How To Create A Brand Strategy Proven 14-Step Framework
Building a Strong Internal Brand Foundation
A brand is only as robust as its internal foundation. The brand-building process begins from within – defining the core purpose, vision, mission and values that will guide your business. This first step is crucial. Without an aligned leadership team and clear organizational identity, your external brand will struggle to gain traction.
Brand vision and purpose stem from company leaders. They set the agenda for the business and define its reason for existing. Your leadership team must develop and commit to:
Why does your company exist? What meaningful impact do you want to create in the world?
Where do you see your business in 5-10 years? What ambitious future state are you working towards?
How will you fulfill your purpose and achieve your vision? What is your business strategy and approach?
What guiding principles and beliefs shape company culture and branding? What values do you expect employees and partners to uphold?
With aligned purpose, vision, mission and values (PVMV), your leadership team can steer the organization towards shared goals. This unity provides a sturdy foundation upon which to build the rest of your brand strategy and external identity.
Without that strategic base, your branding efforts risk being fragmented and confusing. Conflicting visions lead to mixed messages that never truly resonate with your audience. Cracks form in the brand façade.
So take the time upfront to clarify your internal brand PVMV. Make sure all executives are aligned behind these core tenets before attempting to connect with external audiences. This will pay dividends as you craft targeted messaging that bolsters your competitive position.
Your brand framework requires robust foundations before erecting marketing communications. Set the right strategic groundwork, and your brand identity can thrive for years to come.
Defining Your Target Audience: The Foundation for Brand Success
With a solid internal framework established, the next priority is understanding your external target audience. Thriving brands fill a specific consumer need better than competitors. So defining and researching your core customer base is critical for messaging and product development.
Take time to intimately understand target demographics and psychographics using every tool at your disposal, including:
Gather hard data on age, gender, location, income level and other attributes. Segment groups with common traits.
Understand attitudes, beliefs, values, lifestyles, behaviors and motivations that drive decisions.
Directly engage with customers to discover challenges, pain points and desires.
Synthesize research into a few archetypal buyer profiles. Give them names, photos and backstories to humanize.
This immersive process reveals emotional connections between your brand and target groups. Map their consumer journey to identify exactly how and where your company can relieve frustrations and create value.
Such intimate audience insight guides development of branding, messaging and experiences that genuinely resonate. It also informs product innovation and business strategy to better serve this tribe.
With a keen grasp of your core consumer’s worldview, you can transform their lives for the better while growing your organization. So take the time to discover what makes target customers tick, the problems they face and how your brand fits into their world. Building an audience-informed foundation sets you up for communication success.
Mapping the Competitive Landscape: Identifying Market Gaps
With a clear picture of your core target audience, the next step is analyzing competitors already serving that tribe. If consumers are demonstrating interest in your type of offering, chances are other providers exist.
Understanding the competitive landscape allows you to:
– Identify what solutions your audience already has available
– Spot potential gaps or weaknesses in competitor offerings
– Uncover opportunities to improve value and differentiate
The goal is defining open spaces where you can relieve pains and satisfy needs better than existing options. Useful areas of investigation include:
– Compare features, quality, convenience, customization level and other attributes
– Evaluate brand personalities, tones, stories and value propositions
Business model differences
– Contrast pricing, purchase processes, policies, incentives and more
No need to replicate what already exists. Your aim is determining exactly how and where you can enhance lives compared to alternatives. Reflect on questions like:
– How specifically can we serve this audience better?
– What offering gaps can we fill to attract consumers?
– What unique twist can we put on the customer experience?
This clarity allows you to develop differentiated solutions and crystalize messages that give target customers clear reasons to engage your brand over competitors.
Rather than contributing to market noise with a “me too” offering, strategic analysis of player weaknesses helps you rise above the fray. Discovering open spaces and creating better mouse traps tailored to consumer needs sets you apart.
The ultimate goal is ensuring your audience has no doubts about the superior value you provide compared to other options. Competitive research provides the insights to make this possible.
Spotting Blue Ocean Opportunities: Creating Space to Stand Out
With clarity on target consumers and competitor offerings, the stage is set for identifying “blue ocean” spaces prime for differentiation. This landscape visibility allows you to spot potential gaps where introducing new value can disrupt the status quo.
Useful questions for uncovering unmet needs include:
– What pain points or jobs are competitors failing to fully address?
– What weaknesses exist we can improve upon?
– What innovations could delight and surprise customers?
– What new technologies/capabilities can we leverage?
Ideally you discover openings to relieve frustrations, reduce complexity and otherwise enhance lives in ways current options miss.
Beyond just matching existing choice criteria, analyze how to redefine benchmarks entirely. Seek out ways to simplify, eliminate and raise bars that make your solution a no-brainer versus alternatives.
Use insights uncovered to shape differentiated value propositions like:
– Improving speed, performance, accuracy, customization level
– Reducing wait times, shipping, service issues
– Simplifying purchase, onboarding, usage
– Raising enjoyment, relationships and lifestyle fit
Rather than more of the same, your goal is carving out new space with an offering so uniquely tailored to needs that you become the definitive choice.
This clarity and boldness of purpose gives consumers clear, compelling reasons to engage you instead of competitors. Standing for something distinct makes it easier for tribes to self-select you as their brand of choice.
The key is not getting distracted trying to be all things to all people. Nailing down specific gaps to fill and consumer frustrations to relieve provides focus for messaging and positioning not easily replicated.
Forging Connections Through Shared Values and Aspirations
With your differentiated value clear, next comes devising an effective “pitch” to win over the intended crowd.
More than demonstrating capabilities, this stage involves identifying shared beliefs, interests and aspirations that allow your brand persona to resonate.
Useful perspectives here include:
What worldviews and values connect us?
– Do we share similar outlooks on nature, society, business, technology, etc?
What motivations and goals unite us?
– Are we driven by creativity, self-expression, achievement, knowledge?
What attitudes, tones and humor do we have in common?
– Is our style more lighthearted, intellectual, irreverent or earnest?
What lifestyles and identities overlap?
– Do we embrace similar roles, activities, aesthetics and spaces?
Ideally your brand identity stems from and speaks to the core of who your community is and wants to become. More commercial benefits like savings and convenience may provide the initial draw, but over time, emotional rewards like belonging, actualization and influence sustain engagement.
With clarity on shared aspirations, you can then project a consistent personality through all touchpoints – from logo, to language, to environments – that signals “our kind of people” to your tribe. This consistency, when rooted in authentic shared values versus fabricated traits, allows intuitive connections to form over time.
Rather than broadcasting generic claims loudly to all, laser focus messaging to resonate with those inclined to welcome and amplify your vision. Once core advocates spread your brand organically, broader exposure and adoption can grow more easily.
Projecting an Authentic Personality Across Touchpoints
In today’s crowded marketplace, simply touting product features no longer cuts through. With endless options, people instead connect with brands that share their outlook and values.
This makes defining a distinct, relatable personality vital. When expressed consistently across touchpoints, an authentic brand voice attracts your tribe by signaling “our kind of people here.”
Useful perspectives on personality include:
What beliefs and worldviews unite us?
– Are we more idealistic or pragmatic in our philosophy?
What motivations and aspirations do we share?
– Achievement, self-expression, knowledge, etc.
What attitudes, humor and tone resonate?
– Lighthearted, intellectual, earnest, irreverent, etc.
What lifestyles and identities overlap?
– Roles, activities, aesthetics and spaces we enjoy.
Ideally your identity stems from the core values and aspirations of your community. While functional benefits may provide initial appeal, emotional rewards of belonging, actualization and influence build enduring bonds over time.
With clarity on shared ideals, you can then project a consistent personality through all touchpoints. From logo to language, environments to experiences, signal your tribe through cues they intuitively relate with.
Rather than broadcasting generic claims loudly to the masses, focus messaging to resonate with those naturally inclined to welcome your vision. Once core advocates spread your brand organically, broader exposure and adoption follow more easily.
Crafting Value-Driven Messaging
Connecting with an audience starts by addressing that primal itch: what’s in it for me?
When encountering any offer or opportunity, people instinctively weigh potential gains against possible risks. To earn attention amid endless options, you must first prove the value you provide.
Useful perspectives here include:
What outcomes do they desire?
– Appeal to intrinsic motivations and real needs.
What obstacles hinder their progress?
– Show how you dismantle key barriers.
What solutions have they tried?
– Demonstrate clear improvements over other options.
With core benefits established, messaging should then signal this relationship means more than a transaction.
Strategies that nurture enduring bonds include:
Shared ideals and affiliations
– Spotlight aligned beliefs, causes and communities.
Ongoing growth and actualization
– Offer pathways for self-development.
Mutual understanding and respect
– Emphasize two-way communication and transparency.
Essentially, lead with functional appeals proven by facts and data. Then spotlight emotional rewards that evolve from long-term engagement.
When messaging clearly demonstrates you understand an audience and provide real value, they listen. Once convinced the relationship offers more than superficial transactions, deeper bonds form over time.
Weaving Compelling Brand Narratives
Stories captivate audiences unlike any other communication tool. When strategically crafted, brand narratives become high-impact mechanisms for conveying differentiation and value.
What makes stories so engaging?
– They spark imagination and emotion through sensory details that facts and features alone cannot.
– They earn attention by building tension then offering resolution.
– They feel relatable by spotlighting shared hopes, struggles and ideals.
An impactful brand story should:
– Spotlight customer pain points and obstacles the brand aims to resolve. Create tension.
Introduce the Protagonist
– Present the brand as the hero and problem-solver.
– Demonstrate how the brand conquers barriers customers face. Offer resolution.
– Show ideal outcomes and benefits enjoyed thanks to the brand.
– Issue a clear call-to-action to engage the brand and reap rewards.
Essentially, brand narratives showcase the journey from struggle to success. When audiences see themselves reflected in relatable characters who overcome adversity, they feel connected. This emotional bond drives action, turning prospects into loyal advocates.
So make every touchpoint an opportunity to continue the engaging brand story. Let imagination transport them from doubt to delight.
Crafting Compelling Names and Taglines
A strategic brand name and memorable tagline plant perceptions that blossom into preference. When thoughtfully developed, these critical components become conduits for conveying differentiation and sparking action.
The Ideal Brand Name Should:
– Reflect the brand’s purpose, personality and positioning
– Resonate with target demographics and psychographics
– Be distinctive from competitors
– Be easy to pronounce, spell and remember
– Translate well across languages and cultures
The Ultimate Tagline Will:
– Encapsulate the brand promise and value proposition
– Align to the brand story narrative
– Inspire an emotional response
– Provide a clear call-to-action
– Work across various applications
With deep understanding of the ideal customer and competitive landscape, impactful names and taglines emerge. These seedlings take root in the minds of audiences, growing affinity and advocacy.
So be intentional when crafting these critical components. What perceptions do you aim to plant? What actions do you hope to spur? Distill these ambitions into concise, compelling phrases that position your brand for success.
Bringing Brand Strategy to Life Visually
A logo does not a brand make. Too often, business owners put the cart before the horse – rushing to design visual identities before doing the strategic work to understand target audiences and craft differentiated brand positioning.
By this point in the brand development process, you’ve established a solid foundation through:
– Defining your purpose, vision, mission and values
– Researching your ideal customer profile
– Analyzing the competitive landscape
– Determining your unique value proposition
– Shaping your brand personality and tone
– Crafting your brand narrative
– Identifying your brand name and tagline
With all this strategic work complete, you’re ready to translate your brand strategy into visual form.
The visual identity brings to life what the brand stands for. It makes tangible the intangible aspects of brand strategy through:
The logo becomes a visual encapsulation of the brand promise. Its shape, color and styling cues should link back to the personality you wish to convey.
Colors evoke emotion and meaning. Select hues that align to your brand values and desired aesthetic.
Font styles also communicate brand traits through their formality, boldness, or quirkiness.
The textures, lighting, and compositional style of brand photography and graphics should further reinforce the brand identity.
With strategy informing design, your visual identity will authentically resonate with target audiences rather than just decorate your brand.
Bringing Brand Strategy to Life Through Collateral
Your brand collateral encompasses every piece of communication emanating from your business, whether physical or digital. This includes:
– Print brochures / sell sheets
– Business cards
– Retail signage and displays
With your brand strategy and visual identity defined, you now have an opportunity to reinforce strategic and design elements across all brand touchpoints.
Your website becomes a digital manifestation of the brand narrative, using visuals, tone of voice and even layout to tell your story. Printed materials utilize logo, color palette and photo style to maintain continuity. Even point of sale signage ties back to the core identity at retail locations.
By aligning all collateral under the umbrella of brand strategy, you create synergy rather than fragmentation in the market. Audiences receive reinforcing signals at every interaction with your business. This ultimately cements the desired brand image in consumer minds.
Much like a sports team dresses in uniforms bearing its logo and signature colors, your business collates around a unified aesthetic for instant recognition. Brand collateral allows you to “suit up” strategically to convey the essence of who you are and what you stand for to audiences.
With this final layer of strategy and identity implementation, you have all the tools needed for a successful brand launch. Now it’s time to get the word out.
Getting Your Brand in Front of the Right Eyes
Now that you’ve crafted your brand strategy and identity, it’s time to devise an awareness plan to get your message out to the masses effectively.
This stage involves:
Identifying Key Audience Gathering Places
Conduct in-depth audience research to determine:
– Where your audience hangs out online
– What publications or blogs they frequent
– Events or conferences they attend
– Industry groups and associations they are members of
Essentially, you need to understand where they congregate digitally and physically so you can intercept them efficiently.
Prioritizing Channels and Touchpoints
With key audience habitats mapped, analyze each to determine:
– Size of reach
– Ability to target your niche
– Options for ad placements
– Ability to track metrics and optimize
Then rank and prioritize channels based on these factors. Allocate budget and focus to the highest priority touchpoints first.
Developing Tailored Messages and Creative
Now develop custom messages and creative assets tailored to resonate in each unique environment.
For example, your messaging on Instagram may leverage more visuals and emojis than a direct mail piece or trade publication ad.
Executing Your Go-to-Market Launch Strategy
The final step is launch execution. Activate your ads and campaigns, start engaging communities and track performance.
Be agile – optimize based on response and double down on what works. With the right strategy, you’ll intercept your audience where they already exist rather than trying to attract them to unknown channels.
Get your messages in front of your audience efficiently by identifying where they gather today. Meet them on their turf through a data-driven, targeted approach.
Executing Your Go-To-Market Launch Strategy
After all the strategic development and creative work crafting your brand identity, messaging and visual assets – it’s finally time to get your brand out into the world.
This stage is all about execution.
The size and scope of your launch will likely correlate closely to the size of your budget. Those with ample funds to allocate can activate large scale campaigns across multiple digital platforms and traditional media simultaneously.
However, don’t dismay if your budget is more modest. With some grit and guerrilla marketing tactics, it’s still possible to generate awareness and intercept your audience through grassroots efforts.
Here are some launch strategies aligned to budget size:
– Activate Google, Facebook and LinkedIn paid ad campaigns
– Sponsor key industry events, conferences and publications
– Work with influencers and ambassadors to expand reach
– Purchase traditional media placements (TV, billboards, etc)
– Prioritize one digital platform for paid ads (Google or Facebook)
– Sponsor a single, targeted industry event
– Seed product with micro-influencers
– Test print ads in key industry trades
– Identify relevant online communities and engage in conversations
– Comment on industry blogs and insert links back to your content
– Guest post on niche websites
– Leverage owned channels (email lists, social media)
Regardless of budget size, it’s critical to maintain perspective, commit to a timeline that allows for optimization and have a clear definition of what success looks like.
Rather than blowing your entire budget in month one, pace your efforts and analyze data, sentiment and metrics prior to expanding programs. Let those insights guide your path forward in a nimble, accountable fashion.
Analyzing, Optimizing and Evolving Your Brand
Today’s business owners have access to more data and insights than ever before. With the rise of digital platforms over the past decade, an unprecedented amount of information regarding audience behavior and preferences is readily available.
It’s crucial not to let this data go to waste.
Brands that actively analyze performance data and metrics on an ongoing basis are best positioned to optimize, improve and evolve over time. You can leverage analytics to determine:
– Which content pieces and campaigns drive the most traffic and engagement
– What calls-to-action prompt the highest conversion rates
– Where your audience spends the most time on your site
– What messages and value props resonate most with your target customer
Armed with these behavioral insights, you gain the power to double down on what works while phasing out less effective elements.
It essentially provides a real-time feedback loop – straight from your audience – regarding what they respond favorably to and what falls flat. This empowers brands to iterate rapidly, staying aligned to ever-evolving customer needs and preferences.
So in summary, dedication to ongoing analysis, optimization and evolution is the best way to build an audience-centric brand that continues growing in relevance over time. Resist the temptation to “set and forget” your strategy, messages or visual identity. Your customers will let you know what’s working if you commit to listening.
Survival of the Wittiest
Branding today is not for the faint of heart. It’s a competitive landscape where only the savviest survive.
As consumers, we’re inundated with more brand messages and visual identities on a daily basis than ever before. Cutting through the noise to connect and resonate is a monumental challenge.
However, armed with a strategic brand framework – like the 14 steps outlined here – you can develop an audience-centric brand strategy that breaks from the pack. One that speaks directly to the pain points and preferences of your target customer.
This is the only reliable pathway to raising awareness and driving growth in the modern business climate.
So while a logo and visual identity remain important, they are just the tip of the iceberg for crafting a memorable, magnetic brand. It’s the strategic foundation – who you speak to, what you say and how you say it – that ultimately determines success.
Branding today is survival of the wittiest. The brands that deeply understand their audience, competitors and market landscape will continue gaining relevance. They optimize based on real-time feedback and evolve as customer needs change.
In this sense, branding has become a perpetual exercise rather than a one-and-done project. But brands that embrace this mindset are best positioned to turn heads, spark meaningful connections and stand out from the sea of sameness.
After all, the only constant today is change. The brands that lean into this reality will write their own success stories.
Greetings! I’m Jack, founder of Scythos – where I’ve helped over 50 brands transform into unforgettable identities and stunning digital presences. As a brand strategist and creative consultant, I have over a decade of experience taking brands from wallflowers to the centre of attention.
Looking to get your branding noticed and your business thriving? Reach out anytime to brainstorm creative strategies for making your brand impossible to ignore. I love collaborating with passionate entrepreneurs to conceptualize innovative ways to connect with their audiences.
Whether you need help with a logo, website, content or entire rebrand – let’s chat! I’m always eager to share my ideas, creative concepts and expertise to help brands reach the next level. Together, we can make sure your business gets seen and heard. Follow along on social or send me a message to get the conversation started!