So you’ve got a business, or you’re a celebrity, maybe you’re an NGO or a government, and now you’re at a stage where you need to create a brand and surely the first thing you’re thinking of is the name, logo and colors. Remember that every company has a logo but not every company is a brand. So what makes all the difference?
While the term Brand Strategy gets thrown around a lot, especially by branding agencies, most people don’t really understand why its important, how to use it and how to make it the foundation of your success. Many think its a marketing plan or issuing a creative brief. Put simply, creating a brand is like creating a religion or a nation from scratch. You need a bible or constitution, something that guides the people and details the law of the land. Its is the set of clear parameters and guidelines for how to behave, act and think as a company and team.
So what are the core elements of a brand strategy?
The brand formulas vary greatly and this usually depends on the company’s nature, temperament and core objectives. A local dentist’s office might need a far simpler strategy than a global fashion brand but a small charity would probably need a more comprehensive strategy than a multinational shipping company. No one size fits all so its always best to review which brand model fits your organization best.
As a strategist I’ve come across a wide variety of brand models over the years, some make sense while others are complete marketing fluff. Over the years I’ve consolidated these various strategy models and refined them to be a fairly simple yet versatile formula that is sensible and practical for a range of business types.
This is an 8-part model; 4 inner parts that are intangible and conceptual created to guide and direct. 4 outer parts that are the key touch points of how a brand is experienced. If a brand were a human, the brand strategy would be the mind and soul while the brand design would be the body, face and voice.
The inner workings of a brand are simply called The Brand Strategy and consist of the following 4 parts:
•Your PURPOSE: Why you do what you do;
This is your sole reason for existence. Your Purpose usually translates into your Vision and Mission, which most companies have on their websites but they are usually just some vague words that no one remembers and serve no purpose whatsoever. Your Vision and Mission are your creed, your ethos, they are the reason why you get up in the morning. Disney’s Vision is simply “To Make People Happy” – they’re not saying they will be the best amusement park or create the best animated movies, they simply show up daily for one sole purpose. Your Vision is your ultimate goal in life and how your dreams of the future, and your Mission is how you plan to make that Vision a reality. Easy words to say but this is the hardest part of any company’s life. Many cannot recall their purpose and most prefer a comfortable ambiguity rather than making hard decisions. Your Purpose, dear reader, is the difference between you being yet another company and you becoming a brand.
•Your PEOPLE: Who you do it for.
Your staff, your customers, your suppliers and partners, the community you establish and/or serve, all stakeholders. This is your audience, your flock, the citizens of your world. You must define them very clearly and deeply, detailing everything about their lives, wants, needs, understanding the complex layers of their personality, lifestyle and behaviour, gaining insights on what drives and affects them. These are the people that make up your world so you better know them well! A brand without people is like a forest without trees – its just another patch of land!
•Your PERSONALITY: How you do it.
Your brand characteristics, design, attitude temperament, values and behaviour. Personality is usually based on archetype; Carl Jung famously created 21 archetypes for humans, and the same goes for companies. Are you The Hero? The Caregiver? The Joker? The Rebel? Whatever role you play within your family or social circles is the same role your business will eventually embody in the market amongst competitor. Analyse and decide what your values are, what you believe in and stand for, this is what keeps your brand humanistic and relatable, making it resonate with your audience. The same way people pick their friends and spouses is the way people pick their brands – because you have compatible personalities based on shared values and beliefs. Harley Davidson is the Rebel while Ferrari is The Lover, they have very different brand styles and attitudes and so they attract different audiences.
•Your PROPOSITION: What you actually do.
This is your position in the market (what differentiates you from the competition) and your overall brand promise (your unique selling point). Your proposition is what makes you attractive to your audience and stand out amongst the competitors. Its what you must always always always deliver! Volvo would never create an unsafe car, PETA would never cause harm to animals, your proposition is the singular thing you are known for.
The internal formula is what drives the outer, resulting is the brand’s execution and experience portals. Just how the brain guides and directs the body, the Brand Strategy fuels and controls the Brand Design, which consists of the following 4 channels for experiencing your brand:
•Your COMMUNICATIONS: Your language, tone, temperament, attitude, your adverts, website, business card, how you answer your phone, how you sell yourself, this is the most important way people get to experience, learn about and interact with your brand. All your communications should be based on your strategy.
•Your SERVICES: Your products and value-added services, basically what people pay you for. This includes your packaging, your delivery or online shopping, your application or registration process etc. This should be designed based on the strategy and with the customer’s POV in mind, the more meticulous you are about it the more seamless and perfect a customer experience would be and vis a vis you would get recommended and talked about. All the branding in the world won’t fix a bad product so invest heavily and think wisely about your offering. After all, this is what you’re asking people to pay you for!
•Your ENVIRONMENTS: Offices, exhibition stands, shops, outlets, factories etc… all of these should be designed holistically and with the core strategy in mind. You would never confuse a Mac store with a McDonald’s should the logos be removed and Google has become the most sought-after employer purely because their offices have created a buzz around the world, spawning hundreds of articles and documentaries about how amazing they are. Your environments are the best way for people to immerse themselves into your brand so they should always be designed with the core strategy in mind.
•Your BEHAVIOURS: How your brand behaves in the market, how your customers behave, how your staff behaves, from CEO to janitor. This is very much based on the People part of your strategy. If your People are ones who aspire to be bikers (like Harley) then your brand must have the right attitude in the market. From events and rallies organised to sponsorships, product placement and even social media presence should all resonate with your people. How your brand behaves in the market is crucial. Beyond that, it also directs how your staff and customer behave.
You can differentiate Apple and Microsoft users based on their looks and style let alone the hardware. PETA behaves in a provocative way because its members have that type of character and attitude. Behaviour is a very important portal for people to experience your brand, whether its your brand’s behaviour, your staff’s behaviour or their fellow customers’ behaviour.
Once you’ve figured out the 8 parts of the brand model and have a clearer understanding of what your brand is and who it should serve, the rest will fall into place much more easily. Its always best to include various members of your team, from CEO to janitor, so you can get a fairly comprehensive point of view. You may want to hold a brainstorm where you invite some of your clients as well.
So get it right the first time around and save yourself the wasted money, energy and time. A strategic brand has a much higher chance of achieving your objectives and leading to success because ultimately it resonates with staff, clientele and most importantly with you!