So what is brand strategy? Over the last ten years, I’ve consulted with over a thousand brands. Those brands ranged from fledgling solo entrepreneur startups to multinationals with nine-figure turnovers.
Regardless of the type of business that I was working with, I’d start off each engagement with the same question:
“Why should anyone care about you?”
The question never failed to cut right to the core on why should you exist. The response that followed was the company’s real vision, mission and values (or lack of, therefore) and not some pre-rehearsed dogma.
Over the years, one pattern became abundantly clear to me.
Regardless of how much marketing work we did, the businesses with the most well-thought-out and respected brands almost always outperformed the ones who treated their brand as an afterthought.
This pattern became so obvious that I shifted my old agency’s client onboarding process to fit the following mantra:
Everything starts and ends with your brand.
I cannot emphasize how important it is to have a well-thought-out brand strategy when starting a new business.
It’s often the difference between launching a business that’s a mere flash in the frypan versus one that stands the test of time and goes on to achieve greatness.
Defining What is Brand Strategy
Brand strategy is the process by which a company develops a brand that communicates who they are and why their customers should care about them.
An effective brand consists of more than just a well-designed logo. It combines a compelling purpose, motivating mission and honest values with well-thought-out target audiences and buyer personas.
It defines the types of color, tone of voice, fonts and imagery used to best communicate what the brand stands for.
Why Purpose Trumps Vision Statements
Utter the phrase ‘vision statement’ and memories of that tacky plaque hanging above the breakroom entrance from that old job you hated may come flooding back.
Misappropriation of vision statements in the corporate world has left the concept tarnished in many people’s minds.
The good news is there’s a better way of approaching vision statements. The greatest companies in the world put purpose ahead of vision.
Without a clear purpose of why you are doing what you are doing, then what’s the point of it all?
Why should anyone care about you and what you doing if there’s no underlying purpose?
Examples of Purpose-Driven Vision Statements
Let’s take a look at the purpose behind some of the world’s most successful companys’ vision statements.
Do any of those statements evoke a sense of emotion from within? Do you feel inspired?
Whether the answer is yes or no, it’s hard to argue that many of those companies have indeed fulfilled their purpose. And that’s why they are some of the most successful companies in the world.
So now it’s your turn.
What’s your purpose?
Why does your company deserve to exist?
What sort of dent do you want to leave in the universe?
If you are still unsure, think about what you want to have achieved with your company in five years’ time. In other words, what do you ultimately want to manifest with your company?
A visionary approach is important to demonstrate to your audience and employees what they are signing up to and why should they care about it. It will also help you differentiate your business from the rest, even if there’s a number of similar business already in your field.
Noice that each one of the examples above is short, simple, impactful and bold. They serve as flags in the sand for advocates of these brands to rally around. Don’t be afraid to have a purpose that’s larger than life – you only have one!
How to Craft an Inspiring Mission
A mission statement puts the ‘how’ behind the ‘why. In other words, it summarises how a company will fulfill its purpose.
The wording needs to be clear enough that anyone who reads it can understand your objectives without any ambiguity. They should know exactly why you’re doing this at all, so make sure they get it from just reading your sentence in its entirety.
Like a strong purpose, a good mission statement has an element of passion or zeal about itself. It should make sense on its own even without knowing what the purpose is.
Let’s take a look a the mission statements of the same companies listed above.
The mission statements inform you how the company will achieve its vision. Some statements are more action-orientated while others are more emotive. It’s best to strike a balance between action-inspiring and emotionally charged when developing your purpose and mission.
Why Values Are The Most Important Aspect of Brand
You could have the greatest purpose and mission that lights fires from within whenever spoken.
However, if the company carries out its mission with poor values, the purpose and mission can quickly become undone.
Values are a statement of what you most deeply believe in. They characterize the organization you create and determine its trajectory. Values shape every decision made by employees, customers or stakeholders throughout your company’s history.
It also forms the basis of how your company is perceived by the public.
There is no such thing as an accidental values system; it is all shaped deliberately to reflect the vision of who you want your company to be for generations into the future.
How to Define Your Business Values
It is important to figure out what values will help your organization be successful. There are three steps you can take:
1) Start from within. What values have governed and shaped your life to date? Are there new values that you want to adopt or old values that you want to step away from?
2) Talk with the people who matter most to you and care about what you are doing. Get their opinion on what values they think you demonstrate.
3) Document them and organize them in order of importance towards to the company that you want to create
Ultimately, values should reflect what you want in life.
Enrepreureship gifts you the ability to live life the way that you want to live it. Therefore, your business allows you to create a world in whatever way you see fit.
By doing so helps you to create a unique company that’s different by design. There are no two people the same in this world. That’s why creating a business around your unique characteristics is the most defensible strategy towards creating a business that is differentiated from the get-go.
Let’s take a look at Amazon’s values:
We can see a strong connection to Amazon’s purpose and mission in their values. Their number one value is customer obsession, which is a direct reflection of their vision. Moreso, the rest of the values reinforce what it means to provide the best possible service as per their mission statement.
Understanding Target Audience & How to Define Your Own
A target audience is a group of people who will be most likely to buy and use your products and services. In order to know what kind of message you should give them, it’s important that you understand their needs first.
Asking questions such as “What do I need? How can my business provide this better than others?” on a regular basis can help keep you focused on servicing the type of customers you want to be dealing with.
Here are some simple steps to help you define your target audience:
My advice for new businesses is to not overthink who your target audience is when getting started. It’s quite common for new businesses to find out their target audience is completely different from what they originally thought it would be.
Many new businesses need to ‘pivot‘ their approach so they can align their business with the type of audience that actually is paying for their goods and services. Consumer purchasing habits are constantly evolving therefore defining your target audience should be treated as an ongoing process.
Defining Your Buyer Personas and Customer Avatars
A buyer persona is a person that represents the needs, interests, and behaviors of a targeted group of buyers. It’s important to define who your buyers are so you know how to best market to them.
Buyer personas will help you to craft marketing messages that resonate with your target audience. It’s definitely something you want to have nailed before you start building your stack ofmarketing tools and software.
Personas can also help you further evolve your business to include products and services that your target audience will likely purchase from you.
Creating a customer avatar is a good way to help develop your buyer persona. It should be the model of who your best customer should be.
You’ll want to document things like what they are like, what they do, what problems they have and what are their desires.
Here are some questions to help you define your buyer persona:
Businesses may have multiple buyer personas and customer avatars. If you are going into business for the first time, my advice would be to start a business that has one primary buyer persona. It’ll make everything less confusing and allow your marketing to cut through to your target audience for less time and money.
Defining Your Tone of Voice
A company’s tone of voice is an important component of its branding. A way that a company can be differentiated from other companies in the market, and create emotional connections with customers based on personality type; it also helps articulate the brand values (i.e., empathy, authenticity).
For new businesses, the tone of voice is set by the founder. These guidelines lay the foundations on how your communication should present the company to the public.
The big objective here is to make sure you achieve a consistent tone of voice across all platforms and customer touchpoints. Whether it is on social media, browsing your online store, or reading the back of a package, a consistent tone of voice leads to a strong brand.
Choosing the Right Colors
Colors are more than just tones on a palette. They are symbols with different meanings and associations that evoke emotional responses in people of all ages.
Choosing the right colors for your brand is an important step in the design process. This is because colors can have a lot of meanings and people can think differently about your company when they see it. That’s why color matters for connections with customers.
This is why when designing logos, designers use colors wisely. For example, large companies often use blue as it represents strength and stability. Startups may tend towards red or orange because they are energizing without being too aggressive.
Here’s an example of feelings and emotions commonly evoked with color:
Choosing Purposeful Fonts
Choosing the right fonts for your brand is important when communicating with customers. It helps to reinforce a message and reinforces your identity as a company or organization. The font you choose can make all the difference in how people perceive you!
Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a font for your brand:
- What message are you trying to communicate?
- Is there a certain mood or atmosphere that your brand is hoping to project?
- What’s the company culture like, and how does it relate to fonts?
- Do any of your competitors have similar branding/fonts choices that may affect the decision?
- How do I want people to feel when they see my logo/branding?
- Is this font appropriate for our target audience?
Creating an Memorizable Logo
A logo is more than just a graphic representation of your company. It defines your brand and sets you apart from competitors in the eyes of consumers.
Think about some well-known logos, such as Nike’s swoosh or Coca-Cola’s cursive font. A simple, recognizable logo can give customers an emotional connection to what they see on the packaging and other promotional material — which will likely help them choose it over alternatives that are similar but lack branding recognition.
For more, check out my guide on everything you need to know when designing a logo including different options and costs.
Choosing the Sort of Images
Choosing the right type of imagery for your brand is important for consistency and conveying a clear message to your audience.
The types of images used on your website, brochures, and collateral should align with your purpose, mission, values, and supporting brand elements. For example, if your brand champions diversity, it would be important to show these values by including images of people from diverse backgrounds.
Here are a few factors to consider when choosing imagery for your brand:
- Do you want your images to be bright and vibrant? Consider using organic or natural imagery.
- Would black and white make a statement for your brand instead? Use abstract, geometric shapes.
- Think about the message you want to convey with photos: do they represent joy and enthusiasm? Or are you looking for something moodier that embodies melancholy feelings? In that case monochrome landscapes or still life photography may work better.
So there you have it. That’s an introduction to what is brand strategy and how you can create one for your business
I hope it will help you create a brand for the ages.
With that said, it’s time to hear what you have to say.
How important do you think the brand is towards a company’s success? Or, maybe you have a question regarding branding.
Either way, let me know in the comment section below.
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