Poor design, a weak brand identity, ineffective marketing, inconsistent messaging, and bad partnerships can tarnish a brand. Before you obsess about the specific shade of blue to use for your logo or what font you’ll use on your website, develop a plan that will help you build a successful brand. Brand strategy can help you do this.
Brand strategy is your plan for how you’ll help shape perceptions of your brand.
There are three phases to develop an effective branding strategy: discovery, identity, and execution.
This is a condensed version of our comprehensive guide on how to create an effective brand strategy.
Phase 1: Discovery
If you’re starting a new business and don’t yet have a visual identity, proceed to Phase 2. If you have an established business, don’t skip this step.
1. Start by evaluating your existing brand identity
Your core brand identity is often defined by your company’s vision (why your company exists), mission (what your company does), and values (the beliefs that guide your company’s actions).
The important exercise for existing companies is to evaluate whether their original vision, mission, and values are still relevant. Here are helpful questions you can ask:
- Are there elements that have emerged in the company’s culture reflected in that vision, mission, and values?
- Are some of the existing elements poorly defined or no longer valid?
- What’s most important to your company?
- Do your existing brand identity and marketing properly communicate your core identity?
2. Conduct market research and perform a competitor analysis
Once you understand your core brand identity, the next step involves market research and competitor analysis.
- How big is your market?
- Why are your customers?
- Who are your competitors?
- How has your market changed since the time you started your company?
- How have you evolved your business since the time you started your company?
Understand your customers better
A long-term branding strategy requires that you understand your customers and what they want and need.
- Who are they? Are your customers male, female, or both? Are they Boomers or Millennials? Where are they from?
- What do they do?
- Why are they buying?
- When are they buying?
- How are they buying? (From a website? At retail?)
- What’s their budget?
- What makes them feel good?
- What do they expect?
- How do they feel about your company?
- How do they feel about your competition?
Analyze your competitors
You must perform a competitive analysis to understand where your company is positioned in your industry.
Are you interested in comparing revenues? Unique visitors? Total visits? Traffic rank?
Pick a set of metrics that are important to you and measure the data based on those metrics.
If you pick the wrong metrics, you can still make a competitive analysis – but it will not be significant.
Phase 2: Brand Identity
1. Define your core brand identity
Once you understand how your brand is currently perceived and its position in your market, you can begin to define your company’s new brand identity.
2. Articulate your brand positioning
Your brand positioning explains how your company is different from your competitors.
Your positioning can often be summarized in one or two sentences to explain what you do better than everyone else.
3. Articulate your unique selling proposition
As we emphasized above, a unique selling proposition (USP) is what your business stands for.
For example, you could say that Apple’s USP is found in “user experience.” The value proposition of everything Apple does is meant to have the user at its core.
Figuring out your USP can take time, but it’s a crucial piece of your brand and value proposition. Knowing what it is can help you sell better to your existing and prospective customers.
4. Develop your brand identity design assets
When you understand your brand and the components that define brand identity (colors, typography, shapes, etc.), it’s time for you to work with your graphic designer to develop the creative elements that will help you build a brand and give life to your brand identity. These include your logo design, website design, product packaging, brochures, and more.
5. Develop your brand voice and how you communicate
Pick a consistent brand voice and ensure that your communications are clear, focused, and support your positioning.
Make sure that your brand identity is clearly and consistently reflected in your digital marketing and traditional marketing.
Phase 3: Execution
Once you’ve completed the discovery and developed your core brand identity, you must find the right way to communicate your brand identity and brand through marketing (digital marketing and traditional marketing).
Before you launch marketing campaigns and develop a marketing strategy, you should ask yourself these three critical questions:
1. Does your branding support your business strategy?
A misaligned brand will create cognitive dissonance for your customers, create a confusing brand image and brand identity, and undermine your efforts to succeed.
2. Is your brand identity consistent?
An inconsistent brand identity is confusing and unreliable. These are traits that drive customers away, not attract them.
If your brand identity constantly changes, it’s hard for customers or clients to wrap their minds around what it’s about. And it’s even harder to gain trust, confidence, and brand loyalty.
Visual consistency helps build recognition of your brand.
3. Does your brand identity resonate with your target audience?
Measuring your brand’s public reception is a bit trickier than examining it for consistency or internal strategy alignment.
Marketing intelligence experts at Datorama recommend tracking your branded impressions, internet search volume, and the performance of branded keywords (the use of your brand name on business cards, in messages, posts, etc.).
You may also want to consider measuring social media engagement and keeping an eye on your online reviews.
Once you’re comfortable with your answers to those three questions, you can build your marketing strategies and execute your long-term plan.
Take the time to build an effective brand strategy, and you’ll build a sustainable, profitable brand.
Katie Lundin is a Marketing and Branding Specialist at crowdspring, one of the world’s leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design, and company naming services. She helps entrepreneurs, small businesses and agencies with branding, design, and naming, and regularly writes about entrepreneurship, small business, and design on crowdspring’s award-winning small business blog.
Brand identity stock photo by Chaosamran_Studio/Shutterstock