This article is meant for all the brave ones who understand that a brand must always evolve, and for those who have not started their brand yet.
Let’s talk about brand strategies!
Everything is constantly changing, so why should your brand be a static object?
Defining your brand can be overwhelming, and that is one of the main reasons why so many brands become inconsistent. This article will go through some strategies that you can directly apply to your brand, creating a strong base for growth. Before you start thinking about which Pantone colour your logo should be or what voice to use on social media, take a few steps back and have a look at the big picture.
What Are Brand Strategies?
There is an internal battle happening that you may not be aware of – a debate between advertising agencies, creative agencies, and brand strategy agencies trying to define what brand strategy actually is.
Before diving into the definition of what a brand strategy could mean to you, it should be clarified that branding is strictly not your logo, tone of voice, name, website or product. A brand is far more complex than that: it is your gut feeling about an organisation. Something that you can’t sense through one specific medium, and that people (customers) will defend with their heart and souls, is what separates a great brand from an average brand.
All parties agree that a brand strategy is a long-term plan for the brand’s evolution. It’s essential to keep this in mind instead of getting too stuck on how others try to define it for you. The strategy might include external branding such as your look and feel, website, social media, culture, the tone of voice, marketing material and various other things that are tangible. Along with this, the company must have a strong internal brand as well. How do you position yourself in the market? How do your employees associate themselves with your company? What are your core values?
A multitude of things will contribute to your brand strategy, but let’s start by covering the basics.
8 Elements to bootstrap your brand strategy
1) Vision and promise
Every business’ priority is to make money, but is there more to your brand than that? What is it that differentiates you from your competitors? It is important to keep in mind that your brand needs to be able to provide value beyond the point of sale.
A brand promise is important, however, consumers are tired of repetitive, or even, broken promises. There needs to be a deeper purpose, in other words, strong values, to why you created this brand. If you are lacking a purpose then you need to re-think your business, as people only care about you, if you care about them.
It’s good to remember that you don’t, for example, literally have to be a charity organisation to hold values of helping others.
Honest Tea speaks to tea-lovers that are tired of unnecessary, borderline toxic ingredients being shoved in their tea:
“ Honest Tea seeks to create and promote great-tasting, healthier, organic beverages. We strive to grow our business with the same honesty and integrity we use to craft our products, with sustainability and great taste for all.“
Keep in mind that whilst making money should be a priority, it cannot be your only purpose as that will only drown you amongst thousands of other brands, thus making your brand go unnoticed.
Cohesiveness comes down to making the right choices. You need to resist sharing something that is cool, funny or trendy if it doesn’t relate or contribute to your brand. Every sentence you write an image you upload or print needs to be aligned with your message. The non-brand centric material will only confuse your audience.
Consistency is the key to brand recognition. Let’s take for example Coca-Cola, Nike, and Apple. All of these brands have been consistent since their launch, which has created instant brand recognition and deep customer loyalty.
To avoid customer confusion, consider creating a brand guide. A brand guide will contain guidelines everything from the colour palette to the tone of voice and positioning of your products. The brand guidelines will be highly beneficial for you and your employees, as it helps to keep track of things. It also allows you to sponsor events and expand internationally with confidence, as it is easy for anyone to follow.
A few excellent examples of successful guidelines:
The United Way
Target is the second-largest discount retailer in the United States. Below are examples of Target’s various social media pages. Notice the cohesiveness and consistency that runs through each platform?
3) Relationships and Emotions
It feels strange to talk about why social media platforms have succeeded, as it plays such a big role in our lives. We tend to forget how our lives used to be before that time. However, let’s try to picture ourselves 10 years ago. If you had an amazing dinner would you even think of taking a snap of it? Let alone sending that picture to a friend. Where would you express your opinion about the next MP?
The reason why social media platforms are so successful is that they allow people to form relationships and express their emotions. A natural thing that humans have been doing already, but just in a different form.
“People have a basic psychological need to feel closely connected to others, and that caring, affectionate bonds from close relationships are a major part of human behaviour.” – Psychologists Mark Leary and Roy Baumeister
If you find a way to emotionally connect to your audience, you will earn trust and loyalty. Things such as creating a group of bakers that use your products or offering a “happy meal ” are all emotional triggers. Forming a relationship with your audience is what will make your brand succeed, for it will create a fanbase that will stand by you in good and bad times.
The beginning of this article mentioned that “everything is constantly changing, so why should your brand be a static object?”. This translates to your brand being able to adapt to new trends, needs and audiences. It is also vital to remember to stay cohesive and consistent, but how can you stay consistent whilst being adaptable in this ever-changing online and offline environment?
Whilst brand guidelines help you to stay consistent and create standards, adaptability helps you to stay fresh and competitive. Many brands who have appealed to “older target groups” in the past have been able to reposition themselves by successfully holding on to their heritage while attracting new target groups. One of the best examples out there is Old Spice.
The images and video clip above just prove to show how Old Spice managed to attract a new younger audience without losing their strong brand identity. If you have been trying the same tactic with no results, don’t be afraid to change and try something new. Working well in the past does not guarantee that it will work well in the future.
Here are some tips on how to reposition your brand:
– Listen to your current or future customers.
– Highlight attributes of your products that have not been highlighted before.
– Remind your customers why they loved you.
– Bring a refreshing point of view that will make your brand shine in a new light.
Just think about it as changing your hairstyle and still holding on to your personality.
5) Team Involvement
Brand recognition is a term heard over and over again. It is not a marketing word, but a highly important factor of branding. At least 50% of your branding is online, but how about the other 50%?
Your team needs to represent your brand cohesively. If you are a financial firm with a super serious website and copy, the last thing you need is for your team members to be clowning around in meetings. Your employees must always be able to represent the brand as it is.
Moo.com is one brand that truly understands the value of customer service. They are able to maintain the same language, whether a customer calls or chats with them. The feeling of “nothing is impossible” is what keeps customers coming back, and most importantly, referring you to their peers.
It has been proven that brands who have excellent customer service, company culture and take care of their employees and customers, are the most profitable in the long run.
6) Show that you are listening and appreciating
If you are lucky enough to have the following or a customer base that appreciates you, don’t take it for granted – appreciate them back!
If a customer has invested time in writing to you, reply in the form of a personalised letter, a discount code, a video or anything else that fits your brand. This will surely increase customer loyalty and referrals.
Remember to keep things human, in other words, keep it personal and do not automate and robotise, as people can quickly spot a sincere act from a fake one.
7) Competitive branding Strategies
It is very common to come across clients who actually believe that they have little or no competition. Think again!
Competition is something that can never be avoided, even if a product is unique. Brands must be smart and strategic about which steps to take next based on their competition. Make sure to analyse what has worked and what has failed. If something has worked, copy it! But do not let all your moves be determined by what your competitors are doing.
Be aware of who is talking about you and who are you being compared to. Staying active on these conversations and having your voice heard translates into you caring.
A good tip is to be quick and personal in responding to conversations on social media, as this will you an edge over your competition.
Did any of these ideas trigger more questions? I would love to answer you!