What in the world is brand strategy?

When you think of branding, you probably think about a brand's logo, their catchy tagline, or that cute little dog they have in their commercials. The fact is, branding is SO MUCH MORE than that. Now you might be asking... Okay, so what IS branding then? Branding is the overall experience your customers have with you and your product.

Your audience creates your brand in their heads

Branding is an Experience

Have you ever gone into a store and felt like you just had to buy something? Not because you needed anything, but simply because the store was so cool that you wanted to take away a part of that experience? Have you ever lined up around the block to buy a scoop of Salt & Straw Ice cream? Or opted for water because a restaurant served Pepsi instead of Coke (or vice-versa)? If you’ve had any of the above experiences, then you’ve seen great branding in action. All the things that go into creating a brand contributes to the brand experience. Did you meet a client for lunch? Send someone a proposal? Did someone see you speak at a conference or read one of your blog posts? Each one of those moments where your potential customers encounter you is called a touchpoint. And every touchpoint contributes to that person’s  experience of your brand. In today’s world, what branding is really about is curating, controlling, and guiding your customer’s experience at every touchpoint. You might be thinking, “There are so many touchpoints! How do you control every one?”

Branding is like eating a five-course meal.

Every bite of every course is just an experiential piece of the entire meal. The strategy is creating a menu and atmosphere that that taps into what you think your customers will love from one course to the next. It’s an iterative process that begins simply with defining what you’re about, what you stand for, and what your style and identity are - basically knowing what food you’re going to serve. Will there be wine? What about the lighting? It's about deciding what sort of experience you’re going to create for your customers then making it happen. If done right, the end result is that people experience your business as something both valuable  and unique. Hopefully they enjoy or relate to it. And at best, it creates enough positive emotion that they’re willing to pay for that experience again and again. Now that we’ve given you the quick brief, let’s talk about how to create the strategy.

How do you develop a brand strategy?

Branding is a delicate mix of tried and true business strategy mixed with bold, out-of-the-box creative thinking. Doing both of these well takes time. It took us A LOT of years and practice to actually get it right. But, having worked with major brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Coca Cola, AND having our own small business experience, we’ve created something we think is pretty magical to help with developing a brand strategy. Our “Magic Formula” is called The Golden Triangle. Get these three things right and you have a branding strategy formula for success.

Diagram of branding for positioning your business marketing efforts

1. Your Language

Language is your copy. Not only are the words you use important, your language needs to be simple and concrete. And you need to have a distinct tone of voice that matches your service, your customers, and sets you apart from other brands. Your words need to relay as much information as possible in as short a time as possible. A way to practice this is to create a tagline for your business. There’s a simple formula we use that’s a great starting point:

An example of this would be: We help small businesses stand out using clear, authentic messaging and brand strategy. Here we are able to define who you help (small business) what you do for them (create messaging) and what the results are (Standing out, clarity). However, it is a bit wordy and keeping things simple is important as well. So, let’s condense it: Clear Messaging for Small Business Now that’s a good tagline. It’s short, sweet and to the point while remaining informative. This isn’t only important for when you’re writing your tagline, but is also important to keep in mind when writing all of your material: website copy, emails, etc. The point is to keep your customers engaged and being clear and concise is where to start.

Superbrand brand identity comparison

2. Your Brand Identity

Identity is your brand’s personality. Your look and feel. Your archetype. What you stand for.  It’s the details that differentiate your brand strategy from everyone else, and attracts your ideal customer. Your brand identity should be attractive to your audience, unique, consistent, and aligned. Your brand identity is less about the words you use and more about some of the more abstract attributes of your brand - your colors, design and aesthetic, tone of voice. Your identity is what makes you, well, you. Your identity is embedded into everything you do, and therefore choosing a brand identity that is unique is key for a successful business. And it’s what connects people to you emotionally.

An emotional connection is the only thing that makes anyone want to buy from you.

It’s why you prefer Lyft over Uber (or vice-versa), or are willing to wait hours at an Apple store. These choices are the result of a carefully crafted set of cues that are designed to connect with you on an emotional level. Cues that tell you in either words, images, or an experience, what this business stands for and how it plans on serving you, the customer. Think about the emotional connection you are creating with your customers with your design, logo, and color choices. Is your website feminine in pastels? Or is it blue and masculine? Are the fonts thin and handwritten, or are they heavy and formal? These all contribute to creating an emotional connection with your ideal customer and they're a critical component of your brand strategy. One way to think about this is to find a core emotion that your business is centered around, and use it to create a consistent feeling for your audience. To find your core emotion, try this: Write down the following - What your business does, who it does it for, and the result. Then answer the question: ”What is the most important emotion I want people to feel once they get that result?” Once you have your emotion, look over all your assets from this lens - is my brand creating this feeling for people? Are my colors and design aligned? Is my tone-of-voice aligned? Then ask: “What can I change today to express this emotion better?”

Warby Parker Branding Logo

3. The Customer Experience

Customer experience is how and when your customers experience your business. It’s the path a customer takes that leads them to hiring you, working with you, buying from you, and getting the results they expect. This is the thing most people miss but it’s probably the most important piece in creating a really great brand strategy. How do you meet your customers where they are and help them get where they’re going? The fact is that not everyone needs what you offer all the time. A great potential customer might need you two years after you meet. Or they might have needed you yesterday after they hired someone or bought a competing product. However, creating a unique customer experience will help them find you when they need you and ultimately decide to choose you over other brands. Think about some of the most famous brands and how they re-invented the buying experience. By creating these unique experiences, they completely changed the market. A great example of this is Warby Parker. Warby Parker revolutionized the eyewear industry by making prescription eyeglasses affordable and accessible. Before Warby Parker, eyeglasses were prohibitively expensive, took a long time to get and the rack was full of styles that didn’t go together. Warby Parker created a set of great looking glasses all priced the same delivered direct to you with no hassle. Their brand is based on simplicity both in their design aesthetic and buying experience, which has in turn created dedicated fans and ambassadors. When crafting a unique customer experience, consider these questions:  Where is a customer in life when they need your product or service?What is the emotional need they’re filling when they buy?What activities are they doing before and after they buy? And then answer the following:

How can I create an experience for them that will make them love me?

(this isn’t about pandering, it’s about creating amazing value!) Also, what can I do that’s different and better than anyone else in my market? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What would you LOVE to get if you were them?

Today, building a brand is critical.

While that may seem complicated at first, developing a brand strategy is really about paying attention to who your customers are. Then giving them a solution to their problem in a way that’s:Aligned with their valuesAuthentic to youAnd different from anything else out there.  Brand Strategy is about crafting the details of your customer experience to create the outcomes you want - whether through copy, design or the customer experience - minding the details is the key. Once you start doing the little things that send the right message, you’ll stand out in customers’ minds and succeed as a great brand.

Start at the top of this Article, What is Brand Strategy

Learn more about using a Brand Strategy Template with the article The ROI of Brand Strategy

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You don't need us to start working on your brand. If you only implement one of these tips from Warby Parker, Lyft, Marie Forleo, Gary Vaynerchuck, Patagonia, or Everlane you'll already be better off than most brands.