What is a brand?
Contrary to what most people think, a brand is more than just the logo and colour palette of your marketing materials.
A brand is the identification and personality of your business.
It tells customers:
- how you look (design)
- the way you speak (tonality)
- what you stand for (brand promise), and
- who you associate with (target market)
Without a brand, customers will not be able to tell you apart from other businesses offering the same products or services.
Small business owners usually get stuck in building a brand. They end up overthinking and comparing themselves to bigger brands.
But remember, these big brands started small as well. The key is to find ways to differentiate yourself and consistently communicate this to your target customers. You can do this through an effective brand strategy.
What is a Brand Strategy?
A brand strategy is a long-term plan and guide. It will direct you on how, where, when, and to whom you will communicate your branding elements to achieve your business goals.
Building a brand is like building your reputation with your peers. If you consistently show up on time, accomplish tasks efficiently, and interact respectfully; you will earn a positive reputation.
Your peers will remember and perceive you as a reliable and likeable colleague. In the end, they will prefer to work with you more and even recommend others to collaborate with you as well.
You want your brand to be preferred and recommended as well. A brand strategy lays down what you need to accomplish and how you must do it in order to become the brand of choice.
Why do you need a Brand Strategy?
To be a successful brand, you have to:
1) Have a stand-out personality and proposition; and
2) Consistently communicate this proposition to your target customers.
Without a brand strategy, consistency is difficult to achieve.
Once planned and executed correctly, a solid brand strategy will allow your customers to have the same experience with your brand across all touch points. As a result, you will be able to build brand awareness and brand equity in the long run.
How to Create an Effective Brand Strategy
Following this three-step process and applying elements under them will help you create an effective brand strategy.
Step 1: Discovery
The first and most important step in building a brand strategy is clearly defining why you exist, why you choose to cater to your target audience, and why you want to present your brand in a specific manner.
1. Audit and Assessment of your Existing Core Identity
Identify the Mission, Vision, and Values of your company. These three give overall direction that encompasses your business, branding, and sales goals.
Vision answers the question “Why does your company exist?”
Mission answers the question “What does your company do?”
Values answer the question “How does your company do your service/product?”
2. Market Research and Competitive Analysis
Knowing your competitors will help you strategize how to best position yourself in the industry or market you are in.
Do a SWOT Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – for your business and your competitors to develop a full awareness of the competitive landscape you are about to enter.
A SWOT Analysis will provide you with information about the things you need to improve on (Weaknesses), those you should emphasise and capitalise on (Strengths and Opportunities), and factors you need to be prepared for (Threats).
3. Persona Development
A persona is a personified representation of your target customers.
You “create a character” based on the demographic and psychographic profiles of your potential customers. Marketers even give names to their personas and fully wear the persona hat during brainstorming sessions.
Developing a persona is a crucial element to making your brand strategy successful. A persona will guide the tonality and key messages you will convey in all of your marketing efforts.
It also influences the decisions you make as you grow your product or service portfolio.
In every decision, always ask yourself: “Will this resonate to my buyer persona?”
Brand equity is based on perception.
When your customers perceive you as more relatable and value-adding compared to your competitors, this is telling you that your brand strategy is working.
Conduct both internal and external audit to see if you are being perceived by your employees and customers the way you intend to be perceived. If you find discrepancies, then it means you have to work more on delivering your brand promise and proposition more consistently.
Step 2: Identity
With a clearer understanding of where you are currently placed in this world, the next step is (probably the toughest step) – is identifying who you are, what you do, and how you should communicate it.
Define (or Refine) Core Identity
Based on the Mission, Vision, and Values you have identified, clearly define how you want to be known for in the industry you are in.
- Mission: To be the major and undisputed home insurance provider in the U.S.
- Vision: Make sure that we provide the insurance coverage of every single home in the U.S.
- Values: Customer-first culture, Do business with integrity and transparency
- Identity: We are the home insurance company of choice because of our needs-based approach in providing coverage to our customers. Our agents will assess your needs and capacities first to provide you with a tailor-fit home insurance solution.
1. Brand Positioning
A solid brand positioning clearly tells your customers what makes you different from all similar product or service providers out there.
You can use this formula for reference: Our [Offering] is the only [Category] that [Benefit].
Example: Our home insurance products are the only customizable plans in the market that will provide you with solutions tailor-fit for your unique needs.
2. Value Proposition
Your value proposition provides a concise explanation of the emotional and functional benefits your customers can get from your product or service.
More than just being different from your competitors, you must also clearly communicate to your customers how you can address their problems.
A value proposition also serves as your brand promise – what will they get once they choose you over the others?
Steve Blanks and his XYZ template will help you create a strong value proposition: We help [X] do [Y] by [Z].
Example: We help homeowners have peace of mind by providing fully customizable home insurance plans that will perfectly fit their needs.
A tagline, also called as slogan, complements both your brand position and value proposition.
In a simple, short, and catchy sentence or phrase, how can you tell your customers what benefits your brand has for them?
For example, luxury car BMW’s tagline is “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.
4. Messaging Architecture
To consistently convey your key messages, you need to have a messaging architecture – it guides the words, language, tonality, and descriptions you use when making your content and communication materials.
At this point, you have already been able to identify your positioning, define your value proposition, and craft your brand’s tagline. To complete your messaging architecture, all that’s left to do is to write brand stories supporting your overall messaging.
Step 3: Execution
The final challenge is to make sure that you are able to communicate your identity and proposition to your target customers. You can do this through marketing.
1. Brand Guidelines
Everything you worked for in steps 1 and 2 will be summarized through your brand guidelines.
It will serve as a playbook you and your entire team can refer to when creating your communications and marketing materials moving forward.
Your brand guidelines should be complete and guiding enough such that anyone in your team will be able to apply your brand by-laws in any output they produce. Remember, the key to building brand equity is consistency. And any deviations from your guidelines will weaken your brand.
2. Content Strategy
Your content strategy defines how you share your brand. It should be driven by the goals and identity you set for your brand in the first two steps of the article.
Instead of pushing your products and services toward your target market, you would want to draw them in instead.
Product push will only result in one-off transactions, while relevant and engaging content will allow you to build relationships with your target customers.
Torn Marketing helps businesses build a strong brand strategy and create a brand that meets their unique value proposition. If you are thinking how you can re-brand or re-position your business we can make the process clear and straight forward. We love to partner with clients that understand the value in setting in place a strategy that will work for many years to come.
Book a discovery session with Torn Marketing to quickly assess what your needs are and show you how a brand strategy can help your business.