Do you need to pour the foundation before you build a house? Yes – of course. You can’t build a house that doesn’t have a foundation – it will crumble! In the same way, a brand strategy is the foundation for all of your marketing activities, and arguably all of your company’s business activities. Some of the biggest marketing mistakes we see are from companies who begin to spend money on marketing, before thinking through their brand’s foundation. Brand strategy drives your messaging and the execution of your marketing (creative, tactics, channels); spending money on tactics before you know your strategy is a waste of money.
Let’s first consider - what is a brand?
A brand is the core of what you want customers and consumers to think of when they think about your business. Your brand is what your company stands for, it is the principles your company lives by and embodies, it is what uniquely identifies your company. It is your “mark” for your company, and the perception you want to create in your customers’ minds about the qualities and attributes of your business.
There are 3 key pillars to a brand strategy - you can think of it like a 3 legged stool – the stool won’t hold up if one of the legs is broken – it all needs to work together. You need to ask yourself several critical questions about your business or brand in order to develop these three pillars:
1) Who is my business’s consumer or customer?
2) What is my company’s point of difference?
3) What is my unique positioning within the market?
Let’s look at each question and understand how they serve to shape brand strategy.
Who is my business’s consumer or customer?
We are always amazed at the number of companies we meet who don’t know who their customer is. We see companies that are already selling products/services and have no idea who is buying them and why. How can you create a marketing campaign if you don’t know who you are speaking to and what is important to them? You may think it’s difficult to find out about your customer – but it’s not. There are a lot of easy, cost effective, or even free ways to learn about your customer! Knowing who your customer / consumer is, and what drives their decisions, is the most important piece of marketing – and is pillar number 1.
What is my company’s point of difference?
This tells customers why they should buy your product or service rather than your competition’s. Your point of difference is your competitive edge – it is what makes your company unique and better than your competition. You want your point of difference to be defendable and own-able. If it’s not, what’s to stop a competitor from claiming the same point of difference? A strong, clear, own-able point of difference is pillar number 2.
What is my company’s positioning within the market?
There are several different aspects of marketing that positioning relates to, and no surprise here - positioning is pillar number 3. First, positioning forces you to consider your company, and its strengths, within the context of your competitive environment. A perceptual map is a useful tool to develop when thinking about your positioning. It requires you to define the most important attributes or benefits in your industry, and examine how your brand stacks up to the competition in relation to these benefits. This is a great exercise that aids in articulating a relevant, and unique positioning message. Another useful exercise for developing brand positioning is to write an actual positioning statement. A formal positioning statement isn’t something that customers will ever see, but it is a process that we have our clients go through because it hones the critical components of a marketing strategy. A good positioning statement defines who your customer is, your company’s frame of reference (ie, the industry your business operates in and its competitive set), your company’s point of difference, and why your point of difference is credible.
Lastly, to provide a real-life example of how this can all play out in communications, we took a look at a relatively new brand who we think does a great job with clear communication -- and then attempted to extrapolate their brand strategy. M.Gemi * www.mgemi.com.
All of their communications are razor sharp on who they appeal to and what their credible point of difference is. Here are a few of the very first communications you encounter if you visit their website.
Italian shoes made the old way, sold the new way
Italian artisans made these shoes for you by hand – act accordingly
The new standard for high standards
Post luxury embraces the best of luxury while presenting a modern approach to pricing and access
In our minds, we envision their Brand Strategy would read something like this:
Customer: Men and women who appreciate luxury goods, but are also modern day shoppers (buy direct from brands, expect competitive pricing)
Point of Difference: Quality, luxury shoes at fair prices
Positioning: Modern luxury
Positioning statement that could read like this….To men/women who appreciate luxury goods and are also modern day shoppers, M.Gemi is the shoe brand that brings you quality, luxury shoes at fair prices, because they are made by Italian artisans with a high quality standard.
We love their clarity of communication, and we hope the example is helpful!
In our upcoming blog posts, we will provide more details on various aspects of building a strong brand strategy…..so stay tuned!
If you have questions, or need help in the meantime, feel free to contact us – firstname.lastname@example.org!
*note: this is just our opinion on their communication – we do not work with this company or have any specific knowledge of their strategy other than our own observations.