When you build a brand for yourself, what you’re actually doing is you’re building an entity that’s going to connect your business (read ‘products or services’) to a group of people who’re actively looking for it.
Most people who start a business think that building a brand strategy is mostly about having a distinct and an appealing logo. Well, they couldn’t be much farther from the truth, which is exactly what is discussed below.
What is Brand Strategy?
Simply put, brand strategy is about devising a plan to show your target audience (or prospective customers) what your products and/or service has and how it can directly serve their need, and do it in a way that closely resonates with them.
Why is Brand Strategy Important?
The answer is simple. If you have products and/or services that you want to sell and grow your business, you need to create a situation for yourself that best facilitates an opportunity to grow.
Let’s take the sport of cricket as an example. If you think of any professional cricket team in the world, they consistently and insistently work hard on their technique. They also invest their time to understand who their competitors are and their weaknesses, and subsequently devise a plan to go out and beat them in most if not all their encounters.
Does this mean that every cricket team that you can think of is successful because they have a brand strategy? No way (by the way, every single team in the IPL, or the Indian Premier League, is a brand). But every successful cricket team does have a strategy, and the same can be said for every successful brand from around the world.
Simply put, all successful brands do have a clear strategy for success, which is why brand strategy is important. Building a brand strategy, fundamentally, is a process which has a clear roadmap.
Let’s look at the 14-Step brand strategy roadmap used by some of the biggest brands in the world.
1) Define What Is At the Heart of Your Brand
2) Define Your Target Audience
3) Map Your Market Landscape
4) Uncover Your Market Position
5) Carve Out Your Brand Personality
6) Identify the Tone of Your Brand Voice
7) Develop Your Messaging Strategy
8) Craft Your Brand Story
9) Develop Your Brand Name & Tagline
10) Design Your Brand Identity
11) Design Your Collaterals
12) Find Where Your Prospects Hang Out
13) Launch Your Brand
14) Analyze Data, Optimize & Evolve
Define What Is At the Heart of Your Brand
This is the first and the most fundamental step in the process of building a brand strategy. But unfortunately, even business owners who understand the value of this task overlook its importance.
Defining what is at the heart of your brand is not only is it fundamental but also critical, as it provides a solid foundation for your brand. And just like how cracks start to appear in a building that doesn’t have a solid foundation, cracks (read ‘gaps’) can also appear in a business which hasn’t defined what is at the heart of its brand!
The following are the four things you need to define, clearly, to make your brand unshakable from its roots:
Think about it: It is because of the presence of the above four elements your business exists in the first place. It therefore becomes critical that you/you and your leadership team invest some time to discuss about them together, and freeze them in black-and-white. And remember that this is only a one-time effort!
Define Your Target Audience
For a business to initially survive and later thrive, it first needs to provide some kind of value that prospective customers need or want. And it’s your job as the brand leader to understand your target audience as intimately as you possibly can.
Use every tool at your disposal to paint a picture of who they are, and understand their demographics, psychographics, challenges, and their pain points. Most of all, understand their emotions. Because it is only through their emotions you’re going to understand them, empathize with them, and most of all – connect with them!
Map Your Market Landscape
Logically speaking, if there are a group of prospective customers that are looking for your products and/or services, that’s a clear indication that there are a group of competitors already serving those very same prospects.
This necessitates that you need to understand not only your prospective customers, but also your competitors. Only then will you know:
What products and/services your prospects already have in the market?
From whom do they have it? And
How are they different from what you have to offer?
It is only through this understanding will you be able to give them something more than what is already available.
Remember: By going into the market and offering something similar to what already exists, you only end up adding to the already existing noise and clutter. This would mean you’re not giving even a single reason for your prospects to turn their heads and look at your brand.
Uncover Your Market Position
If you’ve carried out the four steps above, then by now you would’ve understood who your prospective customers are, as well as who your competitors (that really matter) are. And that pretty much gives you a clear picture about the landscape of the market you’re in.
It is only by having a clear picture of the market landscape will you be able to see the gaps and opportunities, therefore enabling you to fill those gaps and offer your prospects something better.
The difference that you’re going to create in their lives by providing them what you have to offer, is going to be the reason why they will turn and look towards your brand, only to leave your competitors and choose you instead.
Carve Out Your Brand Personality
To understand the kind of value you’d like to offer to your prospective customers, and the kind of impact you intend to make in their lives, you need to fist define the position you want to occupy in the market.
Once you define your desired position, you need to work and come up with an actionable plan to effectively communicate and convince them of that value you’re offering, and demonstrate the kind of impact it can have in their lives.
What? Vs How?
While what you say to our audience is very important indeed, how you say it is absolutely critical! After all, it is how you say what you want to say, that determines whether or not your message will actually reach your prospective customers.
On a human level, all of us connect with people through our personalities and through the characteristics that we demonstrate. The way we connect with brands is not much different.
For instance, if we’re able to relate to our own personality within a brand’s communication, and if we are attracted to the personality’s characteristics, then we’re far more likely to be open to that brand’s communication – and even reciprocate.
What you need to do therefore, is communicate with the personality of your audience and the characteristics they’re attracted to, so that they’re far more open to your messaging.
Identify the Tone of Your Brand Voice
An extension of your brand personality is your brand voice. This means your brand voice is one more opportunity to infuse more characteristics and personality into our brand.
We are in a world driven by content, and there is content everywhere – especially digital. We see advertisements, social posts, articles, videos, and many other forms of content. Each one of those is an opportunity for your brand to infuse more of its personality and characteristics, so that you resonate with your audience.
So understand the personality that you want your audience to be attracted to, and then use your tone of voice to inject more of those same characteristics. And if you use that tone of voice across all of your content, be it text, pictures, info-graphics, voice, or video; they’ll invariably feel a connection to your brand personality way better than your competitors.
Develop Your Messaging Strategy
The messaging strategy is about the ‘What’ aspect that you’re going to use in all your messages. To be specific, it’s all about what’re you going to say to your prospects to convince them that:
You have something of value, and that
The value you provide can impact their lives.
The ‘WIFM’ Perspective
Just think about it. When we’re introduced to something new, at a subconscious level, we all have the thought: “What’s in it for me?” (WIFM). Almost all of us think similar way. This thought is basically a primal instinct, as it has something to do with our reptilian brain.
Therefore, it’s that first thought of WIFM that you need to address your prospects with your messaging. This may require that you split the messaging into a series of key messages in a logical/sequential manner. Doing so will clearly help them to not only understand what is in it for them, but also understand how it can add value to them and change their lives – for better.
Transaction Vs Relation
Beyond addressing the WIFM aspect, you need to also follow up with your prospects with a messaging that shows them that your brand is more than just a transactional brand. In other words, your messaging should clearly convey that your focus is far more on the relationship with them – which is critical, and much less on the transaction done by them – which is important.
After all, by the end of the day, it is Loyalty that counts – Customer Loyalty to be precise. Think about any successful brand around, and think of a brand that you’ve been consuming for years as a loyal customer. Even if a new brand comes along with a very similar product or service, you almost certainly won’t turn even a degree towards that new brand, let alone becoming a customer – simply because you’re loyal to that brand.
The same holds good to your prospects too, who will first become your customers, and then become long-term loyal customers.
Craft Your Brand Story
Be it children or adults, as humans, we are all fascinated by stories. For many thousands of years, stories have been the primary means through which our ancestors passed on information from one generation to the next.
To be fascinated by stories and listen to them with curiosity is kind of programmed into the human DNA. Two of the many reasons why we listen to a story, with intent, is because we want to know (a) what happens next and (b) how the story will end. That’s why we remember stories far more than any other way people share information or facts with us.
In fact, there have been many research studies that clearly proves that we’re up to 20 times more likely to remember a story-based information than facts-based information. Proof: There are world record holding memory champions, who can memorise thousands of random words or digits and tell them in both ascending and descending order; and the fool-proof technique they use to memorise tens of hundreds of words and digits, is by using the Story-Telling technique.
Leveraging that fundamental yet strong human trait, you need to communicate to your prospects the following three things:
What makes your brand different from the rest?
What kind of value it can add in their lives? and
How it can impact their lives for better?
And if you can tell them the above using a story or a series of stories, then they’re going to listen to you far more intently, and be way more open to reciprocate to your story.
Develop Your Brand Name & Tagline
If you think this step is coming pretty late in the process, it’s probably because all these years, you’ve being seeing most business owners freezing on a brand name during the very early stages of establishing their business. They name their brand the way they do, and create a logo the way they do, because they are emotionally attached to it in ways that only they know best.
If you closely observe what brand names and taglines really are, they’re just a strategic communication tool to plant an idea, thought or perception in their mind, through a well-crafted message.
The 5 Essentials to Develop a Brand Name & Tagline
Assuming that you did follow the above nine steps, by now, you should have the following five things:
The information about the position you want to own in the market
Who your target audience is?
How you’re different from our competitors?
The personality of your brand, and the
Characteristics about your brand you want to communicate through a story or a series of stories.
With the above in hand, you’re now in a significantly better and a clear position to be able to name your brand and develop your tagline, both of which help your audience to clearly distinguish you from the rest.
Design Your Brand Identity
This is the step a majority of business owners start their branding process with, ignoring (‘cause they’re ignorant about) all the other nine discussed above. They just look for a professional designer to design a logo. And by virtue of getting a logo done, they deem their business is ‘Branded’, and they’re good to go.
A Logo Is Not a Brand
They simply don’t have a clue that having a logo doesn’t mean they have a brand. But that’s not to say that a logo is not important. It definitely is. Having said, having a logo in itself doesn’t mean your business has a brand.
That’s right: Having a logo in itself doesn’t mean your business has a brand, and this is a perspective that either flies past the attention of most business owners, or they intentionally look the other way.
All the work that you’ve done up until this point covers only about 80% of your brand strategy, and it’s now time to bring it all together to make your visual identity. And you can get this done by designing the following four elements, which together emphasizes on your visual identity:
Colour Palette, and
Instead, if you’re developing your visual identity for your brand at the very beginning, you’re missing out on all the strategic inputs you need to give meaning and depth to your brand.
Now that you have all of the inputs, you can now develop and design a brand identity that speaks specifically to your target audience, therefore making it possible to deliver messages that they can clearly resonate with.
Design Your Collaterals
This is the step where both brand strategy and brand identity actually come together. Your brand collateral suite comprises:
Point of Sale
Any form of physical or digital communication from your brand.
Once you’ve got all the above done, you are ready to go ahead and launch your brand! Each of the items in the collateral suite are powerful tools at your disposal, and each one of them are elegantly laced with your strategy and your identity. It is therefore time for you to go out there and conquer the market!
Find Where Your Prospects Hang Out
It’s now time to find out where your target audience is congregating. In other words, you need to find out where they hang out – both virtually and physically. This is crucial, as they hang out in places where they do mostly to find out more information about a product or service, share their grievances, or seek for solutions for a situation they are facing.
The place where they hang out, therefore, is a place where you can not only find intricate details about their wants and needs about a product or service, but also the shortcomings of a product or service for which they’re seeking for solutions from the other members. Most of all, the place where they hang out is also the place where they are most likely to be receptive to suggestions or recommendations.
Simply put, to be in the place where your audience hangs out is like being on the inside of their mind. Once you’re in, you get to know everything about them: their thoughts, preferences, likes, dislikes, perspectives, anxieties, expectations, and more.
Launch Your Brand
Launching your brand is almost entirely about the quantum of marketing budget you have at your disposal, and the way you leverage the budget in the right manner. The marketing budget, along with the marketing method you choose, will determine how deep and wide an impact you can make through the launch.
If you have a pretty solid budget, you can reach a significant number of people through Google Ads and Facebook Ads. But if you have moderate budget, something can still be worked out.
The bottom-line however, is that the degree of the impact you can create is directly proportional to the quantum of your budget. It is therefore important that you are clear about this perspective, so that you’re neither underwhelmed because the impact was low, nor overwhelmed because the impact was high.
Analyze Data, Optimize & Evolve
Unlike a decade ago, a huge advantage business owners have today is the level of data that they can make themselves available with about their business. Yes we’re talking about analytics.
Business analytics is an incredibly useful, and most of all a very powerful tool you can have for your business. Whether you use this tool yourself or engage somebody to use it and help you in your business is completely at your discretion.
At the end of the day, it is critical that there is someone in your business who not only knows analytics but can also organize data, analyze, interpret, make conclusions, and help the management make well-informed decisions through the conclusions made.
Simply put, analytics is all about finding out what your audience is responding to, and what they’re not. Then, you do more of what’s working well and eliminate what isn’t working well. This can be done by watching the data very closely and optimizing consistently – over a period of time, so that your business not just grows but scales!
Luckily for you, going by the law of averages, a majority of your competitors will go out into the market by just designing a logo and thinking that they’re done with their branding exercise. Most of all, they don’t know who their target audience is, which obviously means they don’t know where they are, which in turn means they’re connecting with no one in the market.
So what do you need to do? Simple. Just do what your competitors don’t, like the 14 steps above, and reap all the rewards that they neither can – nor will.