What is a Brand Strategy?
Brand strategy is critical to any organization’s success, regardless of its size or industry. Yet many are unclear about what effective branding entails.
There’s more to branding than meets the eye. Branding is a complex and multi-faceted concept that goes beyond superficial aesthetics. For it to be effective, however, it requires a brand strategy, which determines the essence of your organization that sets you apart from the competition.
Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or part of a non-governmental organization, your brand is one of your most valuable assets. A solid brand strategy can help you establish a clear vision, build credibility and authority, and connect with your target audience on a deeper level.
Before we delve into the intricacies of brand strategy, let’s understand what branding is all about.
What is branding?
Branding refers to the process of creating a unique name, design, voice, positioning, and other features that identify and distinguish a product, service, or company from its competitors. Creating a visual identity, such as a logo, colour scheme, and typography, is also part of branding. But a brand strategy is about much more than that. It’s about identifying core values, doing market research, creating a unique selling proposition, and establishing a brand voice and messaging that communicate the brand’s values and personality.
According to a 2021 survey of 1,000 consumers, more than 80% consider trust a deciding factor in their buying decisions. Branding plays a significant role in creating this trust with your intended audiences.
The easiest way to understand branding is to think of your favourite brand.
Why do you think that particular brand is close to your heart? Of course, the quality of the product matters. But is that all?
Even before experiencing the product, you may have framed an opinion about the brand in your mind. Its logo, design elements, market positioning, brand promise, and brand voice likely influenced and inspired you to choose it over its competitors.
Consider these popular brands (even if you are not a loyal customer):
Do you have a strong perception of these brands? Do you know what they promise? If you do, that’s because of their successful branding. Their consistent visual language and messaging build trust and make it easier for customers to recognize the brand across different channels.
Apple is known for its sleek design, reliability, and cutting-edge features. The brand also has a strong brand community and loyalty.
Nike is a sporty, athletic brand with a strong sense of inspiration and motivation, emphasizing the idea “Just do it” and pushing oneself to achieve greatness.
Coca-Cola built its brand around happiness, socializing, and sharing moments of joy with friends and family.
In short, branding tells the world what the organization is about and what it’s not about. It defines the organization and positions the services in the market, building trust and recognition among a brand’s audience. A strong brand identity can help an organization stand out in a crowded market and establish itself as a leader in its industry. Which brings us to the next important question…
How do you develop a brand strategy?
Creating a brand strategy involves a thorough analysis of the brand’s target audience, market position, competition, and messaging. You need to take several vital actions to develop a successful brand strategy, including the following:
Understand the brand’s core values
Identifying and articulating a brand’s core values is one of the critical elements of brand strategy. These values should be the foundation of your brand and guide every decision your company makes.
Once you’ve established your core values, you can develop a personality that aligns with them. It should be reflected in everything in your brand, from visual language to tone of voice.
So, how do you determine your core values?
Let’s take Patagonia, for example. Some of their core values are environmentalism, quality, and not being bound by convention. If you have followed Patagonia for a while, you know that this reflects its founder’s values. Yvon Chouinard is a well-known environmental activist who, in founding Patagonia, wanted to do things differently, minimize environmental impact, and improve social practices.
So, to find your company’s core values, you can begin by looking at your own values. But be prepared, it takes a lot of work. You’ll need to invest enough time and energy to figure out the core values you strongly believe in and that drive you daily. Try to find out what it means to you. Just as Patagonia’s values are embodied in everything they do, your values should be reflected in every aspect of your branding.
If this seems like a lot to take on, Beacon offers a proprietary workshop to help our clients arrive at their core values. Sign up for our brand webinar to find out more.
Know your customers
Imagine creating a fantastic product or service but failing to understand who wants it!
Not knowing your audience derails your attempts to develop an effective brand strategy. But understanding your ideal customer will help you develop messaging that resonates with them. You should incorporate their needs, preferences, and pain points into your brand messaging to build strong relationships with them.
Conduct market research: Gather data on your customers’ preferences, demographics, behaviours, and attitudes. Develop a deep understanding of who they are and what they want. You can use surveys, focus groups, and interviews to gather this information.
Build audience personas: Once you have collected customer data, you can create personas that represent your target audience. Personas are fictional characters that embody your ideal customers’ characteristics, motivations, and goals. They can help you identify customers and create more effective brand strategies and product designs.
Use customer feedback: Customer feedback is an excellent source of information on what customers want and need. By soliciting feedback through surveys, reviews, and social media, brands can gather valuable insights on how to improve their products and services and address customer pain points.
Conduct competitive analysis
It’s not just about customers! Evaluating your competitors is equally important in developing strategies that set you apart from them and help you thrive in the marketplaces. When conducting a competitive analysis, consider various factors such as your competitors’ messaging, visual identity, and target audience.
Identify competitor strengths and weaknesses: A SWOT analysis can help you identify areas where you can differentiate yourself from your competition, capitalize on opportunities to gain a competitive advantage, and improve your brand positioning.
Evaluate market trends: By understanding market trends, such as changes in customer preferences, emerging technologies, and shifting demographics, you will be able to identify opportunities to innovate and stay ahead of your competition.
Stay relevant: Keeping up with your competitors’ strategies and tactics can help you stay relevant in the market. You can learn from their successes and failures and adapt your brand strategy accordingly.
Choose your voice
Your brand voice is how you communicate with your audience, and it should be in sync with your brand’s values and target audience. Also, your brand voice should be consistent across all channels, including social media, advertising, and customer service.
Let’s take Wendy’s, for example. Known for its sassy brand voice on social media, its tweets often feature witty comebacks and humorous jabs at competitors. A younger audience who values humour and authenticity quickly connects with this brand voice.
Another great example is Dove. Its brand voice is centred on body positivity and self-love, and its messaging encourages customers to embrace natural beauty and feel confident in their skin. This brand voice aligns with Dove’s core values of inclusivity, diversity, and empowerment.
Develop your visual identity
Consistent with your brand’s personality and voice, you should also develop a recognizable and memorable visual identity. It can significantly impact your audience’s perception of your brand, and, if done correctly, these elements can effectively communicate your purpose.
Case in point: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)?
The iconic panda logo!
The black and white panda in a simple, stylized form is easily recognizable and has become synonymous with the organization’s mission, conservation, and sustainability. WWF has built a strong brand identity around its logo, and its visual identity focuses on nature and wildlife in a way that is instantly recognizable and evocative of the organization’s mission.
Several elements contribute to a brand’s visual identity. Some of the core elements are:
Logo: The visual symbol representing a brand is often the most recognizable and memorable visual identity.
Colour palette: A colour scheme is a set of colours that a brand uses consistently across its visual identity. A strong colour scheme can help a brand stand out and create a memorable impression.
Typography: The font or typeface that a brand uses across its visual identity also conveys a brand’s personality and voice. The content or message shared by brands is not just done through words and their meaning. Through typography, communicating these ideas can be done visually, and significantly influence our emotions and perception.
Design elements: Shape, rhythm, and texture all play a role in defining your visual language.
Imagery: Imagery is the visual content that a brand uses in its marketing and advertising materials. This can include photographs, illustrations, or other visual elements that help tell the brand’s story, such as custom photo treatments for your images to enhance your visual language.
All these visual cues work together to create a cohesive and consistent visual identity. You should ensure that these choices accurately represent your current purpose and values, and speak to your target audience.
A final word
Branding is about more than just creating a logo and designing a pretty website (we may sound like a broken record, but we love to reinforce this fact).
Branding success depends on how effectively you communicate your unique selling proposition to your target audience, addressing their needs and pain points. A well-defined brand can help potential customers understand what your company stands for and why it’s unique. To get started developing or finessing your brand identity, you can use the elements we’ve identified.
Want to learn more? Join veteran designer Dani Vachon for a free branding webinar. Reserve your spot today!