These words are thrown around a lot these days. When you first hear the word brand or branding, you may associate with vibrant colors, catchy tag lines or jingles, and zingy visuals. And these elements are grouped together as if they are some sort of strategy that a business can measure against. But that is not strategy – those are communication elements.
Focusing on the shiny visuals actually hurts your brand. It may be attractive, but not be able to operate efficiently. It may have an amazing logo, with very little meaning behind it. The colors may pop off the page or the screen, but aren’t aligned with the values or the bigger purpose of why the brand exists.
What I do – and what I am passionate about is brand strategy. What is brand strategy? Brand strategy encapsulates and influences every decision a brand makes. Brand strategy sets the groundwork for the foundation of the brand. Brand strategy sets the tone, shapes the impression, and positions the brand in the market in the best possible way.
In order to really appreciate this understanding of brand strategy, let’s first review and debunk four big myths that get mixed up with branding and brand strategy. My goal is to have you gain a new understanding of brand strategy and how it can help catapult your brand to the next level. Ready to debunk these myths? Let’s dive in!
As I alluded to at the beginning of this article, this is simply not brand strategy. A logo is not a strategy. A set of colors is not a strategy. In order for all of these visual elements to be effective, you first need to have a clear purpose, vision, values about what the brand stands for and who it serves.
Without that foundation, your brand will lack meaningfulness, creating a fragmented, transactional business instead of an unshakable brand that engages and cultivates deep relationships with their customers. In fact, I believe in brands getting clear so much, I wrote a book called GroundWork: The Foundation for an Unshakable Brand.
As you get clear about what your brand’s purpose is, it will begin to authentically come out through your messaging, visuals, and communications. This will allow you to truly attract the audience you seek.
Designers and ad agencies create magic and can execute ideas amazingly well. I love working with both. But thinking that a designer or ad agency will simply create a brand for you is a myth that needs to be debunked.
I’ve met so many designers who are incredibly tired of spinning their wheels, developing concept after concept in order to please their client, only to realize the client doesn’t know what they want.
Designers aren’t necessarily brand strategists. Back to myth one, get clear on what your brand stands for, what it delivers, and who it is targeting first. Then hire a designer to help visually communicate that. Not the other way around.
You’ll get a much better, more streamlined outcome, and your designer will love that you know exactly what you want – creating a win-win!
Anyone who believes this myth…well this is why it is so important to debunk. Brand strategy affects more than the visual design of your business cards, letter head, websites, and/or marketing materials.
Brand strategy influences all decisions relating to how your brand tells its story, connects with its audiences, the platforms it uses or builds, the culture (both internal and external), and the brand experience you want customers to have. Brand strategy also influences key performance indicators (other than financial) in order to get a pulse on how the brand is performing.
When you step back, you begin to realize that decisions regarding brand strategy directly influence return on investment. If your brand designed an email campaign that left the reader uninterested or that was misaligned to the image your brand wanted to project, the return on investment would be lower.
Taking the time to design an email campaign that is interactive, engaging, and provides value beyond any offer being made will provide a higher return on investment. It all comes back to brand strategy – and how you want your brand to be perceived by your customers.
The biggest mistake I see small businesses make is that they think they do not need to develop a brand strategy. Being a one-person show, they sort of take on the mindset of a newbie, not realizing that the impression they are giving off is instantly categorizing them into an area that can be hard to escape.
Every brand, no matter the size, can take steps to define who they are, what they stand for and their values. This helps across the board – in networking, pitching to investors, and making your first hire.
Get these limiting beliefs out of your head. Embrace brand strategy and understand how the decisions you make within your company affect your brand perception. Doing the groundwork upfront will provide you a solid foundation for years to come.
It will allow you to attract partners, investors, clients, fans, and employees simply because they believe in what the brand believes in and want to see it succeed.
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