First things first. Your brand is not just your logo, your advertising, your product or even your business name. Yes, it encompasses your brand’s elements, but also how your brand is perceived, what your customers expect, and the feelings they get when they use your products or services.
A branding strategy is basically a plan that encompasses specific, long-term goals that are able to be achieved with your brand’s evolution, and it involves the combined components of your business’ personality that make it both unique and identifiable. If it’s well defined and executed, it will affect all aspects of your business and be directly connected to both your customers and your competitors.
1. What’s my Brand’s purpose?
All brands make promises, but it’s your brand’s defining purpose that’s important because this is what serves as the differentiator between you and your competitors.
Part of understanding your brand’s purpose is defining your brand’s value proposition, which should be functional but also intentional. What makes your brand relevant to prospective customers? What value does it hold in your customer’s eyes? Does your brand currently drive business growth? And importantly, why does your brand exist? These are all questions that will not only help you differentiate your brand from your competitors, but also determine the basis of your branding strategy.
2. What’s my Brand’s personality?
Another important factor to consider when formulating a brand strategy is not only how your customers perceive your brand, but also what type of brand personality you’d like to project.
Ask yourself, what comes to mind when people think about your brand? Does your brand evoke the right emotions and provoke action? Does it convey your business culture positively? Are your brand promises trustworthy? Is your brand sincere, exciting, competent, sophisticated or even outdoorsy? Once you’ve decided what your brand’s ‘angle’ and point of difference is, you can then market it accordingly.
3. Who are my customers?
Next up when considering your branding strategy is to work out who your customers actually are, both current and potential. What do they look like? Where do they live? What types of products and services are they interested in? The list goes on and on, but you get the picture – determining demographic profiles can be a crucial part of understanding what your customers want and need.
Part of this is strategic approach to branding is also defining what benefits your brand delivers to your customers – both functional and emotional. Functional benefits should be specific (based on product range or unique services for example) and unique to your brand, and most importantly, not offered by your competitors!
Emotional benefits are a little trickier to pinpoint, however many of them come down to basic needs. Most people have a basic psychological need to form bonds, feel closely connected to others and to feel like they belong. Which means the decision to use your product or services is not always a rational one. In order to create a branding strategy that aligns with this thought process, you need to find a way to connect to your customers on a deeper, emotional level. Can they trust you? Does your product satisfy a need? Do your services make their lives easier? Does your brand deliver a customer experience that’s consistent across all touchpoints? Emotional triggers like these can be powerful ways to both strengthen the perception of your brand and foster customer loyalty.
4. Who are my best customers?
Yes, building on your customer base is important, but your best customers are also your current customers. Nothing creates more prospecting potential than positive feedback from those that love your brand right now.
These ‘brand ambassadors’ not only set the tone for what potential customers can expect, but they will often go out of their way to review your products, provide ‘feel good’ testimonials of your services, and tell their family, friends and colleagues about you. Just ask for feedback!
5. Who are my competitors?
Once you’ve determined your business branding in terms of your brand’s purpose and personality and who your customers are, it’s time to look at what your potential competitors are doing. Successful products and services are often created in response to either a real or a perceived need, and often more than one business is attempting to meet that need. Competitive awareness allows you to identify the number and the quality of your competitors in order to more accurately determine and position your brand. What are they doing well? What’s not working for them? What’s their point of difference?
And while it’s important to stay abreast (and ahead if possible) of your competitors, it’s also important not to be dictated by every move they make. After all, your goal is to enhance your brand’s uniqueness and build differentiation, not to simply mirror the strategies your competitors are adopting.