A Guide To Creating A Brand Strategy
Developing a brand strategy can be one of the most challenging steps in the business planning process, but it's a vital step. Branding is often seen as confusing or unimportant as it's difficult to see the tangible benefits. However, without a brand, the business doesn't have an identified purpose. Without a purpose, how can you stand out among your competition? By not implementing a brand strategy, you're creating a playground for "anything goes" and this can be a dangerous position.
So, to help get started on this crucial component in your business plan, I have outlined an easy 9-step guide to creating an effective brand strategy:
Step 1: Specify Your Branding Goals
Some brand builders aim to establish top-of-mind awareness to ensure that the spotlight in their category shines brightly in their brand's direction. Others want to forge emotional connections with customers, differentiate their products from competing offers or develop the kind of motivation that prompts purchase decisions. Some brand builders want their brands to do all of the above. What are your branding goals?
Topics To Consider
- Build awareness
- Create an emotional connection
- Convey distinguishing attributes
- Gain credibility and trust
- Achieve buyer preference
Tips For Creating a Vision Statement
- Be specific
- Address core values
- Focus on problem solving
- Aim for one sentence (10–15 words)
Step 2: Discover Your Purpose
A strong brand must tell its story with authority and authenticity. Anything other than the real you won't cut it. So, discover exactly what makes you fascinating. Then, build your brand on your true strengths.
Tips For Creating a Mission Statement
- State what your business does
- Share who your business serves
- Describe how your business does what it does
- Explain why your business does what it does
- Make it clear why people should care
Questions To Answer
- Why does your brand matter?
- What category do you fit into?
- What is your positioning in the marketplace?
- Who are your top target audiences?
- What is your value proposition?
- In what ways is your brand unique?
- How does your brand look and feel?
- What makes it different from competitors?
- How would you describe your brand?
- How would consumers summarize your brand?
- How do you want people to experience your product or service?
- What kind of emotions do you want your brand images to evoke?
Step 3: Identify Your Target Market
Market research aims to understand the reasons consumers will buy your product. It studies such things as consumer behavior, including how cultural, societal and personal factors influence behavior. The basic questions you'll try to answer with your market research include who are your customers, what do they buy, why do they buy and what will make them buy from you?
Choose Demographics To Target
- Income level
- Education level
- Marital status
- Ethnic background
Consider The Psychographics Of Your Target
Step 4: Determine Key Distinguishers
If you want to attract more customers and grow your business, you have to distinguish your business from others alike. There are many ways to stand out above the competition using resources you already have. The brands that crush their competition are those who understand that branding goes much deeper than pretty visuals. Branding is strategic and data-driven. To create a brilliant brand, three things must align: internal communications (how your team perceives your mission), understanding of your target market and differentiation from your competition. Combined, these elements create brand magic. ✨
Ways To Distinguish Your Brand
- Provide extraordinary customer service
- Focus on your key features and benefits
- Create a powerful offer
- Pursue alternative pricing
- Focus on a niche
- Support a cause
- Welcome brand evangelists
Step 5: Formulate Brand Messaging
Brand messaging refers to the language used in your content and underlying value proposition conveyed. It's what makes buyers relate to your brand by inspiring them, persuading them, motivating them and ultimately making them want to buy your product.
Things To Consider
- Be customer-centric
- Be genuine (what really resonates with your team during the sales process?)
- Stand apart from competition (use only one, unique message)
- Brand personality (is your uniqueness coming through in every interaction?)
- Voice (use expressive language)
- Tone (maintain a consistent persona)
- Keywords/phrases (consider the emotional responses of your word choice)
Brand Messaging Checklist
- Does your core message offer anything different from your competitors?
- Are your messages simple, easy to understand and compelling?
- Do your messages reflect reality?
- Do your messages resonate with your target audience?
- Are you saying anything meaningful or memorable?
- Will your message create an emotional response?
Step 6: Develop Design Elements
How do you develop a brand identity that tells a coherent story without saying a word? The use of visual design elements working together is an imperative part of the brand development process. Match your story to your style. Visual storytelling is just as important as writing or speaking about your brand. A style guide will help you to apply design elements correctly and consistently to build your brand like a pro.
Visual Design Elements To Consider
- Style guide
- Color palette
- Use of white space
- Office stationery
- Email signatures
- Social media covers
Step 7: Evoke Emotion
Evoking emotion involves mastering the practice of building a brand that appeals directly to a consumer's emotional state, needs and aspirations. This is done to leverage certain features of consumers' psyches to convert them into engaged customers and, better yet, long-term loyalists. The key takeaways are to know your target audience, what they feel, want and need, know the emotions your marketing materials should target and craft messages that skillfully trigger the emotions in your target audience in a way that aligns them with your brand.
Techniques That Drive Emotional Engagement
- Engaging quotes
- Thought-provoking articles
- Inspiring relationships
- Rising to the occasion (celebrate various holidays/seasons)
- Collaborating with your followers
- Using iconic symbols
- Addressing the consumer
- Posing a question
- Appealing to cultural anxieties
- Using your medium to enhance your message
- Creating shareable content
Step 8: Provide Consistency
Your brand is the combination of visual, verbal and emotional attributes that define your business and distinguish it from the competition. It should all work together to tell your story. Having comprehensive brand guidelines is necessary to maintain consistency and keep everyone on the same page.
Why Consistency Is Important
- Helps people get to know your brand
- Consumers trust brands they recognize
- Makes your brand feel more dependable
- Creates likability among your brand
- You will become top of mind when the need for your solution arises
Ways To Maintain Brand Consistency
- Use your logo on all communications
- Have a designated color palette and don't use anything outside of it
- Reiterate your brand's message over and over again
- Constantly convey your mission in a positive light
- Be purposeful with every design decision
- Blog on relevant topics regularly
- Employ proactive social media interactions
- Invest in online advertising
Step 9: Enforce Brand Standards
Once you put in the time and effort to establish a strong brand, it is important that you actually enforce those brand standards. Anyone who works on your brand, such as designers, your marketing team and in-house employees, should have a copy of your brand guidelines to follow and adhere to the outlined expectations in order to keep everything cohesive and consistent.
Key Components To Include in Your Brand Guidelines
- Company history, purpose, mission, values and vision
- Market positioning, brand promise, differentiators and target audience
- Brand message, personality, tone of voice and writing style
- Logo usage and restrictions
- Color schemes
- Typefaces, weights, size specifications and applications
- Photography/imagery style
- Acceptable patterns, textures and graphical elements
- Office stationery templates (business cards, letterheads)
- Advertising and communication templates
- Strict website user experience
- Social media policies