Steal My Brand Strategy Process: It’s Easier Than You Think

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By Nine Blaess | 10:46 min

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    The topic of brand strategy can seem complex and overwhelming at first. I remember feeling confused and intimidated when I first started learning about it. But after reading numerous books, taking courses and applying what I learned to client projects, I realised that a brand strategy doesn’t have to be complicated to be helpful. Quite the opposite—the simpler the brand strategy, the better.

    The scope of a brand strategy can vary depending on the industry, company size and budget.

    And since every company has its own strengths, competitors, goals and audiences, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

    Nevertheless, let’s break down the concept of brand strategy into easy-to-understand elements. By the end of this article, you’ll understand why a brand strategy is important, what it should include, and how you can develop your own.

    What is Brand Strategy?

    Brand strategy is a long-term plan that helps a brand achieve its goals by establishing a unique identity in the marketplace.

    Essentially, the brand strategy determines how the business should be perceived by its audience relative to its competitors.

    But it doesn’t stop there. It distils a brand’s essential characteristics—its values, personality, and more—and makes them the basis for all decision-making. Hence, it ensures brand consistency across all brand touchpoints and experiences.

    But let’s get one thing straight: A successful brand strategy is not just about marketing. It influences every aspect of the organisation, from product development to customer service.

    In addition, the brand strategy should be aligned with the overall business strategy to ensure the brand message aligns with the broader business objectives.

    You can learn the difference between brand, marketing and corporate strategy here.

    In a nutshell, a well-thought-out brand strategy is the foundation of a strong brand. It promotes customer loyalty, supports sustainable company growth, and lays the foundation for long-term success.

    Why Brand Strategy Matters

    There are many reasons why a brand strategy is so essential. Let’s take a look at the most important ones.

    Achieving Differentiation

    A well-planned brand strategy helps your brand stand out from the competition, making it more memorable and attractive to potential buyers.

    However, true differentiation goes beyond visual aspects; it builds on the brand’s positioning and creates a special place for the brand in consumers’ minds.

    Differentiation can be achieved in a number of ways, be it through unique product features, an iconic brand personality, specific pricing strategies or outstanding customer experiences.

    The brand strategy defines how your brand effectively implements and communicates its positioning.

    You can refer to these 18 brand positioning strategies with examples for inspiration.

    Building Customer Trust and Loyalty

    A solid brand strategy promotes customer loyalty by creating consistent experiences and evoking emotional associations.

    This can be achieved by standing up for specific values, for example. A study by Edelman found that 64% of consumers choose or boycott a brand based on its stance on social or political issues.

    Your brand strategy defines what your organisation stands for so it can show up authentically and confidently.

    Streamlining Marketing Efforts

    A well-thought-out brand strategy optimises your marketing efforts by providing clear guidelines for communication, tone of voice and visual design.

    By maintaining consistency across all channels, you can ensure that every communication sounds like coming from the same source, even when multiple creators are involved.

    This uniformity reinforces the brand’s identity—its look and feel—which resonates with the right audience and helps build trust in the brand.

    Simplifying Decision-Making

    Beyond marketing, your brand strategy serves as the foundation for decision-making in all areas of your business, whether it’s product development or customer service.

    Essentially, your brand strategy helps you turn down opportunities that don’t align with your brand’s values and narrative to make room for those that do.

    Promoting Adaptability and Resilience

    Running a business is undoubtedly challenging in the face of recessions and rapidly changing markets.

    However, your brand can remain relevant and even grow in difficult conditions if it remains true to its core values and objectives. A clear brand strategy serves as a guidepost for strategic decisions to overcome challenges.

    Fostering Employee Satisfaction

    A clearly defined and implemented brand strategy gives your employees direction and purpose.

    These engaged employees will then help create better customer experiences and higher profits. In fact, a Gallup study found that companies with engaged employees outperform others by 147%.

    Improving Financial Performance

    For all the above reasons, brands with a sound strategy generally outperform their competitors financially. 

    As the annual Interbrand Best Global Brands Report repeatedly shows, brands such as Apple, Amazon, and Samsung that consistently invest in their brand strategy tend to have higher market values.

    The Elements of Brand Strategy

    A brand strategy consists of various elements that define what the company stands for and how it communicates with its customers. These elements can often confuse.

    For one, there are countless terms and concepts, including brand activation, brand architecture, brand message, brand differentiation, brand storytelling, brand experience, brand identity, brand idea, brand image, brand integration, brand culture, brand manifesto and brand partnerships, … to name a few.

    You may feel that you have to tick off all these points, but if you do, your brand strategy will only become lengthy, repetitive, and difficult to implement.

    Secondly, big brands like Apple and small start-ups have completely different needs and budgets. A brand strategy can look entirely different for both.

    While no two strategies are the same, I find some elements particularly valuable for my clients—usually small businesses.

    Target Audience

    Every brand strategy should outline the target audience that will buy the brand. 

    You can do this by creating personas—fictional ideal buyers of your brand—and outlining their demographics, psychographics, problems, needs, behaviours and attitudes.

    Try to narrow down your target group precisely. For example, instead of defining “mums,” your target audience could be limited to “new mums who are overwhelmed with the demands of parenthood.”

    By targeting young mums facing the challenges of early parenthood, you can tailor your messaging to their unique problems and offer solutions that meet their needs.

    Competitive Landscape

    I always include a brief overview of a brand’s direct and indirect competitors and analyse their strengths, weaknesses, positioning and communication strategies—verbally and visually.

    This helps to recognise opportunities for differentiation and inform the brand’s positioning strategy.

    Brand Positioning

    If you could only include one element in your brand strategy, make it your brand positioning. It defines how your company stands out from its competitors and occupies a unique position in customers’ minds.

    Your brand positioning strategy should build upon these elements:

    • Target audience: Describe those you want to buy from your brand (see above).
    • Competitive frame of reference: Provide insight into direct and indirect competitors and their strengths, weaknesses, and identities (see above).
    • Functional benefits: Illustration of product benefits and customer value.
    • Emotional benefits: Description of how people feel when/after they use the brand.
    • Reason to Believe: Specific features or attributes that underpin the benefits of your brand.
    • Brand personality: The qualities and characteristics that humanise your brand and give it a unique identity.

    Brand Personality

    Your brand personality is another essential element in your brand strategy. It makes the brand human and helps foster a connection between the brand and its audience.

    Just as we are drawn to people with similar personalities, a brand can create a deeper connection with its target audience through its personality.

    Research emphasises the importance of brand personality: 58% of customers are inclined to choose brands with distinctive personalities, and 51% have made purchases based on a brand’s online tone.

    Brand personality also influences your brand’s visual and verbal identity; in other words, its look and feel.

    Brand Core Values

    Brand values are another must-have element in your brand strategy, as they form the basis for most of the brand’s decision-making.

    These shouldn’t be any values but ones that overlap with your audience’s values and ideals. This alignment, coupled with the brand personality, fosters a shared identity between your brand and its audience.

    As Stephen Walker points out:

    Although brand loyalty isn’t quite a thing of the past, what drives brand loyalty is changing. Consumers are now more inclined to support brands whose values align with their own and stop shopping with brands that don’t.

    Brand Vision & Mission

    You could also include your brand’s vision and mission to describe how your brand wants to contribute to the world beyond making a profit.

    Some also call this the brand’s purpose, a very similar concept.
    The vision usually sounds like this:

    The vision usually sounds like this: “We create a world in which … [something is different].”

    The mission expresses how exactly the brand wants to realise this vision.

    Brand Essence

    The brand essence is a short statement of about 3-5 words summarising your brand.

    I like to include this element because it forces me to reduce the essence of the brand to a few words, like “Happiness in a Bottle” (Coca-Cola) or “Organising the World’s Information” (Google).

    Brand Architecture

    If relevant to your brand, the strategy should also outline your brand architecture—how sub-brands are organised within the brand.

    Do they get their own distinct identity, or are they marketed under the umbrella of the parent brand?

    Brand Messaging & Brand Voice

    The brand message is an integral part of your brand strategy. It defines the key messages and tone of voice guidelines for your brand’s verbal communication.

    While the brand positioning strategy is internally focused, the brand messaging translates this strategy to external client communication.

    Brand messaging guidelines should include the following: 

    • Key Messages: Define the most essential points you want to convey about your brand, products or services based on your positioning.
    • Value Proposition: Articulate your brand’s unique benefits and advantages compared to competitors.
    • Product or Service Benefits: Highlight your offerings’ specific advantages and features that address customer needs and pain points (emotionally and functionally).
    • Brand Storytelling: Share the narrative that illustrates your brand’s journey, values, and purpose, connecting emotionally with your audience.
    • Brand Voice Guidelines: Establish the tone, style, and language to be used in all brand communications, ensuring consistency and conveying the personality. Provide plenty of examples.

    Visual Identity

    The final step of my work is to translate the brand strategy into a visual identity—including logo, brand colours, fonts, image styles and more—and document it in brand guidelines

    While this is not part of the brand strategy, the strategy should influence the brand’s visual expression and ensure that the visual identity matches the brand message and personality.

    If you’re a designer like me, you can do this “translation” intuitively.

    When handing the strategy over to a designer, git’sving them a clear brief is important so that the visual design flows seamlessly with your brand strategy.

    Brand Touchpoints and Implementation

    Finally, I like to add a list of key brand touchpoints that are important for consistent brand communication and alignment with the brand’s positioning and audience.

    The Process of Crafting Your Brand Strategy

    The process of crafting your brand strategy can vary depending on the size and nature of your business. Here’s a quick overview of my approach, which works for small businesses without breaking the bank.

    I always start the brand strategy work by understanding the 3 C’s’: competition, consumer and company:

    1. Competitive Research

    First, identify your direct and indirect competitors to get a thorough overview of the market and the competitive landscape.

    For example, if your company specialises in organic skincare products, your direct competitors would be other organic skincare brands. Indirect competitors include traditional skincare companies and alternative options, such as nutritionists or holistic health practitioners.

    Analyse how your competitors communicate and what they stand for. Look for common themes and areas where your competitors excel. Also, identify gaps in the market that your brand could effectively fill.

    During this analysis, I like to examine the competitors’:

    • Strengths
    • Weaknesses
    • Positioning
    • Brand personality
    • Messaging approach & tone of voice
    • Visual identity
    • Brand touchpoints
    • Communication channels

    2. Audience Research

    Then, conduct thorough target audience research. You can use various research methods, including:

    • Primary research, such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, and observational studies, to gather insights into your audience’s characteristics and preferences.
    • Secondary research, such as analysing market reports and industry studies to supplement your primary findings.

    Collect data on their demographics (like age, gender, income level, geographic location, occupation) and psychographics (such as their purchasing habits, brand interactions, values, beliefs, interests, and attitudes).

    Remember to pinpoint your audience’s specific problems, challenges, needs, and desires so that you can position your brand as the solution. This will also allow you to overcome potential objections in advance.

    If your audience is diverse, you can segment them based on common characteristics or preferences and target your messaging and marketing accordingly.

    Of course, the scope of the audience research will always depend on your budget.

    3. Brand Workshop

    After the research, it’s time to bring the company’s key decision-makers together for a brand workshop.

    During this collaborative session, conduct various exercises such as:

    • Defining long-term business goals
    • Conducting a SWOT analysis
    • Identifying what sets the brand apart
    • Creating buyer personas
    • Developing perceptual maps
    • Clarifying the core values
    • Specifying the brand’s personality
    • Articulating the benefits of the products or services

    This workshop serves multiple purposes.

    Firstly, it provides a dedicated setting to focus on the brand, which can often get lost in day-to-day business operations.

    Secondly, the external perspective that I bring in as a moderator provides new insights. I often uncover things the company took for granted.

    Finally, this workshop helps to summarise the research results and align them with the company’s internal views.
    This lays the foundation for the final brand strategy.

    4. Synthesis

    The last step is connecting the dots and making sense of all the information to define and write up the final brand strategy, including its brand positioning, personality, messaging, etc.

    I spend a lot of time on wording to get the strategy as precise as possible.

    I usually create a short presentation summarising everything, which the client can sign off.

    5. Translation of the Brand Strategy Into a Visual Identity

    Lastly, you’ll need to translate your brand strategy into a tangible visual identity that allows people to experience the essence of your brand.

    To do this, I create comprehensive brand guidelines summarising the entire brand strategy and identity—from positioning and values to visual and verbal elements.

    As I mentioned above, I like to include some actionable next steps, such as:

    • Identifying the necessary brand touchpoints to give potential buyers all the information they need before making a purchase decision.
    • Addressing potential objections that may arise from customers.
    • Determining the most effective channels and platforms to reach the target audience and engage with them meaningfully.

    I find that this best helps my customers. As a small business, it often makes sense to focus on a few touchpoints and channels to avoid straining your limited resources.

    6. Adaptation

    Markets are like ecosystems, constantly in flux. So, it should come as no surprise that your brand strategy must also evolve to stay relevant.

    Therefore, it’s important to monitor and adjust your brand strategy regularly based on market trends, customer feedback, and the competitive landscape.

    Brand Strategy Frameworks

    While I don’t use any of these, several frameworks, such as the brand identity prism, brand wheel, or brand key, might be helpful when starting with brand strategy.

    Further Resources

    You may like my curated list of branding resources, including books, courses, potcasts and more.

    Or you could check out these 5 books, which are technically not about branding but shaped my thinking on the topic.

    Last Words

    As you can see, a brand strategy doesn’t have to be complicated and lengthy. Most importantly, it should be clear, actionable, and appropriate for the company.

    The aim of a brand strategy is not to impress anyone. It’s to attract and retain customers by creating an emotional connection and a distinctive brand identity.

    A study by Bain & Company shows that increasing customer loyalty by just 5% can increase profits by up to 95%. And that’s where your brand strategy comes in.

    A brand strategy tailored to your unique business creates the foundation for an authentic interaction with your audience.

    Need help crafting your brand strategy? Let’s chat.

    I’d love to hear your feedback on whether you found this article helpful or have something to add.

    Title image by Kaboompics

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    Nine Blaess

    Hello, I’m Nine. I blend strategy and design to craft engaging brand identities and websites that celebrate the uniqueness of each business.

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