07 Feb Is your brand built on concrete or quicksand?
Lay a sturdier foundation with Brand Strategy 101
Think about your go-to answer for the common question, “So what does your company do?”
Now think about the words or phrases that came up in your answer – did you describe your company or one of your core products? Did your answer include details about who you serve and what value you bring them, or did it describe what you do and not why it matters? Would coworkers in different teams across your company answer the question similarly or differently? Would your customers be able to answer that question if we asked them?
When you take a step back and look at the way you talk about your business – the brand story your whole team tells – does everyone feel aligned on where you’re at, where you’re headed and how you’ll get there?
If not, it may be time to rethink your brand strategy. A well-defined and well-executed brand strategy serves as the framework for putting your brand identity to work in achieving meaningful business goals. Without that strategic framework in place, efforts in marketing, sales, and brand loyalty just won’t be as effective.
Building (or re-visiting a brand strategy)
Brand strategy is a large undertaking, both in the time and resources it takes to develop, and in the weight of its significance for your company. So, how do you get there? There are a few ways, depending on your priorities and resources – thorough is always better than rapid, but rapid is always better than nothing at all. This is the heart of your brand we’re talking about after all. You should want to invest in team workshops, conducting research, promoting internal buy-in and employee advocacy surrounding development of your strategy. These pieces lead straight into smarter decision making and better, faster results.
The process typically involves four main steps, but different brands will want to prioritize different areas to focus on. A start-up brand strategy might need more competitive research and buyer analysis, while an established corporation will want to assess the efficacy of legacy materials, and an M&A brand strategy will focus on aligning disparate brands and identifying key differentiation opportunities.
RESEARCH: Audit your current communications strategy, validate customer perceptions and market position
Take a constructive look at official comms and brand planning documents, or just a representative sample of materials you’ve been using. Conduct some internet or market research to assess if your current materials are working, and what your competitors are doing better. Host live or digital work sessions with representatives from different internal departments to develop a holistic picture of which methods are working best, and what opportunities exist for improvement. Summarize all this information in a report for your team.
BRAINSTORM: Tap in your extended team and/or a team of professional brand strategists
Setting aside time for a day of workshopping can be tricky in a busy business environment, but it’s also an incredibly valuable opportunity to engage your team to think differently about what’s possible for your brand and your goals. Work together on a series of exercises to develop, refine, and/or align key elements of your brand framework to better address business needs identified in the audit phase. Choose activities that fit with your core priorities – that’s things like brand values, personality, positioning matrices, buyer personas, etc. We like this handy exercise guide from Glorious Creative.
STRATEGIZE: AKA solidify and finalize.
A camel is a horse designed by committee,” or so they say. Workshops are great for getting fresh ideas and making everyone feel included, but at the end of the day someone will need to make final decisions and document them in a formal brand framework for distribution across the team.
ACTIVATE: Design a plan for rollout of new strategy across all channels
Meet back up with your team to discuss how your new brand strategy will influence your strategies for marketing, sales, product, hiring, website, decks, social, and so on. Include representatives from different areas of the business and work collaboratively to establish top priorities and a rollout calendar. If you’ve identified four key buyer personas, should the user experience of your website accommodate four different conversion paths? If you’ve identified a new set of brand values, how will you represent each of those values in marketing and outreach content?
Solid brand strategy is not
When developing brand strategy, it’s essential to envision the big picture of where you want to sit in the market.
- Set specific, measurable goals with lasting impact. Build your brand to grow flexibly in sync with company growth.
- Keep in mind that you’re planting a seed to grow a forest, not a sapling. These things take time.
- At the same time, if your brand goal (for now) is short term wins, brand strategy should be flexible enough to achieve that in the rollout phase.
A back-burner priority
It can be easy to get bogged down with the next product offering, the next deliverable, etc., but a high-quality brand strategy requires strategic thinking around more than just the next deadline.
- It requires focus – it can’t be completed in 15-minute intervals between other meetings and deadlines.
- Prioritize brand strategy into not only your schedule, but the schedule of multiple key decision makers.
A quick fix
Watering a dead plant won’t make it grow. If your company is already on life support, brand strategy won’t be the quick fix its needs.
- Don’t wait until you get desperate and everything feels broken. Invest in the work early and check in on it often.
- Remember that brand strategy is a tool to improve the overall health of your brand, not a band-aid for any single roadblock.
One person’s vision
If there were ever a time for collaboration, forming your brand strategy is it.
- This strategy should be the roadmap to guide your teams through all future projects.
- Avoid getting too far down the line with a brand strategy that is not best for your brand by including a number of stakeholders from the get-go.
How you see yourself
It’s easy to lose sight of external brand perception when you spend all day every day involved in your business. When industry jargon becomes your native language, but you spend most of your time in one area of the business, you’re especially at risk for developing inaccurate views of customer perception.
- No one knows your brand better than you, but customer perception still rules.
- We see this a ton in the hand-off from a product team to a marketing team – the product team declares the game-changing features of their product based on their own knowledge of what went into building them – not on actual customer feedback – then the marketing team takes that perspective as fact and sets about finding compelling ways to showcase them. The result is an excellent campaign built on a faulty strategy.
Break the status quo
Even expert marketers can find it nearly impossible to dig themselves out of their internal brand knowledge to create a brand strategy focused on the customer. It can be especially difficult in the B2B realm, where the learning curve for understanding the ins and outs of a brand or product are steep.
Plus, the internal dynamics of an organization can create challenges in the process of shaping a strategy – too many cooks in the kitchen with different ideas, too many people resistant to change, blind spots that drive biased or inaccurate internal perceptions.
If one or many of these challenges bog you down, borrowing some fresh eyes and extra hands can be invaluable. Whether you’re launching a new product, building your brand, or stuck anywhere in the pipeline, Modicum can lend a hand to shepherd in that win you’ve been chasing after. If you’d like to hear more about how we can help you do the research, craft your story, and put your brand to work accomplishing goals, reach out to us.