What is branding strategy? Branding strategy helps organizations create clarity and appeal from the inside out. It drives understanding, appreciation, and enthusiasm for who you are, what you offer, and why you matter. It defines the core ideas behind your unique brand promise, and connects those ideas to all of your operations and offerings. A strong branding strategy ensures that the reality of who you are is represented in true and appealing ways, and sets the right expectations among your critical audiences. Branding strategy essentials include positioning strategy, messaging development, naming, brand architecture and visual identity.
1. Strategic Positioning
It all begins with positioning. Positioning strategy is how you make your brand promise clear, differentiated from all others, and meaningful. When done effectively, your strategic position helps you articulate, clearly and compellingly who you are, what you do, and why you matter.
Who you are: to “position” your company is to meaningfully set yourself apart from others in your category or industry. Just as a person’s name and personality identify them as unique among their peers, your organization needs to identify those essential qualities that make you different in important ways, and that you share across your organization.
What you do: this is more than the functions of your organization, or just your products or services. This is your promise to the world. It is the promise you make to your employees, investors, customers and partners. It should be aspirational, so that you can collectively try to live up to it, year in and year out.
Why you matter: this is where the emotional connections are born. What would be missing in the world if you weren’t there to provide it? What aspirations do you have to make a difference in people’s lives? If it doesn’t matter, it’s not worth saying.
A brand message is any verbal expression that communicates your brand promise to an audience. One challenge in creating effective brand messaging is to avoid being repetitive. Delivering the exact same message to each audience over and over can grow stale very quickly.
For that reason, it makes sense to create brand messaging “takeaways” for each audience, rather than word-by-word messages. A brand takeaway is the idea that you want each audience to have in their head every time they hear from you. You should have no more than three to four takeaways for each audience. Brand messages may change over time, but the ideas behind them will stick. Organizations who take this approach to brand messaging strategy create greater brand coherence, and have lasting impact with their audiences.
The below are more permanent brand messaging tools, which should be influenced by the takeaways. The need for these tools vary depending on our client’s industry, goals and audience mix:
Brand messaging principles and tools usually reside in a playbook, containing your strategic positioning, your brand identity, the messaging framework and other verbal tools like the tagline and elevator pitch defined above. They are a key resource for internal and external teams who conduct campaigns, employee recruitment, investor appeals and other marketing efforts.
A good naming strategy starts with what you want to say. Setting clear objective criteria that the name must satisfy – the story the name needs to tell, the tone you wish to set, and the functional conditions it needs to satisfy, make it much easier to create and evaluate good naming ideas.
With clear naming objectives in place, you can develop ideas that respond in different ways. As part of our brand naming strategy process, we explore multiple descriptive and evocative naming options, screening the most promising names for trademark and other usages, and presenting the best solutions.
A key to naming success is helping decision makers envision their brand name as it will exist in the real world. Use it in sentences. Stage it on real life ads or products. Bringing a names to life in these ways can inspire buy in and communication potential.
4. Brand Architecture
Brand Architecture describes the degree of relationship that needs to exist between your company brand and your various product and service brands. The more products and services you have, the more important it is to establish and maintain a clear and rational brand architecture. Otherwise, you risk confusing your audience, or worse, competing with yourself.
Brand architecture strategy take many forms, yet in most cases, it should connect meaningfully to your core promise. The main questions become: “What promise is this offering delivering?” and then “How does this offering deliver our brand promise?” Sometimes, the answer to these questions might mean the product or service needs its own brand, because it fulfills a substantially different promise.
By resolving these and other questions, we turn brand architecture strategy from a purely conceptual exercise into a real, meaningful set of organizing principles and clear decisions. The resulting strategic brand architecture you develop works not only in the present, but it will help you maintain brand coherence in their portfolios as you grow and prosper.
Your brand identity, built with the components defined above, is how you express your uniqueness. It’s about the real value you create for your employees, your customers, your investors, and the world. Brand identity is so important for organizations because it creates clarity, relevance and appeal. The better you know yourself, the more effectively you can help others understand and value you. We help our clients communicate their brand identity in differentiated, relevant and lasting ways, through verbal, visual and organizational tools.
When your brand identity is clear, things fall into place. Decisions become easier. Team members are motivated to do the right things. Customers and investors come to you for the right reasons. Your brand identity should be the driving force behind decisions and behaviors, as well as visual and verbal expression. Strong brand identities build strong customer relationships.
We have helped organizations across industries each define and express their brand strategy through these five fundamental and essential components. Our clients have considered this work to be instrumental to their success as they mature and grow.
Learn more about how Marshall can support your brand strategy needs.