You’ve got the logo made and you feel ready to conquer the world. But without a well-thought brand strategy the journey might get hazardous. To make sure you have everything covered we developed a quick and easy checklist.
Do you have a brand strategy? A checklist
As with much of the branding terminology, the concept of “brand strategy” is sometimes unclear. Let’s say that a brand strategy defines how you will take your brand to its desired position within the market.
It goes without saying that it requires you to know both your destination and the overall scenario.
Is your business strategy clear?
While the branding strategy lies in the field of communication, it is tightly bound to your business strategy. Are you looking for great market penetration with very low price? Or are you looking to become top of mind for a cluster of high-spending customers? Or again, you want to deliver the best customer experience in your category? These choices must all be in place in order to develop a brand strategy. Keeping business and communication separate is never a good idea, especially at the early stages of a brand’s life.
What you should do: write down your business strategy as simply as you can. Ideally, it should be as short as a tweet (140 characters). Longer than that? You might want to refocus.
Do you know what your main promise is?
81% of brands across Europe could disappear overnight and consumers wouldn’t care (Havas, 2019). Making a difference in their lives is that hard, and always will be, as people’s lives are full of other things, most of which more interesting or more pressing than your brand. Having a clear promise is then key for finding a place in the consumer’s mind. Will you help them find the cheapest flight online? Or will you get them their medicines quick? Or again will you bring the flavors of Mexico to their freezer? Whatever it is, make sure you have it clear, and let it be one.
What you should do: write down your main promise. Put it next to some of your competitors’ names. Is it still believable? Then you need a new one.
Have you identified your target audience?
Easier said than done. While any company should try and achieve the largest possible market penetration (which means: talk to everybody), having a target audience in mind is essential for sharpening your brand. By knowing who you are talking to, you can try and assess their needs, thoughts and frustrations. Knowing your target deeply – beyond stereotypes – can unlock precious insights and make your brand feel really relevant.
What you should do: having an agency or consultant help could be useful here. Anyway, try to describe the audience you have in mind as specifically as possible. If you can’t go into details, you need to go deeper.
Do you know your main competitors?
You probably do (well, you should). As an extra tip, I’d suggest not to overlook two categories of competitors that are often underestimated. The first ones are competitors from very different price ranges: just because your customers will buy your product, it doesn’t mean they won’t settle for a cheaper option or choose a more expensive one. The second ones are competitors from outside of your category, who offer different products or services but compete to satisfy the same customer need. If you sell washing-machines, a launderette is still a competitor. If you run a streaming platform, tabletop games might “steal” your users free time and need for entertainment.
What you should do: write down what need your brand responds to and work backwards from that to identify other companies that might satisfy it.
A brand strategy lives at the intersection of business and communication. If developed carefully, it will prove precious for years.
Did you plan a brand architecture?
Things will start simple and get complex (true about life, even more about business). If your brand succeeds, you will probably find yourself in the position to launch new product lines, spinoffs, sub-brands and whatnot. While you can just wing it, it’s usually a bad idea. You should plan from the start how your brand could evolve. This exercise – called brand architecture – helps you visualize the future of the brand and take some important decisions early on.
What you should do: for this task, it’s best to involve a brand specialist, but you can start doing some imagination work. Try and define how the business might evolve in the next 3-5 years: will it launch new products or even enter new markets?
Did you define your values?
Brand values are sometimes considered a poetic but useless exercise. After all, do your customers care? Well, they might. Brand values matter if they are distinctive enough to be come through every single piece of communication. For example, if you are a jewelry brand that committed to the values of rock culture. A good set of values can be a precious compass for many decisions down the line, both in terms of tone of voice and business choices. Values help you not become overly tactical in your everyday decisions.
What you should do: defining your values from the inside is always a bit hard. Write down your own list, but make sure to consult with a specialist so that your brand will be both true and strategic.
Are you going to communicate the brand internally?
A brand is usually perceived as a tool for external communication, but it’s equally important to communicate it internally. Actually, if people from the company are not aboard, the brand is not going to flourish. But you will also need to define how you want to communicate it. A top-down approach will make your people feel as if the brand does not belong to them. On the other hand, involving them in the development of the brand and making the brand values tangible in your everyday routines will make everybody feel part of the same story.
What you should do: talk to your people and share bits of your branding process. While you don’t want to crowdsource the most strategic decisions, having some feedback can be helpful to make sure you are on the right path.
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