What Is A Brand Strategy
What's In One (And Why You Probably Need One)
What Is A Brand Strategy
and why you probably need one
Most people don’t come to me for a brand strategy, but it’s what they actually need. They usually come to me for the visual part instead.
The logo, the colors, the layouts, etc., but they haven’t defined who they are yet, who they need to talk to, or what they need to say. Most have big plans for what they want to build and ideas for new services or products. What they don’t have yet is a way to pull everything together into something cohesive and actionable.
I’ve been in their shoes.
Twice. Once, building a brokerage where the story that I needed to brand was different from reality and also different from the more tangible business goals. Second, building my own business when I came back to consulting several years ago. The biggest issue was time because I was selling out of the brokerage and needed to get up and running quickly, and the second was my mindset. I’ll be candid. I wasn’t in a great head space at that time. Between the pressure of needing to launch quickly and the stress of a business breakup, I didn’t have the mental clarity or capacity to do it right. On top of that, like many others, my business evolved into something that wasn’t what I had planned at the outset. It took me a while to realize how badly I needed to refocus, so I know why you might put it off. Once I did, though, and redid my own strategy and branding, it has been clear sailing.
A lack of clarity about what your brand should be can cause more problems than just not having a pretty Instagram feed. It creates mixed messaging internally, causing issues like disconnected leadership goals and confused employee priorities. It makes retention hard and recruiting even harder. When you aren’t clear on what your values are, what your mission is, or what vision you’re focusing on, it’s nearly impossible to make the best business decisions. Your marketing team throws things at the wall, whatever they can think of, and just hoping that something sticks. I can tell you, too, from personal experience, that the lack of a brand strategy can cause significant friction, too, within the leadership team and between leadership and employees.
what is a brand?
Your brand is what people feel, think, and say about your business. It’s different from marketing, which is what you say about your business and how you represent yourself to the world. With branding, it’s the perception of your people that matters.
People don't buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic
What is a brand strategy
A brand strategy pulls everything together. It’s like a business plan before your business plan. It’s not the brand style guide that defines the colors, type, or visual style.
Your brand strategy should give you confidence in knowing why your business exists, who your audience is, and how to engage with them in an evocative way. Internally it’s about giving a clear sense of direction, and externally about finding your path to brand awareness and, ultimately, brand equity.
What Should your brand strategy include?
your brand personality
I use a combination of brand archetype assessment and an intake survey to start with. It helps me to define the brand’s vibe, what the voice should sound like, and what the language style should be, and it gives some direction on how the visuals should look.
your ideal audience
The archetype assessment and intake also help us to hone in on who the ideal audience is. Often it needs to include demographic or psychographic profiles, as well. When you know who your people are, you start to understand what they will and won’t respond to and how to talk to them. For my real estate folks, it’s not your “farm” or whether you’re working more with first time buyers or luxury.
your brand values. Mission and vision, too, if at all possible.
I often see clients struggling with getting through all three of the core pillars (mission, vision, and values). We can generally get values nailed down and work on vision and mission after those. Archetyping helps here, too. Values don’t have to be big fancy concepts. They’re often more effective if they aren’t. For example, every business (I hope) wants to be seen as having integrity, but that can be fuzzy to nail down. It might be better to go the Google route with something like “do no evil.”
What story are you telling, and how should you tell it? How do you articulate what makes your business unique? It can be as simple as getting your basic “about us” paragraph or as in-depth as all of your core content.
Define who you’re up against. It’s not necessarily every other business in your market that does what you do, and it may not even be companies that are in your exact business. It’s who or what your ideal audience is most likely to choose if they don’t work with you.
Everything above gives us a direction of what most people think of as a brand… the visuals. How should the brand look to communicate to the right audience? What colors evoke the feeling that we want to elicit? What typography style conveys the right mood? What graphics or photos reflect the brand in the right way?
A brand strategy takes time to craft, but it is time well invested. When you have a clearly defined direction, you can see what the roadmap should look like.
Where you should go, and more importantly, where you shouldn’t. It helps align leadership to define business objectives and clearly communicate individual goals to employees. More importantly, a good brand strategy allows you to understand how to help your audience know what you do and why you exist and to frame your brand in a way that resonates with them.