A brand strategy refers to the various techniques and elements involved in actively building or promoting your brand. It’s a conscious effort to take your brand and improve upon it – or build it from scratch if it doesn’t exist yet.
Good branding will help your brand to stand out from its competition. This is due to relating to your audience better, looking better, and saying the right things.
It’s very difficult to think of one of the big international brands and not immediately associate a specific personality with them. This doesn’t just happen; it takes a lot of effort to consciously guide the audience into seeing a brand in a specific way.
What is the value of a brand strategy?
The value of branding cannot be underestimated. It’s not only for the big guys – in fact, it might even be more important for brands that aren’t worth billions of dollars. Fantastic branding can initiate remarkable growth in small to medium-sized brands, allowing them to burst through their market and expand their reach.
This all sounds great, right? Who doesn’t want massive growth… In truth, effective branding isn’t as simple as running a few adverts and designing a logo and slogan. It is a complex endeavour that needs optimisation across a wide variety of areas.
This is why you shouldn’t go into it blind. A good brand strategy will make the entire process much more efficient, saving you time and money.
The benefits of a good brand strategy
A brand strategy outlines each of the steps you need to take to build a dominant brand. It looks at each part of the branding process and breaks it down into solvable chunks.
Without a brand strategy, you’ll probably find that the elements of your branding don’t align together well. Your branding will not be as sharp and pinpointed as it could be.
The moral of the story is that a brand strategy should be considered mandatory for any entity looking to run a brand. Let’s look at how they work.
There are three fundamental elements that form the foundation of superior brand strategy. Let’s take a look.
The first step for setting up a Brand Strategy: Brand Positioning
Brand positioning is your starting point when it comes to developing a superior brand strategy. Great brand positioning will ensure that you are optimally prepared to appeal to the needs, desires, and personalities of potential customers.
The first thing you should do when developing your brand positioning is constructing your brand premise. A brand premise is the primary area within your market that you’re looking to target.
For example, if you’re a car manufacturer, your market is… the car market. Simple, right?
Your brand premise, however, goes deeper. What makes you special within the car market? Why should people choose your cars over those of any other brand?
The answer to this depends on what you offer. Mercedes Benz, for example, make luxury vehicles. Their brand premise could be making the best luxury cars available. This is more specific than just ‘cars,’ and constitutes a brand premise.
Likewise, Volvo focuses heavily upon car safety. Their brand premise is, therefore, that their vehicles are the safest cars around. They’re not trying to make fancier vehicles than a brand like Mercedes; they have their own premise upon which people will choose to buy their vehicles.
Other brand premises within the car business include fast cars and fuel-efficient town cars. Notice how it’s virtually impossible to think of a brand that could apply to all of these brand premises – successful brands know what they offer, and why people would consider their offers.
You may have noticed that brand premises align closely with unique selling points.The difference is that your brand premise is a target which your entire brand should look to dominate, whereas USPs tend to be specific to individual products.
Target Audience Profile
Now that you know what sets your brand apart, it’s time for you to work out who is interested in your offerings.
A firm understanding of the sort of person who would be interested in your brand premise is crucial if you are to build a brand that caters towards their needs and desires.
You need to ask a host of questions about your target market to pinpoint their interests, characteristics and other information that sets them apart.
Some examples include
- Digital Channels
- Biggest Problems
You can find out this information through analytics software. Perhaps the best (or at least the most common) of the available options is Google Analytics. You can get a lot of information about the people visiting your website and social media platforms through this tool.
More tools for collecting target audience data
Beyond this, you should use other techniques depending upon the type of information you’re looking to collect. For example, you could talk to individuals who visit your physical store or your website, asking them about the problems they want solved or the digital channels they prefer. For quantitative data, however, analytics software like Google Analytics will be your best bet.
You are not at all limited by the list given – there are many other questions you can ask, depending on what is relevant to your brand.
Once you have this information, it is worth visualizing your target audience. You have the information now –use it! It is a good idea to design character profiles of people who could be a part of your target audience. If you feel like you’re targeting an actual person, it’ll make your branding much more natural.
Slogan or Payoff Line
Your slogan or payoff line is the phrase that will stick in the mind of your target audience. You want to use words that are catchy and reflect well upon your brand.
With the previous information we have acquired about your brand’s targets and targeting, you have all you need to create a slogan or payoff line that resonates with your audience.
Targeting a need within your prospects will allow your words to hit home harder. If it feels like you’re speaking to their personal situations, you will find it much easier to convince them to be loyal to your brand.
A good slogan is devoid of cliché
Don’t make your slogan too clichéd. You want something that makes you stand out from the crowd. It’s all about combining something that’s catchy with something that’s original.
The shorter your slogan, the better. Anything too long is difficult for your target audience to remember, and also for you to use in your branding. One short phrase is what you should be looking for, like Nike’s Just Do It.
Tone of Voice
The tone you use in your branding efforts matters a lot. Understanding your target market has afforded you valuable insight into their characteristics, but you want to make sure that you also know how they talk.
If you’re targeting teenagers, for example, it would be highly impractical to use excessively formal, technical language. Rather, you would probably want to keep things simple and use slang that they identify with, like MTV in the example below
Using an effective tone of voice
Crucial to an effective tone of voice is not assuming knowledge of your target market’ speech style. Too many brands think they understand their target market’s tone, but haven’t actually researched it sufficiently.
A forced, inaccurate tone can ruin your branding efforts. One of the most common examples of this is when brands try to be ‘hip’ or modern for the sake of relating to their markets, but miss the mark. The young people they’re targeting don’t take them seriously because they’re clearly forcing their tone. Instead, these brands come across as fake and untrustworthy.
How to incorporate style with tone of voice
Ensure that you understand your market, and then choose a style that suits both them and your brand. You don’t have to fill your marketing with slang and teen-abbreviations if you are targeting a younger market – perhaps your brand is suited better towards appealing to them more subtly.
Your style must be used across your branding and platforms, else it will lose its effect and make your brand feel inconsistent and unmemorable. Consistency is a fundamental necessity in branding.
The second step for setting up a Brand Strategy: Brand Design
Your brand design is the visual representation of your brand. It’s all well and good developing your positioning, but you also need to put it into practice.
Brand design involves a variety of different aspects, but the goal is the same – make your brand stand out and be memorable visually. A good brand is iconic in its visual design – think, for example, about Apple. The way their brand is designed makes it blatantly clear that an Apple product is being marketed, just because they have a unique, consistent brand design.
There are four main aspects of brand design that will help you to build a brand strategy that allows you to stand out from the crowd.
Choosing A Logo Type
Your logo is the visual representation of your brand that will stick in the mind of your audience. It’s essentially the visual equivalent of your slogan. When people see the famous tick, they immediately connect it to the Nike brand. Likewise, the Apple logo is synonymous with the famous technology brand.
Your logo should epitomise your brand, including the nature of your target market as well as the nature of your offerings. Apple, for example, was initially premised upon making things as simple and efficient for the user as possible. They were targeting an audience who wanted simple computing, and as a result, their logo represents this no-frills mindset to a ‘t’.
Likewise, Nike is all about getting out there and achieving your goals and dreams. The tick logo signals the sort of self-affirmation that they look to breed through their brand – a tick represents success, which Nike users are striving towards.
There are different styles of logos that you can consider. Some brands prefer to use an icon as their logo, such as Apple and Nike. Others, however, use their own names in their logo – think Samsung. Others still combine these elements, resulting in both words and icons. A good example of this would be Huawei.
There are other types of icons, such as legacy, letter abbreviations, and emblems. Your choice should be based upon what fits your market as well as your brand.
Choosing A Colour
Your brand’s colour is crucial to your brand design. Different colours suit different markets and represent different feelings.
Your first priority should be ensuring that your colour choices remain constant throughout your branding – regardless of platform or medium. Without this consistency, your brand will not establish itself in the mind of your market as one distinct entity.
Your colour choices matter. We’ve done extensive research into leading brands, and we’ve found that certain colours dominate certain markets. Red, for example, is dominant in a host of fast food brands like McDonalds and KFC.
You should research your competition’s colour choices and take into account your unique positioning relative to theirs. The wrong colour choice can halt your growth as a brand.
Choosing A Font
An often-underestimated aspect of brand design is the font that the brand uses. While not as immediately evident when looking at branding efforts, fonts still hold significant power in how they represent brands.
There are two types of fonts – modern, and traditional fonts.
Modern fonts are less ‘frilly’ – they are sans-serif fonts that appear more straightforward and direct. Generally, they give off a more dynamic tone, as well as obviously appearing more modern.
Traditional fonts are serif fonts that have various embellishments. They tend to promote an image of formality and luxury. They work well with brands looking to promote classiness and history rather than dynamism and youthfulness. Hotels and expensive restaurants are good examples of brands that can benefit from traditional fonts.
Combination of Fonts
You have a third offering – mixing them together. You will likely use at least 3 fonts – one for titles, another for headings, and another still for body text. You could choose to mix modern and traditional fonts in a way that creates a more balanced brand image.
This mixing of fonts is, according to our research, quite common. This is possibly because you get the best of both worlds – you show some authority, while simultaneously inject some life into your brand.
The type of images you use in your brand design will depend significantly on your individual brand.
Some common image types that are used across a wide variety of brands include product imagery, lifestyle imagery, and illustrations.
Product imagery makes sense since your products are ultimately what connects you to your customer.
Lifestyle imagery allows you to humanise your brand by connecting your offerings to people’s lives.
Illustrations are popular because they tend to stand out and can be used to emphasise specific ideas since they are designed with a specific intention in mind.
There are other imagery types that will work for certain brands fantastically. Introspectively analyse your brand and your target audience, working out what sorts of imagery would work in your specific context.
The saying goes that a picture is worth 1000 words. Don’t underestimate the value of images, and don’t be afraid of overusing images. It is very difficult to use too many images in your branding given their incredible value.
Understanding your market and the other aspects of your brand design will allow you to develop effective advertising angles. Different markets reward different advertising angles.
Do research on how your competition is advertising themselves, and work out how you can develop angles that advertise your brand better.
Your advertising angles need to appeal to your target market and grab their attention. It is a repeating theme for a reason, but you can do this by understanding your market’s needs and desires.
The effect of advertising angles
Angles like humour can be particularly effective if executed efficiently, but be careful – if it falls flat, it will be incredibly damaging to your brand image. Weak and inappropriate humour can destroy a brand image in the blink of an eye. A good example of humour in branding is Nando’s.
An efficient angle, if you can afford it, is being endorsed by celebrities. These don’t necessarily have to be celebrities with reach in the millions – smaller, but respected influencers can work very well too. This angle is particularly effective because it doesn’t look like you’re blowing your own horn.
The third step for setting up a Brand Strategy: Marketing Asset Creation
Finally, you want assets that you can utilise to further your branding efforts.
Understanding your market will help you to know what assets are most beneficial for you to invest in.
Your most important marketing assets are
- Brand Guidelines
- Brand Strategy
We’ve already addressed logos, but let’s talk about the other two.
The powerful use of brand guidelines
A brand guidelines document will help you to record the various decisions you have made regarding your brand. This document will contain all of your choices regarding the brand design elements we have previously outlined.
The point of this is to ensure that everyone has a template to follow. Without such a document, you could find that some of your branding uses different fonts, colours, imagery and more. This would reduce the consistency and trustworthiness of your brand.
A brand strategy document is basically an articulated plan of how you are going to go about building and maintaining your brand. While the guidelines document is focused primarily upon your brand design decisions, the brand strategy document is focused upon your positioning as well as the actual implementation of your brand guidelines.
There are other assets that you can create to add to your brand strategy
- Company video helps you to outline your brand in a more corporate context. Rather than marketing to consumers, you’re more likely to use a company video to market to investors or business clients.
- Brochures and leave-behinds allow you to insert your brand directly into the environments of prospective customers and serve as a form of retargeting in the sense that they can be referred back to after the initial interaction.
- Vehicle Signage allows you to get your brand out on the streets – literally! Vehicle signage will insert your brand into the subconscious (or conscious) mind of commuters.
- Corporate gifting will ensure that your brand remains subtly entrenched in the lives of business and brands you interact within a B2B context.
Summary to creating a successful brand strategy
Let’s summarise the key steps to creating a brand strategy.
Step One For Creating A Brand Strategy
First, you need to position your brand to serve your target audience effectively. To do this, you need to understand your brand premise, find out who your target audience is, and develop a tone of voice that resonates with this audience.A good slogan is also crucial in this process.
Step Two For Creating A Brand Strategy
Next, you should develop a consistent and memorable brand design. This includes deciding on a good logo, a relevant colour palette, appropriate fonts, powerful imagery, and intelligent advertising angles.
Step Three For Creating A Brand Strategy
Finally, you should develop brand assets that help your branding efforts. These range from documentation like brand guidelines and brand strategy, to more practical marketing assets like vehicle signage and company video.
With this knowledge, you should be well equipped to enter the fascinating world of branding. Businesses live and die by their brands, so make sure that yours stands out from the crowd.