The Ultimate Guide to Brand Strategy
The world’s most adored and successful brands didn’t just pop up overnight.
The truth is: It takes focused strategy and (a whole lotta) work to build a truly great brand.
But what is brand strategy?
In a nutshell, it’s your game plan for entering and conquering your company’s niche. It outlines all the good stuff, like your brand identity, positioning in the market, and the types of messaging and marketing that will resonate with your target audience.
It can be your greatest asset or your unfortunate demise.
Above all else, it’s the vehicle for building real connections with people. And here’s a little secret: Real connections turn into loyal customers.
In this article, you’ll learn about brand strategy and the various traits that strong brand strategies tend to share. We’ll also provide examples of good brand strategies as well as give you a few steps to start your brand strategy plan today.
- What Is Brand Strategy?
- Elements of a Brand Strategy
- How to Develop a Brand Strategy
- Creating a Brand Strategy: Examples to Inspire You
- Wrapping Up
- Want to Learn More?
What Is Brand Strategy?
You can think of your brand strategy as a 360-degree business blueprint. Ideally, your brand strategy outlines the key elements that make your brand unique, your mission and goals, and how you’ll deliver on them.
A strong brand strategy is meticulously crafted, taking into account all aspects of your market, niche, product or service offerings, customers, and competitors.
This should all be rooted in as much data as you can get your paws on.
In the beginning, you’ll need to take some leaps of faith – this is unavoidable when you’re starting from scratch. But with each new visitor, follower, and customer you get, there will be more glorious data to create meaningful strategies that actually translate into results.
Elements of a Brand Strategy
Here’s a brand strategy template that can help you cover all the bases:
|Sub-strategy||Goals and approach|
|Brand objective||Your vision, mission, and purpose. Why does your company exist and what impact will you have on your audience, community, or even the world?|
|Target audience||Speaking of your audience, who are they? What are their interests, needs, passions, and habits? Understanding them intimately is critical for your success – so don’t skimp on this.|
|Brand positioning||Carving out your slice of the market. What does it take for you to be a big deal in your audience’s life, and what strategies will you implement to get there?|
|Brand identity||What people see when they interact with your brand – your visual identity like logos and images, as well as your tone and voice, customer support, and reputation. Bonus points for storytelling that incorporates your brand objective in a meaningful way.|
|Marketing strategy||Playing the long-game, how will you communicate what you’re all about, in a way that your audience is actually receptive to? How will you build and nurture your customer relationships? This can include everything from social media to paid ads to email marketing.|
How to Develop a Brand Strategy
There are generally three phases for the brand strategy process:
- Plan: This is the intel phase. Before you start your brand-building strategies, do your research to make sure you have a solid handle on the market, your specific niche, your competitors, and the roots for your marketing strategy.
- Build: Once you have a basic plan in place, dive into those brand-building steps. Create your brand identity, including your logo, color palette, and other visuals. Create your website, social channels, and other media through which you’ll execute your brand strategy plan.
- Execute: Marketing is the fuel for your brand engine. Launch your brand and fully utilize all the messaging strategies you planned and marketing channels you built. Don’t stop until … ever. Just don’t stop.
Let’s break these phases into five actionable steps.
Do Your Research
Market research is non-negotiable if you want to grow fast. This process helps you build a solid brand development foundation, giving you important insights into things like:
- Fleshing out your business model, like adding certain products or offerings that go well with your initial ideas or narrowing down your target audience.
- Pricing for your offerings based on potential value and competitors.
- Who your main competitors are, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
- The types of marketing messages and strategies that your audience responds to best.
Social media is absolutely your market research friend. If you’re starting a dropshipping store, beeline to Instagram to see what’s going on in your niche. And definitely spy on your competitors.
Here are some more research resources:
- Facebook Audience Insights: Free Facebook user data based on their shopping habits and profile data like demographics, preferences, and interests.
- Pew Research Center: A wealth of free information gathered through demographic data, public opinion polling, media content analysis, and other social sciences research.
- Statista: Free and paid access to more than a million facts and stats about consumer and digital markets around the world.
- Marketing Charts: All sorts of marketing data, analyses, and graphics. They offer free graphs and paid reports.
Create an Awesome Brand Identity
During your research phase, it’s basically impossible to not get inspired with ideas for your own brand identity. That’s why we recommend dipping your toes into the market before making any final decisions over your identity and aesthetic.
Here’s a checklist for important brand identity elements:
Company name: If you need some ideas, check out Oberlo’s Business Name Generator.
Logo and slogan: Shopify’s Hatchful can help you make a cool, crisp logo in a snap – no design skills needed.
Color palette: Pick three to five colors, and stick to them for all of your branding and marketing materials. This will help to solidify brand recognition. Oh, and don’t forget about color psychology to set the mood.
Fonts: Like your color palette, pick no more than three fonts, and stick to those on all of your materials. Canva has a great guide on font pairing.
Photos and art: In the world of online shopping, killer visuals are key. If you’re dropshipping, take awesome gorgeous product photos. Set the stage with lighting, imagery, models, and accessories, and then carry those themes throughout.
Voice and tone: Silly, conversational, inspiring, dramatic … the way you deliver messages can be just as important as the messages themselves.
Storytelling: Emotion goes a long way. Create a bond with your customers by giving them your backstory. How did the brand start? What are your values and mission? Your dreams and promises? Get personal.
A beautiful website: Please don’t send people to a glitchy, slow, or sketchy website. This is exponentially more important for an ecommerce business, where your site is your backbone. One study showed that 94 percent of respondents have rejected or mistrusted a site based on the web design alone … don’t be that site.
For more on brand identity, check out these resources:
- Brand Awareness: 5 Tips for Creating a Powerful Brand Identity
- How to Brand Your Dropshipping Store – Step by Step Guide with Examples
Develop an Actionable Marketing Plan
Having a sweet brand isn’t going to cut it. You’ve got to drive it home with continuous messaging on all sorts of channels.
And once you’ve roped them in, you should keep them roped in by strengthening the relationship and earning their loyalty.
Basically, you’ve got to keep going for the rest of your brand’s life.
We never said it was easy.
Here are some considerations for the marketing portion of your brand strategy plan:
Sales funnel: Especially for an ecommerce site, a sales funnel can smoothly lead your visitors to become customers, and customers to come back for more.
Social media marketing: The world – and all its online shoppers – are at your fingertips with platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, and more. In addition to organic posting, try paid tactics like influencer marketing and social media ads.
Content marketing: This is a big deal. Technically, every product video you create, social media post you make, email you send, or blog post you publish is content marketing. When you use content marketing best practices to pull customers through your sales funnel, it can be massively impactful.
Email marketing: Email marketing is yet another effective tool for your sales funnel. One study found that email is 40 times more effective at helping companies acquire new customers than Twitter or Facebook. It’s powerful stuff.
Here are some more marketing resources:
- How to Market a Product: 24 Effective Marketing Tips to Skyrocket Sales
- The Complete Guide to Video Marketing for Businesses in 2020
- How to Create a Content Strategy That Actually Drives Traffic
- How to Land Your First Sale Fast with Social Selling
- 15 Ways to Increase Social Media Engagement Quickly
- 16 Email Marketing Tools To Craft and Send Perfect Emails
Be Reliable and Trustworthy
Consistency is key. Don’t start out with haute couture branding and then veer left field into soccer mom chic territory. Likewise, don’t use deeply emotional messaging and switch to sarcasm and jokes.
The whole point of the brand strategy process is to carve out a clear, distinct voice and image for your company – and stick to it in every single aspect of what you do.
Before making any merchandising, branding, or marketing decisions, ask yourself – Is this in line with my branding strategy? Does it “fit” with everything else and enhance the narrative I started?
If a new idea is even a little bit off, scrap it and try again.
In addition to keeping your branding and messaging consistent, it’s also critical that you keep all the promises you make. If you offer shipping in one week, those packages better darn well get there in one week.
Losing a customer’s trust is the fastest way to lose them and tank your reputation in the process.
Track, Assess, and Evolve When Needed
Evolution is necessary for our survival on this floating space orb – why should there be an exception for your brand?
Research was the first step in this process. But the truth is, the process should be in a loose infinite loop. You should always be diving into your Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, Twitter Analytics, and other platforms to see how all of your campaigns and efforts are performing.
Google Analytics is a personal favorite, as it gives you a wealth of in-depth information about your website visitors and what exactly they do on your site – down to the last click. If you don’t have a Google Analytics account, create one now.
Always be on the lookout for ways to improve. And accept that sometimes improvement needs to happen from the ground up, starting with essential elements of your business branding like your tone, marketing channels, or even your brand identity.
Creating a Brand Strategy: Examples to Inspire You
Target audience focus: Mollyjogger
Mollyjogger was made by nature lovers, for nature lovers. It’s right there in the slogan: “Field, Forest & Stream.”
You can see this profound understanding of the brand’s audience in virtually every aspect of its brand identity – from the deep forest greens and river blues in their color palette, to the fun and adventurous brand fonts, to the lifestyle photography that showcases their products in action.
You can’t beat the personal touch of that red station wagon packed to the brim with camping equipment. The type of vehicle alone is a clear example that their audience lives a more humble lifestyle that leans away from luxury and more toward rugged.
There are even an axe and some firewood packed in there, too.
Brand storytelling: Tropical Sun
Tropical Sun sells Caribbean-inspired products in the UK. The owners nail the storytelling facet as they explain the brand’s humble beginnings.
It connects “the UK’s thriving ethnic communities” back to their culture and brings them together. Humanizing the brand is so much more powerful than any generic list of health benefits or product quality.
Plus, that clever world map made of spices really drives home the concept of bringing people together.
The photo alone gets an A+.
Cohesive marketing: Harper Wilde
Harper Wilde is a bra brand with a fun, cheeky attitude. But it’s more than just that – it champions and empowers women socially and politically.
This is the kind of brand that connects deeply with the passions and identities of its customers.
Right off the bat, you can see that Harper Wilde donates a portion of profits to The Girl Project, an initiative that puts girls through primary school. The owners also work with a manufacturer that strives to empower Sri Lankan women.
And they do it all with puns, hashtags, and the occasionally silly photo.
“Together we will lift up your ladies and the future leading ladies of tomorrow.”
They use their branded hashtag #LiftUpTheLadies on their website and social media to create brand cohesion between channels.
The company Instagram carries on these concepts, shifting smoothly between political messages, jokes, and product photos.
Overall, it’s an expert job of strong brand development that’s embodied in all of the company’s marketing efforts.
The fact is, when created properly, your brand strategy provides support and direction for your business.
It tells you what your company’s position in the industry is, relative to your competitors, and what makes it different from the rest.
With the right personality, colors, voice, and actions you take for your brand, you can make it more appealing for both your staff and prospective customers.
Do you have a brand strategy in place? How do you show customers what your business is all about? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Want to Learn More?
- The Ultimate Guide to Brand Image
- 10 Branding Statistics You Need to Know in 2020 [Infographic]
- Color Psychology: How Color Meanings Affect Your Brand
- 10 Vital Strategies to Use When Marketing to Generation Z