Whether rebranding or preparing for launch, your branding influences every aspect of presentation and marketing for your product. Given the omnipresence of your brand, you may be wondering how to create a winning brand strategy. The answer is planning, research, and measurement.
However, it’s worth keeping in mind that branding encompasses a lot of the intangible. It operates on an emotional level. It tells a story. The first step to developing your brand strategy is putting some thought into the story you have to tell about your company.
What is My Purpose?
As with all good stories, your brand narrative starts with existential angst. Why are we here? What does it all mean? What purpose does my business serve here on a transient rock barreling through the cold vacuum of space around a giant fireball in the sky?
Well, for one, to make money. But, that’s not quite what we’re getting at.
There are two important facets of your purpose or mission statement as it pertains to your brand:
In order to develop any kind of marketable product, you need to offer a solution to an existing pain point in your market share. The pain point may or may not be something that your target market is aware of. People with lactose intolerance still like cheese and ice cream, but they’re well aware of the downsides. Your non-dairy-based treats offer a solution to their snacking and sandwiching needs. Joggers who keep burning out their headphones may not realize that sweat is the culprit. Your water-resistant headphones offer a solution to a problem they were unaware of.
Developing a concise solutions-based pitch for your product helps you get on the level of your consumers and raise awareness about your product. However, branding demands more than brass tacks.
Your brand needs a larger vision.
Whether you’re driven by innovation, philanthropy, raw ambition, or human connection, a good brand narrative conveys a larger purpose to your business. Your purpose distinguishes you from the competition and allows consumers to identify with your brand on a personal level.
Developing a Persona
Okay, so you know who you are, but who are you selling to?
Knowing your audience is a big part of telling a story, and branding is no different. Understanding your target market provides you with insights into everything from preferred channels to word choice to color palettes. This is the first part of developing a brand strategy where some hard numbers are needed.
What is the average age of your target market? Where are they located geographically? What’s their marital status? What does their typical day look like? What are their shopping preferences? What’s their favorite color?
The amount of data available in the information age is staggering, and every last bit gives you an edge for pitching your brand.
Once you have some solid numbers together, you can start to paint a holistic picture of your hypothetical average buyer, also known as a buyer persona. Depending on your product and its market, you may have several buyer personas. With these personas in mind, you have an idea of who you’re selling to and how to reach them on both a practical and emotional level, which brings us to our next point.
Somewhere in your home – right now – there’s a tool, a vehicle, a piece of clothing, a snack … some product that means more to you than its utility. It could be an expensive chef’s knife that conjures thoughts of a craftsman in Japan, the elegant typeset on a bottle of expensive Scotch, or the worn logo on your favorite pair of running shoes. We’re all human, and even the most stoic among us is an emotional being. We attach feelings to the things we bring into our lives.
Consumer purchases are driven more by feelings than rational consideration. Your brand needs to speak to your target market on an emotional level.
In order to accomplish this, your brand needs to tell a story. This is where you bring together your solution, your vision, and the people you intend to affect. Your brand solves a problem with a larger goal in mind that impacts the lives of your consumers in a positive way.
You tell your story through every aspect of your campaign. Your logo, your tagline, your aesthetics, testimonials, packaging, all of it fits together to form a coherent picture: a story about who you are and how you affect people.
With a clear idea of your purpose, your target market, and your overarching narrative, you’re almost ready for launch. However, as mentioned earlier, there’s a likelihood that you won’t be able to narrow down your target market to a single persona. There are likely multiple demographics that you intend to reach. Casting a wide net can be conducive to raising your market shares, but only if it’s done right.
The key is to maintain brand consistency. A look at any successful brand shows cohesive messaging and consistent styling. That isn’t to say that all channels and products need to be completely uniform. Variety can be a good thing, but it needs to fit together in a larger picture that coincides with your brand narrative across all elements of your campaign.
Do Your Homework
That covers the basics of a brand strategy, but all of it comes with a prerequisite of study. From beginning to end, there are a few key points to research continuously:
- Keep an eye on the competition – When developing your mission statement, launching your campaign, and projecting into the future, it’s necessary to understand your competitors. This provides you with insight on how to differentiate yourself and maintain an edge.
- Keep data on hand – From market research to launch, the more data you have at your disposal, the better. Aside from developing a persona, continuous metrics allow you to define the successes of your campaign and its shortcomings, which allows you to …
- Refine – Even the best campaigns have room for improvement. Brand strategy is about long-term planning, which demands adaptation. A continuous stream of data allows you to refine your strategy for future campaigns.
How to Create a Winning Brand Strategy
In review, the steps to developing a brand strategy that pops can be broken down into five phases:
- Define your mission statement
- Develop personas based on data
- Construct an emotional brand narrative
- Develop guidelines for brand consistency
- Keep an eye on your metrics
If you can manage to keep all that under wraps, you’re ready to make waves.