When people ask us why brand strategy matters, it’s a loaded question. Can you run a business without a brand? Sure. But will you be memorable? Will people feel an affection for you? Above all, will you last? Without a strong brand, the odds aren’t in your favor.
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”
Branding matters not just for vanity or for aesthetic reasons. It matters because the business paradigm has shifted (and continues to shift). Old channels of communication aren’t as effective as they once were, people’s expectations have changed, and as a result the walls between businesses and people are breaking down. Transparency, trust, and connection are the secrets to longevity—and it’s difficult to cultivate those without a brand.
4 Reasons Brand Strategy Is the Secret to Success
Building a brand takes work, but it has a tremendous payoff, now and later. From being able to charge premium prices to cultivating loyalty, here are the key ways in which having a brand helps your business.
It goes without saying that pretty much every market everywhere is full of tough competition. Marketing is tougher than ever, too. With so many channels, it’s harder and harder to be seen and heard. Branding is the secret to cutting through that noise. With a unique identity, reliable content, and a strong presence, it helps you stand out from competitors.
Branding juggernauts like BMW and Coke are brands that have built empires, but branding isn’t exclusively for mega corporations. Mom-and-pop small businesses can build brands that are sensations, too.
In fact, for many, being the little guy is a huge part of their identity. For example, Sqirl is a small LA-based cafe famous for their signature jams. They’ve built a cult following (and even a jam of the month club) by delivering on their brand promise: fresh jam made from locally sourced ingredients.
2) Relationship Building
In the last decade or so, we’ve seen a huge shift in marketing, from interruption marketing—the one-way conversation of advertising—to engagement marketing, which is all about interaction, connection, and relationship building.
To find and attract the people who will become loyal, lifelong fans, you need a strong, authentic brand identity. The more you show them who you are, the more they will support you, especially when your values align with their own.
According to the 2018 “Global Consumer Pulse Research” report by Accenture:
- 63% of surveyed global consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies whose purpose reflects their own values and beliefs.
- 62% say their purchasing consideration is driven by a company’s ethical values and authenticity.
Branding is the best way to show them who you are and what you care about. The more transparent you are, the stronger your identity, the more people will gravitate to you—and most importantly, trust you. That trust is the key to building a lasting relationship.
Why are you willing to shell out more for Nike shoes or Apple products? It’s not just because they’re cool. It’s because they’ve created a premium brand experience, from their advertising to their packaging.
Try on a pair of Nike sneakers and you feel like an athlete. Pick up an Apple tablet and you feel like an artist. These brands have created a brand experience so strong it has become part of their DNA. The result? People perceive them to be the gold standard in their industries, and their pricing reflects that.
People know what to expect with a well-branded product or service. If you deliver on your brand promise at every touchpoint, people will be willing to pay more.
Note: One common trend we see is brands focusing on growth hacking over brand building. This strategy is enticing, but it sacrifices long-term gains for short-term growth.
Trying to connect with the people who will eventually use or buy your product or service is a crucial part of any healthy business, but there’s something else that greatly influences your success: the people who work for you. A brand doesn’t exist alone. It’s a living, breathing entity formed by the people who work for it.
Right now, is your team happy and satisfied? Do they know why your company exists and how they contribute to it? Do they feel fulfilled when they come to the office? A strong brand unites their people through a shared vision.
If your culture is toxic or your workplace unsafe, your brand won’t last. Why?
- First, because authenticity and transparency are vital to any community you build. (According to the Accenture report, 65% of people are drawn to brands that treat their employees well.) If you’re not practicing your beliefs, your brand will get dragged painfully and publicly.
- Second, because you will fail to attract and maintain talent, which will hurt you in the long run.
Note: Culture marketing is a great way to tell your brand story and attract potential talent. If you haven’t experimented with it before, here are a few tips to turn your culture into engaging content.
How to Build Your Brand Strategy
Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight; it’s an ever-evolving process. But there are steps you can take to get yourself on the right track and make sure your priorities are correct.
- Identify your Brand Heart. Every brand is built on a set of core principles. Download our free Brand Heart workbook to identify your purpose, vision, mission, and values.
- Start with your brand strategy. You need a strong foundation to build upon, and a brand strategy gives you just that by helping you identify your values, goals, and more. If you haven’t completed a brand strategy, here’s our guide to do it.
- (Re)align your content strategy. Your content strategy is technically part of your brand strategy, but in many organizations content strategy is misaligned. Every piece of content you create is an opportunity to share your brand story and support your goals, so make sure everything you do directly ties to your larger brand strategy. For more on creating a content strategy, find out what you need to include in yours and how to get it on paper.
- Create a visual identity that reflects your brand. A visual identity is another tool to communicate, so make sure yours includes everything you need. Use our handy checklist to design a comprehensive identity. If you think you need a rebrand, here’s how to know if you should do it or not.
- Refine your brand messaging. You need cohesive messaging to tell a powerful brand strategy. Try this framework to make sure you’re telling the right brand story.
- Tell stories that matter. Customers are people with their own thoughts, interests, desires, fears, and feelings. Focus on creating a brand experience that taps into those feelings, whether you’re helping them solve a problem or enhance their life. To start, here are a few ways to share your brand story.
That said, we know it can be tough to build a brand from scratch, especially if you don’t have much bandwidth or resources. If you need to bring in an agency for reinforcements, here’s what how to find one. We’re always happy to talk shop, too.