7 Elements Of A Successful Brand Strategy

Are you in the dark about how brand can drive business growth?

Don’t make the mistake of seeing your brand as simply a logo, a tagline, or a colour scheme, it is so much more than that.

Your brand is a “set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a customer’s decision to choose one product or service over another”. – Seth Godin

In other words, your brand comes to life in the minds of your customers. It’s like a mental warehouse that holds everything your customers think, feel and know about your business. Their perceptions are based on a combination of your identity, your reputation and how their interactions and experiences with your business have built up a mental image of your brand in their subconscious.

And whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business for decades, creating a successful, long-term brand strategy depends on knowing your brand DNA inside out.

A brand DNA comprises the building blocks that make up your brand. It defines a brand’s position in the market and is a summary of what the brand stands for. Here are the key elements:

Brand DNA - Branding Strategy

The brand DNA can help guide internal actions and external communications, ensuring they are aligned to deliver a consistent brand promise. With every action you take, you are moving towards the brand and building loyal customers or moving away from the brand and losing customers. Brand is about reputation and perception – it’s built over time, and is what remains when the marketing is done.

It takes a real commitment and a collaborative approach from all key stakeholders to do the work necessary to craft your brand. These 7 elements can help, starting with situating your brand within your current business context and market landscape via the SWOT analysis planning tool.

 

1) Conduct a SWOT analysis with help from customer insights

This step anchors the brand strategy in your organisational reality, and pinpoints where you should be spending your marketing budget. It helps you to prioritise strategic actions you can take, based on ease of leverage or remedy.

SWOT Analysis - Branding Strategy

As modern marketing is continuously evolving in response to technological disruption, customer needs are also changing in response to their environment so it’s important to involve customer opinions in this process.

For example, Australia Post was established in 1809 and the challenges they face today are vastly different due to technological advances and global competition. Here’s how a SWOT analysis might look for Australia Post:

Australia post - Branding Strategy

They could then use this SWOT analysis to help them evaluate their strategic options when it comes to evolving their brand to match the current market.

 

2) Create your customer profiles

A brand’s power to drive business growth depends on one thing and one thing only: how connected that brand is to the customers it wants to attract. Most business owners have a good idea about who their services are for but it’s important to be as detailed and specific as possible. After all, in trying to speak to everyone, you often end up speaking to no one.

And not everyone should be your customer. So, you want to make sure you’re being as specific as possible in creating several fictional buyer personas who are representative of the people you’re looking to reach.

Build a picture of who your buyer is. Remember to go beyond the obvious:

Are they male or female? How old are they? Where do they live? What work do they do?

What do they do in their spare time? How do they dress? Where do they shop? What are their interests or hobbies? How do they spend their weekends?

What do they read? Watch on TV? Do online? Where do they hang out online? Where do they get their news and information?

What do they care about? What is important to them? What do they feel passionate about? What motivates their buying choices?

What problems does your brand solve for them? What view of the world does your brand reflect?

It’s often easier to think about who our customers are not to help us get a clear picture about who they are. You might remember the old “Hi, I’m a PC/I’m a Mac” ad from Apple, below:

mac-pc-ads - Branding Strategy

This ad clearly outlined exactly who Apple products were for and how they differed from the audience of their biggest competitor, Microsoft, using a physical representation.

This is exactly what you should do at this step of creating your brand strategy. Pull images from Google or Pinterest to match your ideal customers, and bring them to life as real people. Give them a name and describe their key personality traits.

Every time you create content, launch a new product or even change the colours on your website, you should be doing it with your buyer personas in mind.

 

3) Outline your brand’s vision and purpose

“Every brand makes a promise. But in a marketplace in which consumer confidence is low and budgetary vigilance is high, it’s not just making a promise that separates one brand from another, but having a defining purpose.” – Allen Adamson.  

To put it more simply: a product is sold by a business, but people buy brands. And if you can create a connection with your audience by making your purpose clear in everything you do, you will turn simple customers into loyal, raving fans and word-of-mouth advocates.

One brand that has done this well is Aussie brand Thankyou.

Thankyou Example - Branding Strategy

Thankyou started by selling bottles of water at a time when there were countless other well-known brands to choose from. And yet, they’ve since grown their business to over 50 different products, and funded nearly $6 million worth of projects aimed at eradicating global poverty.

All of this because their simple bottle of water told a story and helped customers to connect with the brand’s purpose.

 

4) Know your benefits

No one goes into business wanting to create the exact same product or service as someone else. In fact, some of the best inventions come out of frustrations with what’s currently lacking in existing products and a need to push the boundaries.

In this step of your brand strategy, it’s important to identify the most compelling benefits to communicate in your messaging, as this is critical to attracting the customers you want.

As part of this process, you need to carefully differentiate between product features and brand benefits. It’s important to remember that a feature is something your product does, while a benefit is an outcome for your customer. While thinking of your benefits, organise them into the following three categories:

 

  1. Expected Benefit: All competitors in your market offer this benefit. This is a core “cost of entry” benefit and most customers wouldn’t buy without this benefit.

 

  1. Value Add Benefit: A benefit that differentiates your brand and sets it apart from the pack in some way, either tangible or intangible. These benefits may not be enough to sway a potential customer. Most customers probably wouldn’t buy based on this benefit alone.

 

  1. Reason to Buy Benefit: A compelling benefit(s) that definitely sets you apart from your competitors, either because they don’t offer it, or they don’t offer it as effectively as you do. It’s the most important reason for customers to choose your brand over those of your competitors.

 

One reason to buy benefit is worth more than 50 expected benefits.

Using the example of Thankyou from the previous step, an expected benefit is that each bottle of water is high quality. A value add benefit is that Thankyou water is less expensive than the commercially established competitors. The reason to buy, however, is because the customer knows that in buying a Thankyou bottle of water, 100% of the proceeds will be going towards funding clean water projects. Not only that, but each bottle also has a code which a customer can use to track the exact project they’ve donated to with their purchase.

5) Understand your competitors

Analyzing your competitors will push you to be creative and innovative and differentiate yourself at every step. And this is ultimately what will lead to your success in establishing a brand that’s uniquely yours.

So just as you’ve analyzed your own strengths and weaknesses, you should do the same for three to five of your competitors using a chart similar to the one below:

This picture should go beyond what they say about themselves in their marketing messaging, but more importantly, hone in on how their strengths and weaknesses may represent opportunities or threats for your brand, your business and your customers.

Big businesses like Audi and BMW for example, are continuously analyzing what their competitors are doing and how they can use this to their advantage.

This often means being in tune with their competitor’s latest product launches, marketing moves and innovations. Big brands like these also understand that (especially with social media) timing is everything:


So get to know your competitors. Understand their strengths and where their weaknesses might provide opportunities for you to shine with your own brand strategy.

 

6) Be consistent but flexible

It’s no secret that consistency builds confidence and contributes to brand recognition, both of which in turn fuel customer loyalty.

Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable brands in the world and this is largely due to consistency.

You’ll notice their iconic shade of red and their unforgettable logo across all their marketing channels, both online and offline. But as I’ve already mentioned, branding is so much more than this. Everything Coca-Cola does – including their messaging, customer service, company culture and everything else they do – is a consistent reflection of their brand.

And while it’s important to create this sense of brand cohesiveness it’s also crucial to be able to adapt to audience needs. Coca-Cola was established in 1892 and it has evolved continuously since then. For example, they’ve been selling Coke Zero for over a decade but the fact is that some people didn’t understand that zero stood for zero calories, and zero sugar.

So they’re now launching the brand new Coke Zero Sugar which is essentially the same product but helps to clear things up for confused customers. It may seem like a costly and unnecessary move, but what it does is achieve absolute clarity in customers’ minds.

 

7) Ensure your internal company culture is aligned with external brand perceptions

Many brands focus much of their efforts on satisfying the needs of their customers that they forget that their business cannot exist without loyal, happy employees.

Bruce Poon Tip, the founder of multi-million dollar travel company G Adventures has structured the company around this principle. It was the belief that customer-facing employees are the most important people at G Adventures, that made Bruce give the CEO title to his Chief Experience Officers, people who are known as “Tour Guides” at other travel companies. The CEOs are all locally employed within the countries that they’re guiding tour groups through, which reflects the company’s mission of sustainable tourism.

This also has the secondary added benefit of making G Adventures the logical choice for conscious travellers.

And just as your customers want to feel like they’re taking part in something special by purchasing your products, your employees also share the same need for belonging.

Because of this, it is beneficial to involve your employees in the development of your brand strategy, to ensure that every interaction with customers at every touchpoint, consistently delivers an experience aligned with the brand promise.

In summary, if you make the commitment to seriously consider these seven elements as the lynchpin to constructing your brand DNA, you will be well ahead of your competitors and on your way to increasing sales and improving staff retention.

To recap, the elements of a successful brand strategy I covered in this post were:

1) Conduct a SWOT analysis with help from customer insights

2) Create your customer profiles

3) Outline your brand’s vision and purpose

4) Know your benefits

5) Understand your competitors

6) Be consistent but flexible

7) Ensure your internal company culture is aligned with external brand perceptions

 

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