A brand strategy sounds complicated, and it shouldn’t be. We’ve prepared this step-by-step guide to simply help you develop your own.
Time needed: 40 minutes
4 steps to develop an effective brand strategy.
- Find your brand core
This is the set of beliefs that influence everything a brand does. It’s your purpose, mission and vision.
- Develop your brand messaging
Create your brand essence (personality, tone and voice) then tell people about who you are.
- Create your brand’s visual identity
A brand needs to be easily identifiable. As a minimum, every brand will comprise a logo, typography and colours that set it apart from its competitors.
- Create brand guidelines
This verbal and visual aid will equip you with the tools to apply your brand consistently.
Before we dive in let’s answer the question…
What is a brand?
There are hundreds of definitions of what a brand is. There’s the wordmark or logo used to identify a business product or service. But brands are more than physical marks, they have emotional attributes too. A brand is what people think, feel and say about your business.
What is a brand strategy and why do you need one?
A brand strategy defines who you are and what you stand for. It’s a promise you make that resonates with your audience.
With a brand strategy in place, you will:
- Understand your purpose, mission, vision and values so you can make marketing and business decisions.
- Clearly articulate your brand’s purpose
- Unify and educate your team
- Communicate consistently to attract people who share the same values
- Define your voice to stand out in the marketplace
Where to begin
Before you get started you need to know:
- Who your customers are so you can connect with them in a meaningful way? The best way to do this is to create your buyer personas. When you know who your customer is you can solve their challenges.
- What you are up against so you can carve out your niche to stand out from the competition. A competitive analysis will help you understand where your brand is positioned against your competitors.
Download a FREE Competitive Analysis template
STEP 1: Find your Brand Core
A brand’s core is made up of four elements that help you define who you are, what you do, and why you matter. When documenting your brand’s core, you need to ask what is our…
- Purpose: The reason we exist
- Vision: The future we want to be a part of and what will that future look like?
- Mission: What are we here to do and how can create that future?
- Values: Principles that guide our behaviour along the way.
These core beliefs influence everything your brand does. Aligning those beliefs with your business helps attract a community that supports what your brand stands for.
STEP 2: Develop your Messaging
Once you document your brand core and know who you are, you define your Brand Messaging. That talks about who you are while Brand Essence expresses who you are. Defining each ensures you communicate consistently, honestly and can build trust with your audience.
Establish Your Brand Essence
Don’t overthink your brand essence, it’s intrinsic and consists of:
1. Identify your personality.
Your personality is your brand’s human characteristics and attributes. Are you curious and enthusiastic? Elite and sophisticated? Wild and crazy? Your personality is a reflection of your Brand Core, influenced by your beliefs and demonstrated in your behaviour. When you have an intimate understanding of your personality, you can infuse it into every aspect of your brand, from your customer service process to your product descriptions. This is a powerful way to differentiate yourself and cultivate relationships.
2. Identify your brand voice.
This is the way your brand sounds and speaks. And every brand voice is unique. A sports brand won’t speak the way a fast-food brand will speak. And one sports brand will speak differently to another. Your brand personality influences your brand voice so you can articulate that and communicate consistently.
3. Identify your tone.
A brand’s tone is its attitude. For example, the brand voice may be authoritative, but the tone is polite. Think of it as your brand’s voice is how you talk, and the tone is how you talk in different contexts. Your brand will always use the same voice and vary the tone depending on who you’re talking to.
When deciding on tone think about how you want to make people feel. Should you talk to them in an informal tone like you’re a supportive and encouraging friend or an assertive tone with confidence and authority?
A good start is choosing 2-3 words that describe your tone. For example – cooperative, collaborative and inviting.
With your Brand Essence articulated, you now have the foundation to communicate who you are at every touchpoint. If you do this well and consistently your brand will resonate with like-minded audiences and grow from strength to strength.
Create Your Brand Messaging
There are many ways to talk about who you are, what you do, and why people should choose your brand over your competition. Let’s start with the main requirements…
1. Define your value proposition.
Your value proposition explains the functional and emotional benefits your brand provides customers. It’s more than just about who you are and what you do differently (your positioning); it’s also how you solve their problem and why they should choose your product or service over the competition.
2. Develop your tagline.
Your tagline is a sentence, expression, or word used to summarize your market position. Developing a tagline takes time to ensure it captures the essence of your brand. You need to brainstorm options and review them to make sure they are unique. With time and consideration, you’ll develop a tagline that distils what your brand stands for and resonates with your audience.
3. Identify your messaging framework.
A messaging framework is a collection of your efforts. It keeps you in character when communicating with your audience. You will define the main stories you want to tell about your brand that make you unique. All content you create should reinforce your key messages across all touchpoints.
STEP 3: Create your Visual Identity
When we think about branding, we think of a brand’s visual identity: logo, typography and colours. These are complemented by other elements such as imagery.
A strong visual identity has purpose. It isn’t designed to suit a trend; it’s designed to be the face of your brand in the future and should be:
- Adaptable so it can grow with your brand as you add new products and services
- Inclusive to provide designers, content creators and internal teams the assets they need to do their job
Good logos are distinctive and memorable. They are easily recognised and impactful in different media and at varied sizes to represent your brand. Logotypes vary and can comprise many different forms.
Typography is an extension of your logo. It’s important to choose typefaces that align with your brand in different media. That’s because what works on your website, may not work on your packaging and other applications.
Colour plays a powerful part in branding and can affect everything from brand perception to purchasing intent. Colour associations are subjective and will evoke different emotions depending on the colours chosen.
Imagery and Illustration
So much of your brand is communicated through visual media. It’s important to choose images and/or illustrations that align to your brand. Avoid combining too many colours and visual styles that will muddy your brand aesthetic.
If you cannot commission a photographer or an illustrator there are lots of resources available.
Free stock sites offer a huge variety of quality images and footage from contributors. The downside is you’re likely to see the same images and videos across the web. Pexels and Unsplash are our top choices for those on a tight budget.
Paid stock sites offer better quality and are less likely to appear in a competitors brand comms. Prices vary depending on subscription types, licencing and exclusivity. Shutterstock, Adobe Stock and Getty Images are our stock photography and video footage favourites.
STEP 4: Create your Brand Guidelines
The last step in developing your brand strategy is creating brand guidelines. These will equip you with the tools to apply your brand consistently. They strengthen your brand by providing direction and examples for content creators and graphic designers to follow. A comprehensive brand guideline will reference both your visual and verbal identity.
- Verbal guidelines
- Brand essence (personality, voice, tone)
- Tagline (brand claim)
- Value proposition
- Messaging framework
- Visual guidelines
- Imagery (photography, illustration)
- Internal communication examples
- External communication examples
- Video and other interactive elements