If you’re looking to transition from startup or small business to enterprise-level and beyond, it’s vital to build a strong brand. Of course, it’s not always that simple – successful brands aren’t built overnight. But, with a comprehensive brand strategy, it’s more than possible to develop a brand that allows you to achieve those lofty aspirations.
If you come from a startup or small business, it’s likely that you’re new to this “branding” thing. So to help make sense of it all, this article will cover:
- What brand strategies are
- Why they’re important (especially to small businesses looking to scale)
- Tips for a successful brand strategy
Let’s get to it.
What is a brand strategy?
Running through any brand strategy is telling a genuine and compelling story, well and often to the right people. In essence, a brand strategy is a detailed plan that outlines how you’re going to evolve your brand in a way that helps you achieve your business goals. Let’s say your business goal is to triple your annual turnover over the next five years. Your branding strategy could be to craft an attention-grabbing visual identity to attract potential customers and then to define an engaging brand voice that persuades them to invest in your products or services. That said, an effective brand strategy requires a lot more detail than the example above. So let’s take a look at the various elements you should include.
What’s in a brand strategy?
An effective branding strategy should begin with a detailed analysis of your target audience. You can’t expect to successfully market your products to people without first understanding who they are!
Keep in mind at this stage that it’s impossible to create a brand that appeals to everyone. It’ll be more beneficial in the long run to base your personas on the typical customers you currently have, rather than to create a persona to cover every possible customer imaginable. Remember, your current customers are already strong advocates for your brand, so it makes sense to optimise your strategy to attract more people like them.
It’s also important that your brand strategy defines how you want the world to view you. Ask yourself, “what feelings and emotions do I want people to feel when they think of my brand?”
It’s useful to create a list of all the words you want consumers to associate with your brand and collate them within your strategy document. It’s much easier to work towards embodying these various traits when you have a structured document defining exactly what they are.
Attributes and personality
When we bring executive teams into the studio for brand workshops, they often have a clear vision of who they are and what their business stands for. After all, these are things that make up their brand’s attributes and personality.
The part they struggle with, however, is finding a way to succinctly convey all of these traits within their brand messaging. Which is why it’s so important to document your brand attributes and personality within your strategy. Not only does it help clarify things for everyone within your business, but it also helps to add clarity and impact to your brand marketing, too. if you’re not entirely sure of who you are as a brand, it’s worth looking back over your personas and desired associations for inspiration. Let’s say you wanted your audience to associate your brand with boldness. It would be sensible to choose courage as a brand attribute and confidence as a personality trait, since they’re both likely to trigger that association.
With your associations, attributes, and personality defined, you’ll be well on your way to building a brand identity. The next step is to define your brand voice – the language, tone and communication style you use when you talk to your audience.
Again, it’s helpful to consider your target audience when defining this. Brands like Brewdog and Dollar Shave Club can get away with a brash, borderline offensive tone of voice because that’s the way their audience speaks. But this isn’t going to work for every brand.
Defining your brand voice is a vital part of the process. It’ll act as a reference guide for your teams and help keep all of your communications consistent and on-brand (more on this later!).
Crafting an engaging visual identity is perhaps the most important step in your brand strategy. If you chose the wrong colours to represent your brand, for instance, you could risk alienating the customers who would be most valuable to you in the long term.
Once crafted, brands often document the details and rules of their visual identity within a separate brand guidelines document. This can then be passed on to marketing, communications, and design teams to maintain a consistent brand image.
Why do I need a brand strategy?
One of the toughest jobs branding agencies face is convincing senior leaders and executives that brand strategies are worthwhile, which is a shame, because we’ve seen them deliver seriously impressive ROI.
The reason for this is that brand strategies – particularly when partnered with brand awareness campaigns – often don’t offer immediate rewards. And that’s because it takes time to build an engaging brand that people trust. Remember, a brand strategy is there to help you build a strong relationship with your audience. As is the case with interpersonal relationships, this takes work and commitment, but it’s worth it. Always remember, you’re aiming for a marriage with your customer, not a short-term fling!
5 tips for a successful brand strategy
Now that you know what a brand strategy is, how to create one, and why it’s important, we’ll finish up with five tips to help increase your chance of making it successful.
- Aim to foster a sense of belonging: Humans have an innate need to belong. You can tap into this by creating a brand that makes them feel like they’re part of a group.
- Live and breathe your brand’s values: It’s not enough to say you believe in sustainability if your company is actually wasteful. Insincerity will actually do more damage to your brand in the long term.
- Be consistent: Being consistent applies to every element of your brand strategy, from the way you treat your customers to the look and feel of your social media content. By keeping consistent, you’ll make your brand more memorable and recognisable.
- Be flexible: While it’s important to stay consistent, it’s also important to remain flexible. If you fail to adapt to the changing needs of your customers because it goes against your current brand strategy, it’s going to harm your brand. Leave some room to evolve if needed.
- Keep the end goal in mind: Building a successful brand takes time, so it’s important to keep the end goal in mind. While a good digital marketing strategy can earn your business some quick wins, don’t expect to double or triple profits within a few short months. This can happen, but it’s rare!
Hopefully, you now have a much clearer picture of what a branding strategy is and how it can help your business evolve and expand. Of course, if you’re interested in outsourcing your branding needs to an experienced agency, we’d be happy to help – so get in touch today for more information!