Building a brand strategy is an essential part of creating a successful brand. Although it can seem like a daunting task to build a brand strategy for your business, it’s worth investing the time upfront, because it will pay dividends for years to come.
Most brand strategy articles that you’ll find online are written with large corporations in mind and aren’t super helpful if you’re a start-up or small business. I’ve worked with global businesses, FTSE 100 companies and 1-woman bands alike, so I’ve taken brand strategy and broken it down into 10 simple steps, you can take to create an effective and engaging brand strategy that will help grow your company!
Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, don’t expect to build a brand strategy in an afternoon, set aside some time to go through these steps in detail or reach out if you need help building a brand strategy.
What is a brand strategy?
Before we dive into how to build a brand strategy here’s a recap on what a brand strategy is and what it can do for your business:
A brand strategy is a plan for how you want your company to be seen by the world. It helps you to think about how your company will be positioned in the market, what you stand for and what makes you different. It’s the blueprint for how you show up in the world as your business.
A brand strategy can help you :
- Stand out from your competitors.
- Create a unique and memorable brand.
- Create a clear and consistent message.
- Create a visual identity that is aligned with your vision, mission and ideal client.
- Craft a customer experience that is consistent and aligned with your mission.
A brand strategy is essential for businesses of any size who are seeking to build and scale their brand and create an impact. For intentional and purpose-led businesses, it’s the cornerstone of business and brand planning.
How can I create a brand strategy for my business?
There are many ways to create a brand strategy for your business, and as I’ve said before there’s no defined framework for what should or shouldn’t be included in a brand strategy.
The first step to creating a clear brand strategy is to identify who you are and what your business does, this will help with the next steps of defining who you help and how.
Creating a brand strategy takes time. Don’t expect this to be done in an afternoon.
I usually take my clients through an in-depth brand strategy session where we’ll explore all of these steps to create a brand strategy:
1) Create a clear vision and mission statement
It’s always great to know which direction you’re heading in. Your future vision is where you’d ultimately like your business (and life) to be. Whether that’s building an online global community or creating a local community hub. It’s where you see the future of the business.
If your brand doesn’t have a clear sense of where you’re going or why you’ll struggle to make decisions for your business and become easily distracted.
Plus without a vision or mission, you’ll struggle to set meaningful goals for your business and without goals, you will struggle to make meaningful or tangible progress.
Your mission is what you are here to do. i.e. educate, inspire or empower. Your vision and mission are not the same. Your brand vision is what you’re trying to create in the world and your brand mission is how you hope to achieve that.
Just as there are lots of routes that will help you realise your vision, there is usually more than one way to fulfil your mission.
- What’s your big vision for your business?
- What are you trying to achieve in the world?
- What specifically do you do?
Your Brand vision statement can be a sentence or two of what you’re trying to bring into the world, and why. It should include something about “why now?” so it feels urgent, even if it’s not immediate…
Think of your brand vision and mission as working together to push and pull you in the right direction.
Your vision statement is the future you are drawn towards and your mission statement is the directive you need to get there.
Your vision can change as time goes on, but it helps guide all of your efforts behind the scenes while your mission remains constant.
2) Define your brand values
Your Brand values matter and they matter to your potential clients as well. People are often prepared to pay a premium to buy from companies whose values align with their own.
Values are the cornerstones of your beliefs. They are things that feel intrinsic to our way of being and we can create strong ties with those who we believe share our values.
Often, when something feels mis-aligned in our business, it’s because it doesn’t align with our values.
If you’re creating a brand strategy as a solopreneur, it’s important to consider the values that your brand will live and breathe by, being mindful that when you set your values, you need to ‘walk the talk’.
Your audience cares about your values, and in today’s world, these often matter more than price, design or performance. Today’s consumer wants to know that they are buying a product from a company whose values align with their own.
This means being transparent about your business practices and weaving your values through your entire customer experience.
Ask yourself: What are your values? What do you stand for, and what’s intrinsically woven into the fabric of your company?
Choose 3-5 brand values to represent your brand.
It’s important to know that simply stating your brand values is not a strategy. Get clear on how you will demonstrate those values through your brand and across every customer touchpoint.
3) Get clear on Why you do what you do
Often when we’re asked why we do what we do, we’ll give the surface level, logical answer. When we go beyond this, we can uncover deeper truths and the true motivators and intentions for our actions. When it comes to defining your brand, these deeper whys matter.
Within our Why, we can often uncover our unique brand story.
Ask yourself: What is your why? What are you doing and why do you believe in what you’re doing?
Finding your why is important as it is the foundation for everything.
Simon Sinek’s golden circle theory is a good way to think about your why.
Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle Theory (in short) is the idea that businesses can inspire cooperation, trust and change by communicating the deeper why.
In the model, there are three concentric circles, with an outer circle containing what you do and around it you have how you do it which in turn contains why am I doing this?
Not sure you’ve got to the core of your Why? Try the 5Y technique designed by Sakichi Toyoda, the Japanese industrialist, inventor, and founder of Toyota Industries.
Digging beyond our first logical answer is where we find the gold.
4) Do some competitor research.
Competitor research can provide invaluable insights that can highlight gaps in the market, areas where you excel and areas where your competitors are so good, it’s probably not worth the effort to try and compete in that way with them.
Choose 3 of your top competitors and conduct a competitor analysis on each of them.
Start with a simple SWOT analysis and look at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities or Threats that each competitor presents. You could also look at the brand proposition for each competitor and identify gaps in the market.
Brian Lischer of Ignyte brands suggests asking the following 4 questions as part of your competitor analysis:
- What unique segment of the market does each competitor purport to own?
- How do they differentiate themselves from the competition?
- What is the core messaging comprising their brand compass?
- What are their value propositions?
Choose your competitors based on location, market share and aspiration – similar companies that are near you, companies that dominate your market and companies that you aspire to be like.
Once you’ve got your competitor analysis you can start to build a plan for how you’ll company will sit in the market. This isn’t really about your competition, it’s about making your own value proposition stronger.
Which areas will you seek to master or own in customers’ hearts?
5) Define your unique selling proposition
What is it that makes you unique? Don’t fixate on what you can do better than anyone else, focus on what you can do differently.
Sally Hogshead, author of Fascinate believes that “Different is better than Better”, which means if your brand offers a unique experience you’ll have customers coming back for more time and time again.
People can always match features and benefits but if your differentiator is to offer a uniquely different experience, you’ll always have the edge.
Questions you can ask yourself to help uncover your unique selling proposition:
- Is your service genuinely unique?
- Do you have a signature process you take clients through?
- Do you have a signature style?
- Is your client experience unique and memorable?
- Are your results genuinely different from your competitors?
- Do you support or offer an aspirational lifestyle – think of Toms shoes and their buy one give one promise that appealed to the values of their buyers.
- Does your approach offer a different (and better) experience?
6) Create ideal customer avatars
Brand Avatars, Ideal customer avatars, brand muses, dream clients, whatever you want to call your dream customers you need to know who they are – intimately.
It’s critical to understand your ideal client if you want to create a brand with impact. Impact comes with connection and connection only happens when your client feels seen, heard and understood.
Everything you do from this point on should be tailored to ONE PERSON and ONE PERSON only. Your ideal client.
If you try to speak to everybody, you speak to nobody. Your products, services, marketing, language, brand aesthetic website, social media platforms etc… everything needs to be designed with your ideal client in mind.
It’s not enough to give them a name and an age and move on. you need to look at your ideal customer on 3 levels:
- demographics: who they are and what they do,
- psychographics: their activities, interests, and opinions and
- sociographics: their beliefs and behaviours
To create a true connection we need to show empathy and understanding, we need to inspire on a soul level, none of that is possible if we don’t know who we’re talking to or what really matters to them.
Not to mention, your marketing messaging, advertising, product or service development, pricing and packaging all relies on you knowing your ideal customer intimately.
7) Define your brand personality
Having a defined brand personality or brand avatar can give you a useful framework to work with when crafting consistent messaging, it can also offer useful insights when choosing a brand identity that is congruent with your brand vision and mission.
Your brand personality should partly reflect your personality as the business founder/s but it should also be appealing to your target audience.
Think about the kind of personality your brand will have, is it
- Whimsical and dreamy
- Fun and frivolous
- Humorous, cheeky or irreverant
- Sophisticated, poised or understated
- Kind and compassionate
- Bold and no-nonsense
- Casual and laid back
- Professional and business-like
I find it helpful to think of your brand as a person, how do they act when they walk in the room? How do they interact with others? What traits do they have?
8) Define your brand essence
Your brand essence is the set of values and attributes that make up your business.
These are typically a mix between those you’ve chosen to represent how you feel about the business and how your ideal clients see you.
Identify the key attributes that make up your brand or that form the core pillars of your brand.
Your brand essence often incorporates part of your brand personality and the positive attributes of your ideal clients. Your brand essence describes all the elements of your brand distilled down to its core.
Some examples of brand essence:
- Walt Disney – Magical
- L’Oreal Paris -Feminine Confidence “you’re worth it”
- Lululemon – healthy, mindful lifestyle – Sweat, grow, connect
- Pukka Teas – nurturing, benevolent, inspiring self discovery & connection with nature
Your brand essence is inextricably linked to your values, your why and your personality.
Branding expert Kirk Phillips set out 9 criteria for Brand Essence™ 9 (see below).
9) Choose a brand vibe that will guide your visual inspiration
Brand vibe is the mood or feeling that your brand should evoke. This can be anything from a sense of humour to sophistication, and it will guide the visual representation of your brand.
Remember, your brand needs to represent you authentically AND be appealing to your ideal client. Look at your personality, values, vision and mission and contrast this to what you know about your ideal clients. What will be most appealing?
I tend to stick to 6 guiding words when it comes to brand vibe, 3 for how the brand should look and 3 for how it should feel.
i.e. it should look organic, natural and bright and it should feel calming, safe and inviting, or it should look bold, edgy and stylish and it should feel empowered, inspiring and strong.
Brand Vibe takes into account the personality and mood of your brand and is an important part of your brand strategy. It’s where the strategy starts to translate into the visual elements of your brand.
Brand voice: Tone used across all communication channels such as social media posts or blog content; whether serious or lighthearted
This will guide the aesthetic choices made around the colour palette, typography, logo etc.
10) Define your visual inspiration
Visual design should be the last part of your brand strategy: The visual representation of a brand, for example the logo and colours that form its look through to how it’s communicated in advertising need to represent all of the other elements of your brand.
The visual inspiration should make sense in context with your values, mission and vision. For instance, you might love bright colours but if that doesn’t appeal to your ideal client or match the mood and vibe you’re wanting to create to support your message, then you’ll need to rethink your colour palette.
The key to creating a cohesive brand identity is to use consistent colours, fonts and styles across all of your brand touchpoints. This builds recognition and trust.
Before you start designing anything for your brand choose a colour palette, fonts and imagery styles that fit your brand vibe and personality.
When you’re crafting a brand strategy, you’ll want to include a mood board that you can hand over to your designer. A brand mood board will help you keep everything aligned and ensure that your brand is being crafted in a cohesive way.
The other thing you’ll want to include on this mood board is any logos, symbols or icons you’re inspired by. This way you can avoid creating a cookie-cutter copy of someone else’s brand and draw from the best inspiration to craft a unique identity that will stand out from the crowd.
Bonus: Communicate your Brand Strategy
Strategies, unlike tactics, are in it for the long haul. Once you’ve defined your strategy it’s useful to document it in a way that can be easily communicated with your team. My clients receive a 20+ page full-colour brand strategy PDF that includes both verbal and visual cues for their brand. If you’re not working with a brand strategist, you could still create something for yourself.
Ways to communicate your brand strategy
- Include it in your team onboarding process
- Add your mission statement and values to your website about me page
- Brainstorm ways to demonstrate your values through your customer experience
- Hold regular brand appraisals and refer back to your brand strategy – are you serving your customers in the way you hope to?
- Reflect on your brand strategy once a year and identify if anything has changed.
Don’t forget…It’s never too late to create a plan
When it comes to a brand strategy, ideally, you’d sit down and plan everything out before you start creating your brand, building a website or having brand photoshoots but it doesn’t always happen that way.
Even if you’ve already created your visual brand identity, a brand strategy can help you align all of the elements of your brand with your message, voice and goals. It really is never too late to create a plan for your business.
If your brand is starting to feel disjointed and like it’s not meeting the needs of the business then it’s time to sit down and create a brand strategy for your business.
Need help? Schedule a discovery call today.