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The Creative’s Guide to Brand Strategy

The Creative’s Guide to Brand Strategy

Think about the iconic red Coca-Cola calligraphy or the globally famous golden arches of McDonald’s. Both are instantly recognizable brand names. But what came to your mind when you thought about them? Was it the color, the logo design, or their brand positioning?

A color or a design alone does not define a brand. It’s the complete brand strategy that includes the core identity, messaging, communication, and overall customer engagement that attracts customers to their favorite brand.

Simply put, a brand is the reputation and visibility of a company in the minds of its audience. In this article, we’ll show you what a brand strategy is and how you can design a successful brand strategy for your company.

Brand strategy explained

Brand strategists and managers

A brand strategist is a marketer who adapts the brand strategy and initiatives to suit a specific market or target audience. Brand strategists understand the company’s core products and design personalized customer experiences that grow its revenue and profitability.

A brand strategy manager (also known as a brand development manager) develops brand strategy activities and initiatives, including branding, online and offline promotions, market research, and marketing campaign efforts.

  • Designing brand strategy documentation, including style guides, brand guidelines, value proposition, and brand vision for the long term and short term and executing all communication initiatives on multiple channels such as social media platforms and other media
  • Developing new business opportunities, product development initiatives, pricing, and products
  • Maintaining branding consistency by creating and managing promotional collaterals and related documentation
  • Planning and managing the budget for promotional and advertising initiatives
  • Executing competitor benchmarking and customer behavior analysis
  • Reviewing product sales forecasts, financial reports, and related documentation

A successful brand manager will have a bachelor’s degree in digital marketing or any other marketing field of study. In addition, they will likely have professional work experience as a brand strategist, brand manager, or a similar role in marketing.

Creative agencies

Creating, growing, and maintaining a brand can be challenging. By partnering with a branding agency, teams can gain a competitive advantage, design robust brand strategies, and increase their customer base faster.

A branding agency is a specialized company that plans, creates, and measures the results of your brand strategy. It can act as your strategist, designer, or creative team. Most branding agencies offer the following services:

Why is branding important?

  • allow you to differentiate yourself versus competitors: Building a brand above and beyond your products and services will ensure that you are more than just a commodity. It will allow you to communicate what you really stand for and how you’re different to competition in a meaningful way.
  • help you win loyal customers: Creatives around the world will go straight to Apple when they need a new device rather than waste time on researching different computers. A powerful brand will create a community of fans who will always choose you over competitors.
  • let you charge higher prices: A strong brand creates a greater perceived value and fans will willingly pay more, even when the product or service is no better on paper than another generic or less attractive brand.

brand identity for L

A solid branding strategy will lead to a consistent brand presentation, like this one by top level designer wilndr.

  • guide your business decisions: It will help you to work out what products and services you should develop and how to present and market them, the tone of voice you should be using in your communication, what kind of content to put on your website, and so on…
  • keep the team on the same page: Even if you’re a ‘solopreneur’ and you don’t have any permanent staff, you’ll still be working with freelancers, designers, and so on and if your brand only lives in your head then it’s unlikely that you’ll get the best work from them.
  • help you be coherent and consistent: Each interaction with your brand is another piece of the puzzle and a strategy will make sure that you create a consistent brand image in the hearts and minds of your customers—and that the image is what you want it to be!

How to develop a branding strategy

Before you start

brand identity pack for Four Kids by Kids

This brand has a clear purpose—“stimulating the minds of children through positive life-changing experiences”—and a bright color palette that tells the story that it’s ‘Four Kids By Kids’. Brand identity pack by torvs

Your brand strategy will need to be aligned with your overall business objectives as well as your target audience or ideal customer. Make sure you have these in place so that you can develop an effective branding strategy that will work for that customer and help you achieve your overall business goals.

The 5 key elements of a branding strategy

Apple computer

Apple is officially the most valuable brand in the world and is always used as a best-in-class example of an effective brand strategy. Via Pixabay.

There’s no one branding strategy template that every brand uses around the world (well, wouldn’t that be boring?) but there are core elements that most people would agree should be included in an effective branding strategy.

The five key elements we’re going to look at here are: (1) brand purpose, (2) values, (3) brand personality, (4) positioning and (5) brand identity. Here’s how you can go about developing these branding elements for your business.

Tesla’s mission is “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” This is translated into products that go beyond just electric vehicles to include energy solutions like solar roofs. Via Your purpose doesn’t have to be some grandiose social impact. IKEA’s purpose is simply “to create a better everyday life for the many people”. Via

As Simon Sinek said in his now-famous Tedx talk, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” It’s all very well that you have some amazing product or service but communicating a bigger vision for what you’re trying to achieve will attract people who believe in that same vision and ultimately will be more likely to buy from you. Your purpose is the reason why you exist, why you get out of bed in the morning and get to work and why anyone should care.

You may have a very clear idea of why you started your business—because you wanted the freedom to make your own decisions and the flexibility to spend more time with your family, for example—but you’ll need to think about the bigger picture in terms of the result you’re trying to help your clients get, or the impact you want to have in the world. Call it your ‘purpose’, your ‘mission statement’, or your ‘why’—but you need to have a clear idea of your reason for existing (and it can’t be “to make money”!).

Virgin Media’s brand values are “providing heartfelt service, being delightfully surprising, red hot, and straight up while maintaining an insatiable curiosity and creating smart disruption”. Via Google’s “Ten things we know to be true” include “6. You can make money without doing evil.”, “9. You can be serious without a suit.” and 10. Great just isn’t good enough.” Via

Your values are right at the core of your brand: what you want to stand for. As with the brand’s purpose, communicating clear values will attract customers who share those values. Those values will also guide your business decisions and help you make strategic trade-offs. You can’t be everything to everyone, so clarifying your values will help you with decisions like whether your website should be simple and easy to understand or detailed and comprehensive; whether your products should be made of the very best quality materials or you can compromise on quality because affordability is more important; and so on.

Remember that your branding strategy is around differentiation versus your competitors. What qualities can you own and really embed in everything you do? What are your greatest strengths? What values do you bring to your work consistently and without fail?

These values should be meaningful and also actionable. It needs to be clear what this means for how you run your business and work with your clients. Of course you value ‘integrity’, ‘honesty’, ‘good customer service’—otherwise you shouldn’t be in business. Don’t be generic and don’t try to be noble for the sake of it.

Mr Mellow stickers

What personality would your brand have? Character design by Shallu Narula

If your brand were a person, what kind of person would it be? This one is a bit less obvious but can really help to guide your choices when it comes to how you communicate, the kind of content you share and the tone of voice that you use with your audience.

Establish your brand mission, vision, and values

Before you can figure out how to present your brand, you need to first establish what you stand for and who is your target market. Without knowing what you stand for – your mission, vision, and values – even the best branding will quickly fall apart. And of course, being able to communicate this with your market is equally as important to your brand’s success. Follow these tips when establishing the core of your brand identity.

Find the core of your brand identity

Stephanie Powell recommends, “Who are you? What do you do? What problem do you solve, and how do you do it differently from your competition? What do you want your customers to experience as a result of buying from you? You need definitive answers to each of those questions to build a cohesive and effective brand that reaches those you most want to serve.”

Alex Membrillo of Cardinal SEO Company reminds us, “A brand is more than just an identity, such as a logo or slogan. The brand is how consumers identify your company or products. Let your brand represent your company’s commitment to customers, quality, and experience.”

David Adler of The Travel Secret says, “You know what you do and how you do it, but why do you do it? Once you figure this out, you will be able to craft a meaningful and personalized identity that speaks to your audience. Then, look at your competitors and figure out what you can do to set yourself apart from them. Your identity is one of your company’s most valuable assets, so don’t risk it getting mixed up in the pool of others.”

Brian Robben of Robben Media further advises companies to play to their strengths. “Do you want to be known for fast service, or the highest hand-made quality? Pick one. Share it in your marketing. Then be relentless in the execution of that quality. Brand identity starts with the commitment to have one defining trait, keep it in mind daily, and put a dose of it into each of your products or services. Over time, with consistency, the public will identify that pure quality with your business.”

Be authentic when building your brand

1. Authenticity: “Find your authentic truth. Have a real understanding of what your product actually is or does for your particular segment. It’s not what you say you do; it’s what you actually do.”

2. Relevancy: “Position your brand in a way that is meaningful to your target audience. How to do this? By listening. Conduct formal, quantitative research, as well as research by simply talking to people and listening (not selling or correcting).”

3. Differentiation: “To understand yourself, understand others. Evaluate your competition. How does their offer differ from yours? How is your offer unique in comparison to competitors in your market?”

David Drab of Strong Wall Construction adds, “if you’re working to develop or determine your brand identity, a good exercise is a round table with your team. Getting input from various departments and levels of the company allows for a great cohesive approach to discovering your ‘why’.”

Jessica Nicole of Voxtur Marketing advises a long-term approach in building authenticity into your brand. “Authenticity is essential for creating a brand identity, as people know when you’re being fake. You also have to set yourself apart from your competitors in the most positive way possible. Remember that creating a brand identity is not a one-time project at the beginning of your business, it’s an evolutionary process with many iterations which needs to be revised and adjusted often.”

10 Simple Steps to a Winning Brand Strategy

Nia Gyant

In reality, your brand encompasses all the things that make you stand out from competitors as different. Everything from your visual identity to your messaging to customer experience. Not to mention the way people perceive your business, including all of the thoughts and emotions they associate with your brand.

elements of an effective brand strategy

Because branding is so extensive, developing a strategy that works takes both time and careful planning. To help with that planning, consider some guidelines for creating an effective brand strategy for your business.

How to develop your brand strategy

1. Pick your niche(s)

Catering to a niche market may involve offering specialized services, serving specific audiences, or limiting your focus to certain products that best serve the needs of your customers. Why can “niching down” be a smart strategic move?

To lay the foundation for your brand strategy, determine where it would be most worthwhile for you to focus. Considering what you enjoy most and excel at will give you a good start and put you on the path to a dialed-in brand image that supports your marketing strategy.

Effective brand strategy chart defining 'what is a niche'

2. Define your business and marketing goals

Think of where you want your business to be next month, next year, and in a few years from now. Would you like to increase your customer base by a certain percentage? Is establishing a customer loyalty program in the cards for you? Do you eventually want to open another location?

3. Conduct brand research

Of course, you don’t want to be a copycat. However, you can learn a ton from what’s working for them, how your audience responds to certain tactics, and even what your competitors aren’t doing in their branding. Looking at existing brands can give you both creative inspiration and strategic insights to help you set yourself apart from the crowd.

4. Spotlight what makes you different

brand strategy-starbucks dunkin donuts cups

Take, for example, the commercial coffee chains Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. Both sell similar products, but their brand strategies convey different messages to very distinct audiences. And both brands are successful. The same can be true in your case.

Let’s say you own a pizzeria. Yes, there are lots of other pizzerias out there. However, yours is unique in that you serve authentic Italian brick-oven pizza in a setting that takes your customers straight into the heart of Sicily. Your purpose isn’t just to make tasty pizzas; it’s to deliver an authentic Italian experience that locals can’t find elsewhere in the area.

whole pizza

5. Think of your business as a person

Every person has a unique personality. So does every business. In both cases, though, not every personality is memorable. To prevent having a forgettable brand, it can help to envision your business as a person (real or imagined).

Ask yourself: If my business were a person, what kind of person would it be? What traits and characteristics would make it appealing, influential, or memorable? How would others describe their voice, tone, and style?

6. Craft an exceptional customer experience

Customer experience is the great equalizer of businesses. Sure, a competitor might offer the same products or services at a cheaper price, but if they treat their customers poorly or fail to address small but significant details, it won’t matter. People are willing to spend a little more money or time for a better experience.

smiley faces indicating customer experience with a brand

What additional bases can you cover to show your customers that you truly stand for what you say you do? What aspects of your brand can you translate into action when it comes to communicating with, serving, and supporting your customers? Additionally, how can you make it easy for your customers to share their positive experiences with you, especially online?

7. Get involved with your community

Embracing your local community can do wonders for your business. People love to support local businesses and often make the conscious choice to frequent them over large chains. Plus, in contrast to larger companies, you make it possible for people to put a face to your brand, making it more appealing and human.

Personally connecting with customers has a twofold advantage. One, it’s an excellent way to build relationships, establish a great reputation, and turn loyal customers into brand advocates who willingly share their positive experiences with your business. Two, the more you engage with your customers, the better you’ll understand their needs. The insights you gather will allow you to provide more tailored solutions, which means happier customers!

microphone as symbol of brand voice


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