Understanding brand strategy and how to build a plan that fits your business.
by Adam Siegel, Seed Strategy
Savvy marketers know that a brand is not what they say it is, but rather what users/consumers/customers determine it to be. A brand represents the thoughts, feelings and perceptions these individuals have for the product or service—both in the absolute and relative to the competition and possible alternatives.
Brand strategy encompasses the ways by which marketers and brand teams try to influence these perceptions to build a successful business. These include both internal and external elements. Internally, brand teams must ask themselves what foundational elements they want to define. What do they want the brand to stand for? Externally, they must determine what tactics and strategies to deploy. How will the brand express itself and get to where they want it to be?
A successful branding strategy is directly tied to consumer needs and the competitive environment and impacts all aspects of the business strategy, including the brand’s mission, promise, marketing mix and communications.
Brand strategy serves as a blueprint, mapping out a brand’s goals and how it will reach them. It helps define the brand identity, positioning and types of communications and marketing efforts that will resonate with the target audience.
Ultimately, this helps influence the brand voice and how consumers/users perceive a brand. It also maintains and grows the equities and relevance—and therefore the value—of the brand, which builds consumer preference for the brand’s products.
Additionally, brand strategy plays a critical role internally. It sets the benchmark, so managers know if the brand is moving in the right direction and it keeps everyone on the same page—providing accountability for stakeholders, strategic focus for marketing efforts and a filter to screen out any ideas that could potentially harm the brand.
A strong brand strategy consists of several critical components. Some components are front and center (like consumer/customer touchpoints), while most live more “behind the scenes” (like brand positioning).
All the elements relating to a comprehensive brand strategy fall under one of two categories—brand definition or strategic planning. The elements under brand definition include vision, positioning and portfolio architecture, while the elements under strategic planning include growth strategy and tactics.
These important pieces of strategy complement each other to set a brand up for success.
Vision: The brand vision articulates where the brand is going—why it exists and what it is striving to accomplish long-term. It provides focus, inspires employees and internal stakeholders and serves as a guidepost for branding strategies and decisions.
A good brand vision looks at least 10 years out and is founded on a lofty goal. It should be specific, actionable and provide solid direction. It’s also important for it to be single-minded and feel credible coming from the brand.
Positioning: Brand positioning is the way a company wants customers and consumers to perceive, think and feel about its brand versus the competition. Without positioning, they are unable to see the difference between your brand and competitors’ brands.
Brand positioning sets the foundation for the development and building of the brand, and it precedes all sub-strategies like pricing, distribution, packaging and more. This foundation is critical to setting the tone for the elements that engage a brand’s target.
These elements include brand messaging and communication components like marketing campaigns, commercial advertising, brochures, websites/social media and tradeshow booths, as well as equity elements like logos, color palettes, etc.
Portfolio Architecture: The portfolio architecture is the strategic framework that defines what is in the portfolio and outlines the way in which those products relate to and differentiate from one another. It ensures reinforcement of the brand equity, ensures clarity of offerings for target audiences and the business, and explains why each offering exists (the strategy behind the portfolio).
A strong portfolio architecture shows the entire brand franchise in alignment under the core brand positioning, with each addition building equity, not eroding it.
Growth Strategy: The growth strategy is the plan to achieve the brand vision—in its simplest terms, the “how.” It directs tactical resources and decisions in service of the vision.
A good growth strategy should think beyond the consumer to include all business operations, consider all the levers a brand team can pull to grow the P&L and change infrequently while focusing on what matters most.
Internal inputs like financials, a SWOT analysis or brand audit, distribution, supply chain models, core competencies, assets, technologies and partnerships, along with external inputs like the consumer, competition, channels, trends and macro-factors can help build the growth strategy.
Tactics: Tactics are the specific things a brand will do to execute the branding strategy—things like innovation, advertising, creative elements, promotion and supply chain initiatives.
AN EXAMPLE OF OUR WORK
We’ve helped numerous brands both big and small across a wide variety of industries and geographies define effective brand strategy based on superior insights. Here’s a real-world example of our work. Be sure to reach out if you’d like to see more. (The identity of the specific brand has been withheld due to the confidential nature of our work.)
Supercharging an Entrepreneurial Team to Disrupt the Drug-Delivery Status Quo and Improve Patients’ Lives.
BUSINESS OBJECTIVE: Help a “start-up” within a Fortune 200 CPG and healthcare company develop the positioning and brand strategy needed to bring its revolutionary drug-delivery system to market.
HUMAN-CENTRIC MISSION: Better patients’ lives by helping them “triumph over their treatments” for serious conditions.
OUR APPROACH: First, we crystallized and quantitatively vetted a winning positioning proposition relevant to three distinct audiences—patients, physicians and payers.
Then, we built a selling story and marketing materials based on the brand strategy to excite internal leadership and attract potential pharmaceutical partners.
THE OUTCOME: Seed Strategy & Burke created a position, brand strategy, identity and selling story that showcased the technology’s huge potential, attracting the interest of a large biopharmaceutical company that ultimately purchased the brand.
Together with Seed Strategy, Burke marries world-class strategic expertise together with nearly a century of best-in-class analytics and decision science to help clients craft brand strategies that maximize topline growth.
Whether your brand strategy needs a little refresh or you’re just getting started, we have a full range of customizable capabilities to get you from where you are to where you want to be.
We constantly work with clients to do everything from developing, testing and optimizing brand positioning options to crafting entire brand toolkits featuring a brand vision, purpose, profile, character, brand story or manifesto, fully-fleshed out positioning statement, portfolio architecture, growth strategy, creative elements and more.
Please contact us to learn more about how we can help you with your brand and marketing strategy.
Adam Siegel is the Editor of The Accelerator and VP, Creative at Seed Strategy where he draws upon his diverse experience in advertising, research and innovation to craft breakthrough creative and winning concept copy.
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Interested in reading more? Check out Adam’s other article:
Consumers’ Needs Are Evolving, and so Should You
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Source: Feature Image – ©Drobot Dean – stock.adobe.com