As Robert Kiyosaki once said: “If you’re not a brand, you’re a commodity“.
If you know Fabrik, you’ll know how passionate we are about branding.
We (and many other experts) believe that branding is one of the most crucial components of running a successful business. For instance, did you know that 77% of customers make purchases because of a brand’s name? Or how about the fact that 82% of investors are guided in their decisions by the strength of a brand’s position in their chosen market?
In simple terms, a brand is how you separate your company from the teeming masses of other businesses out there, all competing for the same thing – your target audience. The right brand gives you the power to build stronger connections with your customers, cultivate loyalty and inspire advocacy. However, brands don’t just happen by themselves.
A truly incredible brand needs to be shaped, moulded, and cultivated over time, not just in the logos you design and the website you build, but also in the things you do and say. When every word you post online, and every aspect of your brand marketing campaigns have the power to reduce your business to ruins – branding can’t be something that’s done “off-the-cuff”.
You might not need to be a state-of-the-art brand strategist to refine your business image, but you will need to do more than simply picking a logo glyph and call that your brand. Companies today need direction, they need focus – they need a properly thought through brand strategy.
Shaping brand strategy: Getting to your goal
One of the reasons why many brand strategy programmes fail to hit the mark, is that most people don’t fully understand what the brand is about. Some people use the term “brand” interchangeably with “company” – but they aren’t the same thing. A brand isn’t just a financial venture, or an office full of employees. Nor is your brand your logo and marketing campaigns. A brand is a promise made to a buyer about the kind of experience or product they’re purchasing, and how they’re going to feel when they use it.
Coca-Cola, for instance, is a corporation. It’s a gigantic company that hires people, runs marketing campaigns, and sells products – but it’s also a brand. Thanks to a solid brand engagement strategy, Coca-Cola knows that if it wants to connect with its audience, it needs to give them an experience they can’t get from another beverage company. So, it doesn’t just promise a drink – it tells you that every bottle of Cola is going to give you a sense of joy. Then, it delivers on that promise with bright colours in its marketing materials, a fun and frivolous tone of voice, and plenty of experience-focused sales campaigns.
As we mentioned above, strong brands like Coca-Cola don’t happen naturally. They’re the result of hard work and careful brand strategy. Without a branding strategy, the reputation and perception of your company would be left completely in the hands of your customers. That means that you’d end up with an inconsistent, confusing image, that’s neither powerful nor memorable.
There are many different types of brand strategy and sub-sections to the plan that you’ll create for your company. For instance, while your master brand strategy will help you to define who you are as a business:
- Your brand differentiation strategy will determine what makes that business unique.
- Your brand communication strategy will highlight how you plan to communicate with your community, including your customers, your employees, and shareholders.
- Your brand positioning strategy will demonstrate how your brand fits in your industry when compared to competing companies
- Your brand awareness strategy will help you to figure out how you’re going to share your vision and ideas with the world.
Every element of a brand strategy is important because it provides an agreed foundation, upon which you can build and communicate with your audience. Whether you’re refreshing your website or launching a new social media campaign, your brand strategy will keep you focused on the goals you’ve set for your organisation, so you never have to worry about venturing off track. It gives you a consistent way to make good on your promises and give your customers a reason to come back time, and time again.
People around the world rely on brand strategy agencies to help them construct an image for their company because they know how important branding can be. Just look at how Coca-Cola has positioned itself as an “experience” instead of a soft drink. Think about how passionate Apple customers are about getting the latest iPhone. Look at the enduring success that Marks & Spencer maintain as other retailers continue to go out of business. These are the brands that use strategy to build affinity, loyalty, and sustainability.
Creating a brand strategy: Why you need a proper plan
So, why can’t you just put the basic elements of a branding strategy in place and hope for the best?
The simple answer is that we’re living in a world driven by perception. How often do you check the reviews on Amazon before you order a new product, or ask your friends for advice when deciding where to go for lunch? Brands rely on good reputations to thrive and to have a reputation, you need to make connections with your target audience.
A brand strategy is important because it gives your company clarity about its market position, competitive landscape, and the expectations of its customers. All this information gives you the tools you need to fine-tune your marketing messages, improve your competitiveness, and build a stronger business. The more you understand your brand and how you’re going to bring it to market with a brand promotion strategy, the easier it is to build credibility and trust with the right audience.
For instance, there’s no one single type of brand.
Without taking the time to get to the bottom of what your company means to you, and your customers, how would you know if you’re:
- A challenger brand offering an alternative to another big-name company on the market?
- A disruptive brand asking customers to re-think the way they approach a certain industry?
- An iconic brand just waiting to transform your chosen sector?
While many business owners know how important a great brand can be, if you don’t have a strategy, then you can never do your brand justice. Here are just some of the reasons why all companies need a brilliantly conceived brand strategy:
Brand strategy tells you where your company is going
Effective brand strategy forces companies to think about who they want to be and where they want to go with their business. For instance, you might be a company that wants to change the technology world by giving people an environmentally-friendly way to do business. On the other hand, you might be a health company hoping to help your customers enjoy better wellbeing. During the development of your brand strategy, you’ll create a vision statement that will guide you towards your goals.
Brand strategy keeps you consistent
The clearer your vision is, the easier it will be to keep yourself on track as you move through the often-complex business world. After all, it’s easy to get side-tracked by trends and begin to lose your brand identity. This can leave your customers confused about who you are and what you stand for. In a world where clients are drawn to companies, they feel an affinity towards, it’s important to make sure that you’re constantly highlighting the same aspects of your business. This will help you appear more transparent, authentic, and credible.
Brand strategy helps you to measure your journey
How do you know if your business is successful? For most entrepreneurs, success is measured in more than just coins and notes. You’ll also have a purpose that’s been guiding towards creating new products and offering new services. A branding strategy helps you to keep track of your goals, so you can measure how far you’ve come. This can be important, particularly when you’re looking for new investors to work with or you want to keep your team motivated. People want to see that your business is making progress.
Brand strategy gives you a human side
Your customer is looking for a relationship – not just a product or service. The best brand strategies push you to think about the values you want to represent in the things you do and say. This can give you a human side that’s much easier for others to resonate with. Over time, the more your human side earns the attention of passionate and loyal fans, the easier it will be to start exploring things like brand ambassadors and advocacy strategies which convince your customers to do your marketing for you.
Brand strategy reduces your marketing cost
With a brand ambassador marketing strategy and the personality you need to cultivate loyal advocates for your company, you can even cut your marketing budget. After all, when your customers are referring new clients to your business all the time, and you can use their reviews as social proof on all your online channels, you don’t need to work as hard to convince new clients to trust you. There’s nothing quite like word of mouth marketing when it comes to building ROI for your brand.
Developing a brand strategy: Fundamental points to think about
The elements that go into your branding strategy will differ depending on what kind of company you’re trying to create. For example, a challenger brand strategy might be very different to the plan established for a disruptive brand. Working with a brand strategy consultancy will help you to work on some of the finer points of your identity.
Creating a brand strategy doesn’t just help you to figure out who you are when you’re launching a company for the first time. The right brand strategy model will also guide other aspects of your business development, by helping you to figure out which markets you should target, who your biggest competitors are, and what you need to do to nurture the right image.
Here are just some of the common elements in a brand development strategy, and how they’ll continue to help you as you bring your vision to life:
A brand positioning statement
As mentioned above, a brand positioning strategy is often a common component of building a brand. With it, you can figure out where you belong in your chosen marketplace. Because this statement forces you to define your target audience and USP, a positioning statement is useful for more than just branding – it can also help you to create effective marketing campaigns that are tailor-made to reach the right people.
A brand promise
The values you establish when working on your brand engagement strategy will help you to determine what your “promise” to your customers will be. This will help you to create an emotional hook for your business in all your marketing and sales efforts. For instance, if you promise your customers that you’re going to give them high-quality fashion while supporting environmental sustainability, you can take part in events that show your commitment to the cause, while simultaneously exposing your brand to new audiences.
A brand differentiator
All brands need something that sets them apart from the crowd. A brand differentiation strategy asks you to look at your USP and figure out what you can offer your customers that no-one else can. This might be a unique feature of your product, or it could be something else entirely – like your amazing customer service. Your differentiator needs to be something that speaks directly to the needs of your target audience. If you can find a way to support an under-served community or give your clients something they can’t get anywhere else, then you’ll benefit from better brand loyalty.
A brand personality
Your brand personality is something that should go into everything you do, say, and create on your quest to create a unique identity for your company. When you define this during your branding strategy, you’ll be able to use it to inform important decisions in your future, including what kind of fonts and colours you should use, what your tone of voice should sound like – and even where your marketing campaigns should take place.
Brand strategy examples: Sensational strategising
The complex nature of creating a brand strategy can make it difficult for companies to figure out exactly what they need to accomplish when they’re designing a manifesto and coming up with a plan for their identity. As mentioned above, there are many different types of brand strategy depending on your unique goals and the audience you plan to target.
To help give you an insight into designing your brand strategy model, here are just a few sensational companies who have managed to have the perfect impact on their chosen market. These brand strategy examples could help to inspire you as you explore what the term “brand” really means.
1. The Samsung brand strategy
Samsung hasn’t always been as popular as it is today. This is a company that’s struggled to keep up with the rest of the smartphone market, simply because it wasn’t fully committed to any single identity. Samsung was so busy trying to compete on features and price, that it forgot one of the most important parts of any brand strategy – the personality. Now, after re-assessing its own brand strategy model, Samsung has emerged as the main competitor of the world’s biggest tech brand – Apple Inc.
In a quest to build an iconic identity, Samsung has focused its personality, marketing, and values on becoming an “innovator” in the eyes of its customers. “The New Normal” campaign has been carefully designed to appeal to a younger millennial audience of people ready to embrace a new level of technology. The campaign used VR, 360-degree cameras and more to show Samsung’s commitment to becoming the next big thing.
2. The L’Oréal brand strategy
L’Oréal is another company that’s struggled with its branding strategy over the years. Though its focus used to be on luxury and affordability, the company has re-thought its approach recently to place greater importance on something that appeals to the younger generation: diversity.
The True Match foundation campaign in 2016 for L’Oréal Paris was the first makeup advertisement to target men. It highlighted a male makeup artist and blogger to reflect the fact that more men have begun to wear makeup.
L’Oréal is an excellent example of how a brand strategy can guide a company, but it needs to evolve and adapt over the years. By going back to its routes and remembering what it wanted to stand for, L’Oréal has been able to re-connect with its audience. In fact, the foundation mentioned above is now the best-selling foundation in the UK.
3. The Virgin brand strategy
Virgin is a brand that knows no restrictions. Though this corporation plays host to numerous sub-brands like Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Media, and even Virgin Galactic, its incredible and comprehensive brand strategy ensures that the personality and drive behind Virgin remains the same wherever you might encounter it.
When it comes to brand strategy examples, Virgin shows us how the right planning and plenty of research can create guidelines that span across any size of venture. Whether you’re a small start-up organisation, or something as large as Virgin, your branding strategy can help you to maintain a consistent image for your audience.
Though Virgin has seen a few ups and downs over the years, it is a testament to how the right attitude and the right plan for business can take you all the way to the top.
Making your own brand strategy model
A brand is more than just the features of your product or the colours on your website. It’s something that’s intangible, yet powerful at the same time. A brand is what you make someone feel – and that feeling should be the same no matter where someone encounters your company. Without a brand development strategy, it would be impossible for any company to cultivate the perfect image for their organisation over time. If you’re still unsure whether you need a brand strategy, ask yourself:
- Do you need to know your audience? Many companies think they know their audience, but they run their business almost entirely on assumptions. By putting your guesses aside and using strategy to truly connect with your followers, you can convert anyone into a loyal advocate for your brand.
- Does your business lack personality? Today, emotions play an important part in decision making. Whether you’re appealing to a teenager or a cynical CEO, everyone you talk to will be swayed by their emotions. If your company has no personality, then it won’t make your prospects feel anything. A brand strategy can give your organisation the humanity it craves.
- Are you consistent? Branding is something that needs to develop slowly and continue to grow over time. As you gain exposure, your brand starts to imprint itself in the mind of your would-be customers. Without a brand strategy, you could end up sending a range of mismatched messages to your audience which leaves them confused and overwhelmed. Strategy ensures that your identity is clear, authentic, and easy-to-follow.
Ultimately, a brand strategy ensures that you’re not just offering a product to your customers – but an experience. Your strategy will give you the tools to create a company that stands the test of time – building loyalty in your customers and making your identity truly unforgettable.
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