What is Brand Strategy?
By definition, brand strategy is a long-term plan for the development of a successful brand in order to achieve specific goals. The brand is not company product, logo, website, or name. In fact, the brand is much more than that – it’s the stuff that feels intangible. It’s the entire experience your prospects and customers have with your company, product or service.
It’s the long-term marketing tool to support the company.
From the big companies as Coca-Cola to the small ones, all benefit from a carefully created brand strategy. As a result of the brand strategy, people develop a particular feeling or opinion about a company – a feeling that drives their buying decisions. This feeling equates to brand equity. The stronger people feel about a brand, the stronger the brand equity.
Why the company needs brand strategy?
Branding is crucial for products and services sold in huge consumer markets. It’s also important in B2B because it helps you stand out from your competition. Your brand strategy brings your competitive positioning to life and works to position you as a certain “something” in the mind of your prospects and customers.
Think about successful consumer brands like Disney, Tiffany or Starbucks. You probably know what each brand represents. Now imagine that you’re competing against one of these companies. If you want to capture significant market share, start with a strong brand strategy or you may not get far.
In your industry, there may or may not be a strong B2B brand. But when you put two companies up against each other, the one that represents something valuable will have an easier time reaching, engaging, closing and retaining customers.
Successful branding also creates “brand equity” – the amount of money that customers are willing to pay just because it’s your brand. In addition to generating revenue, brand equity makes your company itself more valuable over the long term.
Goals are variously based on the different demands of the company. The brand strategy follows business goals. So, start by answer the questions:
”What do you hope to achieve by launching the new brand?”
”Are you trying to reach a new audience? Or maintain the good relationship with the current ones?”
”What are the image the company wants to create towards the customers?”
Elements of good Branding Strategy (7)
“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,” explains Allen Adamson, chairman of the North America region of brand consulting and design firm Landor Associates.
While understanding what your business promises is necessary when defining your brand positioning. In other words, your purpose is more specific, in that it serves as a differentiator between you and your competitors.
How can you define your business’ purpose? According to Business Strategy Insider, purpose can be viewed in two ways:
- Functional: This concept focuses on the evaluations of success in terms of immediate and commercial reasons — i.e. the purpose of the business is to make money.
- Intentional: This concept focuses on success as it relates to the ability to make money and do good in the world.
While making money is important to almost every business, we admire brands that emphasize their willingness to achieve more than just profitability, like IKEA:
IKEA’s vision isn’t just to sell furniture, but rather, to “create a better everyday life.” This approach is appealing to potential customers, as it demonstrates their commitment to providing value beyond the point of sale.
When defining your business’ purpose, keep this example in mind. While making money is a priority, operating under that notion alone does little to set your brand apart from others in your industry.
The key to consistency is to avoid talking about things that don’t relate to or enhance your brand. Added a new photo to your business’ Facebook Page? What does it mean for your company? Does it align with your message, or was it just something funny that would, quite frankly, confuse your audience?
In an effort to give your brand a platform to stand on, you need to be sure that all of your messaging is cohesive. Ultimately, consistency contributes to brand recognition, which fuels customer loyalty.
To see a great example of consistency, let’s look at Coca Cola. As a result of their commitment to consistency, every element of their marketing works harmoniously together. This has helped them become one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
To avoid leaving potential customers struggling to put the disconnected pieces of your business together, consider the benefits of creating a style guide. A style guide can encompass everything from the tone of voice you’ll use to the color scheme you’ll employ to the way you’ll position certain products or services.
Customers aren’t always rational.
How else do you explain the person who paid thousands of dollars more for a Harley rather than buying another cheaper, equally well-made bike? There was an emotional voice in there somewhere, whispering: “Buy a Harley.”
By provided their customers with an opportunity to feel like they’re part of a larger group that’s more tight-knit than just a bunch of motorcycle riders, Harley Davidson is able to position themselves as an obvious choice for someone looking to purchase a bike.
Why? People have an innate desire to build relationships. Research from psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary best describes this need in their “belongingness hypothesis,” which states: “People have a basic psychological need to feel closely connected to others, and that caring, affectionate bonds from close relationships are a major part of human behavior.”
Not to mention, belongingness — the need for love, affection, and being part of groups — falls directly in the middle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which aims to categorize different human needs.
The lesson to be learned? Find a way to connect to your customers on a deeper, more emotional level. Do you give them peace of mind? Make them feel like part of the family? Do you make life easier? Use emotional triggers like these to strengthen your relationship and foster loyalty.
In this fast-changing world, marketers must remain flexible to stay relevant. On the plus side, this frees you to be creative with your campaigns.
You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, how am I supposed to remain consistent while also being flexible?”
Good question. While consistency aims to set the standard for your brand, flexibility enables you to make adjustments that build interest and distinguish your approach from that of your competition.
A great example of this type of strategic balance comes from Old Spice. These days, Old Spice is one of the best examples of successful marketing across the board. However, up until recently, wearing Old Spice was pretty much an unspoken requirement for dads everywhere. Today, they’re one of the most popular brands for men of all ages.
Their secret? Flexibility.
Aware that they needed to do something to secure their place in the market, Old Spice teamed up with Wieden+Kennedy to position their brand for a new customer base.
Between new commercials, a new website, new packaging, and new product names, Old Spice managed to attract the attention of a new, younger generation by making strategic enhancements to their already strong brand.
So if your old tactics aren’t working anymore, don’t be afraid to change. Just because it worked in the past doesn’t mean it’s working now.
Take the opportunity to engage your followers in fresh, new ways. Are there some out-of-the-box partnerships your brand can make? Are there attributes about your product you never highlighted? Use those to connect with new customers and remind your old ones why they love you.
5) Employee Involvement
As we mentioned before, achieving a sense of consistency is important if you wish to build brand recognition. And while a style guide can help you achieve a cohesive digital experience, it’s equally important for your employees to be well versed in the how they should be communicating with customers and representing the brand.
If your brand is playful and bubbly through Twitter engagements, then it wouldn’t make sense if a customer called in and was connected with a grumpy, monotone representative, right?
To avoid this type of mismatched experience, take note of Zappos’ approach.
If you’ve ever been on the line with a customer service representative from Zappos, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, check out this SlideShare which details some of their most inspiring customer support stories.
Zappos is so committed to ensuring that not only their brand, but all brands, remain consistent across digital and human interactions that they’ve dedicated an entire department to the cause called Zappos Insights.
By holding all Zappos employees to their core values and helping other companies implement the same approach, Zappos has built a strong reputation for solid, helpful, and human customer service.
If you already have people that love you, your company, and your brand, don’t just sit there. Reward them for that love.
These customers have gone out their way to write about you, to tell their friends about you, and to act as your brand ambassadors. Cultivating loyalty from these people early on will yield more returning customers — and more profit for your business.
Sometimes, just a thank you is all that’s needed. Other times, it’s better to go above and beyond. Write them a personalized letter. Sent them some special swag. Ask them to write a review, and feature them prominently on your website. (Or all of the above!)
When we reached 15,000 customers here at HubSpot, we wanted to say thank you in a big way, while remaining true to our brand … so we dropped 15,000 orange ping pong balls from our fourth floor balcony and spelled out thank you in big metallic balloons:
And while it may have seemed a little out of the ordinary to some folks, for those who know our brand, the gesture made perfect sense.
Loyalty is a critical part of every brand strategy, especially if you’re looking to support your sales organization. At the end of the day, highlighting a positive relationship between you and your existing customers sets the tone for what potential customers can expect if they choose to do business with you.
7) Competitive Awareness
Take the competition as a challenge to improve your own strategy and create greater value in your overall brand. You are in the same business and going after the same customers, right? So watch what they do.
Do some of their tactics succeed? Do some fail? Tailor your brand positioning based on their experience to better your company.
A great example of how to improve your brand by learning from your competitors comes from Pizza Hut:
When a pizza lover posed this question to his Twitter following, Pizza Hut didn’t miss a beat. They playfully responded in minutes, before Domino’s had a chance to speak up.
If Domino’s is keeping an eye on the competitors, they’ll know to act fast the next time a situation like this arises.
And while staying in tune with your competitor’s strategies is important if you want to enhance your brand, don’t let them dictate each and every move you make.
Sure, you probably sell a similar product or service as many other companies, but you’re in business because your brand is unique. By harping on every move your competitor makes, you lose that differentiation.
STEPS TO START A BRAND STRATEGY:
|1||Determine target audience||The foundation for building your brand, is to determine the targeted audience that you’ll be focusing on.
Solidify a picture of your consumers, then create a brand identity that they can understand and relate to.
|2||Define a branding mission statement||Before you can build a brand that your target audience trusts, you need to know what value your business provides.
The mission statement basically defines a purpose for existing. It will inform every other aspect of your brand building.
Everything from your logo to your tagline, voice, message and personality should reflect that mission.
|3||Research brands within your industry niche||Be aware of what big brands in the industry do well (or fail)
Research the competitors or benchmarks
|4||Outline the key qualities and benefits your brand offers||There will always be brands with bigger budgets and more resources to command their industry. The company need to focus on the qualities and benefits that make company unique
|5||Create a great brand logo & tagline||All of visual elements such as logo, tagline will become company calling card, and the visual recognition of company promise.
The company should be invest the time and money to create something exceptional, unique and timeless mark for the business.
|6||Brand’s business voice||The business voice is dependent on the company mission, audience, and industry. It’s how the communicate with the customers, and how they respond to the company.
A business voice could be:
Professional, friendly, service-oriented, promotional, coversational, informative, etc.
Choose a brand voice that makes sense and resonates with the target customers.
|7||Build a brand message and elevator pitch||Use the chosen business voice to create the brand message.
A brand message is an opportunity to communicate on a human level, making a direct emotional connection with your consumers.
|8||Let your brand personality shine||Make your personality stand out in every aspect of your brand building
|9||Integrate your brand into every aspect of your business||The brand should be visible and reflected in everything that the customer sees (and doesn’t see)
The brand should be on display both in the environment and with personal interactions.
|10||Stay true to your brand||Consistency is key. Unless you decide to change your brand into something that is more effective based on measured consumer response
|11||Be the brand’s biggest advocate
|Once the company have built a brand that works for the business, all the employees are the best advocates to market the brand.
Ten reasons to rebranding
- MERGERS, ACQUISITIONS AND DEMERGERS
For the most part, changes of business ownership, such as mergers, acquisitions and demergers, result in an immediate rebranding. The aim here is not only to make the change visible, but also to comply with legal requirements. In the case of demergers, the party that has split off is obliged to develop its own brand. This makes clear that it no longer forms part of the organisation. Over the past few years this process has taken place at grid operators, which were obliged to split off from their energy company. This resulted in the companies Enexis, Alliander and Stedin. There are several possibilities when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. The new company may develop a completely new brand (as in the case of @home, Casema and Multikabel, which together became Ziggo). In other cases the name of one of the parties is used (e.g. Getronics, which continued under the KPN brand following its acquisition by KPN).
If implemented properly, a change to the positioning and brand promise of a company has major consequences for the organisation. Everything is adapted in line with the organisation’s new strategy and promise: its products or services, HR policy, customer contact, corporate identity, etc. Rebranding makes this change visible for all stakeholders. We saw an example of this last year with Gamma, which repositioned itself by moving away from traditional home improvements (DIY) and towards interiors (enjoyment).
In some cases, rebranding is necessary so that a brand can also be used internationally. This may be because the brand name is too specific to a particular country (e.g.: NS Internationaal, which has become NS Hispeed). In certain countries a brand name may also conjure up the wrong associations. Organisations that sell the same products in several countries, but under different brand names, are also increasingly opting to use one brand internationally. Famous examples include the rebranding of Jif to Cif, Smiths to Lay’s, Raider to Twix and Postbank (which was only used in the Netherlands) to ING (the brand that is used everywhere internationally).
- CHANGING MARKETS
For some companies, changes in the market situation mean that their very existence comes under threat. The digitisation of society in particular is making it necessary for certain sectors to reinvent themselves. Different requirements call for a different product to be offered. One example here is the Free Record Shop, which adapted its logo, corporate identity and retail environment in 2008 to give its brand a boost.
- BAD REPUTATION
If a brand has a bad reputation and this is having a serious impact on its operating result, rebranding can ensure that negative associations with the brand are ameliorated or dispelled. It is important here that not only the exterior changes, but that the change is also implemented in all other aspects of the organisation. This is the only way that a rebranding project can remove any negative associations with the brand and therefore be successful. The rebranding of VendexKBB to Maxeda is one example of this.
- CONFLICT WITH STAKEHOLDERS
Developing a brand may in itself also lead to a rebranding. This may be because the new style is too similar to an existing brand, for example. Such a situation was faced by Multimate, which, after its rebranding, lost a lawsuit against Ikea as the two brands had become too similar. Multimate had to make sure that its new logo was no longer visible in any shape or form within a period of six months. Another reason is that a rebranding can sometimes be so negatively received by internal and external stakeholders that it stands in the way of the organisation’s success. An example of this from last year was the rebranding of clothing company Gap, which decided within the space of a week that it would keep its old logo after all.
- NEW CEO
A new CEO often brings a new lease of life to an organisation. This may result in (major) organisational changes that also influence the course the company takes. Such a situation arose at Apple, for example, following the return of Steve Jobs in 1997. At that time Apple had to change in order to survive. Jobs himself took a hand in choosing the new logo, which changed from the rainbow-coloured apple to the more modern metallic variant.
- OUTDATED IMAGE
One of the most common reasons for undertaking a corporate rebranding project is modernisation. Trends mean that over time brands come across as old-fashioned if they have not been updated. Although in many cases it is not the main reason, a more modern image is often one of the motivations behind a rebranding project.
- CHANGING BRAND PORTFOLIO
Over the years, an organisation has to deal with the development and acquisition of numerous new brands. In time this results in an extremely diverse and broad brand portfolio that is no longer logical for anyone and is therefore only still understood by a handful of people. Furthermore, carrying many different brands often leads to high costs when it comes to maintaining and promoting the brand. In such cases, rebranding ensures that the entire brand portfolio is brought into line and tells a clear story about the organisation. A number of years ago, USG People rationalised and coordinated its brand portfolio in this way.
- FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF CORPORATE IDENTITY
A few years ago, for the majority of organisations a corporate identity consisted of just a logo, a primary colour palette and typography. Brand elements such as a photographic style, visual language and a secondary colour palette had not been defined back then. This meant that there was a great deal of freedom when it came to applying the corporate identity, with the result that the brand’s visual image ultimately became something of a mess. In such cases the further development of an organisation’s corporate identity is a must to ensure the creation of a consistent and recognisable brand.
STEPS TO REBRANDING
- Influence and shape the brand with a series of brand promises.In order to arrive at those promises, Stoutenborough suggests gathering key employees who have contact with customers in any way and ask the following questions:
- What qualities and characteristics do you want people to think of when they hear your name or see your product?
- What feelings do you want them to have?
- What do you want them to expect?
- Can you support all those ideas in fact? If not, what do you have to do to make it true?
- What can you honestly say sets you apart? Look at everything.
“Discover what your company stands for first, before you decide on a brand,” Blue adds. “If you don’t like what you stand for, change that first.”
- Obtain customer feedback.“Use whatever means you have—phone calls, online surveys, an email survey, your blog—to ask your customers and prospects what they think, feel and expect when they see your name or products,” Stoutenborough says. “Doing this will help you get a feel for how uphill your job at instilling your brand promises will be.”
- Find out what’s notworking. “Identify the part of your brand that’s failing to connect to your target market,” Wechner suggests. “You aren’t going to know what you really need to change until you figure out what is failing to connect the target market you covet so much with the brand you want them to notice emotionally.”
- Develop your story.“Your brand’s look, feel and message should tell one story, and that story should be heroic and memorable,” Blue says. “Consider what is at stake for customers in terms of their problems and how you solve those for them. The story should be one that your employees and your customers can get behind, believe in and admire.”
- Permeate all your company communications with the new brand.That includes website, social media, sales tools and signage. Make certain that every employee understands them and can communicate them effectively.
- Never stop supporting and promoting your brand.Successful brands are a living presence in the marketplace with a tangible, ongoing relationship with customers, Blue says. “It’s easy to support a brand in boom times, but much tougher in down times; however, study after study shows that brands consistently supported during a down cycle gain the greatest sales and market share when the economy turns up.”
- Be consistent and persistent. “Don’t decide you’re rebranding yourself today, but next week refer to things that point to your old brand,” Wechner says. “Commit to building your rebrand. If you’re rebranding for the right reasons, don’t second-guess yourself. Become that new brand, and eventually people will follow.”