A brand is more than a logo, a tagline or a product.
It's the identity that separates one company from another. It's the narrative that tells who you are. Most of all, it's the promise you make to your audience. According to the brand gap - it's a person’s gut feeling about your product, service or company. So how do you influence and impact that?
All companies have a brand. Some deliver a powerful and unified message. Others, by lack of brand strategy, deliver an ad-hoc mix of messaging and imagery.
Developing a powerful brand strategy isn't just about aesthetic appeal. It's about crafting a compelling story to shape how the world perceives you. And it's no walk in the park, which is why successful companies like Optable entrust their branding to expert agencies like RCCO.
If you want to learn the vital components of an effective brand strategy, look no further. This guide will explore all the key elements RCCO focuses on when designing a successful brand strategy.
What is a Brand Strategy?
A brand strategy is a long-term plan that outlines the fundamental principles, goals and actions that shape the public's perception of a company. It encompasses brand positioning, target audience, values, personality, voice and visual identity.
At its core, this strategy defines:
- What your brand stands for
- How your brand differentiates itself from competitors
- How your brand communicates its unique value proposition to its audience
Think of your brand strategy as the roadmap to influence and inform how a company presents itself in the marketplace, engages with its customers, and builds brand equity.
Why is Brand Strategy Important?
Brand strategy plays an integral role in the success of a business. It's the blueprint that influences every interaction with customers and the marketplace. Here are key reasons why a well-articulated brand strategy is essential:
- Differentiation: In a saturated market, it’s important to stand out. A strong brand strategy helps a company position itself uniquely. This brand strategy separates the company from competitors and helps it carve out its own niche.
- Consistency: Brand strategy ensures that all touchpoints are aligned and cohesive. It creates a reliable, memorable, and consistent brand experience.
- Customer Loyalty: When a brand clearly defines what it stands for, a brand strategy can create emotional connections with customers. It fosters loyalty and repeat business.
- Increased Value: Successful branding leads to strong brand equity, where customers are willing to pay a premium for your products or services over competitors.
- Business Growth: A strong brand strategy can guide marketing efforts, attract new customers, retain existing ones, and ultimately drive business growth and profitability.
A solid brand strategy isn't a nice-to-have. It's a must-have for companies looking to build lasting customer relationships and gain a competitive edge.
Marketing Strategy VS Branding Strategy
Marketing and branding strategies are often used interchangeably. But they are two distinct aspects of a business strategy.
A brand strategy is a long-term plan that defines a company's identity, values, and unique value proposition. It sets the tone for how the public perceives a company, the emotional connections it forms with its audience, and the experiences it creates for its customers.
Brand strategy answers the questions:
- Who are we?
- What do we stand for?
- How do we want to be perceived?
A marketing strategy focuses on how a company reaches its potential customers and the tactics used to get its products or services in front of that audience. It encompasses advertising, public relations, social media marketing, content creation, and SEO.
The marketing strategy answers the questions:
- Who are our target customers?
- How do we reach them?
- What actions do we take to promote our products or services?
Popular Methods of Branding
There's not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to branding. Businesses can opt for various methods based on their goals, audience and product portfolio. Let's explore four distinct methods that businesses use:
1 - Product Branding
Product branding revolves around creating a unique identity for specific goods or services. It spotlights a product's distinctive features, quality or uses to differentiate it from competitors.
An example of effective product branding is Apple’s iPhone. The company has positioned the phone as a luxury device and a status symbol. Apple plays on this emotional pull to charge a premium for the device.
2 - Attitude Branding
Rather than focus on the product or service, attitude branding aims to evoke a certain consumer mindset or sentiment. This approach involves shaping an overarching brand personality that resonates with customers on a deeper emotional level.
With its 'Just Do It' mantra, Nike incorporates attitude branding. The slogan promotes a spirit of athleticism and determination, which is aspirational to potential customers.
3 - Individual Branding
Individual or multi-branding involves creating separate identities for different products within a company's portfolio. This strategy allows each product to establish its market position and target audience.
Procter & Gamble, for example, has numerous distinct brands like Gillette, Pampers, and Tide under its umbrella. This serves two purposes; it increases the company’s visibility, and because each brand is successful in its own right, it increases the trust customers tend to have for the overarching brand.
4 - Brand Extension
Brand extension is a strategy where a company uses its established brand name to introduce new products or services, usually within a related category. This method leverages the existing brand's reputation and trust to attract customers to the new offering.
Google has long relied on brand extension. The company has expanded from a search engine to digital services like Google Docs, Google Drive, and Google Maps. Each has been successful partly because of the pull of the Google brand.
Key Elements of a Branding Strategy
A successful brand strategy takes considered thinking and expertise to get right. It's a meticulous assembly of interconnected elements, each contributing to the narrative and perception of the brand. Let's break down the key components that shape a compelling brand strategy.
1. Brand Design
Brand design is more than creating a logo and throwing in a catchy tagline. It involves all your brand's visual elements, from colours and typography to imagery and layout.
A harmonious and consistent brand design helps evoke specific emotions, establishing a deeper connection with your audience. RCCO's collaboration with The User Story is a brilliant example of brand design. Together, we created a distinct brand design that surrounds their essence and sets them apart.
2. Brand Purpose
Why does your brand exist? The answer to the fundamental question will form your brand’s purpose. For example, does it aspire to drive change in the world? Does it offer a solution to solve a pain point for customers?
The brand purpose serves as the north star. With it at the helm, it guides all business decisions and strategies, inspires your team, and resonates with your customers on an emotional level.
3. Brand Vision
The brand vision is the projected future of your brand. Where do you aspire to be in the long term? What is the end goal? The overall vision should inspire and motivate your team and reassure your customers about your brand's sustainability and long-term commitment.
4. Brand Values
These are the core principles that your brand holds dear. They shape its culture, drive operations, and influence customer interaction. Your brand values differentiate you from competitors and foster a strong bond with like-minded customers.
5. Brand Positioning
Brand positioning determines where your brand stands relative to your competitors. It involves defining a unique value proposition and ensuring your target audience recognises and appreciates your brand's distinct benefits. Brand positioning is vital in crowded marketplaces or industries with similar product offerings.
6. Brand Voice
Brand voice is the consistent tone and style in which your brand communicates verbally and in writing. For example, it could be professional, friendly, authoritative or playful. You might develop a casual style or opt for a more formal approach. What matters is that it aligns with your brand personality and appeals to your target audience. If it doesn’t feel like your brand speaks to them, they will move on. This also is often called Tone of Voice and can apply to both content writing and visual design.
7. Market Research
No brand strategy can succeed without a deep understanding of the market. You must research your competitors, trends, and, most crucially, your customers. Comprehensive market research enables you to tailor your brand strategy to meet customer needs, differentiate from competitors, and stay ahead of trends. We often create a comparison chart where you visually compare your brand against competitors (to find a differentiation), and compare your USPs (to ensure you are truly building a unique message).
8. Target Audience
Knowing your target audience is the cornerstone of any successful brand strategy. It involves understanding who your customers are, what they need, their aspirations, and how your brand can fulfil their needs. This understanding guides product development, marketing communications, and customer experience. The easiest way to understand this is to talk to your customers - it sounds simple but often gets overlooked.
9. Brand Awareness
Brand awareness is the extent to which consumers recognise and recall your brand. A high level of brand awareness means more people know about your brand, associate it with certain qualities, and think about it when making purchase decisions. It involves consistent marketing and communication strategies to keep your brand top of mind. It is important to consider this as a success metric and how you will measure this. It is also key to create a plan of how you will increase brand awareness, whether through traditional means like PR, or bold experiential and activation pieces.
10. Brand Personality
Brand personality refers to the human characteristics or traits associated with your brand. Is your brand adventurous, sophisticated, rebellious, or friendly? Defining a clear brand personality helps you connect emotionally with your audience and differentiates you from competitors. It will largely inform the design direction your identity takes, and will ensure that the visual output for your brand aligns with how you'd like the business to be perceived.
11. Brand Loyalty
Brand loyalty is the ultimate goal of any brand strategy. It means your customers repeatedly choose your brand over others and even pay a premium because they trust and love it. It's built over time through consistently delivering value, meeting customer expectations, and building emotional connections. You will want to track how a rebrand and new strategy supports the increase in customer retention.
12. Brand Story
A brand story is a narrative you craft around your brand. It's not just about what you sell but why you exist, the journey you've been on, the values you uphold, and the future you envision. A compelling brand story can connect emotionally with your audience, build credibility, and enhance brand loyalty. This is where we bring everything together on a single page and land the truly unique and powerful story about your brand.
Yes, your company needs a visually appealing logo and a catchy tagline. But your brand strategy is so much more. It involves building a story that resonates, crafting values that inspire, and delivering experiences that keep customers returning.
At RCCO, we understand the complexities and nuances of brand strategy. We've been fortunate to shape narratives for many brands, including Optable, Google, The User Story, and much more.
Let's turn your brand into a powerful story that propels your business forward. If you're ready to begin your branding journey or revitalise your current strategy, we're eager to help.