From the biggest multinational to the newest startup, brand strategy is key to your organization. It should be influencing every decision and action. Often people brush it aside or don't even think about it at all. They shouldn't. The brand is the DNA of your organization and is worth every minute you spend on it.
Brand strategy is not something that most people think about day-to-day. Sure, your plan plays out in the activities that keep you busy; but, how often do you look at the underlying strategy that forms the foundation of your organization? As you're working away, how often do you think about what ties everything together. My guess is not very often! (While this may sound a bit harsh, I say it with confidence because, well... I don't often do it either!)
This article will help guide you through what we call a Brand Check. It will make you think about what is central to how/why your organization communicates, serves customers, and crafts your products and services. Don't forget while reading to jot down any ideas that come to mind on a piece of paper or in your favourite note-taking app. If you prefer, you can download a PDF version. Now, let's get to it.
1) Why Are We Here?
This is one of those big life questions, folks tend to ponder while staring at the stars or something extraordinary, like the aurora borealis.
It is also one that's equally important for your brand! Why does your company's brand exist? What is its purpose? Who or what does it serve and why is that important? To draw from Simon Sinek, you have to Start With Why. Without a solid understanding of Why you do what you do, your brand could lack focus and lose its effectiveness, meaning, and direction.
2) Who Are We?
The answer to this question is central to your entire organization. It often helps to personify your brand to answer this question. This is because us humans are often able to describe people better than we're able to describe abstract ideas.
If your company were a person, who would they be? What are their interests? What makes them get up in the morning? What keeps them up at night? Who or what inspires them? The more you know about who your brand is, the better you'll be able to communicate that to others.
3) What Makes Us Unique?
It's important to identify the unique value you bring in comparison to your competitors, whether you are a regional, national or international organization.
It is also worthwhile to foresee how you might be unique from a broader perspective and attempt to future-proof the brand a little. To do this you could also spend some time determining who you want your competitors to be 5 or 10 years down the road.
Your answer should not just be a grocery list of features or services. It should be the elements that are integral to your business. What is the pain point you resolve for your customer? What are the functional benefits (not features!) that you deliver to your customers? What are the emotional benefits that you provide to your customers?
Emotional benefits are a secure way to differentiate your brand. How does someone feel when they buy or interact with your brand?
4) Where Do We Invest Time?
If it's true that where we invest our time is where we invest our lives, then it's essential to identify where your organization should purposefully spend its time, including digitally and 'in real life'.
This is a question that is not frequently asked, even by those who do look into brand strategy more often. It's a tricky question that organizations aren't always great at figuring out themselves, but is time well spent (see what I did there?).
5) Who Are We Talking To?
Without understanding who your organization is talking to, your product/service development and marketing strategies will likely miss the mark for your target audience.
Identifying precisely who you want to serve, what their interests are, where they spend their time and what they care about will help guide you in building a strategy.
Much like your brand is a character or persona, your target audience can be thought of in the same way. Using the info from above you should be creating a few distinct characters/personas to best identify your core audience. Do keep in mind though that those who seek to please everybody, please nobody.
6) How Do We Communicate?
You can't develop solid marketing or communication strategy for your brand until you've answered the above questions.
After you've identified what your brand is, why you exist, what you're doing, and for whom, only now can you develop an effective marketing or communications plan!
Think about how you want to talk to your target audience and what kind of tone your brand should have (remember your brand's persona?). Another thing to ponder is which channels (e.g., radio, Snapchat, carrier pigeon?) you should use to reach your target audience (remember your audience's personas?).
7) That Was Six Right?
When you complete the Brand Check, you will have the basic building blocks of your brand strategy. Although it is a lot of work up-front, the benefits of defining your brand strategy will be more than worth it. After all, it is the foundation of your organization, from your brand identity and marketing tactics to storefront decor and tone of your customer service reps.
Interested in a PDF version of the Brand Check? Download here.
Done correctly and with some careful thought, this Brand Check becomes a powerful tool to help you develop stronger customer relationships, better marketing campaigns and a more unified organization. Plus, it is a good business practice and will blow the minds of your business mentors!