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Can small business really avoid developing a brand strategy?
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Can small business really avoid developing a brand strategy?

When we talk about strategy, we usually think about big brands playing mastermind with the global market. Strategy sounds complicated, expensive and time-consuming. But while strategy deserves a good deal of attention, it is vital to small brands, too. Here is why.

For small business, communicating with the world usually means completing a checklist of assets: a logo, a payoff, a visual identity. This is understandable: when working on a budget, we tend to focus on more concrete things, outputs that can somehow be “grasped”. This is also the reason why brand strategy is often neglected by small business.

Small Business Brand Strategy

Photo by Piotr Makowski on Unsplash

What “strategy” really means

One of the many available definitions of strategy – and one of the most inclusive – is “a plan of action to achieve a result in the long term”. As generic as it may sound, this description hits some really interesting concepts: “action”, “results”, “long term”. The very idea of strategy implies that success (whatever it means to you) can only be achieved by a very coherent set of actions.

For a brand, then, it is not enough to exist. It is not enough to do what’s expected of it. And it’s not realistic to expect results in the short term. Brand strategy is a long-term game and requires vision and consistency from day one.

Why strategy is actually more necessary for smaller brands

Some people say that brand strategy is basically the art of sacrifice. In other terms, when we talk about “planning” we mean that we are allocating limited resources to reach our goal. Will you spend your budget on radio or social? On building the brand or pushing your latest product? Nobody has endless time, or money, or contacts, or credibility, so choosing how to use them becomes a matter of strategy. Nail the right one and your resources will yield a higher return. Miss the point and you will waste money and time.

This leads us to small business. Since their resources are usually more limited than those of large brands (especially their budget), they should be more strategic, because the cost of failing is so high. Of course big brands need a strategy, too, but they will be here tomorrow even if they misinterpreted their target, while a small business doesn’t have this luxury.

In a competitive scenario, a smaller player needs to be very sharp just to survive, let alone to thrive.

For a small business, then, developing a brand strategy is the first and most crucial step of a successful journey, as it allocates resources in an optimal way and offers clear guidance for many choices that will need to be made in the future.

What a small business should expect from brand strategy

While everybody knows what a logo looks like, the same can’t be said about brand strategy. In physical terms, brand strategy will consist of one or more documents of different sizes. These are provided to the client as a guidance for decision-taking. In terms of its content, strategy will be composed of:

  • AN ANALYSIS A look at all the elements that compose the current scenario (market, trends, brand perception). Who are your competitors? What do people look for today? What might make your product more relevant or less relevant than 5 years ago?
  • A COURSE OF ACTION This will vary depending on the kind of strategy that is being developed (market strategy, brand strategy, communication strategy, digital strategy, content strategy)

Brand strategy and communication strategy are what any small brand needs and they are as vital as any other asset.

Brand strategy stems from business objectives. It decides where the brand will position itself in the market and how it will develop through time. The first results of a brand strategy will be the basic brand assets: logo, payoff, visual identity. While they are sometimes developed without a fully formed brand strategy, this is never a good idea. Of course, brand strategy goes far beyond these first elements and informs all future decisions about the brand behavior.

Communication strategy is the logical next step. Once the brand territory has been defined, the brand needs to be communicated to its target audience(s). The communication strategy defines how each audience will be reached, through which channels and with which messages. It is the basis for all future planning.

These two strategies combined allow any brand, even a small one, to face future decisions with a clear compass, rather than making it up as they go. Most importantly, since they are rooted in the business objectives, they bring business clarity to communication choices.

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This is what it looks like.

The risk of creating strategy for a smaller brand

Small brands should definitely start from strategy as they cannot afford not to have one. It must be said, though, that having one isn’t enough: you must keep it and follow it in order for it to produce any result. This might be harder to ensure for smaller brands: since they have shorter chains of command (or a single decision-maker) this means that strategy choices can be more easily upturned for any reason.

Big brands, as heavy as they are, tend to stick to strategy for a longer time. Knowing this, small brands should make an extra effort to stay within the canvas of strategy. A good partner agency can help them do that.

Small Business Brand Strategy

Photo by Piotr Makowski on Unsplash

How Sublimio does brand strategy at scale for small business

While everybody needs a strategy, not everybody can put the same effort into it. This is why Sublimio adapts the scope of strategy to the needs of each specific client.

This makes it possible to apply strategy even to a small business.

For small business it is sometimes wiser to develop a more basic and quick brand strategy that covers the most realistic needs and then expand it if necessary as the brand evolves. Bigger brands, instead, need a more holistic strategy that will take longer to develop and will cover a wider range of scenarios. Scaling the approach but keeping the thinking sharp and business-focused makes strategy useful and accessible to everyone.

Andrea Sublimio Strategist

Andrea Ciulu
Copywriter & Strategist

A creative and analytical thinker, with strong roots in advertising, Andrea crafts concepts, branding and communication strategies that make a difference.


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