Brand Strategy: The Practical Guide For Brand Owners

Brand Strategy Ultimate Guide

There are two things most marketers get wrong with a brand strategy.  Both are errors of judgment.

Focusing on short-term results is one such problem. The other issue is getting so rigid and possessive about your brand that you resist evolving with changing market conditions.

Building a strong brand takes time and consistent effort. But too many people expect quick results from their brand strategy, and they focus too much on short-term goals like immediate sales or website traffic.

Focusing on long-term brand-building goals is essential because some things cannot be achieved overnight – like growing brand awareness, loyalty, or reputation.

Further, a successful brand strategy must be adaptable and able to evolve with changing market conditions. Unfortunately, some businesses get so stuck into their brands, and make them so non-negotiable, that they resist the flexibility needed to stay relevant and competitive.

Contents ...

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What is Brand Strategy? And why is it important to businesses?

The simplest way to understand what Brand Strategy is

Brand strategy helps defines how a company wants to be perceived by its target audience, and how it plans to differentiate itself from competitors. It is a long-term plan that an organization creates. The idea is to develop and manage its brand in a way that will enable it to achieve its goals. 

Your brand is shaped by how people perceive its value to them

Whether your business has products and services as its brands, or the people in the company (including the owner) are the primary brands, there needs to be a strategy in place for people to know how the brand is of value to customers. Brand strategy is not so much about the brand itself, but how target audiences see the benefits projected by the brand as valuable to them.

Brand affinity is the factor that makes people buy brands

People tend to see value in brands when they are clear on how one brand differs from another, how different brands promise them different things, and how the brand and its promises and personality resonate with them.

People may understand what a brand is trying to say and even like it, but they will not want to give the brand a place in their lives unless they begin to feel an emotional affinity with it. Think of all the brands whose messages we like and remember, and yet we never buy them. Why?

We only buy those brands that make us feel good to have them in our lives, and that we are proud to say we own. Feeling good about being seen using a particular brand is also a very important issue for buyers. The brand’s market domination makes the buyer feel self-esteem through an associative rub-off.

Don't let someone else articulate your brand's value

There is one more important aspect to brand strategy: if we do not consciously articulate our brand and its values, people will ascribe whatever characteristics they think fits our brand. This would be akin to a marketing disaster to allow someone else to define what your brand stands for and how it should be perceived. It’s hard – and pretty expensive –to change first impressions.

Two great quotes on brand strategy – from those who know

Here are two great quotes on the importance of brand strategy from top experts:

David Brier

"If you don’t give the market the story to talk about, they’ll define your brand’s story for you.”

Walter Landor

"Products are made in a factory but brands are created in the mind. "

The 8 steps to building a robust brand strategy with resilience 

Here is my list of 8 steps to building a reliable and durable brand strategy. I’ve emphasized the process that works for me and gets good results for my brand and my clients’ brands. 
8 Steps To Build Brand Strategy
(Please use this infographic with credits intact.) 

1. Start by defining what you want your brand to represent

Your brand is far more than just your logo design

Defining your brand is crucial for creating a clear and consistent image for your business that resonates with your target audience. Your brand is more than just your logo or your marketing campaigns; it’s the sum total of every interaction people have with your business.

By defining your brand, you can create a cohesive and memorable brand experience that sets you apart from the competition and builds customer loyalty.

Your brand must clearly differentiate you in the market

One key benefit of defining your brand is that it helps you stand out from the competition. In today’s crowded marketplace, many other businesses will likely offer similar products or services to yours. Defining your brand can help you differentiate yourself by identifying what sets you apart and emphasizing your unique selling proposition.

This can be particularly important for smaller businesses that may not have the resources to compete on price or marketing spend alone.

Your brand's aim must be to increase trust and loyalty

Another benefit of defining your brand is that it helps you build customer loyalty. By creating a clear and consistent brand image, you can develop a sense of trust and familiarity with your target audience.

When people know what to expect from your brand, they will likely become repeat customers and recommend your business to others. This can be particularly important in industries where customer trust and loyalty are key drivers of success, such as healthcare or financial services.

The spectacular definition that Patagonia has given itself

Here’s an example of how to define your brand as a stand-out.

Patagonia is a well-known outdoor clothing and gear brand that focuses on producing high-quality, sustainable products for outdoor enthusiasts. Its products include outdoor apparel for activities such as hiking, snowboarding, surfing, and fishing, as well as gear such as backpacks, sleeping bags, and tents.

Patagonia Brand Website

The brand has defined itself as a champion of sustainability, environmental activism, and ethical business practices. To amplify this self-definition, Patagonia has a Worn Wear program, which encourages customers to repair and reuse their clothing, rather than buy new products. 

Patagonia Worn Wear

2. Conduct market research on your brand's environment

The value of research in the development of brand strategy

Market research is critical to brand strategy as it provides insights into your target audience, competitors, and industry trends.

You can identify key trends and opportunities by conducting thorough market research, understanding customer needs and preferences, and developing a brand strategy that resonates with your target audience.

Benefits of Market Research For Brand Strategy

How research can help your brand resonate with audiences

One advantage of market research is that it can help you identify and understand your target audience.

By conducting surveys, focus groups, and other research methods, you can gain insights into customer demographics, buying habits, and preferences.

This information can be used to develop a brand strategy that speaks directly to your target audience, using messaging, visuals, and other elements that resonate with their values and interests.

How research can give your brand its competitive edge

A second benefit of market research is that it can help you stay ahead of the competition. By analyzing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, you can identify opportunities to differentiate yourself and develop a unique selling proposition that sets you apart.

This can be particularly important in industries where competition is intense, and customers have many options to choose from.

Can research spot market opportunties? Hear Steve Jobs ...

Steve Jobs, the co-founder and former CEO of Apple, was known for his unconventional approach to business and marketing, which included a reluctance to rely on market research to discover opportunities. 

Jobs was skeptical of market research because he believed that customers don’t always know what they want. He believed that true innovation requires a visionary approach and that relying too heavily on customer feedback can limit creativity and prevent businesses from taking risks.

Instead, he started creating products that were so intuitive and well-designed that they didn’t require extensive market research to be successful.

Hear Jobs explain his approach in this video … eye-opening!

3. Identify and then micro-segment your target audience

If you aim at nothing, you will surely hit it ...

Defining your target audience is a critical step in developing a successful brand strategy.

By identifying the specific group of people that you want to reach, you can tailor your marketing efforts to their needs and preferences, increasing the likelihood that they will engage with your brand and become loyal customers.

Discover the audiences your brand can speak to

One of the key benefits of defining your target audience is that it allows you to create more effective marketing messages. When you know who your audience is, you can tailor your messaging to their specific interests, concerns, and pain points.

This can help your brand stand out in a crowded marketplace and resonate with potential customers on a deeper level. By speaking directly to the needs and preferences of your target audience, you can build stronger connections with them and create a more compelling value proposition.

Defining your audiences can help with tight budgeting

Defining your target audience can also help you allocate your marketing resources more effectively. By focusing on the specific group of people who are most likely to be interested in your products or services, you can avoid wasting time and money on marketing efforts that are unlikely to yield results.

This can help you stretch your marketing budget further and achieve better ROI on your marketing investments.

Micro-segmenting audiences helps sharper brand messaging

Micro-segmentation is the practice of dividing a target audience into smaller, more narrowly defined segments based on specific characteristics and behaviors. This allows your brand to gain a deeper understanding of customers’ needs. It helps identify specific patterns and trends in customers’ behavior, interests, and preferences.

Your brand can then tailor messaging, content, and marketing campaigns to better address the needs of each micro-segment … which can improve engagement and drive greater loyalty.

The graphic below shows you the clarity your brand gets between looking at your target audience as a whole versus micro-segmenting. 

Micro-Segmentation of Audiences
(Image credit: CXL)

4. Develop a clear brand voice for impactful messaging

What is your brand's voice, and how does it sound?

Creating a clear brand voice is essential to establish a consistent and recognizable identity for your brand. A brand voice represents the personality and values of the brand.

A brand’s voice is as important to audiences as hearing a person’s voice. It is crucial to ensure that your brand message is communicated effectively to the target audience through a voice that’s authentic and credible.

Watch this video from Alex Cattoni on how to develop your brand voice as part of your brand strategy:

Your brand's personality needs to be reflected in its voice

Brand personality is the set of human characteristics that consumers associate with a brand, such as sincerity, excitement, competence, and sophistication. In contrast, brand voice refers to the tone, language, and communication style that a brand uses to interact with its audience.

For example, a brand with a sincere and trustworthy personality will likely use a more straightforward and genuine tone in its messaging. In contrast, a brand with an exciting and adventurous personality may use a more lively and engaging voice to appeal to its audience.

Consistency in brand voice is critical to brand loyalty

Consistency in the brand voice helps create a cohesive and unified image of the brand in customers’ minds. When a brand uses a consistent voice, it becomes easier for customers to recognize the brand and distinguish it from competitors.

Further, when a brand uses the same tone and messaging across all channels, it creates a sense of familiarity and connection with the audience. It creates a perception of reliability and stability, which can lead to brand affinity, establish trust and credibility, and increase customer loyalty.

Honesty and empathy are both critical to brand voice

A brand voice is seen as authentic if it is honest and transparent, providing accurate information and avoiding misleading or exaggerated claims. This honesty builds trust with the target audience and reinforces the brand’s reputation.

Stories are a powerful way to show empathy and connect with customers. By sharing stories of real customers or individuals who have benefited from the brand’s products or services, a brand can demonstrate that it understands its customers and cares about their experiences.

To find a special gift waiting for you on this page, click the button below to take a peek, before you read on … 

5. Design your brand's visual identity and memorable tagline

Your brand's visual identity needs to be strong and documented

Your brand’s visual identity is a critical component of your overall brand strategy, and is important because it helps to convey your brand’s personality and values in a visual and memorable way. A strong visual identity can help establish a recognizable and consistent brand image, which is important for building brand awareness and making your brand more memorable.

A strong visual identity can help to differentiate your brand from the competition, and make it stand out in a crowded marketplace. When customers see your brand’s visual identity, they should be able to immediately recognize it and associate it with your brand’s unique personality and values.

It’s important to create a Brand Guidelines Manual to lay out all the visual details, as well as important notes about a company’s voice, tone, and messaging. A snapshot of the brand identity manual from Jegs shows their meticulous documentation of how brand identity must be portrayed. 

Jegs Brand Guidelines Manual

Why your brand's visual identity must have responsive design

Your brand’s visual identity can include various visual elements, such as your logo, color scheme, typography, imagery, and overall design style. Each of these elements should be carefully chosen to reflect your brand’s personality and values, and should be consistent across all your marketing materials and touchpoints.

Responsive design is a critical component of a brand’s visual identity, as it ensures that the brand’s website and other digital assets are accessible and functional across a wide range of devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

How your brand's visual identity helps build credibility and trust

A well-designed visual identity gives the impression that the brand is professional and takes its business seriously. This can help build credibility with customers, as they are more likely to trust a brand that presents itself professionally and consistently.

A strong visual identity can also help a brand to build an emotional connection with its customers. By using colors, images, and other visual elements that resonate with its target audience, a brand can create a sense of familiarity and comfort that builds trust over time.

Your brand's tagline plays a key role in your brand strategy

A tagline is a short phrase or slogan that is often used in conjunction with a brand name, and can play an essential role in a brand strategy. A strong tagline can help convey your brand’s essence memorably and concisely, and can be a powerful tool for building brand awareness and recognition.

A tagline can serve as a shorthand for your brand’s core message and values, and can help to differentiate your brand from the competition. A well-crafted tagline can evoke emotions and establish a connection with your target audience, helping to build a stronger brand identity and make your brand more memorable.

6. Chalk out your brand's content strategy to reach audiences

Here's what should go into your brand's content strategy

Developing a content strategy for your brand is a critical part of your overall brand strategy. Start by defining your content marketing goals (look at great content marketing examples for ideas). Determine the demographics, psychographics, and behaviors of your target audience. Understanding their needs, pain points, and interests will help you create content that resonates with them.

Then choose the content types you will create. This can include blog posts, social media content, videos, podcasts, webinars, and much more. You’ll also need to decide what your content distribution channels will be – like listings on search engines, social media, email marketing, guest blogs, and so on.

How do you choose which content types to create for your brand

Choosing the right content types to create that align with your brand strategy is crucial for any successful content marketing campaign. By taking a strategic approach to content creation, you can ensure that your content marketing efforts are effective and successful in achieving your overall marketing objectives.

  • One way to choose the right content types is to start with your audience. Consider what types of content your audience is most likely to engage with and what platforms they use most frequently.

  • Next, consider your brand messaging and values. What topics and themes are most important to your brand, and how can you create content that aligns with these values?

  • Finally, think about your overall marketing goals. What are you trying to achieve with your content marketing campaign? Are you trying to increase brand awareness, generate leads, or drive sales? 

The importance of an editorial calendar in content strategy

An editorial calendar is an important tool for any brand strategy that involves content marketing. It is essentially a schedule that outlines the content you plan to publish over a set period of time, such as a month or a quarter. This can include blog posts, social media updates, email newsletters, and other types of content.

The importance of an editorial calendar lies in its ability to help you stay organized and focused in your content marketing efforts. By planning out your content in advance, you can ensure that you are consistently publishing high-quality content that is relevant to your target audience and aligned with your brand messaging.

The simple blog planning editorial calendar below shows how useful it can be to preplan your content creation. You can also pack the calendar with your social media posting schedules, webinars and events to hold, or promotional activities to complete.

Sample Blog Planner Editorial Calendar
(Image credit: Smartsheet)

An "omnichannel brand content strategy" is the way to go

An omnichannel brand strategy is a marketing approach that focuses on delivering a seamless and consistent customer experience across all channels … including social media, email, website, mobile app, etc. The goal of an omnichannel brand strategy is to create a cohesive and integrated brand experience that strengthens customer engagement, loyalty, and advocacy.

To execute an omnichannel brand strategy, your brand needs to understand its customers and their behavior across all channels deeply. By aiming for total coherence in its content across various channels, your brand can create marketing campaigns targeted to drive conversion and sales.

7. Plan the special brand experience to offer to your customers

Why "brand experience at every touchpoint" must be planned

Brand experience refers to the overall perception and emotions that a customer has towards a brand based on their interactions and experiences with it at every touchpoint along the buying journey.

(A touchpoint refers to any interaction or point of contact between a customer and a company or brand, whether it’s through advertising, social media, a website, or a phone call … )

When planning brand experience, three factors need to be considered:

  • Brand experience must encompass every touchpoint that a customer has with a brand, from the initial awareness stage to the post-purchase experience.
  • Brand experience must also include everything from the product or service itself, to customer service, to marketing communications, and more.
  • If brand experience drops in quality at any touchpoint, there is a danger of the customer leaking away to a competitor at that point in the buying journey.

Brand experience can be positive or negative – with consequences

The goal of brand experience is to create a positive and memorable experience for customers, leading to greater customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.

A positive brand experience can create an emotional connection between customers and a brand, leading to increased sales, customer loyalty, and advocacy.

A negative brand experience can result in a lost customer and negative word-of-mouth, while a positive brand experience can lead to increased customer retention and referrals. 

How brand experience is different from an "experiential brand"

An experiential brand is a brand that is focused on more than just delivering positive brand experiences. An experiential brand aims to create a unique and emotional connection with its customers. In some cases, a brand may choose to offer a “themed experience” where the customer is transported into another universe which the brand choreographs to keep the customer highly engaged.

Brand experiences of experiential brands are usually designed with the deliberate intention to be immersive, interactive, and engaging. The idea is to create a heightened sense of emotions such as joy, excitement, and satisfaction. The brand tries to raise the customer experience from a “good experience” to a “unique and memorable experience.”

Airbnb – a great example of "brand experience" planning

Airbnb is a platform that allows people to rent out their homes or other properties to travelers. Airbnb’s brand experience is planned around the idea of “creating a personalized and immersive travel experience” for its users.

  • Users can browse and book properties worldwide, and provide detailed information and ratings from previous guests.
  • The platform allows hosts to create detailed profiles and customize their listings with photos and descriptions that reflect their personal style and taste.
  • Guests can also create profiles and search for properties based on their own interests and preferences, allowing them to find unique and personalized experiences that fit their needs and preferences.
  • The company encourages hosts to provide personalized recommendations and tips to guests. It provides tools and resources to help hosts build relationships with their guests and provide a memorable and enjoyable experience.
Airbnb Brand Experience

8. Monitor and tweak brand performance on your key metrics

Measuring and adjusting your brand strategy is essential for ensuring that your brand stays relevant and effective. Remember, measuring and adjusting your brand strategy is an ongoing process. By regularly collecting and analyzing data, and making adjustments based on that data, you can ensure that your brand remains relevant and effective over time.

Here are some key performance parameters to stay in control of: 

Content Performance Analytics

How is your brand being perceived, appreciated, held in esteem

1. Brand awareness: This measures the level of recognition and familiarity consumers have with a particular brand. It can be measured through metrics such as website traffic, social media engagement, and search engine rankings.

2. Brand equity: This measures the overall value of a brand, based on factors such as consumer loyalty, market share, and brand differentiation. It can be measured through metrics such as sales growth, customer lifetime value, and brand reputation.

How successful is your brand in holding your customers' interest

3. Customer engagement: This measures the level of interaction and involvement that customers have with a brand, through channels such as social media, email marketing, and customer service. It can be measured through metrics such as social media followers, open email rates, and customer satisfaction scores.

4. Customer retention: This measures the ability of a brand to retain its existing customers over time. It can be measured through metrics such as customer churn rate, repeat purchase rate, and customer referral rate.

What is your brand's success with credibility and customer trust

5. Brand sentiment: This measures the overall perception and sentiment that consumers have towards a brand, based on factors such as brand personality, reputation, and messaging. It can be measured through metrics such as online reviews, customer feedback, and sentiment analysis.

6. Brand reputation: This metric measures the overall perception of your brand in the market. It can be measured through surveys, online reviews, and social media sentiment analysis.

How far will customers go to support and endorse your brand

7. Brand loyalty: This metric measures the degree to which customers are loyal to your brand. It can be measured through metrics such as customer retention rate, customer lifetime value, and repeat purchase rate.

8. Brand advocacy: This metric measures how likely customers are to recommend your brand to others. It can be measured through metrics such as net promoter score (NPS) and customer referral rate.

What gains is your brand making in revenue and market share

9. Sales and revenue: Ultimately, the success of a brand strategy should be reflected in the company’s bottom line. Measuring sales and revenue can provide an overall picture of how well the brand strategy is performing.

10. Market share: This metric measures the percentage of the market that your brand is able to capture. It can be measured through surveys and market research.

Pro tips to take away in summary ...

1. Building a strong brand takes time and persistent effort. Focus on long-term brand-building goals. Some things cannot be achieved quickly – like growing brand awareness, loyalty, or reputation.

2. A successful brand strategy must be adaptable and able to evolve with changing market conditions. You should not get so stuck into your brands that it becomes non-negotiable to flexibility, relevance, and competitiveness. 

3. Feel free to use my list of 8 steps to building a smart, resilient, and resultful brand strategy. It’s a battle-tested plan I have used to grow my own entrepreneurial venture and my clients’ businesses.

When planning your brand strategy, remember it’s not so much about the brand itself, but how target audiences see the benefits projected by the brand as valuable to them. People see value in brands when they are clear about how a brand differs from another, and how the brand and its promises and personality resonate with them.

BONUS: How to get help with your branding and content marketing

Branding and content marketing are tough because they require a deep understanding of the target audience, a commitment to delivering high-quality content consistently, and ongoing optimization to remain effective. This is where an expert hand can be invaluable.

With cutting-edge knowledge of the latest industry trends and best practices, an expert can help provide the guidance and support needed to achieve the desired results.

Rather than slog at it yourself and spend time and money on trial-and-error, make it simple … let me help you.
Let’s have a free, no-obligations Zoom chat. We can locate the potential to power up your branding and content marketing. Let me know your goals and budgets, and I will offer you some readily implementable suggestions. 
If we’re a good fit for each other, you could consider outsourcing your branding and content marketing projects to me. I am confident I can take your business to an enviable position. 
Click the button below to book a free 30-45 minute online ZOOM meeting; we’ll take it from there!
Shobha Ponnappa

"I am committed to elevating my clients' branding and content marketing to a dominant position because I believe that a strong and distinctive brand identity, coupled with high-quality content, can be a game-changer for businesses. I've done it over and over for 40+ years and 125+ clients."

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Give yourself truly big benefits.

Get my weekly newsletter packed with cutting edge brand content tips, tricks, tactics, techniques, and trends. I scour the Net for you.

Use my Privilege Discount on all my products and services – at any time, without limit – as long as you’re uninterruptedly subscribed.

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Just fill in the form to join my community … we have big and small brands for company. You’ll stay on the speedway to growth.