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The ultimate guide to brand strategy

Get the timely insights you need to create a successful brand strategy.

It takes a lot of strategy to bring a brand with strong recognition to market. Brand recognition could be an indication of your company reputation, tone and messaging, logo, even its culture. Is your company aligned with what your products and services do? Does your brand embody its values in everything it does? If you’re feeling that your brand is unrecognisable within its market, or that it’s unfocused, then your brand strategy might need some work. And you’ll have to go beyond creating a shiny new logo: you’ll need a data-driven, thoughtful brand strategy. 

Think of some brands that become generic words for a type of product: Kleenex as a tissue,  Xerox as a photocopy, and even Google has become the verb to use when looking for answers on the internet. Companies don’t get this type of brand recognition without brand strategy. This ultimate guide aims to help you develop a successful brand strategy.

Brand strategy contains elements that help you reach your long-term business objectives, whether it be entering a new market, launching a new product or refreshing your brand. Brand strategy helps you evolve successfully, including the evolution of your company’s character. In theory, brand strategy can help consumers easily identify your brand, even as it has changed over time. 

A thoughtful, clear brand strategy touches every part of your organisation. It’s directly connected to the needs and emotions of your customers, and reflective of the current competitive environment. 

A common misconception is that your logo, product or even your website is your brand. A brand is so much more and it’s composed of many intangible elements. Your brand is what sets your business apart from the competition, and that recognition (like Kleenex, Xerox and Google) is what separates the biggest players from the small ones. 

A good brand strategy contains:

  • Your brand’s purpose – what does your company stand for?
  • The promises made to your customers – about price, quality, company values, etc. 
  • A well-defined identity/image/personality – what makes your brand identifiable?

Brand strategy isn’t an exact science but more of an art. But there are steps you can take to create your own impactful, actionable brand strategy. 

Before you begin to build your brand strategy, you need to determine your company’s purpose. Your business exists to do more than simply make money. What other reason does your company have for being? What value do you provide to your customers beyond your products or services? The goal of making money and turning a profit doesn’t set you apart from your competition. After all, that’s one of the goals of every business. Determining what else you stand for helps you decide how to stand out. 

Next, you need to understand your market and your consumers deeply in order to build a brand strategy. Your brand needs to be tailored to your audience in order to connect with them, so it’s vital to work out what they value. There is a variety of research you can do to understand your markets. At the very least, learn more about market research and how it can help you with segmentation, brand tracking, market intelligence and more.

Knowing as much about your competitors as possible is key. This can help you determine where you fit into the market and where there are opportunities for your business. Get the lie of your industry landscape by uncovering competitive insights to build your brand strategy.

Finally, create a brand strategy framework with clear and measurable goals. (Don’t worry, we’ll cover much more on how to measure your success later in this guide.) Your goals should align clearly with your overall business goals and incorporate all the above information into one concise guide that your whole organisation can use. 

Market research is one of the most important components of your brand strategy. If you don’t understand your market and your audience, how will you know which brand will resonate and connect with them effectively? After all, a brand isn’t just about your business. It’s also about the relationship between your business and your customers. 

And the best way to understand those customers is to collect and analyse data about them.

Curious about the types of questions included in market research surveys

In brand strategy, market research is critical. It will help you determine what makes you stand out from competitors and whether those differences are what your ideal consumers value. 

It’s critical to perform competitive intelligence work as well to know what your competitors are doing so you know where you stand in the industry. This work can help you find ways in which your company can differentiate your brand from everything else out there. 

Understanding the market means having an awareness of what your competitors are doing so you stay on top of emerging trends. But it also means developing what makes your business unique and building that into your brand strategy. 

Knowing your audience is just as important as knowing your market when it comes to creating an effective brand strategy. You need to understand their needs and what they expect from a brand (and your brand, specifically) in order to know how to cater to them. Consumer segmentation can help you understand the demographic and behavioural traits of your top buyer segments.

Market research is all about understanding exactly who your audience is and how you can entice them emotionally to purchase your products and remain loyal. This is a major component of your brand strategy. 

Your market research should include creating clear customer personas: a description of your ideal buyer. Ideal buyers are the people who are exact fits for your brand and feel strongly compelled to make an initial purchase and keep returning over and over again to your business. 

Customer personas help you understand and segment the kinds of people you’re trying to reach with your marketing. You won’t be able to know how to have an emotional impact if you don’t have a deep understanding of your customers. 

Usage and attitudes research can give you insight into consumer preferences, habits and purchase behaviours.

You can build buyer personas by asking questions around: 

  • Demographics: This could include marital status, whether they have children, gender, age, educational level, geographic location, etc. 
  • Career/job role: This part speaks to their profession, i.e. whether they own a small business or work in a large corporation, what stage of career development they’re in, which industry they work in and what skills they need to succeed. 
  • Lifestyle: This could include where they get their news from, where they prefer to shop and holiday, what sort of leisure activities they prefer and so on. 
  • Challenges/pain points: You could ask about challenges they face and pain points that contribute to how they make decisions.
  • Motivation: These are their desires and needs, such as what will help them improve their lives, in small or large ways?

All of these questions will help you determine what your ideal customers look like. You might have several different personas that enjoy different parts of your products or brand. 

Building clear buyer personas helps you understand how different audiences will interact with your brand. Are you reaching the best people for your products, i.e. those who are likely to become loyal, long-term customers and advocates? Or are you missing them and instead finding ones who are only making one purchase and then heading to a competitor?

Once you have your customer personas, it’s time to start talking to people who might fit into those categories to make sure your research and assumptions are accurate. 

This audience-focused part of the market research process can be undertaken using audience research tools such as surveys. And you can use them to analyse both your existing customers and the new ones you’d like to reach. 

Using surveys, you can check in with your customers to ensure that your buyer personas are accurate. You can also test aspects of your brand strategy to see whether you’ve hit the mark there. Getting feedback directly from your customers and prospects is essential so that you know you’re making decisions based on facts, not assumptions.  

Answering these questions is critical to your overall brand strategy because it will tell you how to build a brand that speaks to the people you want to reach. 

The purpose of a brand strategy isn’t to appeal to everyone; that’s just not possible. But your brand positioning should attract your target market in a clear and compelling way. 

Once you’ve conducted your market research and talked to your customers, it’s time to determine and fine-tune your brand. 

One way to do so is to establish brand guidelines to ensure consistency across channels. Brand guidelines help you become recognisable to the market and your customers, but it can also help internal teams too. Not only does this aid your creative team in ensuring everything created is on brand, adhering to such guidelines instills a sense of pride in the company culture. After all, everyone loves branded swag!

Here are some things to outline in your brand guidelines:

  • Which colours, fonts and types of images define your brand? 
  • What is the tone of your brand beyond how your company speaks to customers?
  • What are the key pillars of your brand messaging?
  • What is your brand story? 
  • What is your company’s purpose and vision?
  • What kinds of commitments are you making to your customers?

These are only a few of the potential questions to ask when creating your brand guidelines. The purpose of these guidelines is not to create overly rigid and inflexible rules as your brand will evolve over time.

If your company already has an established brand, then you can always iterate on it. Start with launching a brand tracking study to understand how your brand perception has changed over time. 

But it’s important to have every part of your brand strategy written down and agreed upon to be sure everyone in your company is on the same page. And these guidelines should be easily accessible to anyone in the company, or any of your vendors, who needs to follow them. That way, you can ensure that everyone is complying with the guidelines. 

Once your brand strategy has been created, the real work begins: it’s time to implement it. Here are a few key considerations to ensure that your implementation goes smoothly:

One major determinant of your brand strategy’s success is how consistent your branding is across every single channel you use to reach customers. If your website looks and sounds different from the materials you use in your physical store, or on your Twitter account, your customers will have lower brand awareness. 

Consistency in branding doesn’t just mean ensuring that your logo and colour palette are the same everywhere. It also means avoiding discussions about things that don’t relate to your brand or business. Everything you add or discuss should align with your brand message. 

Cohesiveness and consistency build stronger brand recognition, and since it’s likely that this is a goal of your brand strategy, you should take care to keep everything seamless.  

While it may seem like a contradiction to be both consistent and flexible, it’s possible. With the speed of change these days, sticking to a cohesive but outdated brand isn’t a wise choice. 

When you implement your brand strategy, your work isn’t quite done. You will need to stay on top of trends and continue conducting market research regularly to ensure that your brand is still relevant. 

If you find your old tactics aren’t working as well as they used to, don’t be afraid to make a change. By conducting thorough market research and talking to customers, you can ensure that your brand stays relevant for years to come. 

Customers aren’t the only ones who need to buy into your brand strategy: your employees do as well. After all, your employees are the ones who are communicating with customers on a daily basis. They should be well versed in representing the brand. 

If your brand is a friendly, customer-centric service, then customers shouldn’t be encountering grumpy and unhelpful staff at your stores. That kind of mismatch can weaken your brand identity and dilute your brand strategy.