Clients often ask me if they should follow a specific approach when developing their brand strategy, and my answer is always YES!
As I touched on in a recent related blog, a brand strategy consists of various components that, together, serve as a blueprint for creating true understanding about, interest in, and engagement with your business. Here are the components I strongly recommend clients include in their brand strategy.
- Vision and Mission
- Core Values
- Target Markets & Audiences
- Market Discovery Findings
- Portfolio of Offerings
- Brand Position/Promise
- Brand Personality Attributes
- Brand Message Themes & Proof Points
- Company Descriptor
- Brand Manifesto
The approach your business takes to create those components is really important. In fact, it has a direct impact on how employees and buyers will eventually perceive and trust your brand as the new strategy is implemented across sales, marketing, and human resources.
So, what’s the best approach to ensure you end up with an authentic brand strategy that captures your businesses’ identity and value in ways that are differentiating, relevant, and consistent?
Here are the top-3 ingredients of a successful approach to creating an authentic brand strategy:
- Internal and external discovery data that ensure the components are grounded in truth
- A cross-functional “brand team” that is committed to co-creating the brand strategy together (unless you’re a solopreneur)
- A process that guides development of the components in the right way and the right order
Discover the facts and truths about your business’ brand
It’s critical to differentiate your brand strategy by focusing in on positive and appealing characteristics and attributes that your business consistently demonstrates to real customers – or is clearly capable of demonstrating to potential buyers.
While some components can be a bit more aspirational in nature than others, simply making up words that sound good but aren’t based on real data will only come off as meaningless marketing spin when you implement the strategy. And, that will do very little toward building brand credibility and trust.
That’s why, when working with clients, we conduct an Internal Brand Input Survey with employees before beginning development of the strategy components. This is an email questionnaire that gathers employees’ perceptions, insights, and opinions on some specific questions that are key to brand strategy development. Portions of this data inform development of the first 2 components – vision/mission and values.
In addition, you may have noticed that Component 4 in my Authentic Brand Blueprint is called “Market Discovery Findings.” This phase of the strategy development entails conducting 3 external areas of research and assessing the findings. These 3 areas include:
- relevant market trends
- competitors’ brand strategies
- relevant perceptions and opinions of customers and other target audience members
Your consolidated reports from these three areas of external research – plus the Internal Input Survey conducted in the beginning – will be highly valuable tools as you develop components #5 – #10 of your Authentic Brand Blueprint.
Develop the components in the correct order
The list of Authentic Brand Blueprint components at the beginning of this article are in the order they should be created. Why does this matter? Because, when done in this order, you’ll find that development of the brand components unfold more naturally and efficiently.
The correct order starts with vision/mission followed by core values, because those 2 components look inward and form the foundation of your organization’s culture. Then, you begin incorporating the external perspective in component #3, your target markets/audiences.
Developing those components first will put immediate focus and momentum behind your brand strategy project. You’ll also be able to more effectively decide how to focus component #4, the external market research. Of course, you may or may not decide to slightly tweak or refine vision/mission, values and target markets/audiences after conducting your market research.
Next, the brand team will rely on the internal and external discovery data, as well as their collective knowledge and insights, to co-create components #5 – #8. These include Portfolio of Offerings, Brand Position/Promise, Brand Personality Attributes, and Brand Message Themes & Proof Points.
Once you’ve completed components #1 – #8, your team is ready to develop the Company Descriptor and Brand Manifesto – components #9 and #10. These last 2 components integrate some of the truth-based words and concepts from prior components into carefully written stories that capture the right explanation and essence of your brand.
Rely on a “brand team” and collaborative processes
If your business has employees or a consistent group of freelancers, establish a team to develop and refine the components together. The team’s different perspectives and collaboration will result in more and better ideas as well as tighter refinements, making your Brand Blueprint stronger and even more authentic!
Conducting the sessions in person is absolutely the best option. However, if that’s not possible, then video sessions on an online platform that offers collaborative tools is the next best option. Be sure to take the time to design the sessions so that each one focuses in on only the research data relevant to the component(s) being addressed. I find it productive to structure the sessions around interactive team exercises and facilitated discussions.
Of course, it’s super important to set up the brand team so it can co-create the authentic brand strategy effectively.
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I think you’ll find it really helpful.
As always, I welcome your thoughts, questions, and feedback