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Brand Management

A Guide to Brand Strategy

January 25, 2024 1 minute read
Learn how a well-executed brand strategy reinforces your position in the market
Color photo of four people sitting at a table in front of a computer monitor in an office

Getting people to know and trust your brand requires more than a great logo. You need a focused brand strategy that defines what your brand believes in, who your customers are, and how you plan to engage with the world.

Once you’ve developed a strategy, you have to infuse your brand in all your marketing collateral, distribute it across every channel, and ensure it creates a consistent brand experience. Sound intimidating? It can be, but it’s also entirely possible to design and execute a successful brand strategy when you break it down into manageable parts.

Whether you’re a new organization looking to make a mark or an established company going through a brand relaunch, many of the same principles and steps to a successful brand strategy apply. This guide includes the most important components of a brand strategy and tips on how to get started.

What is brand strategy?

Brand strategy is a collection of brand values, audience profiles, usage guidelines, voice and tone direction, and a long-term vision on how to consistently build your brandIt’s everything from your highest-level value proposition to the details of how you present your brand visually. Brand strategy contains the “why” behind your brand and all the instructions for how to communicate with your audience.

When companies talk about branding, goals can get blurry and hard to measure fast. It’s easy to think you can get by without creating a clear brand strategy, but valuable brands don’t grow with just luck (although they’re occasionally boosted by “lightning strikes” of momentum). Memorable brands have clearly defined strategies that help establish them in an industry, grow their market share, and adapt to stay around for generations. Coca-Cola may have had a stroke of luck in being first to market, but its brand strategy has evolved for more than a century to stay relevant. 

Your brand strategy is what you refer to when someone asks, “Is this on brand?” And it’s an evolving approach as much as it’s a collection of information. Remember, it takes years of consistent execution to grow a brand like Nike, Apple, or Google. 

Brand strategy isn’t just your product, logo, or name. It’s how your company presents itself, its personality, and how you want people to feel when they interact with your brand. Your brand strategy is ultimately what helps people trust your company and build a lifetime relationship with your products, services, or solutions. 

Why is brand strategy important?

Whether your company is B2C or B2B, enterprise or small to midsize, your brand strategy brings your products and services to life in the minds of your customers. For example, your brand may be strongest when your company’s excellent customer service is in action. If people know you for consistent, clear, beneficial interactions, they’re more likely to come back and buy from you. If they know you as slow, hit-or-miss, and unreliable, they’ll take their business elsewhere. 

Your brand strategy not only displays and communicates who you are, it brings your competitive market position to life. What comes to mind when you think of Starbucks? Coffee. That answer took years of focused effort by their company and millions of dollars of investment in branding and marketing. Of course, they started with a great logo, an amazing product, and initial grassroots support, but they also used a brand strategy to grow and become synonymous with coffee in people’s minds all around the world.

Let’s try another example. When you think of electric car manufacturers, who comes to mind? Tesla. They established a dominating brand position, and now, globally recognized brands like Ford and Mercedes have to catch up to even begin to compete for EV market share. People buy Teslas because the product has a great design and functions well, but they also buy it because it’s often the first electric vehicle that comes to mind when shopping for something that’s proven and well-loved. And that’s no accident; that’s brand strategy. 

B2B companies can do this too. Who comes to mind when you think of networking equipment? Cisco. Industrial chemicals? DuPont. Airplanes? Boeing. Computer processors? Intel. When people think of you first, this type of brand association also comes with “brand equity.” It’s the amount people will pay for brand-name products or services. People or companies will pay top dollar for products with top-tier brand recognition.

So how do you get to this position in a market? It takes investment in brand assets, technology, talented teams, and time — lots of time for cycles of interactions with customers, media recognition, and product life cycles to grow together. But becoming top-of-mind in an industry always starts with developing a clear brand strategy.

Tips for launching a brand strategy

A solid brand strategy helps you capitalize on opportunities and gain a competitive edge. It’s clear, detailed, useful, and organized as simply as possible. And every brand strategy needs space to evolve. So where do you start? By understanding the people who are most likely to interact with and buy from your brand: your audience.

1. Define your audience

Think about your audience first when building your brand strategy. Be clear about who you’re speaking to, how you can help them, what inspires them, and how your brand serves them. Whether you’re offering a consumer product or an enterprise solution that makes someone’s life easier, you need to define who you’re building a relationship with. 

Start by identifying an individual. Are you talking to C-suite decision-makers? What channels do they use for research? What problem are they trying to solve? You can develop customer personas, but remember to keep them simple to begin with and avoid trying to create advanced psychographics before you have more data. Once you have a handful of individual personas, take a step back to define the audience segment. 

These details will help you personalize content delivery down the line and choose what marketing channels to invest in. Is your main customer more likely to read an email newsletter, browse Instagram, or look on LinkedIn? Knowing the answers to these types of questions — or at least identifying them for discovery — early on will help you build and grow a strong brand.

2. Establish your purpose

It’s crucial to identify, simplify, and communicate your purpose clearly. Why does your brand exist? What does it believe in? These are the connection points that create real relationships with your customers. If you want to get this right, revisit Simon Sinek’s inspiring TEDx Talk on why great brand leaders inspire action.

When your brand has a strong purpose, customers buy from you because they identify with what you stand for. It could be a social purpose like Toms, an environmental purpose like Dr. Bronner’s, or the desire to make technology beautiful and easy to use like Apple. If you’re in information security or network services, your purpose could be to protect communities and families by building secure networks for government and public agencies. 

Your brand’s purpose needs to put the “why” first. It can’t just be a running list of features and benefits. Find the emotional connection and tie those to the solutions your brand offers. Remember what Simon Sinek said: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” 

3. Set the tone

Define the tone of how your brand engages with its audience. Are you professional and straightforward with a conversational tone or strictly business? The best way to think about this is to imagine the people you do business with and the conversations you have in real life. How do you talk with each other? Identify the qualities that stand out and list them in short order. 

This can apply to everything from copy to your visual communication. Define what kind of imagery you’ll use for your website and other channels. Get clear about what you want to communicate through your choice of font, brand colors, and logo presentation. 

Tone is a subjective experience and can be hard to explain, but some companies do it well. Drupal offers a  great example. Take a look at the layout of the organization’s content style guide to see how the use of color-coding, bold text, and jump links helps readers quickly understand what Drupal defines as desirable content.

4. Maintain consistency

Brand consistency is one of the most important elements of any brand strategy. The Nike swoosh is a famous logo, but people didn’t start off knowing who Nike was or what it stood for. It took years of consistently presenting that logo alongside recognizable brand assets, on products, and on famous athletes to develop the recognition Nike has today. 

Once you know your audience and have a clearly defined brand purpose and tone, stay true to it in everything you do. Your customers will get to know and recognize your brand through every interaction they have with you. With consistency across every channel — including social media, ads, emails, and product packaging — you create strong brand recognition.

When someone asks their friends or colleagues where they should buy their next [insert product type here], they’ll recommend your brand without thinking twice. That kind of trust only comes from maintaining brand consistency. 

5. Develop brand assets

With everything above defined and a commitment to consistency established, you can start to create and update your brand assets. Logos, marketing and campaign images, social media material, and videos — you’ll need every type of asset (and then some) in today’s digital landscape.

You’ll also need a central library to store all the latest versions and make your brand assets available to global teams. This is where a digital asset management (DAM) system comes into your brand strategy. To create the omnichannel consistency your brand requires, you need technology that’s purpose-built for brand management, which includes storing, organizing, and publishing these brand assets.

6. Track and measure results

If you invest all this time into brand strategy, you need to track key performance indicators (KPIs) to make sure it’s working. How do you measure a brand strategy? It depends on your goals. Your method will include some combination of content engagement on all channels, conversions, and customer metrics. 

Although you can take into consideration some common content metrics to get started, you’ll want to develop your own unique formula — just make sure you bake this into your brand strategy from the beginning.

Differentiating between various brand terms

There are many terms under the wide umbrella of brand strategy. Brand identity, brand guidelines, and brand positioning are three of the most popular. Let’s break these down and explain what they are so you can see how they’re different from brand strategy but crucial to include. 

Brand identity

Brand identity is everything that makes up your brand — from brand colors and voice to customer support. Your brand identity helps people recognize you, resonate with your brand, and trust that your company offers the best purchase decision. 

But ensuring your brand has a strong identity in the minds of your audience isn’t easy. There are dozens of factors to consider, including how you communicate with customers on social media, how you’re perceived in terms of quality and price, and what messages you send about your business overall. 

There are lots of different components that build up your brand identity — like logos, copy, and your website’s homepage — and they all have their own purpose in reinforcing your company's core message. With a fully equipped brand identity kit, you can easily share everything that’s essential to creating your brand identity with any internal or external stakeholders.

Brand guidelines

Brand guidelines provide specifications for how a brand should be presented. They include instructions for how to use elements such as logos, colors, typefaces, taglines, and much more. Organizing these details saves time when creating and reviewing new marketing materials, working with new agencies, or communicating with global teams. They help to ensure that your brand is represented consistently across all platforms and projects.

Almost no detail is too small for this component of brand strategy — logo sizes, brand color HEX codes, and dos and don’ts for taglines. Your brand guidelines will be used by internal creative teams, external agencies, and other partners, so make sure it’s clear and detailed and answers common questions (hint: include an FAQ section). 

Brand positioning 

This is the part of your brand strategy that helps teams and audiences understand where your brand is positioned against your main competitors. If you’re new in a space, you’ll position yourself in comparison to the major players. If you’re a major player, make sure to look at the startups who are changing the market landscape. 

Your brand positioning is a detailed understanding and exploration of how your brand’s purpose, product, and identity compare to other companies. For example, if you’re trying to sell glasses online, how does your brand position compare to Warby Parker? If you don’t currently occupy the position you want in the market and minds of your customers, underscore your differentiators and use your brand strategy to better establish yourself. 

Bring your brand strategy to life

No brand starts with the recognition that companies like Apple, Nike, and Amazon have built for themselves over their lifetimes. To get anywhere close to these valuable brands, it takes a clear brand strategy backed by resources, teams, and an unwavering commitment to a long-term vision. 

When it comes down to it, brand assets are the building blocks of every brand on the planet. Logos, videos, images, product packaging, visuals, strategy documents, etc. — these are the components of your brand identity, the subject of your brand guidelines, and the foundation of your market position. The right technologies can help you bring your brand to life across every channel; here are a few to consider adding to your marketing technology (martech) stack:

  • DAM and PIM: Earlier, we mentioned how a DAM system stores, organizes, and publishes your brand assets. One that also handles product information management (PIM) offers double the impact. A PIM system provides a central location for all your product data, such as descriptions and specifications, and is a critical tool when it comes to product content syndication, because it standardizes your product content, ensuring a consistent brand experience each time. Acquia DAM, which can add PIM functionality, has helped hundreds of influential brands like Hootsuite, Laura Mercier, and Crayola manage their brand assets.
  • Content management system: A foundational tool for any brand, a content management system (CMS) is your content central command. It supports version control, cross-team collaborations, as well as approval and translation workflows for your content, and if your CMS uses a headless or hybrid architecture rather than a traditional framework that publishes to a website only, then you can easily reuse content across channels. (Drupal CMS supports all three architecture types.) Being able to publish across multiple channels simultaneously ensures your messaging and thus your brand identity remains consistent throughout.

    Pairing your CMS with a low-code site builder like Acquia Site Studio also makes it easier to build and manage your brand’s digital presence. It allows developers to reuse components so that business users can easily assemble pages and produce content without code, reducing time to market while remaining brand compliant.

    Compliance is further facilitated by best-in-breed connectors that link a CMS with a DAM, ensuring content chaos is tamed and brand strategies supported with aligned content and digital assets.

    Of course, many organizations have more than one website. They may represent subbrands, one-off events, or internal employee portals, but each reinforces your brand identity and should enact your brand strategy. It can be challenging to manage multiple sites, but a platform like Acquia Site Factory easily allows you to build, coordinate, edit, and deploy numerous sites from a single location. Best yet, it can automate updates across a portfolio of sites, ensuring brand consistency.
  • Marketing automation: Implementing your brand strategy often means moving quickly to respond to market forces and stay a step ahead of competitors. A marketing automation platform like Acquia Campaign Studio facilitates that by empowering marketers to design and deliver automated email campaigns with personalized content. Acquia Campaign Factory extends those capabilities with a distributed marketing approach that offers brand controls from one place; marketers can, for instance, set brand guidelines and push them to all downstream instances of Campaign Studio.

Any of the above tools can help you implement your brand strategy, but they can also be assembled together in a digital experience platform (DXP). To find out how Acquia DXP can help unify the digital experiences your brand serves across multiple channels, reach out for a chat about which solutions will best execute your brand strategy!

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