Brand strategy is an ever-evolving process for all businesses, big or small, and any successful company will always want to adjust its goals and targets at some point or risk being left behind by a changing market or target demographic. However, there are a few golden rules that will help you on your branding journey, as you plan, launch and finally manage your program going forward into the future.
The 6 Rules of Brand Strategy
Branded or Brand-Led?
One of the most important steps you need to take when deciding on your overall strategy is whether your company is branded or brand-led. They may seem very similar but in fact contain crucial differences that will determine how your company appears to the world, and it’s very important to make a conscious decision on which strategy to choose early on. Many companies fall by default into the branded category, when in fact they might be better off becoming brand-led.
Branded companies, while they still retain an identity of their own, are primarily identified by consumers by their products. Their main advantage is their ability to grow quickly, as well as capturing large potions of market value early on in the company’s life. Their main disadvantage, however, is that consumers will identify them by their product, which then supersedes the brand itself, and puts the business at the mercy of the market’s needs.
By contrast, brand-led companies tend to play the long game and invest time and resources in building a brand that is independent of market forces. This allows the company to retain some level of control over the market and can be very effective in the long run once the company finds its ideal market niche. Their only downside is that they rely on creating movements, so it may be some time before this strategy pays off.
Once you have decided which strategy you have decided to peruse, read through the rules below to test your brand’s effectiveness and make sure that your chosen strategy is working for you.
1. Be Unique
The best strategy for your brand is one that differentiates you from your competitors in unique, unexpected ways. You want your company to be a leader in its field, not just riding on the coattails of another’s success. This is especially important when you’ve invested in a long-term brand-led strategy and are looking to build a movement that transcends your product.
A common pitfall many fall into is to market their company as like their competitor but better. While this may seem an attractive proposition at first, in reality, you will always be seen through the lens of your likely better established and well-known competitor, stifling opportunities for growth and development in your business.
2. Tell a Story With Your Brand
You don’t want to be just another company peddling just another product. You want to be a unique, innovative organization bringing the latest in innovation to your field. It’s hard to overstate the importance of storytelling when it comes to branding; customers will always respond better to your product when there is an emotional narrative attached, both to your product and your company.
The single caveat to the storytelling approach is that you still must have a great product or service. No matter how good your storytelling, if the product or service that you are offering isn’t up to scratch, you will find customers will quickly walk away. That being said there’s no better way to make what you’re offering specific than tugging on the emotional heartstrings.
3. Create Positive Reinforcement
As you’re telling your story to your customers, you will always have a choice about what kind of story you’re telling, which can be either a positive message of reward and relief or a negative one of guilt and fear. If this sounds extreme, consider for a moment certain charities, whose advertising campaigns largely rely on the guilt of the watcher for a large, short-term gain. However, these advertisements rarely consistently move people, since they rely on feelings that people want to escape in the long run.
After a consumer has donated once, the feeling of guilt is alleviated, and the adverts can be safely ignored. Try instead to tell a story that is positive, goal-oriented to retain customers in the long term, and keep them coming back again and again.
4. The Customer Should be in The Spotlight
It’s all very well telling everyone how good your products are and how amazing your company is, but why should the customer care? Why do they need to buy your product or service, and what problems will it solve for them? This is, in essence, the age-old adage of “benefits, not features”, but that doesn’t make it any less important.
Make sure that you’re providing what your target customers actually want, not what you think they need. This is where a bit of market research can come in handy, but don’t forget that the needs and priorities of your customers may change over time. What they want now may not be what they want tomorrow, which brings us on to our next point…
5. Look to the Future
The best brands are constantly re-inventing themselves, and the problems you’re trying to solve today may not be around in 5 years, and certainly not in 20. Your customer’s cultures, beliefs, and behaviors are constantly changing, and so be sure to keep an eye out for emerging trends. It’s vital to be on top of these and up to date on the trending fashions, risk being left behind, and appearing outdated and irrelevant.
Trying to pre-empt the future will always feel like taking a risk, but remember, risk-taking in itself will boost your relevance far more and will help you gain market authority. Simply relying on age, as do many older and well-established brands, can result in a rapid loss of market share to those who are willing to re-invent themselves to appeal to consumers in rapidly changing times.
6. Consider the Opposite Strategy.
Finally, one of the most powerful tools available when it comes to evaluating your branding approach is to think of the opposite. If the opposite to your strategy seems nonsensical or ridiculous, then it’s safe to say that your competitors are pursuing very similar strategies to you, which can make it hard to distinguish your company from the rest. If you’re currently making a good return on the strategy, then it’s probably because your industry is in a good place structurally, which might change quickly.
Instead, challenge yourself to look deeper, past the obvious, until you arrive at a truly exciting strategy that will put your business miles ahead of the competition. Thinking of the opposite strategy can help you decide on what direction you want to take your branding process, and throw up many interesting avenues to explore.
Defining your brand strategy can be a daunting process, so if you’re still looking for advice after reading this list, then you’ve come to the right place. Schedule a free consultation with us here at Cwell Marketing today, and you’ll soon right on track to discovering the strategy for your brand that’s right for your business.