Creating your brand can seem daunting, at first.
Where do you start?
The first place most people think about is hiring a designer to create a website and logo.
But, if you want to create a strong brand, your website and logo are the last steps in the branding process.
Instead, if you want to create a strong brand, you’ll need to start with your overall strategy. Use the brand strategy template provided in this post to put together yours!
What is a Brand Strategy?
Think of a brand strategy as your plan for your brand. It’s the direction you want your brand to take, as you begin to build your business.
With any business, you want to have a plan in place, so you know exactly what you need to do for your business in order for it to be successful.
A brand strategy is similar. The strategy includes all the key elements of your brand, including how you want your brand to be perceived and how you want people to feel when they experience your brand.
Taking the time to create your brand strategy in the beginning will make your job easier, because it’ll help you determine what copy to write, what visuals to use, where to focus your efforts, and make decisions about what’s “on brand” and “off brand”.
And you won’t be leaving your success to chance or being lucky.
There are both tangible and intangible pieces of a brand that are important to include in your brand strategy. I have broken down the 3 key elements to help you get started.
1) Understand Ideal Customer
For your brand to be successful, the most important step is to understand your ideal customers – what they want and what they need but don’t know they need.
Afterall, they are the ones who will be buying your product or service, and your brand needs to resonate with them if you want them to buy from you.
The best way to do this is through market research.
When it comes to doing research on ideal customers, I recommend doing interviews with your ideal customers to understand their needs.
Interviews are better than surveys because you are able to hear their words in an unfiltered way. I always find little gems of insight by listening to my client’s customers when I interview them during the branding process.
You are listening for the problem they are trying to solve and also what they’ve tried in the past to solve the problem. Understanding what they’ve done in the past to solve their problem will give you insight on how to position your brand in the market.
Some questions you can ask in your interview are:
- What problems have you been facing in [insert area / industry you are in]?
- What solutions have you tried to solve the problem?
- Why didn’t those solutions work?
- What made you decide to work with me / buy my product or service?
When you conduct the customer interviews, it is more important to be curious about their answers and ask follow up questions vs. following a set of questions you prepared ahead of time.
Once you’ve completed your research on your ideal customers, then it’s time to move on to the next step, your value proposition.
2) Create a Strong Value Proposition
A value proposition is your unique value that you provide to your customers that makes them want to choose you over your competitors. It helps to position your brand in the minds of your ideal customers.
Typically, the value proposition is an internal statement you create. This statement is then used to create the brand’s core messages, used in your brand’s marketing.
It is not a tagline or slogan, although your value proposition can be used to guide the creation of your tagline.
There are two types of value proposition. One is for your overall brand, and the other is for your specific product or service. For the sake of simplicity, we are focusing on the value proposition for your overall brand.
To create a strong value proposition, you must have these 4 elements.
- Relevant & Beneficial: It must be something that solves their problems or improves their situation.
- Unique: It must be something that is unique and differentiates your brand from your competitors.
- Consistently Deliveriable: It must be something that you can consistently deliver on throughout your customer’s experience with your brand.
- Simple & Clear: It must be clear and easy to understand by your customers. Don’t use jargon or lengthy sentences to explain what your value is.
Start by listing out all the benefits your brand provides to your customers. You can use the insights you gained from customer interviews to help you create the list.
Then figure out what makes your brand unique compared to your competitors. For this, my team and I usually conduct a comprehensive competitive analysis. You’ll want to understand what your competitors are doing, what problems they are solving and not solving.
After determining your benefits and your differentiating factor, create your value proposition statement.
Here are some examples of strong value propositions.
Value Proposition: Accomplish more with better notes. Evernote helps you capture ideas and find them fast.
This is relevant & beneficial to their audience, because their audience are looking for ways to organize all of their notes. It is unique, simple and clear because it tells people that they are able to help by making the process easier, by helping them find their notes quickly. And they consistently deliver on this value proposition by making improvements to their platform to simplify the way people organize their notes.
Value proposition: Belong Everywhere. Experience travel in an entirely new way.
This is relevant & beneficial to their audience because their audience are travelers who want to experience and immerse themselves in the local culture, not in a hotel. It is unique, simple and clear, because it tells people that they can stay in a place that feels like home anywhere in the world, and book adventures and experiences unique to the city they are visiting. And they consistently deliver on this value proposition through their platform by allowing their customers to search for homes and experiences all around the world.
3) Brand Vision, Mission, Values, and Purpose
Some brands like to start with the brand’s vision, mission, and purpose when it comes to creating their brand strategy. This works if you have a clear vision of what you want to create for your brand.
However, when you don’t, it’s best to work on the vision, mission, and purpose after you get clear around your brand.
With my clients, I typically like to create the vision, mission, and purpose after the customer research and value proposition because the other two steps help to identify what the brand really stands for.
The first step is to define your brand’s purpose.
Your brand’s purpose is the passion behind why you created the brand in the first place. It’s what drives your brand to succeed.
For example, Tom’s original brand purpose was to provide shoes to children in 3rd world countries, who didn’t have shoes. This was the driving force behind why the brand existed and why the brand created their one-for-one model, where every pair of shoes purchased provided a pair of shoes for a child in need.
Ask yourself, why did you start your brand?
The next step is to identify your brand’s values.
Your brand values are more than words on a piece of paper. They are part of the heart and soul of your brand. Your brand values must reflect your core beliefs. And your values are what you stand for, so making sure it’s authentic to you and something you can consistently deliver to your customers is really important.
Your customers are not only buying your products and services from your brand because they like what you sell, it’s also because they believe in the same values as you do. Buying from your brand is a reflection of their values as well.
The best brand values are ones that are unique. Try to stay away from generic values that have no meaning.
For example, Lush Cosmetics has 6 unique brand values: Freshest Ingredients, 100% Vegetarian, Ethically Buying, Handmade, Naked, Fighting Animal Testing.
When someone buys from Lush Cosmetics they are someone who cares about these values and wants to buy products that are sustainable, environmentally friendly, and ethical. They are looking for better quality products they can be proud of using. And because they know what Lush Cosmetics stands for, they are more likely to be loyal to the brand, as very few cosmetics brands have the same values.
Ask yourself, what do you believe in and stand for?
The third step is creating your brand’s mission.
The mission is focused on the present moment, why your company exists today and how you want to impact your customers lives. Mission statements are actionable and tangible goals you want to accomplish.
For example, Tesla’s mission statement is “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”. Their goal is to increase the use of sustainable energy in people’s everyday lives. Their brand and business is focused on achieving this one goal.
Ask yourself, how do you want to impact your customers’ lives?
The last step is to develop your brand’s vision.
Unlike the mission statement, the vision statement is future oriented. It is meant to inspire the company to grow. The brand vision also articulates where the brand wants to be, once it achieves its mission. You want this to be bold and forward-thinking with your vision.
For example, Warby Parker’s vision statement is “To give everyone the right to see.” This is a powerful vision statement because it expands beyond their customers who buy their eyewear at revolutionary prices, to the people they help with their partnerships with nonprofits, providing vision services to underserved communities.
Ask yourself, how do you see the world changing as a result of your brand.
There are many more elements to creating a strong brand strategy, like creating your brand identity and voice.
However, these 3 key elements are the base foundation for all brand strategies to build upon. Once you have these in place, you can then move onto the other elements of your brand.
Use your ideal customer research, value proposition, brand’s vision, mission, values, and purpose to guide you as you build out the rest of your brand, so that you can maintain consistency across your entire brand.
The more consistent you are with your brand, through your customer’s journey or experience with your brand, the strong affinity and trust you build and the likelihood that your customers will purchase from you over your competitors, increases.