2020 – the year of unpredictability.
With the world changing by the hour, customers are craving familiarity. Certainty and reliability are at the top of everyone’s wish list, meaning that strong branding is more important than ever.
Have you ever been to a foreign country and found yourself drawn towards the golden arches of McDonald’s? Or spotted a green mermaid sign in the middle of nowhere that makes you instantly need a venti frappuccino? Instantly recognising a brand is comforting as you know exactly what to expect. With familiarity comes confidence and customers find themselves using certain brand’s products without thinking twice (the best brands can even make people feel a certain way or crave a particular product just by hearing their name)!
And what do the top-performing brands have in common?
An impenetrable brand strategy.
Brand Strategy vs Brand Identity
Many businesses confuse brand strategy with brand identity, so let’s set the record straight.
Brand identity is the tangible look of your brand (colour scheme, logo etc). This should be developed according to your brand strategy.
But what is brand strategy?
Brand strategy is the creation of a quintessential character and essence of a company that is directly related to customer wants and needs. In short, brand strategy is the ‘why’ behind your organisation. Why do you exist? Why do you want your customers to perceive you in a particular way? Why does your company stand out from others on the market?
Brand strategy allows you to create meaningful engagement with your customers, understand your brand positioning and encompasses your entire existence. It’s a pretty big deal!
The importance of brand strategy is not to be overlooked. Investing the time in understanding the ‘why’ behind your brand will allow you to become more authentic, establish a clear understanding of who you are and stand out from the crowd. Customers want to know what they’re getting from a brand, but this clarity cannot exist without you knowing the answer yourself.
So how do you build a strong brand strategy in 2020? Here are our top tips for creating a unique brand strategy to ensure that you stick in your customers’ minds.
Define Your Mission & Vision
Grab a pen and paper. No seriously, go get them. Now jot down the answers to the following questions:
- Why does your organisation exist?
It may seem simple – and potentially tedious – but this is the most effective place to start when developing your brand strategy.
Think back to where it all began (a lightbulb moment on the train maybe, or an idea jotted on a napkin). What was your purpose and how have you adapted along the way to reach the point your brand is currently at? You’ll soon uncover why your business is different from competitors and what sets you apart, which is paramount when considering how you want to position yourself moving forwards. Answer this question, and you’ll unearth your mission.
- Who are your target audience and what resonates with them?
Your company vision should describe the emotions you intend your customers to experience when interacting with your brand. So, it goes without saying that knowing your target audience inside-out is the key to unearthing your vision and developing a good brand strategy. You should understand what they love/can’t stand, who are their idols and who makes them tick. Grasp every single detail about them, right down to which meal-deal selection they’d make in the shop (okay, maybe not that much but you get the picture).
Once you no longer have to think twice, that’s when you’ve hit the nail on the head. Your brand can then share the values and concerns of your target customers in a completely authentic way, resonating and creating trust with them.
One of the more recent brilliant brand strategy examples is Oatly, an oat milk brand whose target audience is young, ethically conscious individuals. The tone, voice and content across all Oatly channels is marketed directly at this audience (one example being the “click here for the short version” videos all over the website that align with the young, technology-driven generation).
This brand strategy example is particularly impressive as Oatly recently faced controversial press around their new private equity investor. Remembering that their target audience is ethically driven, Oatly has made their factual account of the story the first thing you see on their website landing page, controlling the narrative in a way that remains in line with their brand strategy.
By writing down your mission and vision first, you start off on the right foot towards creating a strong, consistent brand. When working alongside an experienced branding agency to bring your business to life, this clarity will make it way easier to communicate exactly what you want your brand to be. These two questions should shape your branding, the colours and fonts you use and the tone of voice you take.
So, whether you’re just starting out, or have an established brand in need of some long-term brand strategy, always refer back to your answers to these questions.
Assess Your Positioning
“Check yourself, before you wreck yourself” is something my mum always says, and it’s completely relevant when it comes to positioning.
If your brand is already established, it is vital (and I’ll say it again for the people in the back) it is vital that you do an honest assessment of your current positioning in order to develop long term brand strategy. It makes no sense to define how you’d like your company to be positioned, without actually assessing the reality of how your brand makes people feel.
Of course, it can be difficult to see your own business through a different lens.
Our advice? Get help from those who know your brand the most!
Your customers and employees are two key groups that will give you an honest insight into your brand positioning. Focus groups and feedback will allow you to see if your mission being achieved, whether your vision is how people actually feel in relation to your brand, or if the reality is completely different. By listening to those who are familiar with your business, you’ll be able to establish an authentic overview of where your brand is currently positioned. You can then use this to develop your ethos and character, utilising the reality of your brand to create an authentic brand strategy.
Side note: by including employees in developing your brand strategy, they are far more likely to accurately translate your brand to customers, creating more trust between the brand and your target audience. Bonus!
Plan Your Messaging
So, you’ve got your mission, values and brand positioning down. The final step towards creating a top-notch brand strategy is messaging.
For this one, consistency is key. No matter what platform or format, every piece of content you create should resonate with your target audience, adopt the same tone of voice, and communicate the crucial differentiators that define your brand.
But seriously, there’s no need to panic – it’s not as tricky as it sounds. If you know your target audience inside-out, communicating to them in a way that embodies your mission should be second nature.
To elevate your brand strategy further, stay alert to current trends and utilise them to continue to build rapport with your customers.
Messaging through storytelling can also go a long way in marketing your business. Being able to tell the story of how your organisation came about, the problems you can solve and why you do what you do, will often resonate with your audience in a powerful way.
As your business grows and more people join the team, it can be easy for your messaging (particularly your brand tone of voice) to get lost.
Creating a branding guideline document is an ideal way to keep consistency as your business scales. If you produce such a document, be sure to revise it on a regular basis to make sure it stays up-to-date with your current positioning, mission and values. This can further align the entire company to adopt a cohesive brand strategy, and can even go as far as to be used during onboarding processes, introducing new staff to the essence of your brand from day one.
In short, brand strategy is the combination of who you are, what your company does, who you do it for and why you do it.
Creating a brand strategy is not an easy task, but it is an essential one.
It involves working with intangibles, trusting your intuition and understanding other people’s perception of your brand which may not come easily at first. But if you want consistent brand performance (and let’s face it we all want that), take the time to assess your business, create a brand strategy and deliver messaging that is true to your brand.
In a time filled with uncertainty, customers need consistency and familiarity. In 2020, brand strategy is your most powerful asset.