Brand Strategies – What, Why, When, How!
When it comes to business branding, there are several motivations for developing a brand strategy. In this article, I highlight three of the most significant ones with an overview of the what, why, when and how reasons for using them in your business and your brand development.
Firstly, it’s important to note that the overall purpose of branding is to create a relationship with your target audience; customer or client, that delivers a high-quality experience to create brand preference and loyalty.
Whilst the aesthetics of branding are highly significant in terms of attraction, for long-term strength and sustainability of your business, it’s also relevant to understand that your brand encompasses every part of your business – not just how it looks to the end user.
So, let’s look at those brand motivations now:
Business Brand Development & Awareness
Whether it’s a start-up business or an established business, the initial focus on branding is usually very much around the aesthetics of what the brand looks, sounds and feels like. Starting here enables the company to raise awareness of their products and services, start generating cash-flow and testing themselves out against the competition.
Most businesses start this way and forget to look at the bigger picture, taking little account their growth and productivity vs customer perception and experience in the longer term, until it becomes an issue.
Depending on initial start-up funding and how quickly the business develops as well as the overall experience of running a business, it makes sense that most businesses at this level would put most of their attention here. We are visual and sensory in our awareness and therefore, this is almost the simpler level of the brand development pyramid.
As the business starts to grow, productivity and service will become a higher priority. When customers start to buy and become loyal or refer others, their expectations switch to delivery and the sales experience. Therefore, the operational effectiveness of the business, then becomes more of a priority to ensure maintenance of the brand perception that the business is needs to maintain.
Understanding that building preference and loyalty is never to early to learn and implement into the business, whether it’s a local, national or international presence, this is essential for long term success. It will save a lot of time, energy and cost in the long run to go through this assessment as early and as often as possible, adapting to the growth of the business to ensure strength and sustainability.
Firstly, the essential part of the strategy here is to establish the brand foundation – i.e., the mission, vision and values. Using these elements effectively will help to create consistency and focus in how the business operates and develops the processes required for efficiency and visibility.
In addition, employees and third-party suppliers/contractors should also play a key role in understanding how they fit into the delivery of the brand foundation elements in order to convey a strong culture and the prosperity of the business.
Implementing regular checks of the key performance indicators and measurement of brand awareness tactics will allow the business to track changes in customer interaction and sales. Therefore, allowing them to monitor and react to business growth and development for sustainability.
There are three key reasons why a business would go through a re-brand. They have been taken over and want to re-establish themselves under the take-over brand or a new brand name; their previous brand perception and/or reputation has been severely damaged, and they want to re-establish themselves under a new name and effectively start again; their initial business proposition has developed into new markets or has a new focus and therefore no longer matches their current brand perception.
As noted above, re-branding is about repositioning the business and developing a new or revised focus. In cases like these, re-branding can be essential to allow a business to continue trading, considering all the experiences gained as well as any new opportunities that may develop.
I wouldn’t recommend re-branding just for the sake of it, ie; preferring a different name or thinking that by changing the name entering a new market will be more effective. Re-branding can be an expensive and time-consuming exercise to undertake and shouldn’t be done lightly.
This can depend on the reason the business is re-branding in the first place. In a take-over situation, this could be a transitional process over the course of months or even years depending on the customers interaction and relationship with the brand that has been taken over.
If it’s for reputational reasons; the change is likely to take effect a lot faster to create a phoenix effect with potential new customers who are curious about the new brand.
For businesses that have changed direction or have a new proposition, this could be a crossover between the two; depending on how quickly the old business can be wound up.
When going through a rebrand the business essentially needs to build its strategy based on the good, bad and ugly of the previous brand, as well as developing the new proposition with a fresh perspective. Again, focusing on the three foundation elements to build the new brand, whilst incorporating or launching new innovations where possible, will help the re-brand to deliver a memorable impact on its target audience.
Brand Innovation and Influence
Progression is an essential part of life and business. Being able to stay ahead of, or at least keep up with the curve along with the changes in how markets and consumer interaction develops in the future, means brands need to innovate to build and maintain influence. Becoming a ‘power brand’ takes a lot of investment of time, resource and money, but the pay-off is the ultimate ambition of a future focused business.
Maintaining relevancy as well being able to influence the way your industry develops, provides brands with an enviable status in relation to their reputation and level of authority not only with customers, but also their competitors. This will only happen after years of research, experience, feedback and a solid understanding of how the developments in technology and communication strategies will significantly advance our progression.
Everything is now about engagement and value. Quality over quantity. A marathon not a sprint. The only real way to measure this is when a business is actively and regularly sought for their opinion rather than trying to promote it. Visibility takes time and continued momentum to build and businesses looking to reach this level of exposure will need to maintain the determination and focus to achieve it.
Businesses could be looking to launch a new product, service or enhancement to their proposition; they could be developing and hosting a national or international event for their industry or; they could be partnering with or taking over another business to increase market share.
Collaboration is an essential element of this brand strategy. Developing a strong industry network, working with market influencers and providing ongoing value to loyal customers, will help businesses reach this level. In addition, partnering with tech firms that can help them develop an edge over the competition by enhancing the customer experience based on the research, experience and feedback gained over time, provides the innovation that enables the influence over their market.
Branding is about the whole business, top to bottom and front to back and creating a strategy that supports growth and development as well as building strength and stability will ultimately lead to success.