Launching a campaign without defining your brand strategy is like driving your car to an unknown location. You’ll probably spend a lot of energy, but you will arrive somewhere you didn't plan to end up.
Having defined brand values (aka a rockin brand strategy), story and messaging means you can navigate your campaigns to a clear destination. And usually, when you have a target and clear brand strategy, there’s a better chance you’ll achieve it.
A good brand strategy will:
- Answer a true need of your target audience
- Differentiate your brand from other alternatives
- Authentically reflect your brand’s value
And, will ultimately help you be aligned with your business goals and KPI’s
Our 3 step guide to building a strong brand strategy is about asking the 15 right questions, collecting the right data to answer these questions, and then doing the math.
Bottom line: if you use these guidelines, there's no doubt that you will be able to create and implement an incredibly strong and valuable brand strategy.
Brand strategy: why it's so important
Brand strategy is a long-term plan you create so that your business can successfully develop in order to achieve specific goals. A well thought-through brand strategy affects all parts of your business and is directly related to your customer's needs, emotions, and competitors.
Your brand strategy is, in a lot of ways, your direction and path to success. Without a solid brand strategy, it will be impossible to know the story you are trying to spread. It will be impossible to know the values that your business represents.
Bottom line: take time and invest in building a strong brand strategy.
Your brand x 4
Your brand is your story, and stories have the power to change peoples perceptions and realities. Your brand strategy is a reflection of your story. When people hear authentic stories, it usually connects them, in an emotional way, to your brand. It happens in B2C brands, and in B2B brands. People are people.
To figure out your brand story, and to help improve your brand strategy, we recommend you start by asking the following questions:
- Start with WHY - What is your brand’s vision? Why does the brand exist? Where does it aim?
- What is your value proposition? What are the different solutions your brand offers? How are they unique?
- What are your brand’s strengths? What are the values that led to your brand’s establishment?
- What are your brand’s weaknesses in the market and in the eyes of your customers?
Once you answer these questions, you're one step closer to building an influential brand strategy.
After answering these questions, try to list 2-4 main values that represent your brand promise. It’s easy to think of this list by remembering the story that led to the creation of the brand. This is the reason you and your team are investing so much effort in building your brand strategy.
Mayple's brand strategy: this is how we defined our WHY.
When we started to design our brand story and brainstorm for how to build our brand strategy , we opened our first sessions with a TED short lecture piece that seems to work every time: Start with why - how great leaders inspire action by Simon Sinek.
We started by thinking, why do we get up in the morning? What is the value we all wish to create by doing what we do? We succeeded to pinpoint the friction that our company solves: the digital marketing zero-sum game small and medium-sized businesses are struggling to win, without the tools to do so. We even have a slide that describes it visually:
Using this slide, we managed to define our role; helping businesses get out of this catch-22 and win the high results big brands have, only with a limited budget.
But why? Imagine this: a business works so hard to create an awesome product or service. They work tirelessly to create a strong and impactful brand strategy. This business invests in digital marketing to spread the word and attract new customers.
It seems like it works for everyone else…
After a while, this business realizes that putting ads on Google, Facebook and Yelp doesn’t work like magic.
Getting results from digital marketing requires high professional abilities.
But, a small/medium business doesn’t have access to top-notch marketers like big brands have, to their advanced technology tools and their huge digital marketing budgets. So they stay behind.
This business feels frustrated and angry, for what seems like the unfair bitter fate of small businesses. But then, the business feels the urge to break through, to be seen and get recognition for what it does best.
This is what Mayple is about. Empowerment to fulfill excellence.
We could keep talking and arguing, but talking to our customers and getting inside their heads and experiences was the effective part, and helped tremendously when building our brand strategy.
Your customers x 6
Answering the true needs of your target audience is what makes your brand relevant and what motivates your potential customers to engage with it (make sure your brand strategy reflects and solves the needs of your target audience). The most successful brands either communicated their customers’ most important values (for example, Coca Cola, life & happiness) or solved their customers’ biggest pain points (for example Uber, move the way you want).
To understand your customers, we recommend you ask these questions:
- Who are my customers? Who could be the potential target audiences for my growth?
- What’s important for my customers?
- List 3 functional benefits and 3 emotional benefits that your brand provides your customers.
- What are your customer's main barriers to buying your products or services?
- What do your customers say about your brand? What do they say about your competitors?
- What were the most effective marketing campaigns you performed? What made them successful?
To properly answer these questions, talk to customers, ask your sales team, or even try to call customers that were not pleased and left your brand.
Now list 2-4 values that are most important to your customers. It's important to remember that your most important value doesn't always need to be your core message, since it might just represent a basic value that doesn't create any differentiation.
For example, an online service that talks about availability, customers pain points and expectations
When building your brand strategy, you can never listen enough to what your customers have to say about your brand, about competitors, and especially, about what they expect and need. After running a survey and interviewing some of our present and past customers, we could build a list of pain points that our customers experience while managing their digital marketing, and we also built a list of their expectations and the values that they represent. All of this information was vital to building our brand strategy. This is what we came out with:
- Not knowing how to make the right choice about freelancer / digital agency
- Limited budget
- Frustrating replacements of unfitted marketers
- Mediocre results
- Lack of transparency
- Get their business voice heard
- Reach a bigger audience that will enjoy their value
- Be in control
- Feel confident
These were the values we identified: confidence & control, trust, hope, growth, be seen.
Your market & competition x 5
Identifying the opportunities and threats in the market is a basic step to communicate your brand and to build your brand strategy. This information will allow you to create more relevant and smart messaging that will reflect your brand, ultimately helping you build a strong brand strategy. In addition to that, you’d want to know the main messages and brand values your competitors communicate. When you map them, you can decide which messages are already overused and what the ‘free spots’ are that your brand can appropriate in a way that will differentiate it from other competing brands.
These are the questions we recommend you ask in order to understand your market and competition (and of course, in order to build the strongest brand strategy for your business):
- What are the market trends that have to do with your brand’s activity? What are the main challenges? What are the opportunities?
- Who are your brand’s main partners? What is their added value to your brand?
- Who are your direct competitors? Who keeps you up at night?
- What are their strengths?
- What are their main messages? What values do they represent?
Try to build a table that compares your competitors messaging, according to value categories. For example, if one competitor is saying: my product is simple to use, the other says: my product is easy to use, and the third one says: using my product is effortless, they all chose the ‘simple’ category and you should consider choosing a different value for your brand if you want to differentiate it.
Competition messaging analysis
Since we are a disruptor in our industry, defining who our competitors are was the first task. After doing that, we checked what they say to our potential customers, to make sure we are going to communicate our value in a different way, and to make sure that we build a unique brand strategy. Fortunately, we saw that the marketing messages in the competitive environment focus on the service and rational factors. That left us with a wide territory for combining rational and emotional factors in our messaging and brand values, and helped us build our brand strategy.
Do the math
If you answered all of the questions above, you probably have a few options for brand values to choose from. It is always good that a brand will have one leading value, and other 2-3 values to support it.
After doing the math, and putting it all together, you will be set up to build your best brand strategy.
To sum up our case study here, Mayple’s core value is empowerment. We aim to empower our customers and marketing experts so both will be able to fulfill their potential.
We also have three supporting values: professionalism, unbiased and Maypling (which is a unique experience we give our customer).
You can see our brand story and values here.
What are your brand's core values? How are you going to build your best brand strategy?