A Brand Strategy Foundation
"The important thing is that you've got a strong foundation before you start to try to save the world or help other people" - Sir Richard Branson
Brand strategy is the backbone of all successful businesses. When I say brand strategy, I am referring to a firm's overarching direction that is more "big picture" than a marketing or product strategy. A brand strategy is built by identifying a firm's internal core values, its customers, and how it wants to position itself in a marketplace.
A major difference between a brand strategy and a marketing strategy is that the latter is focused on a specific product or service - but a brand strategy will provide a platform for every facet of the business (operations, marketing, sales, etc.) to build off of; a guiding light.
With that, here are three reasons why your firm (big or small) needs a strong brand strategy foundation:
Reason #1: Gain Consumer Trust Faster
Consistent messaging that is rooted in strategy creates a brand. In order to truly be the first brand on the mind of a consumer when that purchase decision is just a seed in their brain, you have to earn their trust as quickly as possible. The best ways to earn that trust is by presenting your brand's values and positioning your brand in a consistent way.
Let's use Patagonia as an example. When you think Patagonia, you are hopefully thinking about nature, the environment, or, for bonus points, their anti-consumerism advertising campaigns. These all ring-true to Patagonia's mission statement of "We're in business to save our home planet," but they didn't just stop there. Their mission statement, combined with their core values and actions, has created a solid brand strategy against the positioning of its competitors.
Because the consumer knows what Patagonia stands for and positions the brand as such, Patagonia's marketing actions affirm these values and amplify the brand more effectively. The Patagonia brand knows who it is. They especially stayed on-brand when they stopped adding custom logos to its products because they found that "adding an additional non-removable logo reduces the life span of a garment," prioritizing brand values over revenue opportunities.
Reason #2: Provide a Platform for Creative Ideas
Creativity drives marketing and sparks interest from the consumer. By creativity, I don't mean just copy lines, Super Bowl ads, or outrageous activations. There are a number of other ways that a firm can be creative, including: a firm's use of first-party consumer data, maximizing a shoestring budget, how they can position a product in the mind of the consumer - the list goes on.
When your business has a strong brand strategy, you establish a framework for which creative ideas can be brought to life. The brand strategy will make it easier for creative ideas to arise because you will already have most of the strategy out of the way: your creative team will be informed as to who the consumer is, which marketing channels are most effective for these consumers, and know how your brand should communicate with them.
Let's take Red Bull. Their brand strategy is clear: they kick life up to the next level in a different way. When Red Bull emerged, their competitors in the energy market were the coffee, tea, and soft drinks of the world. The world didn't know they needed an alternative, so Red Bull had to be different.
Once this brand strategy was established, they were able to establish effective brand partnerships, change their distribution channels, sponsor individual extreme sports athletes, and even create a network of branded sports clubs across the globe. Each idea, more different than the next, but they all make sense for Red Bull.
From an advertising point of view, Red Bull has stayed with the same campaign "Red Bull Gives You Wings" for years. While GoPro sponsored the Super Bowl ad featuring Felix Baumgartner's jump, Red Bull was there as they sponsored his suit - staying true to their brand strategy. Because of their clear brand strategy, these marketing activities fit with Red Bull and fit with the Red Bull positioning in the consumer's mind.
Reason #3: More Effective Marketing Spend
This may be the most important reason for the marketer. Having established that a brand strategy will quickly convey your brand's values and provide a guiding light for messaging specifics, your marketing spend will become more efficient. A brand has already done the work to identify internally how it wants to present itself to the public and how it wants to operate - now its about making sure the right channels are used.
Your solid brand strategy will be conveyed through your logos, sponsorships, advertisements, etc. and will allow for your consumers to understand your brand values more quickly. When they understand what your brand stands for and what position it occupies in their brain (example: Rolex means luxury), every dollar in your marketing budget becomes more effective because you don't have to spend that budget explaining your brand.
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