How to Build a Brand Strategy
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From consumer goods to Instagram profiles to even cities, if it’s not “on brand” then it’s not worth talking about. And for good reason – in an age where commodities are a dime a dozen, brand becomes the differentiator.
Brand takes something generic and makes it special. Take a bar of soap – easy to find, easy to use – and charge it with something that people can connect to. Instead of being something to wash with, a bare function, maybe the soap smells exceptional and leaves skin feeling soft. Maybe the packaging tells the consumer that it’s 100% organic – great for the eco-conscious. Maybe its ads suggest luxury and feature a celebrity endorsement – a pull for those fond of a splurge. Maybe a portion of sales go to funding a reputable nonprofit – perfect for those eager to get clean while making a difference.
Any one of these tactics ensures that your brand makes more of an impact than a commodity does. Branding is designed to differentiate the generic from the special and, in doing so, drive value to your business. But it’s more than just creating something that’s outside the ordinary – how can you convince others to see your product this way? You’ll need more than a sharp logo and a snappy slogan.
Instead of pushing a commodity, you’re providing something that offers more and that connects with people. In order to do this successfully, you need to understand who you’re talking to and what they want. Mapping all of these things out is where a brand strategy comes in.
A brand strategy defines what your brand stands for, what it promises to customers, and how it presents itself to the world. Executing a well-thought-out brand strategy creates a solid, data-driven plan to drive your business forward, giving your brand structure and creating landmarks by which you can measure success.
In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to consider to build a brand strategy and build your brand. Ready to dive in? Let’s go!
Before you even think about putting together a brand strategy, start with what you know. Every brand starts with a rudimentary idea of what they want their product to do and who will find it most valuable, and many start brands based on intuition. They set out to meet an unmet demand in the market, identify a new audience for an existing product, or completely disrupt the market. But long-term goals come after a full understanding of what you want to accomplish, how you’ll do it, and why.
So, before starting your brand strategy, make sure you have a grasp of:
These three parts come together to form the backbone of your brand strategy. Take a look!
There are thousands of different categories out there – from casual footwear to pet care, and food delivery services to CBD oil. Understanding what people need from your category is the starting point for any strategy.
Is your category more emotional, trying to connect people by playing on their heartstrings? Perhaps aesthetic is more important – things like how attractive, aspirational and innovative the brands are. Or maybe your category is more rational, providing a necessity and prioritizing value for money, brand familiarity, and accessibility.
Consider it a hygiene factor: these drivers may not give you a competitive advantage, per se, but they are important to get right from the start.
If you’re interested in what drives people towards brands and towards categories to help start your brand strategy, take a look at the 16 Drivers that drive every brand and category. To get your strategy off the ground, take a look at the Driver Dictionary below and consider which four drivers matter most to people in your category.
Now that you’ve got a grip on what people feel they need most from a brand within your category – it’s time to understand whether those feelings change based on your target audience.
A target audience is a group of people that you are aiming to get to buy your product, and it can be segmented in many different ways. Here are a few examples:
Define the target audience for your brand by looking both internally and externally, and answering a few questions:
Then try to break down that target audience. How does each group identify with the category?
For example, imagine that you’re building a brand strategy for the baby food category and your target audience is made up of first-time parents living in urban locations. You’ll need to consider the way a first-time father feels about the category vs. a first-time mother. For one parent it could be more about the consistency and popularity of the brand, while for the other it could be more about the accessibility and the taste. You need to define their needs.
When you’re building your brand strategy it’s crucial to uncover a need within your target audience. Put simply, a need is the difference between what people have and what people want. Once you identify that gap, you can plan your approach to fill it.
Think about the recent surge in food delivery boxes: Why is there a need for them? At the surface you might assume it’s about a lack of time. The customer doesn’t have time to go to the store, so wants something delivered to their door. But once you dig beneath the surface, you might uncover something deeper. Successful brands have discovered that a primary reason is driven by people wanting to cook delicious food at home, but are conscious of wastage that comes with buying the necessary ingredients. By providing just the right amount of spices, sauces, and vegetables, these customers are able to make tasty meals without waste – something that they can’t do with the larger boxes and jars of ingredients offered in stores.
After you identify the needs of your target audience, it’s time to understand your competition.
Take a look at the other brands currently playing in your space to understand where the real opportunity is for your brand. Consider which needs in your category are currently being met and unmet – and how can you use this information to form a competitive advantage?
Doing a competitive analysis within your brand strategy will help you understand where the most prime opportunity space is for yours.
Once you define your competitors, you should ask and be able to answer questions about them:
Getting to grips with answers to the questions above before you start to write your brand strategy is important. Because all brand strategies depend on where you are and where you want to go. The better you understand these things, the stronger your brand strategy will be. Let’s get into the next step: establishing where you want to go.
After gathering all of the information noted above, you should be ready to ask yourself: What are you actually trying to accomplish with your brand? You need to set up your business objective.
Depending on your brand’s values, personality, products, and audience, your business objective can take many forms. The most common ones are to:
Any of the above is largely determined by what kind of brand you have and how you want to grow, but the point is to set your intentions from the beginning. In doing so, you give yourself a direction to start and a plan that’s set up to drive results.
With your business objective defined, the next piece is to execute it through marketing objectives. How do you want your target audience to think and feel about your brand? And how will that drive your business objective forward?
Let’s say that your business objective is to grow revenue by 10 million. In order to get there, you must first take a look at your current efforts and compare them to the market. One way to do this is to look at your core market and specifically target a certain segment. Perhaps your core audience is made up of 80% 25-35-year-olds and you decide to increase that percentage to 82%. Another way is to go outside your usual market altogether and expand into new territory. If that group of 25-35-year-olds has heard enough of you, what new products can you create to expand into other age groups? Or maybe you need to rethink your target audience altogether.
Let’s take a look at a few other examples:
Similarly, if your business objective is to steal market share, then it’s best to understand what’s driving people towards purchasing your competition and focus on those same drivers, explaining why your brand is better.
With clear commercial and marketing objectives, you can start to distill your brand strategy down into one key thing: What do you have to do?
This one main goal can be defined using this simple framework:
1. Get: Who are you going after? Your target audience.
2. To: What do you want them to do? Your business objective.
3. By: What are you going to say to convince them? Your marketing objective.
Here are two examples:
If your business objective is penetration:
Get young women aged 18-34 to try Bella’s Beauty Brand by building brand awareness, giving the brand’s popularity a push.
If your business objective is to steal market share:
Get first-time parents living in Urban cities to choose Baby’s Best over Kiddie’s Choice by convincing them Baby’s Best has a reliable, great taste.
With this framework in mind and those few examples, what is the main job of your brand strategy and how, by achieving it, will you realize your commercial goals?
Now that you’ve done your homework and figured out the essential thing your brand needs to do to succeed, it’s time to plan for how to achieve it.
A complete brand strategy is composed of five different components. They are:
Let’s tackle each of these pieces one by one.
Product positioning is where your brand sits amongst competitors in your category. This part of your brand strategy includes several important elements that you’ll need to consider: proposition, product, packaging, price, promotion, and distribution.
What does your brand stand for? What is its purpose? It’s imperative to understand your brand’s core values, its mission, and the benefits it gives people. Having clarity around your brand’s core values creates a structure by which you can judge whether an idea, activity, or campaign feels “on brand.”
Consider what the main function and pull of your product is. Ask yourself questions like: What is your product delivering to people? What is the functional benefit of your product? What is the emotional draw of your product? What aspect of your brand is better than all the other brands out there? And how can you deliver these values consistently to encourage customer loyalty?
Don’t underestimate the power of consistency – consistency between your product and your brand’s core proposition is crucial. They must relate to one another. Imagine you’re an anti-aging cosmetics brand for women and your brand’s proposition is to make women feel confident and beautiful as they age. Your product should have a comforting aroma, it should deliver some level of anti-aging results, and it should have a compelling claim around feeling your best.
Packaging is what people see before they experience the product itself – how will you make it stand out? Packaging has big implications on how people feel about you. Color, texture, material, visualization and even written claims language all help to emphasize your product and product proposition from the shelf.
Semiotics play an enormous role here. For example, if you want your brand to feel more premium, use heavier packaging, sleek clean design and rich color. If you want it to be eco-conscious, use upcycled paper and tell customers whether it’s compostable. It’s up to you to make your packaging’s experience fit your brand’s identity.
Determining the right price for your product is a mix of art and science. You must consider the cost of production and a fair markup, as well as what your competitors charge. But also think about the role that the power of brand plays when deciding price. It is often the quality of the brand which commands the premium – it’s what transforms a chocolate cookie into an Oreo, or a nice watch into a Rolex. Think about how you will make your brand worth its price.
Promotions attract new customers and give people a chance to try your brand with lower risk. What kinds of discounts and deals will you run throughout the year to draw people to your product? A sound promotional strategy is important to drive trial and maintain volume share. A word of caution, however: over-promoting your product can have a dramatic effect on your brand’s value – and not for the better. Over-promotion can cause people to purchase exclusively when products are at a discount, devaluing the everyday price of your product. Use it wisely!
Consider how widely you want your products to be made available, as well as how people will find you. Will you be sold in all stores or select a few? Will you be nationally distributed or regionally distributed? When placed on shelf where should your product be located – top of the shelf, eye level, or at the point of purchase?
As you configure all of these elements for your product positioning, remember that consistency is key. All of the pieces within your product positioning plan are interconnected, so remember to explore how your promotional strategy supports your price, how your price supports your packaging, how your packaging supports your product, and so on.
What assets do you actually need to be creating and in what format? Creative assets allow you to be clear with your target audience: announce new product lines, declare company stances, clarify rules for usage, and more. But each of these elements needs to be viewed within its own context.
For example, if part of your strategy is to create a user manual for your product, then the focus should be on the wording and the images to communicate how to use the product. Plain text, diagrams, and an easily navigable book, for example, would be best.
If the objective is to create an ad display for retail locations, you’ll need something both eye-catching and functional. For this piece, the wording isn’t important beyond communicating benefits – the focus should be on creating a colorful display that holds your product in a way that makes it attractive and easy to pick up.
Your creative should always link back to your marketing objective, reflecting what you want people to feel and think about your brand.
Creative is any interaction that your customers have with your brand, and can run the gamut from web copy and product instructions to award applications, articles, and ads. Think about what you want to say, and the best format to reach your audience.
The channels you choose are basically your media mix – websites, direct mail, email, radio, TV, print, and in store. How will you deliver your creative to the world? Where will you place your ads? How will you appear at the point of sale?
A large piece of this is driven simply by budget – if you’re working with a tight budget, it might make more sense to choose a cost-effective social media campaign rather than a high-impact, high-cost ad placement. Consider your advertisement’s reach and frequency alongside your budget reality to help you choose the best channel plan, keeping in mind that you’ll want to reach people two to three times over the course of one campaign to drive memorability.
Merchandising is a significant piece of your brand’s channel strategy, from defining your approach to nailing down where you want attractive display units to showcase your product, where to use in-store to drive your product’s trial, and where to prioritize promotional tactics.
Effective merchandising strategies must be tailored to the shopper! Shoppers are different channel by channel (i.e. a grocery shopper is different than a convenience store shopper, is different than a pharmacy shopper). How will you pivot your strategy accordingly?
When you’ve chosen your channels, you’re ready to nail down the nitty gritty details of implementing paid media. While your channel provides the medium for your ad space, paid media is all about choosing different platforms, defining image sizes, A/B testing different copy, and implementing it all. It’s the amalgamation of creative, budget, and audience to get your message out there.
In setting up how you want to attack paid media, think about where your target audience consumes media. Are they scrolling TikTok or reading The Times? Are they seeing billboards on the road or watching cable in their homes? Which social media platform do they gravitate to? All of these questions should prompt you towards where to put your money.
Last – but certainly not least – start from your budget. Establishing how much you can spend on paid media will play a large part in how you prioritize who will see your ads, how many times and where.
And through it all – the customer. Customer touchpoints are what will lead your brand from a contender to a champion. Customer experience, customer service, and customer success all make up how your brand interacts with customers directly.
Customer experience is all about eliminating friction – the easier your customer experience, the better people will remember your brand positively. From signing up for a newsletter to paying for a purchase to the awaiting the delivery, customer experience is driven by ease of use. How will you make your product accessible through everything your brand sets out to do?
This is another instance where consistency across all touchpoints is crucial. It’s unacceptable to have an amazing digital presence and then a very clunky after-sale experience or a non-existent customer service dept. It sows distrust, and you’ll have trouble winning back customers that had a tough time on the first run.
Think about each touchpoint your customer has with your brand before and after they make a purchase. Everything from your website navigation to your delivery process should keep the customer front and center. Ask yourself questions like:
And don’t stop once it’s built! Continue to survey customers for ways to improve their experience.
Customer service comes in a step after the relatively hands-off customer experience. While customer experience is built to be intuitive, customer service helps customers to feel connected with brands. But don’t be fooled, technology is at the crux of good customer service these days.
On the back end, you can keep track of customer response with the proactive management of metrics like first contact resolution, average resolution time, and ticket volume. Customer service is heavily linked to customer experience; you need to think about how quickly you’ll be able to respond and how readily available you need to be to your customers. This will also depend on technology, and how your product or service is sold. For instance, a consumer goods brand might only need a dedicated email address and phone number to support or answer complaints from customers. But a high price point product or service which feels more of a risky purchase – like an online travel agent – might want to think about chat bot, as well as giving prominence to a fully-functioning call center.
Customer success goes one step further to create real relationships with customers. The biggest objective for customer success is to listen to customers and drive them towards their goals. Customer success isn’t about being nice to customers – it’s about making sure every part of your proposition, product, experience, and service drives them towards their goals.
Customer success teams should be empowered with a clear understanding of customer goals – and not necessarily in the context of their products. An example would be a new credit card offering – the goal of a customer isn’t to secure the best possible rates; the goal of the customer is to save for their house. And successful products understand that overarching customer need, and how to connect it with their own products.
The purpose of customer success is symbiotic: ensuring that customers achieve their goals using your product. On the brand’s side, providing customers with valuable solutions is the gift that keeps on giving. It maximizes customers’ lifetime value by keeping them as loyal buyers, it increases the value you get from them over time by identifying and upselling new products and features, and boosts advocacy by referrals they make to their own contacts.
But remember to make this value clear to the customer as well. Tell them how and when they can recognize their goals with your product, prove to them when they’re achieving their goal, and show them other products and features they should engage with for the best results.
As soon as you have all of these components together – your category, competition, and consumer; your business and marketing objectives; and your positioning, communication, media, channel, and experiential strategies– you have everything you need to execute a completely solid brand strategy.
As times change, tastes change, and people change, your brand will need to continually make adjustments to meet your audience’s needs. At ProQuo AI, we make all of these steps – as well as their ongoing maintenance – as easy as signing into a platform.
We’ve discovered 16 Drivers that form the relationship people have with your brand. These Drivers give you granular foresight into how your brand is performing, what areas need improvement, and what you can do to supercharge your brand’s growth.
Our Brand Management platform collects people’s thoughts and feelings about your brand every day, so that you have the latest idea of what’s going well and what needs work. It’s equipped with a number of features to help you stand out in the crowd, from AI-powered guidance on how to adjust your brand to a Live Summary Dashboard, a Brand and Competition Monitor, a Campaign Optimizer and Event Tracker, and more.
Curious how our platform can help you get started on your brand strategy? Watch our live demo to see how it works, or book a live demo for your own brand today!