When developing a new brand, there’s so much to juggle that it can be all too easy to focus on short-term needs at the cost of long-term goals. Perspective is important when developing something as critical as advertising, and that’s why you need to focus on brand strategy first. In today’s post, we’ll discuss the seven core aspects to a brand strategy that should be addressed.
Remember Your Marketing Bridge
Before you move into branding and advertising, it’s important to remember to have your marketing bridge in place. Consider the business itself: do you have a good location with parking readily available, are you offering quality products and services, and are public areas like restrooms clean and orderly? Be sure to evaluate whether you’ve priced your products and services according to their value with an eye to whether or not the price is competitive. The shop floor and your displays should be well lit, organized, and set up to attract target customers. Similarly, your website should be clear, mobile friendly, and have basic information easy to locate. Finally, your sales staff and customer service representatives need to be well dressed, well informed, sincere, and approachable. The seven points we outline below can be extended to this marketing bridge as well, and it will be that much easier to align them with the vision you have for your business if you’ve already positioned them.
What Is a Brand Strategy?
We can’t stress the importance of a brand strategy enough, so it behooves us to clarify what we mean. Your brand both is and is not your business, and it isn’t fulfilled simply by your product, logo, or even your business’ name. “Brand” actually encompasses the intangible, namely the emotional and psychological associations people make with your business. Your brand strategy should draw from your overall business strategy, but it isn’t the same thing. It’s a long-term plan to develop a unique, successful brand to meet specific goals affecting all aspects of a company, including customer needs and competitive environments.
Components of a Brand Strategy
Because branding is so complex, it can take time to develop and fully establish your business as a brand. It requires you to invest time and patience, and so it becomes the sort of thing that’s easy to put off in pursuit of more immediate goals and needs. We’ve broken the branding strategy down into seven core parts to make it easier to understand and work with.
The first question you should ask yourself when developing this strategy is “Why?” In part, the answer will include some of the goals lined out in your business strategy. What is it you hope to achieve by building your brand? What promise are you offering customers? What is it about your business that makes you willing to pour so much time and effort into it day after day?
The desire for consistency is one of the fundamental aspects of human nature, and it’s one that your business will tap into time and again to connect with and influence customers. Essentially, it answers whether or not what your company says and does “makes sense.” In terms of this strategy, you want to develop an internal consistency for your business. Visual consistency (e.g., the logo you use, the font used for your business name, the colors associated with your brand) is key to helping your customers remember your brand as an entity. Consistency in your message is important to developing a cohesive platform and aid customer recall. It needs to extend to every aspect of your business, from your business cards to your social media page.
3. Emotional Resonance
Logic alone won’t bring customers to your store. How your business makes them feel is just as important to their purchase decisions, so you want to direct that emotion as much as you can. Connecting to customers on an emotional level sometimes means evocative messaging (for example, ASPCA ads that show animals in need along with a moving soundtrack). Other times it means offering a sense of belonging or even peace of mind. Emotional triggers can be powerful motivators.
Remember that being consistent doesn’t mean being resistant to or unable to change. Customers, competitors, and industries change all the time, sometimes at rapid speed. Your business needs to be able to change in response. Otherwise, you risk becoming irrelevant both in terms of your message and in supplying a solution customers are interested in. It’s possible to be consistent and offer fresh messaging, although sometimes it means having to completely realign your approach. Your brand strategy helps you be prepared for that eventuality.
5. Employee Investment
Your employees are another critical facet of your business, especially with regard to shaping who your business is in the customer’s mind. That means your employees need to be invested in the success of the business as well as in crafting positive customer experiences. Furthermore, this is also a key point that requires consistency. For example, all customers should be knowledgeable about pertinent business news and details as well as any current promotions. Similarly, their tone should be consistent whether it’s through social media or across the counter in-store.
Unless you’re extremely lucky, customer loyalty isn’t something that just happens. Like most relationships, you need to work at engaging customers to build trust and actively develop loyalty. Recognition is often key, especially if customers have been acting as brand ambassadors. Rewards are a good way to encourage loyalty, and it doesn’t necessarily require a formal rewards program if you have a consistent system in place. Remember that personalization is a growing expectation among modern consumers, so a branding strategy will help you avoid pitfalls like being overly generic.
7. Observe Your Competition
More than likely, you already view your competition as a challenge. You need to expand your perspective to include them as a resource. Watch what they do, noting what works, what doesn’t, and what needs they do and don’t address. That will help you strengthen your brand position by avoiding their mistakes, improving on their successes, and capturing unique value in response to customer needs.
Reasons to Address Your Brand Strategy Before Advertising
Hopefully, in exploring the seven concepts above, you’ve already recognized the importance of a brand strategy coming before other types of planning. Your strategy can have a huge influence on how you view your messaging and the way you want to relate to your customers. Here are three more ways your strategy can impact your advertising.
Strong branding is what truly separates one business from another. If you haven’t developed a branding strategy, there’s very little to help your business stand out from the advertising noise that customers are constantly being bombarded with. Worse, it puts you at risk for being confused with a competitor. For example, if you heard someone talking about burgers, chicken nuggets, and kids meals, would you think of McDonald’s, Burger King, or something else altogether (for instance, your restaurant)? The terms are generic, and instead of the branding that gives your business substance, customers will be inclined to automatically think of something else.
The most important aspect of branding is probably recognition. A branding strategy allows you to develop the consistent elements that make your business memorable, like a jingle or specific personality. It also gives you the space to plan for how to execute those elements across media channels. For example, the Farmer’s Insurance jingle is recognizable on TV and radio, but may not work as well in a Facebook Video Ad, which often plays silently. Similarly, the Geico Gecko is immediately recognizable as a visual, but may be harder to recognize in audio-only formats.
Advertising doesn’t function without frequency, and your branding strategy builds touchpoints and opportunities to increase frequency across channels. Brand and message consistency further strengthens those touchpoints and lifts your message from merely being recalled to being influential.
Once you understand the importance of a brand strategy, you can clearly understand why you need to address your brand strategy before you even approach your advertising. These seven components can help you develop your marketing strategy and messaging, and ultimately improve your results.