10 steps to creating a brand strategy
No matter what you do or what you’re selling, your brand is your single most important asset. That makes it well worthy of investment (and direction).
Developing your brand should be a board-level priority – right up there with talent management, risk oversight, and diversity and inclusion. That said, not every organisation understands how to create an effective brand strategy, or even what a brand strategy is.
We feel you. If it’s not a core part of your day-job, it can be tricky to get your head around. Luckily for you, it is part of our day-job, and we’re here to guide you through the entire process – from understanding what data you’ll need to get your mitts on before creating a brand strategy, to what a great brand strategy looks like.
Shall we get going?
What is a brand strategy?
Let’s start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start). Much like Ronseal, a brand strategy does exactly what it says on the tin: it maps out a strategy for how your brand is going to be presented in the market.
Your brand strategy will guide everything from your tone of voice, where you market yourself and how you interact with your customers, to how often you publish content, which current events you comment on, and even the level of autonomy you give to your employees. The remit is wide-ranging, because the shape of your brand influences every decision you make; or at least, it should.
A brand strategy considers your long-term goals and the big picture for your organisation, then breaks that goal down into smaller, more traversable steps. It encompasses the evolution of your brand, who you want to bring along for the ride, and where you want to end up.
But why is it so important to strategize? Can’t you just wing it as you go along?
Well, you could, but you’d be unlikely to ride that wave for very long – because when it comes to the business of branding, it pays to have a plan.
Why do you need a brand strategy?
Creating a brand strategy will be one of the best things you ever do. No, really! It’s like real-life magic for your business: transforming perceptions left, right and centre.
The reason you need a brand strategy so badly is because without one, your marketing team, your employees, your entire business in fact, has no sense of direction or shared goal to work towards. No foundation to base big (or small) decisions on.
Without a brand strategy, your marketing efforts would be haphazard at best; downright damaging at worst. Imagine having no clear blog schedule; a lack of brand voice to address your customers with; visuals that change at the drop of a hat; a website that looks drastically different from your adverts; no set stance on what issues you feel strongly about or causes you believe in; a leadership team that can’t communicate your overriding vision?
That doesn’t sound like a successful enterprise, now does it? And that’s why a brand awareness strategy is so important: because it creates a completely solid foundation from which every business decision can be made.
Do you know which companies ignore the value of a brand awareness strategy? That’s right, you don’t. Because they went out of business.
What data needs to be gathered before creating your brand strategy?
Whoa there keeno! Before you can get to work on carving out a beautiful brand strategy, you need to know what data to gather (though we do admire the eagerness).
At the beginning of the whole process, it’s a good idea to assess where you’re at right now, and where you stand against your competitors. So, how familiar are people with your brand? Who has the market share in your area? What are they doing well? Are there any gaps in the market you can exploit? What feelings do your brand name and logo conjure up in your ideal customers? How many hits is your website getting? What content are your customers engaging with? How many followers do you have on social media? Why don’t you have more? What pain point are you setting out to address? What do your customers actually need?
Assessing your level of brand awareness will give you a solid foundation from which to build your brand strategy, but if you’re not sure how to approach it, we’ve got a whole separate blog dedicated to measuring brand awareness. Feel free to check it out before we dive into strategies!
How to create a brand strategy: Our 10 key steps
- Get to grips with your business strategy
Before carving out your brand strategy, you need to consider the bigger picture. What sort of business do you want to be? Where do you want to end up? What are your overriding goals? Your business strategy gives context to your brand strategy, so deciding on the direction of your business will inform how your brand can help you on that journey.
- Clearly define your customers
When growing your business, it can feel counterintuitive to narrow your audience. The truth is, trying to market to everyone simply dilutes your message, and fails to communicate why anyone should choose your brand over another. Once you understand who your target customers are, you can start to define, develop and market your brand in a way that speaks directly to them.
- Size up the competition
Once you know where your business is heading and which unsuspecting customers you’re going to target, you need to know who’s doing it better. Size them up. Take them down. (Although please don’t actually take them down; we’re encouraging a little friendly competition – not open warfare). Understanding who your competition is helps you to differentiate yourself, so see what’s already out there – from logos and adverts, to language and pricing – and carve out your own pocket of the market. A carbon-copy you are not.
- Figure out what you stand for
Business values and beliefs are an incredibly important part of your brand and should therefore form an integral part of developing your brand strategy. So, what does your business stand for? What does it believe in? Brands with a strong ethos are much easier to market than those without, so whether you make it your mission to work in a way that helps the environment, commit to raising the bar for your industry in terms of pay, or set out to solve a pressing problem for your customers, define it, then live and breathe it.
- Find your voice
When it comes to branding, your brand voice – the language you use, and how you use it – is one of the most impactful elements of your entire strategy. The words and intonation that you use to communicate with your customers, employees and stakeholders contributes to brand identity and awareness like nothing else. Are you going to lead with humour? Will you set yourself apart with puns and clever commentary? Or do you want to conjure gravitas with an unshakeably serious tone?
- Create a targeted messaging strategy
While your brand voice will be consistent across your many audiences, the messaging you develop will be different. Whether you’re addressing a potential employee through a job ad, welcoming a new recruit in your onboarding process, or exploring a potential partnership opportunity, you’ll need a messaging strategy that’s tailored to each.
- Decide on your brand positioning
Your brand position is an illustration of why your target audience should choose your product or service over another: it’ll be influenced by the research you’ve done into your ideal audience, your competitor analysis, and your overall business strategy. Create a positioning statement of three to five sentences, capturing what your brand stands for, and what it’s trying to achieve.
- Create your assets
Even if your brand is already up-and-running, your name, logo, colours, adverts and website design should be looked at anew through the lens of your business strategy, target audience, competitors, values, brand voice, messaging, and positioning. There’s no point in doing all that work if you don’t plan on making any changes. All of your assets should encapsulate the very essence of your brand.
- Build out your content strategy
Blogs, LinkedIn articles, newsletters, thought-leadership reports, podcasts, YouTube vids: what type of content is your brand going to embrace? This should be informed by how you want to connect with your customers, what place you want to occupy in the market, the reputation you’re trying to achieve, and the voice you want to be known for. Whatever you choose, make it consistent.
- Check in with your strategy
Once you’ve implemented your brand strategy, it’s important to follow-up. Is your brand voice being used consistently? How are people responding to your new logo? Is your website getting more hits? What about your social media engagement now that you’ve defined your audience? Tracking metrics is crucial to see how well your strategy is working, as it’ll quickly clue you in to any areas that might need more attention.
Examples of a successful brand strategy
When you get to grips with your own brand strategy, you’ll find that you naturally gravitate towards one or two defining features. You might focus your efforts on establishing a brand voice that really sets you apart from your competitors in a big way, or you might lead with your brand values, and align each of your marketing efforts with a strong stance on an issue you believe in.
Not sure what we’re banging on about? Take a look at some examples of great brand strategies.
Dead Happy: Strong brand voice; carved its own niche.
“Life insurance was barely alive when we got hold of it. We redesigned it. We built the technology. We made it better.”
Dead Happy is a total disrupter in the life insurance market, and a great example of how important tone of voice and messaging can be. Rather than treat the subject of life insurance with kid gloves, Dead Happy takes death by the proverbial horns, and uses dry humour to engage its audience. With terms such as ‘death wishes’ (“It’s your insurance, and your death!”), the brand refuses to tiptoe around what many treat as a taboo subject – to great effect.
FFS: Strong stance; clearly defined target audience.
“For years, men’s blades have been superior to women’s, not anymore.”
FFS (previously Friction Free Shaving) became the first razor brand in the world to broadcast real leg shaving in a television advert. Fed-up with the overpriced, low-quality shaving products available to women, FFS set out to take a stand – bringing female-marketed products up to par, so women “don’t have to settle for less”. They also made waves when their realistic depiction of the poses many women find themselves in when shaving got their ads banned from Facebook! But no publicity is bad publicity, and the brand’s appeal soared.
Dove: Strong purpose.
Many cosmetics companies have been criticised for trading on people’s insecurities, but for over a decade, Dove has been working to make beauty a source of confidence, rather than anxiety. Through its Self-Esteem Project, the brand is making its purpose known: to help build self-esteem in young people the world over. By 2030, Dove estimates that it will have helped ¼ billion people through its educational programmes. Now that’s a brand mission we can get behind.
How can Forsta help?
Remember when we talked about the data you needed to gather before implementing your brand strategy? And the importance of tracking your progress once things were underway? Well, the easiest – and most illuminating – way to do all of that is through the wonders of Brand Experience Software.
Forsta’s brand experience insights software gives you an eye-opening look into what your customers really think about you, how they feel about your ads, and whether anything about you is a total turn-off (sorry). It can also give you the inside scoop on which of your competitors they might have left you for (and why), and what they actually want to see from you in the future.
So instead of fumbling in the dark, how about you let us light the way?
It’s strategy time!
Congratulations – you made it to the end! Thanks for sticking with us. I mean, you kind of had to: we’ve got that super-fancy, all-knowing software ready to snitch on you if you ditched us for another site, but still, it means a lot.
We think you might be just about ready to start putting all of that lovely theory into practice – so go out into the world, be bold, be brave, find your people, carve your niche, and give us a call when you’re ready to see how it’s all going.
We’ll be waiting.
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