Neil Patel

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Brand Strategy: How to Create a Powerful Branding Campaign

A graphic that says "Brand Strategy: How To Create A Powerful Branding Campaign"

If you think branding is important, you’re right. If you think you should spend money on brand marketing, right again. But if you think your brand is your visual identity—logo, website, product packaging, that sort of thing—then you are completely and miserably wrong, and very likely to waste a lot of money.

A brand can be complex but also rather simple—it’s essentially the way people perceive your company and the products or services it offers. Things like logos and packaging should align with those perceptions, and can even help guide them (it gets to be a little bit of the chicken or the egg issue here).

Curious about how to develop a brand strategy? Read on for the key elements you should know when you kick off your strategic brand development

Key Takeaways

  • Your company’s brand is essentially its unique personality and reputation as well as how consumers perceive your business and its products and services.
  • Developing a strong and positive brand requires a brand strategy defining that identity through research and competitive analysis, then developing brand messaging and assets that align with that identity.
  • Documenting brand guidelines will help ensure that branding is consistent across all communications and channels—a key element of an effective brand.
  • As your brand becomes more well-known and is regarded positively by consumers, your brand equity grows.
  • Monitoring and measuring your brand presence, awareness, and reach can help ensure your brand messaging and other strategies are still effective and accurate.

 Branding: What It Is and What It Isn’t 

Copywriting expert Ivan Levison describes your brand as a “mental franchise”—and this gets to the heart of it:

Your brand is simply how prospects perceive you.

People perceive Toyota a certain way, for example: a manufacturer of inexpensive but reliable cars. Toyotas don’t have a lot of prestige. No one is going to pay $100,000 for one, no matter how many modern features are stuffed into it.

But slap a Lexus logo on the same car, and you’ve got yourself a deal.

Branding can be powerful. The part of our brains that makes decisions can be trained to prefer one brand over another. It can be trained so well it will literally override the part of the brain that deals with processing sensations (including taste).

In a 2004 study at Baylor College of Medicine, researchers used MRIs to monitor subjects’ brains while they tasted Coke and Pepsi. When the subjects drank the sodas in a blind test, the areas of their brains associated with preference judgment remained inactive, while the areas associated with reward lit up. What’s more, those sections lit up more when they drank Pepsi compared to when they drank Coke. (Most people also marginally preferred Pepsi when the company conducted blind tests in the 1970s.)

But when subjects were told they were drinking Coke (even when they weren’t), the preference judgment regions of their brains lit up and overrode the reward centers. Subjects preferred what they thought was Coke to what they assumed was Pepsi—regardless of what it actually was.

The same thing happens with wine. Only the most educated snobs can tell a $10 bottle from a $90 bottle in a blind taste test. Yet when subjects know the monetary value of each bottle, they consistently prefer $90 wine.

This is the power of branding. It can literally change how good something seems

Of course, you can’t make people perceive you the way you want. Their perception will always be at least a little different from how you perceive yourself—what your brand is to you. But you can direct how they perceive you pretty well, provided what you deliver is consistent with how you brand it. Establishing a reputation for quality has a lot more to do with delivering quality than merely saying you do.

Anyway, before you embark on a brand strategy, it’s important to understand how marketing and branding are different, as well as what a brand is and what it isn’t.

Branding is:

  • A unique identity and personality for a business, product, or service.
  • A way to shape customer perceptions and emotions through consistent messaging, visuals, and experiences.
  • An approach that builds trust, loyalty, and recognition among target audiences.
  • A tactic for differentiating a business from competitors and communicating its values, mission, and promise.
  • A method for Influencing customer behavior and purchasing decisions by creating memorable and meaningful connections.

Branding is not:

  • Just a logo or visual identity — it encompasses the entire brand experience.
  • Restricted to marketing or advertising efforts. It involves all aspects of the business, including customer service and product quality.
  • Something you only do online — branding encompasses all aspects of marketing.
  • About manipulation or deception: it should be authentic, transparent, and aligned with the brand’s values.
  • A quick fix or overnight success — it requires consistent effort, time, and investment to build and maintain a strong, sustainable, and recognizable brand.
  • Solely the responsibility of the marketing department — it requires collaboration and alignment across the entire organization.

Often I see companies with huge image problems talking about rebranding—as if “reinventing” or “refreshing” a brand is the magical solution to any problem. A brand isn’t something you just slap on an ad. It’s an integral part of business operations and culture.

Keep reading to learn all about the most critical elements of branding and how to merge them into an effective strategy.

How to Develop a Brand Strategy

If you don’t have a brand, or you want to define it more clearly, you need to engage in strategic brand development. Remember, this isn’t just a task for the marketing department, although your marketing team may lead the effort. 

A robust and effective brand development strategy requires leaders and managers from across the organization. Finance, customer service, sales, HR—there should be representatives from each branch at the table.

Consider this a “how to” on developing a brand strategy.

1. Define Your Brand Identity

You can zero in on your brand by defining and clearly articulating some key elements driving your organization. 

  • Purpose: Literally, why does your organization exist? Who started it, and why?
  • Values: What is important to your organization? What beliefs guide planning and decision-making? 
  • Mission: What is the ultimate organizational goal? What does it hope to achieve?
  • Personality: After you’ve defined the “what” and “why,” the answer to “how” will help you define your brand personality. Is the organization a future-focused upstart that’s changing the rules, or is it an established entity that cherishes tradition?

Focus on what makes your company different from others. “We’re oversaturated with brands today offering seemingly the same exact product or solution,” says Kim Scoppetta, Senior Director of Content at NP Accel. “You need to make yourself stand out and be able to easily and quickly get that unique point across.” 

Remember to be honest. A brand strategy won’t work if it’s based on things that aren’t authentic. “Gen Z more than any other generation before cares about the authenticity of a brand,” says Kim. “They can sniff out a marketing play from miles away. Figure out WHO your brand is, not just what it is, and let that guide your marketing efforts.”

This exercise can be a great way to “get back to basics” about what your organization brings to the table and inform your brand marketing.

2. Know Your Target Audience

Since your brand is about how your target audience perceives you, your brand strategy rests on understanding who they are. You need to answer questions like how old they are, where they live, what are the relevant challenges they face, and what they want from a product or service like yours.

There are several ways to research the answers to these questions, including:

  • Creating online surveys or questionnaires 
  • Conducting interviews and focus groups with members of your target audience to get insights into their motivations, pain points, and decision-making processes
  • Monitoring conversations on social media, discussion groups, and industry sites
  • Using data analytics to learn how visitors use your site and how they got there, such as through a search or a referral link 

You can use this information to create buyer personas, fictional and generalized representations of your ideal customers. They can help you create relevant brand marketing tactics that will resonate with your audience.

3. Conduct Competitive Analysis

Part of your brand strategy development must involve identifying and analyzing your competitors to see what differentiates your company, product, or service from the rest, as well as their brand marketing position in the industry landscape. 

To perform a comprehensive competitive analysis, first identify and gather information on each competitor. This should include the products and services they offer and how they are distributed, sales and marketing tactics, pricing, and their current market share. 

Then analyze each competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. These could include high or low prices, customer service (including things like warranties and guarantees), brand reputation, and financial health. 

Evaluate their marketing position as well. What audiences do they target? What does their brand messaging communicate? Do they offer a unique value proposition?

Use a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis framework to organize your findings and their implications. This process can help you figure out where there are gaps or openings your business can leverage and help you develop a truly unique brand. 

4. Develop Brand Messaging

The messaging element of your brand strategy should include a brand story and tagline that derive from the unique value proposition you identified through your brand strategy research.

For example, the German company BMW designs high-end vehicles for wealthy customers. Its brand story is about the pleasure of driving luxury, high-performance cars and SUVs with a sleek design. The brand tagline, “the ultimate driving machine,” nicely encapsulates the brand image and instantly communicates its value proposition. 

To craft your own brand messaging, decide what key things you want to communicate about your brand. The wording should be memorable and concise. 

Tone and voice should align with your brand’s personality and industry norms. For instance, a grocery store could have a fun and jokey tagline, but a healthcare system probably shouldn’t. 

Once you’ve developed your overall messaging, develop frameworks for all your brand marketing channels and touchpoints: product packaging, website copy, social media, and so on.

5. Create Visual Brand Elements

Once you’ve got the messaging established, it’s time to think about how your brand looks. In a brand strategy, it’s important to understand that visual content tells as much of a story as words do in your brand strategy.

Choose colors that mirror your brand personality. For example, red is strong and conveys a sense of urgency. Green would be an obvious choice for organizations related to the environment and sustainability.

The centerpiece is, of course, the logo. Everyone recognizes the Nike swoosh and the Target bullseye. Your logo should similarly be instantly recognizable. A good graphic designer can help you craft something that is professional and is also versatile enough to be used on all of your brand marketing materials.

Choose a font that looks polished and professional (i.e., please don’t use Comic Sans!), and is legible in different formats and settings. Visual assets such as illustrations, icons, and images should reinforce your brand. For instance, a brand that has a more historical vibe may use illustrations that look hand-drawn instead of photos.

6. Implement Consistent Branding

Documenting your brand’s visual identity ensures consistency across all your assets and brand touchpoints. In addition to providing instruction about colors, typography, and imagery, you can include guidance on design principles and logo usage (including how logos should and should not be used). 

This information should be saved in a brand marketing style guide that is easily accessible to everyone in the organization. This will ensure that communications and publications across the entire company — such as emails, reports, and press releases — adhere to guidelines and present a consistent and cohesive brand.

You should also create branded templates for commonly used materials such as presentations and email signatures pre-populated with your logo, the correct font and colors, and other brand elements.

7. Build Brand Equity

Brand equity refers to value associated with the recognition, perceptions, and emotions associated with a brand in the minds of consumers. Strong brand equity can translate to greater brand awareness and customer loyalty. Cultivating it is a critical part of any brand strategy.

But building brand equity isn’t just about getting your brand noticed. You build brand equity by offering high-quality products and services as well as exceptional customer experiences at every touchpoint along the purchase journey. Consistent exposure reinforces your brand in customers’ minds.

Engaging with your target audience via social media, contests, and promotions can also cultivate brand equity, but make sure those interactions also align with your brand. You can also encourage happy customers to serve as brand advocates by reviewing and recommending your product on consumer websites, in industry publications, and on social media. 

Think of innovative ways you can build brand equity. Emerging media and platforms are opportunities to be seized. “Don’t only focus on the glamorous, traditional sides of marketing,” says Scoppetta. “Think outside of blogs, ads, emails, etc. What about user-generated content? Can you create quick videos for TikTok? Don’t focus on perfection, focus on getting content out there that will resonate.”

Consistent exposure across multiple channels reinforces and strengthens your brand equity over time. It will take time and effort to build it up, but the rewards are well worth your brand marketing efforts.

8. Measure and Adapt

An effective brand strategy must include plans for monitoring brand performance and adapting it as necessary. Establishing key performance indicators with metrics like brand perception, customer loyalty, and brand awareness can help you track your brand and how it’s doing.

How do you get this information? 

  • Measure how much engagement you’re getting on social media. Lots of shares, likes, and positive comments are generally good.
  • Measure web traffic, engagement with content, and email open rates.
  • Conduct market research on how your brand is perceived, such as through focus groups or customer feedback. Look at comments on social media accounts, discussion boards, and sites associated with your industry or field.
  • Track media coverage and mentions. 
  • Review financial performance. Greater brand reach and recognition can translate to more sales and revenue.

If your brand is perceived negatively or isn’t making much of an impact, you may need to revisit your brand marketing strategy and efforts.

 

FAQs

What is the difference between marketing and branding?

Marketing refers to how a business promotes its products or services to a target audience with the goal of converting them into paying customers. Through research, marketers define and identify that audience and create tactics and strategies aimed at reaching, attracting, and retaining customers.  

Branding is a part of marketing that involves creating and managing how the company and its products or services are perceived by customers. Brands help differentiate businesses from competitors with unique and consistent messaging, visual elements, and customer experiences.  The ultimate goal of branding is to build a positive reputation and relationship with consumers. 

Which comes first, marketing or branding?

Ideally, branding should come first, since it serves as the foundation for marketing efforts. A brand identity will help marketers develop and refine their tactics and strategies and result in more effective campaigns.  

How do marketing and branding strategies work together?

Marketing and branding are intertwined. Branding provides a consistent identity for marketing efforts and ensures campaigns, messaging and other tactics are designed to appeal to the target market and differentiate the company from competitors. In turn, marketing promotes and strengthens the brand through ads, social media, and other touchpoints and activities.  

Why is marketing and branding important for business success?

Marketing and branding promote brand recognition, trust, and loyalty among consumers, making it more likely that a sufficient number of them will become customers and help the company’s financial performance.  

How can businesses effectively use marketing and branding strategies?

To effectively leverage marketing and brand strategies, businesses should ensure they are aligned with their overall objectives and the needs of their target audience. They do this by establishing a brand identity that is authentic and reflects the company’s values, mission, and unique value proposition. Marketers create and disseminate content, ads, and other materials that cultivate and reinforce the brand personality and presence, garnering attention from consumers and the media and boosting sales.

Conclusion

It pays off to pay attention to all of the elements of branding. Your brand informs and guides everything from SEO and content marketing to your packaging and website designs.  


Following this outline for strategic brand development can set your business off on the right foot, whether you are establishing a new brand, refining your brand image, or need to adjust your strategy.

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Neil Patel

source: https://neilpatel.com/blog/what-branding-really-means/