10 Questions To Help Develop Brand Strategy: A Guide for Growing Organizations.
Your brand is how the world perceives you – or at least how the relevant world (prospects, customers, and other stakeholders) perceives you. Creating and executing a detailed brand strategy encompasses all the aspects that are important to that world. We’ve compiled 10 questions for growing organizations to ask when developing their brand strategy.
1. What Makes Your Brand Different, Truly Different?
This is who you are. In his book, Purple Cow, Seth Godin says that the key to success is to find a way to stand out – to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins. Can you identify how you are different, and more importantly, have you positioned yourself so customers think you’re different?
Maybe it’s your personality. Maybe it’s a proprietary, innovative offering. Maybe you see an opportunity to contradict what is traditionally expected of players in your market. This difference is the core of your brand. If you can’t articulate what makes you different, and consistently deliver on it, your brand will struggle to grow.
2. What are Your Core Capabilities?
This is what you do. Closely related to #1, ask yourself, what are the core strengths of your business? What are the things that you can do as well as anyone, but perhaps not on the same scale - yet? These are usually the things that made you say, “Hey, I could start a business because…” Is it your product or technical expertise? Is it deep industry knowledge? Is it creative ability? It could be anything that you believe offers you the chance to compete on some level with larger competitors. One thing I hear a lot of companies list as a core capability is Customer Service. Don’t get me wrong, customer service is very important. But as a young or growing organization, you don’t have the luxury of NOT offering good customer service. It is a cost of entry.
3. What is Your Brand Promise?
What can you guarantee to deliver to each customer or prospect at every touch point? Your brand promise should be something that is shared and reinforced throughout your organization. Consistently. We all like to think that it’s just the sales or marketing teams, or the leadership team that are responsible for exhibiting the brand promise to customers or prospects, but creating a work culture that sees everyone as a brand ambassador can be a powerful asset.
Once you’ve identified the position you want to occupy in the mind of the consumer, make sure your messaging and other client interactions live up to that promise. Consistently. Breaking a promise can have a detrimental impact on your brand, and rebuilding that trust can be a long journey.
If you can't articulate what makes you different, and deliver on it consistently, your brand will struggle to grow.
4. What is Your Brand’s Story?
Do you have a story to tell? Telling a compelling story can help connect the dots for your prospects. Your brand story should start by reviewing the first 3 questions. What makes you unique? What is your purpose, and how can you share that? But your story and the messaging you derive from it, needs to be authentic, and connect with the customer. If not, the perception of inauthenticity will carry over to your products and/or services. Your story will also help guide your content development – from website copy, to social media, to video. And if authentic, it should be the one thing that remains consistent as you grow.
5. Who are Your Target Customers?
This is a question that is difficult for many organizations. They believe that their products or services offer some benefit to everyone. They don’t want to risk losing that one outlier customer, so they don’t focus the message to their core audience. In most markets, there are many competitors. You cannot succeed by trying to be everything to every consumer. You need to risk making a few enemies to own your niche! Think of your core prospective customers. Ask how your product or service can fill a need. If you can’t answer that question, you’ve either got the wrong niche or the wrong product.
6. Who are Your Competitors?
OK, here is an opportunity for a little competitive analysis with your internal team. Simply put, you need to know who your competition is, and how you can differentiate yourself from them. What do your competitors sell? Are the items comparable, and if not, what are their strengths and what are yours? What product category are you in?
The goal of these exercises is to position you as a leader in some area in the mind of the consumer. What if you can’t discover where you’re the leader? In their seminal book, Positioning, Al Ries and Jack Trout say, “If you can’t be the leader of a category, create a new category”. That’s what Miller (lite beer) and Volkswagen (small car) did.
7. What About the Visual Identity of Your Brand?
I specifically use the term visual identity. Too often, organizations like to use the term “brand” and “logo” interchangeably. Although your logo is a visual representation of your brand, your logo is not your brand! Paul Rand says it best, “A logo derives its meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around.” I use the Dallas Cowboys as an example. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are the most valuable brand in the NFL. But is their logo the best logo in the NFL? Probably not.
The visual identity of your brand should align with your strategic goals. Your logo; the photos you use; color choice; the visual depiction of your messaging; when, where and how your brand will be displayed. All these are considerations for the visual identity. Although the rationale should be evaluated by you and your internal team, an experienced branding agency can help guide you through the process and execute many of the identity pieces more effectively.
8. How Will You Reach Your Audience?
Any communication should have a goal of strengthening your position in the mind of the consumer. Communication for communication’s sake is background noise. OK, not every piece of content is going to offer a life changing revelation for the viewer, but it should offer a snapshot of your brand.
Which channels are right for your brand? Website, social media, online advertising, trade shows, print advertising, marketing collateral, radio, TV, crowdsourcing, blogging, and on and on… Developing the right message for the right audience on the right medium at the right time requires detailed market and demographic research, and a well-thought-out plan.
9. Will You Use In-House Marketing or an Agency?
We’ve talked in a few other posts about the virtues and challenges of choosing to build an in-house marketing department, or to use an agency. We’ve also created a simple infographic to show the benefits of each possibility.
In the early stages of introducing your brand, an agency can offer several strategic benefits: Depth of knowledge; Responsiveness; Variety of services. Of course, these benefits have costs. Using strictly in-house staff will generally require either a larger staff, a longer lead time to accomplish certain goals, or a narrowing of focus.
10. How Are You Going to Measure Your Brand’s Success?
The most important thing to remember is to set goals and then measure the results! This is a key step in refining your messaging and overall brand strategy.
There are numerous ways to evaluate the effectiveness of your branding efforts. Some of the most common are: Change in overall website traffic; Returning site visits; Blog visits and comments; Social media followers and engagement; Online mentions; or conducting an old-fashioned survey. It is much easier to evaluate online brand awareness. If you are using print media or print marketing, creating a custom URL landing page will help.
If you have any other questions about crafting and executing your brand strategy, rebranding, or new creative development, give us a call or connect with us on social media.