The Creative’s Guide to Brand Strategy

Think about the iconic red Coca-Cola calligraphy or the globally famous golden arches of McDonald’s. Both are instantly recognizable brand names. But what came to your mind when you thought about them? Was it the color, the logo design, or their brand positioning?

A color or a design alone does not define a brand. It’s the complete brand strategy that includes the core identity, messaging, communication, and overall customer engagement that attracts customers to their favorite brand.

Simply put, a brand is the reputation and visibility of a company in the minds of its audience. In this article, we’ll show you what a brand strategy is and how you can design a successful brand strategy for your company.

Brand strategy explained

A brand strategy is a formal document that presents a clear and compelling image of the company in the minds of the audience.

While your brand strategy should align with the company’s overall business and marketing objectives, it should also be able to delight the target customers.

Teams need to work on many elements to design an effective brand awareness strategy, including:

  • Color palette
  • Logo design
  • Consistent messaging across the brand website, social media, and all other media
  • Company mission statement
  • Company’s products and services

Why is a brand strategy important?

Retail sector research confirms that customers who emotionally connect with a brand have a 306% greater lifetime value to the company compared to emotionally disconnected customers.

These customers are also loyal to the brand for 1.6 years more than those who aren’t emotionally connected.

There are many branding benefits. With a successful brand strategy, companies can:

  • Increase their share of the customer wallet or total purchasing power
  • Drive growth in newer market territories and for new products and services
  • Achieve greater customer lifetime values
  • Boost stronger brand loyalty and advocate for the brand in the marketplace

Let’s find out the key people responsible for designing and developing brand strategies.

Who is responsible for brand strategies?

All team members have a duty to build, nurture, and grow the brand. They need to support the company and help the organization achieve its objectives.

However, the core responsibility for designing, growing, and communicating the brand strategy lies with the marketing and communications teams.

Brand strategists and managers

A brand strategist is a marketer who adapts the brand strategy and initiatives to suit a specific market or target audience. Brand strategists understand the company’s core products and design personalized customer experiences that grow its revenue and profitability.

A brand strategy manager (also known as a brand development manager) develops brand strategy activities and initiatives, including branding, online and offline promotions, market research, and marketing campaign efforts.

A brand strategist has many key responsibilities, including:

  • Designing brand strategy documentation, including style guides, brand guidelines, value proposition, and brand vision for the long term and short term
  • Planning and executing all communication initiatives on multiple channels such as social media platforms and other media
  • Developing new business opportunities, product development initiatives, pricing, and products
  • Maintaining branding consistency by creating and managing promotional collaterals and related documentation
  • Planning and managing the budget for promotional and advertising initiatives
  • Executing competitor benchmarking and customer behavior analysis
  • Reviewing product sales forecasts, financial reports, and related documentation

Brand strategy managers work with various stakeholders throughout the company. They serve as the leaders and gatekeepers of the company’s entire brand.

A successful brand manager will have a bachelor’s degree in digital marketing or any other marketing field of study. In addition, they will likely have professional work experience as a brand strategist, brand manager, or a similar role in marketing.

To excel in this role, a brand manager would require key skills, such as:

  • Fair understanding of the four P’s of marketing (price, place, product, and promotion)
  • Creative and innovative thinking skills
  • Relationship management skills 
  • Solid focus on results
  • Analytical, reporting, and presentation skills

Creative agencies

Creating, growing, and maintaining a brand can be challenging. By partnering with a branding agency, teams can gain a competitive advantage, design robust brand strategies, and increase their customer base faster.

A branding agency is a specialized company that plans, creates, and measures the results of your brand strategy. It can act as your strategist, designer, or creative team. Most branding agencies offer the following services:

  • Brand positioning 
  • Brand identity (website, tagline, video, podcast, motion graphics, collaterals)
  • Brand audits
  • Market segmentation
  • Brand roadmaps and messaging frameworks
  • Brand guidelines
  • Employer branding strategy
  • Competitor and brand research and analytics
  • Brand name 
  • Brand visual identity, including logo design and color schemes
  • Brand portfolio
  • Brand strategy
  • Brand communications
  • Rebranding
  • Product and packaging design
  • Public relations
  • Brand management
  • Brand training
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Brand rollout and implementation

Before choosing a strategic brand management agency, you must:

  1. Understand the core of your product, its target audience, and the brand identity to be established.
  2. Review the branding agency’s portfolio, past client testimonials, case studies, and awards
    Assess the breadth and depth of the agency’s expertise across marketing, public relations, social media, promotion, and advertising.
  3. Look for some experience in your niche or industry.
  4. Discover how the agency brands itself across its website, social media, and partnerships. Having a visually appealing and consistent brand identity of its own is a good indicator that an agency can do the same for your brand.

Important components of brand strategy

Whether you’re creating your brand strategy from scratch or revamping an existing one, there are some things you should know. Even though most of these elements come from your overall business strategy, other questions may need your attention.

Answer these questions before you craft a brand strategy:

  1. Who are your ideal customers? Outline the challenges they face and how the product will help solve them. Identify where they live, their age, preferences, likes, and dislikes.
  2. Are there any competitors already solving your audiences’ needs? Find out who they are, how they operate, their pricing, product, and promotion strategies.
  3. How do you plan to attract, engage, and retain your customers? Identify the marketing channels your audience uses and the tone of voice required to engage them.
  4. What are your core brand goals? What problems is your brand going to solve? 

Now that the brand goals and audience pain points have been identified, it’s time to review each of the following brand strategy elements.

Brand purpose

The brand purpose is the reason why a brand exists. Apart from driving an entire organization and its people, it also differentiates your brand from a competitor.

Unilever’s Dove is a global brand that aims to make real beauty accessible to every woman. By embracing real women and not professional models in its marketing campaigns, it breaks the media-driven stereotypes of beauty. The brand’s purpose defines and propels the business forward.

Brand values

After defining the brand purpose, it is time to define the core brand values that amplify its mission. Brand values are the central beliefs and ideas that guide brand actions and initiatives.

Zappos is a perfect example of how brand values can be the glue connecting the company with its team. It defines itself as a “customer-obsessed” company. It introduced eCommerce industry-first initiatives such as a 365-day return period, no time limits on customer support calls, and free overnight shipping.

Zappos' brand values have helped it stand out amongst competing brands, boost brand loyalty, and achieve an astonishing 75% repeat client base.

Brand personality

Like humans, brands also have different personalities. A successful brand personality differentiates one brand from another and makes it likable, adventurous, fun, attractive, dull, dated, boring, or annoying.

Start by identifying brand facets defined by emotion, intelligence, behaviors, and characteristics.  They help brand managers and copywriters bring the brand to life by creating a unique visual identity. This defines how a brand looks, thinks, and acts.

As one of the most globally renowned brands, Amazon portrays a sincere, hardworking, and competent personality. Its easy return policy, global product accessibility, and industry-leading, customer-focused approach reflect this.

Awareness goals

It's helpful if your teams know the audience to target or the messaging channels to use for disseminating brand content. But it’s critical to know what they wish to achieve with their brand awareness campaigns.

If you are struggling with this, take a look at some common brand awareness goals and objectives:

  • Increasing website traffic
  • Promoting a new product
  • Enhancing brand reputation in the marketplace
  • Establishing thought leadership
  • Boosting leads, sign-ups, or increasing product purchases

Every business needs to create brand awareness. As the world’s largest athletic shoe manufacturing company, Nike has created a memorable slogan: “Just do it.”

Nike’s brand has embedded itself deep into its customers’ lifestyles. The next time they need to purchase new sneakers, Nike is their first port of call. It has created trust, emotional connection, brand loyalty, and a deep association with its target consumers.

Consistency

Branding falls flat if the messaging, tone, or voice is not consistent across platforms. Don’t share a piece of content just because it’s funny, quirky, or in the news. Make sure the topic is relevant and meaningful for your audience.

Consistency in branding is not just an industry best practice. 90% of consumers expect this from brands too. Use a central style guide that lays out color palettes, tone of voice, and product positioning elements to ensure brand consistency every single time.

Maintaining brand consistency strengthens brand loyalty, which pushes the business forward. Apple is a great example of this, reaching $260 billion in revenue in 2020.

As the world’s most valuable brand eight times in a row, Apple’s products reinforce its central themes of cutting-edge technology and fantastic innovation.

Where to start with a brand strategy

By following the step-by-step approach outlined below, you’ll be able to set up an effective brand strategy that attracts your target audience at every touchpoint.

Investigate business goals

Branding is not done in isolation. It needs to be aligned with the core business strategy.

Whether you are planning for organic growth, social media campaigns, or growing in-store traffic, branding can help you achieve your corporate goals faster.

Conduct competitor research

Scan the marketplace to identify the other companies serving your target audience. Consider all types of competitors:

  • Primary competitors: Companies selling the same product or service to the same audience. For instance, Zappos and Nike both sell shoes in the US market.
  • Secondary competitors: Companies selling products similar to your company’s offering. For example, Red Bull and Coca-Cola are both beverage brands but their individual products are different.
  • Tertiary competitors: Companies who may sell to the same audience but don’t have competing products. For example, Lululemon and Dove sell to a female audience but satisfy different consumer needs.

Understand your audience

Unfortunately, many companies make the common mistake of not carefully identifying their ideal customers. By targeting everyone, they end up attracting no one.

Niching down can be a faster way to build a successful brand. If you identify a smaller market (or niche) within a larger audience, your business can:

  • Command a greater price for the same product
  • Focus on providing a delightful customer experience to a small audience
  • Stand out in the market compared to the other brands that cater to everyone

So, how can you identify and serve a niche audience? Find out who they are and learn everything about them. Start by researching your audience’s needs, behavior, likes, preferences, and challenges. Now customize your products and services to their needs to attract, engage, and retain them.

The Creative’s Guide to Brand Strategy 2
Photo by Balázs Kétyi on Unsplash

Review your positioning

Discover what the customer thinks and feels about your brand. Start by asking questions that will help your team find clarity on your brand positioning, such as:

  • Do you operate differently from other companies on the market?
  • Are you serving customer needs adequately compared to your competitors?
  • Why should the customer choose your product over the others?
  • What is the unique selling proposition of your company and product?

Start by creating a simple 2-3 sentence description of your brand positioning. Check out Nike’s brand statement as an example: “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.”

Refine your messaging

Once your brand positioning is defined, it’s time to translate it into the company messaging. Make it visible to all your internal and external stakeholders, including customers, vendors, suppliers, investors, internal teams, prospective employees, and business partners.

While the core messaging stays the same, its strategy, frequency, and context will change based on the audience.

Design your visual identity

Make your brand stand out by creating unique imagery. The brand’s visual identity comprises distinctive visual elements such as a name, logo, and tagline.

Focus on articulating your brand’s mission and values through the visuals, messages, and colors that your audience would love to connect and engage with.

A globally recognized brand that instantly comes to mind is McDonald’s. McDonald’s brand identity is carefully crafted using a bright yellow, red, and black color palette that showcases its fun-loving and dependable nature.

Create branding guidelines

Branding guidelines, also known as a brand guide or brand bible, translate the company’s mission, values, and purpose and distill them into design elements.

A brand guide maintains the consistency of the brand across platforms, channels, and messaging. Here are the core components of a brand style guide:

  • Typography and fonts
  • Imagery and graphics
  • Colour palette
  • Brand story
  • Logo

Get internal and external feedback

Once all the brand guide documentation and visuals are ready, get input from internal and external stakeholders. Then, incorporate the feedback and make the necessary pivots to launch the final brand visual identity elements.

Top tips for building a digital brand strategy

A digital brand strategy is all about how you communicate and share your brand with online consumers. In the digital world, the goal centers around connecting with customers, boosting customer loyalty, and increasing conversions.

A digital brand strategy might include digital marketing tactics like SEO, content marketing, email marketing, paid advertising, and website experience, to name a few. 

Why does all of this matter? An eCommerce Foundation study shows that 88% of consumers research their purchases online before buying either online or in-store, which means your digital presence is a big deal. Here are three tips for building a digital brand strategy: 

1. Prioritize building a website

Your customers will likely try to find you through one key place on the internet: your website. Your website should reflect your brand identity and positioning and speak to your target audience. 

A website that doesn’t align with your general offline branding efforts can discredit your message and make customers lose trust in your brand. Create a digital experience that’s attractive, informative, and speaks to what your business is and the problems you’re solving. 

2. Use your buyer personas to locate your customers

If you have researched and identified your audience, you have buyer personas you can use as part of your digital brand strategy. Now that you know who your customers are, think about where you might be able to reach them on the web — through organic web searches, social media ads, email campaigns, and more. 

You can use this information to target different segments of your audience through various channels where your message may resonate with them best. Your SEO strategy and paid advertising offer multiple opportunities to connect with prospects and customers, which is essential in the digital space that spoils us for choice.

3. Create a social media presence

It’s no secret that social media is an integral part of your online brand, which means it should be a significant part of your digital brand strategy. Don’t just create social media profiles — make sure you’re actively engaging with your networks and followers. Create a space for your prospects and customers to connect with you.

If you want to make your brand stand out on social media, focus on your digital personality, which includes your tone, types of messages, and whether or not you’re going to use emojis. Consistency will help you build your digital brand on these channels. 

Brand strategy example

Now that you know where to start when developing your brand strategy, let’s look at brand strategy examples to see how you might organize your brand plan. 

These can serve as inspiration or starting point for building your own brand strategy. Here’s a quick look at some of the key elements of three globally renowned brands in a simple and easy-to-use template format.

Starbucks

The recognition and growth of Starbucks didn’t happen overnight but as a result of constantly adapting and evolving its brand. Many beverage and coffee brands exist in the market. So why is Starbucks so famous and recognizable, even after multiple brand relaunches?

Starbucks has perfected the art of storytelling to grow its brand and, ultimately, its business. Let’s take a look at their brand philosophy: 

  • The ‘Why’: “Our mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”
  • Target audience: Starbucks targets on-the-go working professionals and upper-to-middle class consumers who regularly purchase coffee. Customers can save time in their busy mornings by getting Starbucks coffee. They also get an informal location for their business meetings.
  • Competitors: Costa Coffee, McDonald’s McCafé, Dunkin Donuts, Café Coffee Day
  • Brand identity and positioning: The Starbucks brand is instantly recognizable by its iconic green logo, emblazoned with the image of a siren. Starbucks has centered its brand not around coffee but around people. By keeping its brand colors grounded in reality, it represents sustainability, optimism, and joyfulness to connect people and communities.

Coca-Cola

94% of the world’s population recognizes this brand by looking at its distinctive red-and-white logo. Coca-Cola is almost a synonym for carbonated drinks. This omnipresent brand has a 200+ brand portfolio in 200+ countries and generated annual revenue of $38 billion+ in 2021. Let’s dive into its brand philosophy:

  • The ‘Why’: Coca-Cola’s mission is to inspire optimism by action and brand, create value by making a difference, and refresh the world in body, spirit, and mind.
  • Target audience: After marketing to global audiences, Coke started niching down to a secondary market that valued well-being and health over empty calories.
  • Competitors: PepsiCo, Inc., Nestlé S.A., Keurig Dr. Pepper Inc., Groupe Danone, The Kraft Heinz Company
  • Brand identity and positioning: From selling soda, it has moved to sell 200+ beverages, such as sparkling water, sports drinks, and healthy juices. Dasani, Gatorade, Schweppes, Fanta, Minute Maid, Coke, Fuze Tea, Costa Coffee, Georgia, and Innocent are just some of the brands under the Coca-Cola umbrella. The company emphasizes togetherness and sharing in experiences rather than focusing on a specific product. Coke’s purpose summary mentions creating value for customers, supporting communities, and developing a better and sustainable business.

IKEA

IKEA wants to help create ‘your home, your way.’ With a niche and singular focus, this $40 billion Swedish home furnishings retailer invests heavily in market research to understand the evolving needs of its ever-growing customer base.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ikea introduced 2000+ new products to help people create a safer, healthier, and more functional home as part of “The Big Home Reboot” campaign.

  • The ‘Why’: IKEA’s mission is to offer nicely-designed home furnishings at an affordable price so that most customers can buy them.
  • Target audience: IKEA focuses on budget shoppers who want chic, functional, affordable products. It targets customers willing to assemble the products themselves to save on costs.
  • Competitors: Walmart, Amazon, Mayfair, Sears, Tesco
  • Brand identity and positioning: With a blue and yellow color palette, IKEA make its home décor products the center of attraction. Customers know they can find trendy products for their home, garage, or garden in one place.

As you can see from these brand strategy examples, a lot of work goes into creating a successful brand strategy. 

When you’re getting started, jotting down your thoughts and plans in a simple template like the one above can help you organize your initial ideas. You can then set the tasks that you need to complete as you work your way through each stage.

How Wrike can help with your brand strategy 

Brand development is a lot of work and requires organization and planning for success. Here’s the good news: Wrike can help you organize and implement your brand strategy. Here’s how:

  • Use the marketing campaign management template for impactful campaigns focused on your brand message
  • View real-time marketing campaign progress and performance
  • Manage all of your brand strategy tasks and seamlessly collaborate with your team
  • Provide visibility into tasks and assignees to make sure your brand launch stays on track

Building a brand is a big job, but it doesn’t have to be completely overwhelming. Wrike can help streamline operations so you can focus on building the world’s next best brand. Start your free trial today and see.

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