Does your brand have a point?
Create a simple brand strategy to connect with customers
What is the point of your brand? If you can’t answer this question, how do you expect a customer to buy your product or service? You need to have a tangible and understandable ‘point’ or ‘purpose’ to your brand to make it competitive and stand out from the crowd.
Thinking about strategic planning for a new brand or an existing brand can seem like a daunting prospect. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand a ‘brand’, as in itself, it is not tangible: it’s an idea, a purpose, something that is emotive. So how do you start to give your brand a purpose?
The first thing to realise is that your brand is more than your logo, name or slogan — it’s the entire experience your customers have with your company, product or service.
Secondly, it is about carefully researching, planning and communicating your brand values through your products and actions.
We will explore what a brand is and create the fundamentals of a brand strategy to give you the confidence and a clear pathway to promote your brand.
What is a brand?
A brand is a product or service that delivers a concise and distinctive benefit to a customer. A brand needs to be both different and familiar for customers to understand it and to see the benefit it will bring to their lives. Most importantly, brands are driven by a strategy and a framework in which good choices and directions are made about the brand.
The role of the brand strategy is to describe, define and order the key elements of the brand’s story so that customers and teams understand them.
A good brand should have a point as to why it exists. A brand with a ‘point’ will be able to do the following activities convincingly:
- Direct the whole organisation with consistency and cohesion
- Boost resources, so staff understand the key objectives of the strategy and where to allocate money and time.
- Define a vision your team can understand
- Distil your true value
- Deliver your key messages
- Make you relevant and different in the minds of customers and competitors
To gather the most meaningful information to deliver these key messages, a coherent and clear brand strategy needs to be in place.
What is a brand strategy?
Your brand strategy defines what you stand for, a promise you make, and the personality you convey to customers. And while it includes your logo, colour palette and slogan, those are only the creative elements that convey your brand, the vehicles used to tell your story. Instead, your brand lives in every day-to-day interactions you have with your customers. Your brand strategy brings your competitive positioning to life and works to position you as a particular “something” in your customers’ minds.
A brand strategy consists of the following four areas:
Vision + Positioning + Proposition + Values
Vision: your guiding purpose, your point, what you stand for
Positioning: this is the essence of your brand
Proposition: how your express your brand
Values: your brand’s character
We will now explore each of these four points in more detail to see how they form your brand strategy.
The vision is the first step to creating your brand strategy. This is where you define where you are going. A vision statement describes where the brand aspires to be upon achieving its mission. The statement reveals the “where” of a business, meaning the direction your company is trying to go and what type of impact you wish to have.
A vision is: a big, broad and long term scale statement which impacts your whole company.
To define your vision, you need to consider the following steps:
- Investigate potential barriers and drivers. When thinking about barriers, consider the severity of their impact, such as will it slow you down or stop you? Also, think internally, is your company generally slow to adopt changes, developed bad habits, or have you lost the edge you once had in a sector?
- What are the assets to move to your destination goal
- What can you already build on? Here, you should look at product, team and demand for your service/product
- Shape your messaging
Example vision statements:
Creative Commons: Realising the full potential of the internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.
Disney: To entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.
Positioning is where the brand is positioned in the mind of your customer and team. It’s the way you differentiate yourself from your competitors and how consumers identify and connect with your brand. It is the thread that runs through your brand and makes you unique, and can heavily influence and shape the development of your brand and how you communicate.
The role of ‘positioning’ is to steer the brand, like the rudder on a boat.
Positioning should be a short sentence. In this part of the strategy, less is more, and requires a clear direction to distil the brand’s essence into its core offering.
Brand positioning can be conveyed through a variety of means, including tone and voice, visual design and the way your company represents itself in person and on social media.
Apple builds beautiful, innovative computers that are different from anything else you’ve experienced and markets them to resonate with their consumers.
Apple’s message highlights the same qualities in their consumers that they do in their products: if you are an Apple person, you are also innovative, imaginative and creative.
Apple leaves price out of their branding and instead focuses on their product’s value and connection with their consumers.
Nike started their product with a focus on performance and innovation, with a particular focus on shoes. Their product offerings have now moved beyond shoes, and they offer athletic attire that enhances performance.
Their branding and messaging focuses on empowerment, from their tagline “Just Do It” to their namesake, the Greek Goddess of Victory. Their models and athletes aren’t smiling and happy; they’re doing physical activities with their game faces on.
Nike wants to help you perform at your best every single time.
A value proposition is how you express your brand to your audience. It must be clear, honest and motivational, not filled with empty buzzwords. The value proposition, or sometimes called proposition, tag line or slogan, should be a few words in length but must engage the audience. Your proposition is the introduction to your story and will appear everywhere your brand appears, such as business cards, websites, social media and adverts. A great way to think of your brand proposition is to think of it as opening the door into your brand. It should allow customers to walk into your brand, not place barriers to entry. Select words that mean something to the brand; if you don’t know why these words are chosen, neither will your customers.
A value proposition tells customers why they should do business with you rather than your competitors. It makes the benefits of your products or services crystal clear and understandable from the outset.
Example value propositions:
Uber: move the way you want
BMW: the ultimate driving machine
Airbnb: belong anywhere
If you want to connect with your audience in this consumer empowered world, you must know who your audience is and how to approach them in the right way. You can do this by defining the characteristics and personality of your audience and who they aspire to be. The modern brands of today have human brand personas and personalities designed to connect with their audience through human emotions.
These human characteristics can also be described as your brand values. Think of your brand as a person; how would you describe it? Values are used internally and externally; internally, it is very influential as it helps focus and benchmark teams to work towards a common goal. Externally, values help customers to recognise you and can see themselves in your brand. Values should describe what you stand for, what you do, and ensure relevance to customers.
Examples of brand values:
Brand Identity: Rugged
Characteristics: Rebellious / Disruptive
Brand Identity: Edgy
Characteristics: Extreme / Outrageous
Once you have taken these four steps, you will have a tangible idea of your brand’s point or purpose. Only now can you start to focus on the logo, colours, font and digital/print communications channels which will support your brand messaging, and make sure that the right audiences engage with your brand and become loyal customers and advocates.