A brand strategy is, in essence, the blueprint for how you want to build, shape, and share your brand. Whether you’re a tiny startup or a legacy brand that’s been around a hundred years, a strong brand strategy is the only way to ensure health and growth. But many brands have a strategy that’s incomplete or ineffective—if they have one at all.
According to On Brand Magazine’s 2017 State of Branding Report, 21% of respondents said they have a “verbal only” strategy. Why is this a problem? Without a documented brand strategy (and, therefore, a cohesive vision), you can end up with a misaligned organization and a chaotic marketing department plagued by:
- Siloed communication
- Ineffective marketing
- Messaging inconsistency
- Execution challenges
- Inefficient use of resources
Why You Need a Brand Strategy
If you want to build a healthy company, cultivate a strong culture, and make the people who buy your product or service more loyal to your brand, you need a well-articulated strategy with a practical plan of execution that improves your business, top to bottom. Here’s how a brand strategy helps you navigate the most common roadblocks to building a brand and benefits both your business and the people you work for and with.
1) Defines Purpose
A brand strategy helps you articulate your core identity (aka your vision, mission, and values) and, most importantly, communicate it. This is crucial to attract and retain the people you want to reach.
As branding has evolved, people don’t just care about features. They care about aligning themselves with a brand that reflects their values and has a clear purpose.
PRODUCT FEATURES → BRAND VALUES
According to the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, 87% of consumers said they would purchase a product based on brand values. This is particularly true of millennials. According to a 2017 American Express millennial survey, 81% of respondents said a successful business needs to have a genuine purpose.
With a unified vision, you can make sure any and all content and communication accurately conveys who you are and what you care about.
2) Builds Trust
A brand isn’t a tangible thing. It is a composite of many things, but above all it is crafted by people’s perceptions of you—specifically, their feelings about you.
To cultivate that trust, you must be transparent, honest, and authentic. Having clearly identified values also helps here, but a brand strategy helps you take a comprehensive look at your entire brand ecosystem and identify opportunities to improve the customer experience and strengthen your relationship.
As Marty Neumeier says in The Brand Gap, “Customers trust your brand when their experiences consistently meet or beat their expectations.”
Why should people choose your brand over others? What makes you different? If you don’t have a clear differentiation, they won’t. A brand strategy is crucial to help you articulate this.
As Neumeier notes, you must be able to succinctly answer these three questions to build a brand:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Why does it matter?
Don’t have these answers? Then your brand strategy will fail.
4) Improves Collaboration
A strong brand strategy helps keep everyone on the same page, letting you get a better view of the big picture and work toward a common goal. Again, who are you? What are you trying to achieve? How are you trying to achieve it?
When your team is aligned, you can better assign roles, allocate resources, and communicate more effectively, whether you’re working on a new product or coming up with a new marketing campaign. This also helps save valuable resources, including time, money, and energy.
(For more tips on collaboration, find out how to identify and work with the 4 types of creative thinkers.)
5) Cultivates a Better Company Culture
Although the Cone study found that 94% of consumers considered being a good employer to be a crucial business practice, it’s your employees who want you to talk the talk and walk the walk most—not just in marketing materials.
According to a 2016 Imperative/LinkedIn study, 73% of purpose-driven employees are satisfied with their job. Just like building a relationship with a consumer, to attract and retain the best employees, you need to foster a culture where everyone is bonded and driven by the same values.
In a healthy company, those values influence everything from how you conduct annual reviews to how you reward great work. If you know what you’re working towards—and why—it is easier to cultivate a happier, healthier work environment.
6) Fosters innovation
Innovation is crucial to survival, yet it can be a scary prospect. To lead with confidence, you have to push and challenge your team. With a strong culture and committed vision, you can create space for innovation that supports your brand goals.
It’s worthwhile to note that a brand strategy also gives you constraints, which are equally helpful for breeding innovation. Your brand strategy is just as much about choosing what you aren’t as what you are. (Think of Google’s “don’t be evil” policy.) This can provide much-needed guidelines for decision-making.
7) Ensures Growth
Once you’ve built your brand, the instinct is to preserve it. While this makes sense, your ultimate goal should be to grow your brand—intentionally and with purpose. This means doing whatever you need to fulfill your brand promise.
As Denise Lee Yohn notes in What Great Brands Do, “Your brand can’t just be a promise; it must be a promise delivered.”
Delivering that promise to your customers (and stakeholders) takes a village. You need the right focus, the right brand stewards, and the right intentions. A brand strategy serves as a compass to ensure you do this successfully. As Neumeier says, “No decision should be made without asking, ‘Will it help or hurt the brand?’”
A strategy is your best defense against stagnation.
How Do You Create a Brand Strategy?
Building a strong brand strategy is a challenging but exciting process. If you need to build one from scratch or make sure yours is fully fleshed out, follow our stress-free step-by-step guide to creating a brand strategy.
But if you don’t have time or are already overwhelmed, hit us up and we can help you out.