Just do a simple Google search for a quality understanding of what a brand strategy is and you'll quickly learn that there is a lot of crap out there. Sadly, most people who say the words "brand strategy" are often clueless of the definition. Even worse, people who own the title "Brand Strategist" are increasingly less aware of what an effective short and long-term brand strategy should include.
By definition, a brand strategy is a long-term plan for the development of a successful brand in order to achieve specific goals. A brand strategy can be broken down into how the brand is positioned, where the brand is going, identifying and reaching the target market, developing a web presence, and creating a brand experience. In broader terms it can be expressed as the "how" of your branding process. The "what" is your product, and the "why" is the reason the brand exists in the first place. The "how," or the brand strategy, is the bridge that connects your "why" and your "what" to the consumer market. If you take the time to plan a comprehensive brand strategy, you'll find that the branding process moves more smoothly and more creatively than it otherwise would. The outline of an effective brand strategy should include:
o Brand Challenges
o Measurable Goals and Objectives
o Target Market and Audience
o Key Message
o Structure, Timeline, and Milestones
o Workflow or Scope of Work Divided
We know that it will be a challenge to build a successful brand. If it were easy, then we'd see far less branding disasters than we do now. When I talk about challenges, though, I'm talking about smaller, manageable challenges that move your strategy forward. One of your challenges could be hitting deadlines, or even just staying within your budget. The last thing anyone needs is to have his or her progress derailed with an unforeseen obstacle three months into a project (though it inevitably happens).
Measurable Goals and Objectives
Branding takes a lot of big picture thinking, and with that, striving to reach big picture goals. But by getting wrapped in ambition, you run the risk of treading water - struggling to track progress as you work toward your goals. Too many times brand strategies are derailed because they're too focused on the end game and beyond. You absolutely have to designate more pragmatic and tangible goals that can be easily measured. I know your big objective might be to revolutionize the construction of urban housing, but you should probably work on reaching that 50% increase in leasing first.
Target Audience and Market
What good is your product if it's in the wrong place? You'd be surprised how many businesses fail to identify who their biggest customers will be. Within the target market - the entire landscape of where your brand is competing - lays the target audience. The target audience is a more specific, smaller set of consumers that you want to be able to speak to directly. These are the people you need to identify as they are the people who will become repeat customers and brand ambassadors. If you miss your target audience, you've already lost.
After you identify your target audience, develop a message that not only illustrates what you do, but engages your audience on a level deeper than supply and demand. Your message should speak to consumers in a way that makes them want to contribute to your continued success, not simply buy your brand. Create a visual identity that communicates your message loud and clear, and constantly reminds your customers who you are and what you do.
Structure, Timeline, and Milestones
If you don't know where you're going, and how you're going to get there, you'll never arrive at your destination. You have to map out your strategy, set a timeline, and determine milestones and measurable goals to gauge success. Having the whole process laid out ensures that tasks are completed in a timely and efficient manner.
Workflow or Scope of Work Divided
This one is so simple, yet so often forgotten. Branding aside, establishing a division of labor, and purposing time and materials is a basic tenant of running any successful business.
Creating a brand strategy is by no means easy, but it doesn't have to be as hard as many misguided "brand strategists" make it. It comes down to striking a balance between dreaming big, and working small. If you lose sight of your passion, the little things feel so much more tedious, and if you forget to do the little things, your ultimate goal slips further and further away from your grasp. Who knows, if you do it right, you might be able to call yourself a brand strategist, and mean it.