Brand Strategy Essentials

By Blake Holmes

Whether you’re trying to understand an existing brand, or develop a new one, strategy is essential. From market analysis to brand development, identity, an initial comms strategy and all in between, an effective brand strategy takes time, planning and when done right, is the difference between sucking or succeeding. 

But as complex as a comprehensive brand strategy is, there are some undeniable essentials. Fundamental and foundational, understanding these three things, when a surprising number of SMB’s haven’t given them a thought, will help you gain insight into your brand, business and ensure you place your best foot forward when you venture into your respective markets to innovate and inspire.

Foundation 

Your foundation is your bread and butter. Your rational, tangible product or service offering, and ideally, one that is unique to you. For example, Apple’s foundation are their innovative products and unique operating system that characterise the Apple user experience. Both the design aesthetic and OS are market differentiators. A rational reason to purchase Apple products. They differ from competitors. Mr Whippy’s foundation is mobile dessert provision. So why is this important? Your foundation was and is your starting point. The idea you devised at that eureka moment when you saw a gap, a market opportunity and a solution. Countless brands begin with a foundation, then drift away from it. Whether it’s diversification of product lines too early, or a foundation that isn’t rooted in any unique, differentiating IP, a poor foundation gives you the potential to falter. Know your foundation, then get to work perfecting it.

Positioning 

Positioning is equally important. You could have a seamless brand identity, a great product or service, but if crafted independently and without consideration of your intended place in market, it could fall short. A positioning matrix is a simple step to understand this and identify market potential. Simply draw an X and Y axis with relevant indicators, place pins where your competitors are, look for gaps, and go where others aren’t. If there are no clear gaps and the market is densely populated, ask yourself what innovations you have made that give your product competitive value and justify occupying your intended positioning. For example, a new energy drink is entering market, with a focus on natural ingredients, taste and nightlife culture. They create various positioning matrixes one being price (low - high) and ingredients (artificial - natural). They then position competitors in their respective places on this landscape. They identify a gap in the market for natural ingredient beverages at both a higher and lower price point. Further research indicates a target consumer of 22-35, socially active, who would consume the product at bars, clubs and festivals. Understanding the presence of cheaper alternatives with artificial ingredients in these environments, and the relative disposable income of their intended consumer, they decide to position the product at a market premium, focusing on a culture of taste, adventure and relative healthiness compared to alternatives. This process is essential and should be performed while conceptualising your offering to greenlight it’s development and sale.

Essence 

Last but not least is your brand essence. Your why. 

Your brand essence is inarguably important and while it’s absolute relevance is contestable based on industry, niche and target consumer, it is fundamental for any business owner trying to better understand their brand offering and purpose for existing. Nike’s brand essence is Just Do It. Three simple words that encapsulate a brand ethos of relentless ambition, persistence and motivation. An impassioned plea to consumers to throw caution to the wind and pursue their personal development. This permeates everything they do, from product design, to messaging, tone of voice, market positioning and even their internal attitude and culture. Consider your rational brand offering, then the emotional consequence of it’s provision. For example, the merger between our client Colliers and HOAMZ symbolised a connection between two brands hoping to connect others. At their core, they provided houses. On a deeper level, they connected families with homes, communities and new lives. ‘Be Connected’ became a brand essence that inspired a new direction, shaping comms, the re-brand and the partnership between the two. Drill deep into your product/service and your motivations. Find an essence that feels right and get to work living and embodying your why. 

These are just a start, but a good one. Start your brand strategy with these exercises and you’ll be well on your way to understanding your brand, new or old, with a foundation to build and grow from and work towards success. We take our clients through these steps  and more with our comprehensive brand workshops. If you need help understanding your brand and potential, give us a call.

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