What is a brand strategy?

Picture of Megan Bradbury

Megan Bradbury

When you hear about brand strategy the first thing that comes to mind is probably your name, logo, product or website. And while these things accumulate to form part of your brand identity, a brand strategy encompasses so much more.

A brand strategy puts focus on all parts of your brand from the way you communicate with your consumers and the colours and fonts that you use, to your strapline, the graphics you post on your social media and the news articles you share about your business.

It requires an in-depth analysis of your consumer, their buying habits, the language they use when searching for your product or services and the routes they take to find new businesses.

Ultimately, a brand strategy is about goals. Where do you see your brand in the future? How do you plan to get there?

Your brand strategy must take into account your consumers’ entire journey with your business. This doesn’t end once they’ve purchased your product or answered your call to action, it shapes the future voice in their head that recommends you to a friend who is looking for your offering, and that keeps them coming back to you as opposed to your competitors.

There are a number of things you can do to strengthen your brand and create one that separates you from the crowd, and a carefully thought out brand strategy is the perfect place to start.

Why is it important to have a brand strategy?

Having a brand strategy is all about increasing awareness for your brand which will help you reach a wider audience and elevate your sales.

Your brand strategy can also help you to foster repeat business as it keeps your brand relevant and in the forefront of your market’s mind. Building a solid customer base will provoke word of mouth advertising for your business which will encourage new referrals.

Your brand strategy concentrates on your long-term goals and objectives, so it works as a guide to keep your business growth on track. Establishing who you are as a company will aid you in driving your strategy forward.

Here are the different elements of a brand strategy that you need to consider when creating a brand that stands out against the competition and speaks to your target market in a way that builds a memorable bond and favourability within the marketplace.

Purpose

You need to know why it is that you go to work every day. What you’re setting out to achieve and how you plan to do it. As well as thinking about how this differs from your competitors. This is more than just understanding what your business promises to achieve in the future. In order to define your brand position you need to actively engage in your day to day purpose.

Your purpose will usually fall into one of two categories; functional or intentional. Functional relates to businesses whose primary focus is to evaluate success based on immediate and commercial gain. Intentional relates to businesses who evaluate success based on the amount of money they make while also doing good in the world.

Consistency

Brand recognition puts your product or service in the minds of the consumer, which is why your brand’s messaging and visual cues are so important. Your customers need to know what they can expect from you so having a consistent image throughout your advertising can help you to establish your values.

You also need to consider your communications and messaging. Try to avoid talking about things that don’t relate to your brand or values through social media and advertising as incoherence can weaken your brand position.

Emotion

People are often drawn to things that appeal to them on an emotional level, and this can be utilised in your brand strategy.

It is beneficial to think of the emotional experience that comes with your brand. This can be conveyed through your values, the way you communicate and advertise, and even the design of your shop or products. Your audience is more likely to engage with you if they feel a stronger connection with your brand.

Flexibility

Trends come and go very quickly, so you need to be able to adapt in order to stay relevant within the market. While it is important to have consistency for your brand position, you still need to be flexible and creative with your campaigns to stay ahead of the competition and engage with your audience in a dynamic way.

Your brand strategy will need to be adjusted and adapted consistently in order to grow your business and your reach. Consistency sets the standard for your brand, but flexibility allows you to remain creative and distinguish your brand from your competitors’ approach.

Loyalty

Once you’ve established a customer base, one of the best ways to foster repeat business is to reward your customers for their love. If your customers are spreading the word about your business, writing good reviews and acting as ambassadors for your brand, you can reward them to increase brand loyalty and ultimately yield more profit.

Loyalty schemes such as promotions, free gifts and social media shoutouts and giveaways can be a great incentive to become a customer. Showing your appreciation for your customers can massively increase your brand loyalty and promote word of mouth awareness for your brand.

Employee Participation

Your employees are the face of your brand, so the way they come across to your customers is important for brand recognition. Tone of voice doesn’t only apply to your digital assets, but also needs to be correctly portrayed through your employees. Make sure your employees know how to communicate with customers in order to have a cohesive brand image.

Competitive Awareness

Your competitors will be imposing their own brand strategy so see this as a challenge to improve yours so that you stand out against your competition. Learn from their mistakes and tailor your brand positioning to beat them.

Putting your brand strategy into practice

Create your mission statement

Every business serves a purpose, so knowing your goals is extremely important. It is through these that you can measure your success, as well as your downfalls. It acts as a guide for all of your marketing efforts from your website to your printed collateral, social media, email campaigns and tone of voice. They underline what it is that your business is promising to your consumers, what they can expect from you and why they should choose you over other competitors.

Your brand mission statement should clearly outline your purpose, objectives and how you plan to serve your audience. It should state what your business does, and what impact you want to make.

Understand your target market

Taking the time to research your target market is extremely beneficial for your brand strategy. You need to create an experience that resonates with your target audience in order for them to choose your business over your competitors.

Pay attention to their values and beliefs so that you can use these as a basis for your own brand values. By aligning your values with those of your target audience you can be sure that they will have a greater appreciation for your business and what it stands for. Looking at other brands your audience buys from can give you some insight into these values.

Another important thing to consider is where and how your target audience finds out about new products and services. This information means that you can tailor your marketing and advertising to the platforms that your audience frequents.

Keyword research is great for finding out about the language your audience is using to search for your products. Incorporating this information into your website will help your target audience to find you online.

By taking the time to research the buying habits of your target market you can gain a good understanding of their personalities, their needs and beliefs, as well as their objections. All of this information can be fed back into your strategy so that you are creating a brand that is perfectly suited to succeed in its market and stand out against competitors.

Research your competitors

When you’re heading into battle it is always useful to have knowledge of your opponent’s tactics. In a busy marketplace, the concept is just the same. You’re all fighting for the same customers which means you need to be able to outsmart the competition and come out on top.

In order to differentiate your business and brand from the crowd, use competitor analysis to search for any gaps in the market so that you can position your brand in a better, more appealing place.

Look at what is working well for them, where they are producing the most traffic and how they advertise themselves and their products. Gain insight into what isn’t working so that you don’t spend any time wasting your efforts on marketing that won’t succeed in directing your target market to your business.

See which keywords that are present on their website have the highest search volume and then incorporate those keywords into your content strategy for your web pages, blogs and articles to direct traffic towards your site.

Design your brand identity

When looking to build a memorable brand, it is important to consider all the elements of your brand’s identity. This refers to the sensory experiences of your brand, the way it looks, sounds, feels, smells and tastes.

The importance of each sensory element will differ depending on your business offerings, but the aesthetics of your brand; your logo, colours, fonts, packaging and signage for example, will greatly influence how the world views your brand.

Straplines can be a very valuable part of your brand’s identity. They can be extremely memorable; the perfect tool to represent your brand values and keep your business relevant.

Other things such as the music you play in your store, the voices you use in your advertisements and the smell and feel of your products all work together to build an image of your brand. They express your vision and values and should evoke the right emotions within your customers that you want them to feel when they think of your brand.

Define your brand guidelines

Consistency is key for building brand recognition, this means that all of your messaging needs to be cohesive and relevant to your business. Try to avoid talking about topics that don’t relate to your brand as this can confuse your image.

The best way to stay consistent is to create and define brand guidelines for your business. Your brand guidelines are a clear set of instructions that dictate how your brand is presented to the world. They set the standards and parameters for things such as your logo size, colours and fonts, guidance on messaging and tone of voice, as well as layout options for social media, ads and emails.

Your brand guidelines tone of voice translates not only into how you write about your brand, but also how your employees present themselves. If you want your brand to be fun and exciting, you can’t have a customer service team that is dull and monotonous, for example, as it doesn’t fit and could be confusing.

Often presented in a booklet, your brand guidelines should be given to all employees, as well as anyone you outsource work to, to ensure that your brand is presented correctly. Without this, it is easy for your brand to be weakened.

Having a strong and consistent brand is directly linked to trust and can help you to build a loyal customer base.

Build your business plan

Your business plan is a document that clearly defines, in detail, your company’s objectives, and provides an action plan of how you intend to achieve these goals.

Your business plan is a written roadmap that is used alongside your brand strategy, and should outline marketing, financial and operational standpoints. It works as an internal guide that keeps your executive team focused on the future of the business.

Your business plan needs to be flexible as it is subject to change. It should be reviewed and adapted periodically, as your business moves forward, to ensure it reflects your ever changing goals.

Each department of your business needs to be considered within the document so that you can all work together towards conquering the goals you set out to achieve.

Here are some industry examples that demonstrate a successful brand strategy:

Nike

Mission statement – “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”

Vision statement – “to do everything possible to expand human potential.”

Nike has an intentional purpose for their business. They want to not only sell sportswear and gear, but provide their customers with products that will help them to expand their potential and take their level of athleticism to peak performance.

It is this company ethos and commitment to innovation that has helped the brand to become synonymous with quality sport attire and equipment that you can count on.

Nike was founded in 1964 by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight under its original name Blue Ribbon Sports. Part of creating a solid brand was for them to have a company logo that would be memorable. In 1971, for a mere $35, the famous Nike Swoosh was created.

The idea behind the logo was to create something that seemed to be fluid and would convey motion and speed, this idea was combined with an influence of the Greek Goddess of victory Nike, with the Swoosh symbolising her wing. The logo became so popular that in 1978 Bowerman and Knight decided to change the brand name to Nike.

Going back to Nike’s mission statement, not only is Nike one of the most well-known brands in the world for its products, it comes with a promise that the brand is for “everyone in the world” which you can see through their campaigns where diversity is often highlighted.

Nike has successfully positioned itself as a brand that is targeted at everybody, no matter their age, ethnicity or level of expertise.

Harley-Davidson

Mission statement – “More than building machines. We stand for the timeless pursuit of adventure. Freedom for the soul.”

Vision statement – “Building our legend and leading through innovation, evolution and emotion.”

Harley-Davidson puts a lot of emphasis on emotion when it comes to their branding strategy, as is made evident by their mission to fuel adventure and freedom for the soul. It is through this company ethos that Harley-Davidson continues to attract customers who don’t just want a motorbike, but the lifestyle and mentality that comes with it.

They’ve created the Harley Owners Group (HOG) which gives their customers a platform to talk and connect with each other about their experiences and have thus built a community within their brand.

Harley-Davidson have been able to expand their brand to be more than the bikes themselves, but an entire lifestyle. They have found a way to actively engage with their audience which entices new customers whilst still engaging with existing customers. They have created the voice in the consumer’s head that says “I don’t want just any motorcycle, I want a Harley-Davidson.”

Lush

We believe…
We believe in making effective products from fresh, organic* fruit and vegetables, the finest essential oils, and safe synthetics.
We invent our own products and fragrances. We make them fresh by hand using little or no preservatives or packaging, using only vegetarian ingredients, and tell you when they were made.
We believe in buying ingredients only from companies that do not commission tests on animals and in testing our products on humans.
We believe in happy people making happy soap, putting our faces on our products, and making our mums proud.
We believe in long candlelit baths, sharing showers, massage, filling the world with perfume, and in the right to make mistakes, lose everything and start again.
We believe that all people should enjoy freedom of movement across the world.
We believe our products are good value, that we should make a profit and that the customer is always right.
*We also believe words like “fresh” and “organic” have an honest meaning beyond marketing.

Lush is a cosmetics brand whose mission statement consists of their values and beliefs, which primarily focus on responsible sourcing of ingredients and ethical testing, to position themselves away from other cosmetic brands. Three decades on, Lush is still actively working to provide customers with high-quality, handmade products that show that you do not need to use unethical practices to build a business.

They have perfectly positioned themselves in an industry that is known for using harmful chemicals and cruel testing methods as the ‘safe’ and humane option that prides itself on its ability to produce cosmetics that customers can feel proud to buy, as they are supporting a good cause.

We have worked with a variety of clients from different industries on their brands and brand strategies. You can read our case studies here.

Browndog

A brand strategy must have goals, whether that’s as simple as letting the world know your brand exists, or whether it’s reaching new customers, etc. Those goals will shape the strategy. For example, if the goal is to raise awareness within a new demographic you may revisit your brand values to add in something that resonates with the new buyer persona, or you may tweak some of the brand messaging or visual elements to have broader appeal.

It’s important to remember that a brand strategy is typically a fluid thing that is periodically assessed and adapted based on its successes and failures.

Our branding proposition encompasses who you are, what you stand for, what you want to achieve, and most importantly, how you are going to get there. From visual cues that underpin your identity, to well thought out and inspirational strategic direction, our team will equip you to communicate with your customers in the best way possible.

We have over 20 years’ experience in creating and developing brands – whether you need something completely new or a little refresh. Our approach is one of constant engagement and collaboration, so you will see your brand come to life as we develop the routes, and we will ensure you are happy with the creative direction before moving onto the next stage.

We will establish a brand that speaks to your target audience with a complete service including competitor and customer analysis, logos, graphic design, copywriting, straplines and both printed and digital collateral.

If you want to see how we can help you to establish your brand then get in touch with a member of our team by emailing us at [email protected] or call us on 01484 453131.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog on brand strategy, take a look at our blog discussing the differences between brand, branding and brand identity.

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