Strategy Agency
Getting serious about your brand and committing to brand strategy is a massive undertaking, especially when you approach your brand correctly by extending your brand values to every aspect of your operations.
If you need help getting started with a sharply designed website or app, let’s connect! We have an experienced team that can deliver any digital asset flawlessly and above expectations.
Start a conversation with us today.