Regardless of your business, the marketplace is probably crowded. Every company has competitors and every customer has choices. So how do customers make a choice between two reasonable options? They choose by gut, by which company they can relate to. Making those valuable connections is why brand strategy is so important. It tells customers who you are, and why you do what you do, in order to influence their decision-making process.
For starters, your strategy is not your product, website or logo. It’s a common misconception that your strategy is dictated by executions, but it’s actually the other way around. Your brand strategy defines your company’s purpose. It explains what drives you as an innovator, and why what you're doing is important. It’s bigger than products or tactics, It’s a belief that guides your business.
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it
This is an idea championed by Simon Sinek in his book Start With Why. He explains that people and businesses succeed because of their purpose, and their ability to convey that purpose to customers. Rather than being directed by what it is you do and how you do it, he suggests that your brand strategy should start with why, and to let that inform how you execute and what the result will be.
To do this well, The why you begin with should be compelling. Your motivation isn’t profit, that’s a result, and one that every company aims for. When thinking about your brand strategy you should begin with a truth that you believe about the world. A brand guided by a universal truth creates strong, lasting connections with their customers. Your brand strategy should be something that not only you and your employees can rally behind, but something your customers can champion as well.
Look to the future, plan for the future
When thinking about your brand truths, you’ll, of course, want to examine the marketplace as well as the world at large. The most successful brand strategies make predictions about the future of their industries and point their compasses in that direction. This often requires taking a risk and investing in the unknown, but it’s an investment based on what you believe.
A brand strategy that looks to the future is the difference between being a company that is reactive and one that leads. You should also use your brand strategy as an opportunity to set goals and determine the company you want to be 5, 10 and 15 years down the road. Tie these goals to the truths you have determined, and build strategies to get there.
Make it unique to who you are
We’ve already covered that “making money by selling a product or service” isn’t going to cut it as a brand strategy. If the goal of a brand is to differentiate itself from its competitors in a way that is appealing to customers, then it follows that the strategy you build that brand from should be unique, even innovative. Brand strategist Roger L. Martin has an interesting strategy for making sure that your brand strategy is both unique and well positioned.
Martin suggests that in order for a brand strategy to be good, the opposite strategy should be equally smart. The opposite of “make money selling a product” is “don’t make money selling a product.” Obviously, that’s not a good strategy. As Martin puts it, “if the opposite of your core strategy choices looks stupid, then every competitor is going to have more or less the exact same strategy as you.”
Follow it in every way
Your brand strategy is the north star of your business. Your content, marketing and growth strategies should tie back to your brand strategy in the goals you set, what you produce, how you communicate. Doing so creates a clear and consistent message for your customers, and presents them with a story they can follow and be a part of. With a brand strategy that sells people on a why, rather than a what, you can convert new customers into a loyal community.
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