Developing a brand strategyWritten by Andy Kirk
What are the most important considerations when developing a brand strategy?
Good branding is the reason why a glowing golden ‘M’ on a service station sign might instantly make you hungry. As McDonald’s developed its brand, a five-note tune whistled at the end of its adverts became a way of instantly reminding you of your last experience of a Big Mac. Without effective branding that taps into the hearts and minds of the consumer, many of today’s major brands wouldn’t be where they are - and surely Ronald McDonald would more likely be the stuff of nightmares than foodie daydreams.
You may have heard of brand strategy and dismissed it as yet another buzzword from the marketing jargon handbook. But in fact, strategically-informed branding and brand design are essential for resonating with your target audience and, when done effectively, can be the difference between a unique, commercially viable product and abject failure.
How to develop a brand strategy
Developing a brand strategy requires extensive planning. You need to discover what makes your business unique from other brands that offer a similar product or service. Not everyone is entirely sold on the classic Apple design of black or white on grey, but the consistency of their design helped them to function as an alternative - and some may say archnemesis - to Microsoft. Similarly, the rivalry between Nike and Adidas may not have been intended, but through sticking to different and distinctive designs, fans of sport and fashion were encouraged to pick a side.
In terms of your own brand strategy, you need to look at the purpose of your brand and what it could and should mean to consumers.
When developing a brand strategy, you should:
Identify your audience
If you were asked who you want your brand to appeal to, of course you could be tempted to say ‘everyone’. It would be a dream to create a brand that appeals to every demographic, psychographic, geographic or behavioural segment. However, in reality, people over the age of 80 are as likely to be interested in gaming as children below the age of 10 are to be interested in banking.
All successful brands have clearly defined their target audiences. To paint a picture of your brand’s audience, conduct research (qualitative and quantitative if possible) to understand their specific needs, wants and behaviours. For instance, North American tech company Morning Consult has carried out research into the most loved brands based on demographics. The results suggested that people considered within the gen z or millennial demographic are typically drawn to new age online streaming services, whereas boomers are more drawn to delivery services and DIY stores.
Pick a name and stick to it
Your name, logo and slogan are among the first things potential customers will see, so they need to be eye-catching and appealing. These elements are central to creating a brand’s identity and making your business recognisable. You also need to remember that naming and branding are intended for your target audience - not your colleagues - so don’t base your decisions solely on internal feedback from within your team.
If you’ve held the same brand name for a long period of time, assess it to make sure it still suits your vision. Also check that it rolls off the tongue and isn’t easy to confuse with another pre-existing brand. It’s all well and good naming your brand based on it’s exact purpose or origin, but it’s pointless if nobody can say it without needing a sit down afterwards. For example, there’s a reason why Bayerische Motoren Werke decided to go with BMW.
In some cases, it may be necessary to change your brand name, but make sure you refrain from changing it too often. It will be difficult for consumers to feel a connection to it if it’s always being tweaked. Forbes claims that a consistent brand can increase revenue by 23 per cent. Google has its origins in a search engine named ‘Backrub’, but it seems self-explanatory as to why it changed its name before Google took off.
Consider each aspect of your strategy
The best brand strategies are holistic. Aside from focusing on your brand’s long-term goals, you should look in detail at:
- whether you’re looking to grow organically or set aside a budget for paid marketing
- increasing brand visibility and reputation through an effective content marketing strategy
- researching competitors to determine why customers would benefit by opting for your brand instead
- building a messaging strategy, determining the correct tone of voice and setting out how you will communicate with different parts of your audience
- developing a website for the brand and securing the domain name as early as possible
- regularly tracking and adjusting your strategy to ensure it’s as effective as it can be.
What is the value of a brand within a marketing strategy?
Establishing a clear, appealing brand is essential for:
- connecting with your audience on a last emotional level
- ensuring your business is relevant both now and in the future
- making you unique and providing clear differentiation from your competitors in the eyes of your target audience
- driving rate and volume of sale, repeat purchase, ongoing loyalty and customer advocacy.
Effective branding can even influence the way your audience recognises the meaning behind words and phrases. For example, KitKat redefined the phrase ‘taking a break’. By creating their ‘Have a Break - Have a KitKat’ slogan, the company was able to show customers the value of a break - whether from work or merely their current task - while being drawn back to the same chocolate snack. This strategy can take mere taglines and grow them into something far more influential in the way consumers link information back to certain products.
Customers often stay loyal to products when their branding is reliable and recognisable. Just think about all of the brands you’ve decided to stay loyal to and question why. Do you like the trainers you’re wearing for the design? Is your go-to take away based on a preference of chicken over beef? Are you more drawn to Xbox because the controllers are more ergonomic than Playstation? Or is it something less concrete than this and more connected to your emotions and the way the branding makes you feel? By realising the importance of your own branding, you can help to elevate the image and success of your business.