What comes to mind when you hear "McDonald's"? The iconic yellow arches? The Big Mac? And what about Whole Foods? Is it good, organic produce with zero preservatives?
But have you ever wondered why you associate these specific aspects with these brands? Why don't you think of Diet Pepsi when you hear "McDonald's" or a footlong when you hear "Whole Foods"?
The answer is brand strategy.
If you’re here, you already know that a brand strategy can make or break an organization whether it’s for profit or not. Brands invest in devising, implementing and optimizing strategies to create lasting positive impressions among their target audience – an essential aspect for standing out from countless competitors in the digital marketplace.
In this article, we’ll break down what a brand strategy is and what an ideal brand strategy looks like so you start creating your own kickass brand strategy framework.
What is a brand strategy?
Think of brand strategy as encompassing all the online and offline activities a marketing team undertakes to create brand awareness and establish a compelling public image and narrative. Your brand strategy aims to make your business visible to the right people and set it apart from your competitors.
A brand strategy, in essence, exists to answer the fundamental question, “Why does your brand exist beyond solely making money?”
Every brand obviously wants and needs to make money. But when customers decide where to spend their money, what motivates them to choose one brand over another? In the modern world, the answer lies in the essence of "why the brand exists."
In this digital era, customers have an abundance of options, with millions of brands available online. Depending on your market niche, they won’t simply buy your products because they're cheaper or marginally better, not anymore.
Thanks to round-the-clock access to information from all corners of the world, the modern customer places a higher value on a brand's values, purpose and impact on the world. For instance, a significant portion of people willingly pays more for sustainable clothing due to their heightened environmental awareness.
These discerning customers seek a brand's 'reason for being' – why do you exist, and why should they choose you?
To quote the Zeno Strength of Purpose report, which covered 8,000 consumers and 75 major brands worldwide, "global consumers are four to six times more likely to trust, buy, champion and protect companies with a strong purpose over those with a weaker one.
A brand strategy effectively communicates this purpose to a brand's audience, compelling customers to choose and continue choosing your brand.
What does a brand strategy framework include?
Everything. A brand strategy framework includes all the tools marketers use to communicate a brand's identity to the world. It encompasses all the efforts a brand makes to stand out, connect and inspire its customers to take action.
Practically speaking, modern brand strategies comprise:
Visual elements such as logos, fonts, colors, text and image sizes
All types of content, whether marketing or educational, published to establish a positive brand identity
Community management principles governing how brand representatives should interact with and support customers/audience members
Offline activities, including store aesthetics, in-person offers, corporate responsibility programs, etc.
An effective brand strategy aims to create some form of emotional impact. By giving your brand a specific identity, your customers will feel like they know you... and isn't it natural to prefer a brand you know and like?
Brand strategy framework: The definitive 101 guide
Here’s how you can create a strong foundation that sets your brand apart and resonates with your target audience.
1. Know your brand
Who is your brand?
What does your brand stand for?
Does your brand have any purpose other than selling things?
In other words, why does your brand exist?
Before even delving into brand strategy, gain absolute clarity on your brand values. What impressions do you want people to have when they hear your brand's name or see its logo? If your brand were a person, how would you want your audience to perceive them?
Engage with every relevant stakeholder to answer these questions. These core values form the foundation of your company, and the public will recognize them as such. They are also the essential traits of your brand's personality.
Read More: Brand Management
2. Involve every stakeholder
Once you have approval for your initial blueprint, start engaging with people. Keep in mind that the same brand and product can hold different meanings for individuals based on their positions and mindsets. Your brand strategy needs to cater to as many of these niches as possible.
For instance, would a CTO view your product the same way as an individual developer in a product team? While the individual developer might be the one using your tool, the CTO's approval matters too. Hence, your brand strategy must generate content and use tactics that capture the attention of C-suite executives as well as end-users.
Conduct discussions with everyone in your team and company – marketers, testers, developers, buyers, managers and even HR (as you never know who might have a good idea). Also, seek input from existing customers. Set up and streamline ideation meetings to gain insights from various functional points of view.
These meetings will undoubtedly require some preparation. If possible, create a questionnaire and send it to participants a day or two before the actual meeting.
Regarding customers, invest time and effort in creating diverse audience profiles and buyer personas. Analyze all your company's customer data from focus groups, previous surveys, social listening reports, and, of course, direct interviews.
Learn More: 4 ways social listening reports unlock the business value of customer experience
A few questions you can include in the questionnaire are:
What does our brand do best?
Which feature/service do our customers love the most?
Which feature/service works best for you, considering your day-to-day life and work?
If you had to describe the brand to someone else, what words would you use?
What are we doing wrong? What are the most glaring issues we haven't addressed?
If you were exploring the brand, what would convince you to sign up and/or become a customer?
Assure people that their anonymity will be protected if you seek honest answers. Honest answers are invaluable as they provide genuine ideas on what to implement and what to rectify in the brand's image and voice.
3. Analyze the competition
It's possible that your competitors have already implemented some interesting tactics. Take a closer look at what they got right. Are they writing incredible blog articles? Is their social media copy game on point? Do their website visuals showcase sheer work of art?
To answer these questions, you need to perform competitor benchmarking.
Obviously, don't copy their work. Doing so will only set you up for failure. However, when you observe your competitors creating an in-depth, ambitiously researched case study, you gain insight into what the audience likes. This knowledge helps when you create your own case studies, as you understand the level of expertise expected by the industry.
When analyzing your competitors, delve into the specifics of their:
Content type and quality
Social media narratives
4. Identify your USP
Now that you have raw data from multiple facets of your business and industry, take a look within.
What is the one thing your brand does better than everyone else?
What is the real reason your customers should choose you?
Your USP or Unique Selling Proposition (sometimes called brand/market positioning statement) should be an instant no-brainer for customers. Find it, establish it in stone and turn it into the core around which your brand strategy will expand. The USP is what you want people to think of when they hear your name or see your logo. It is the first impression you want people to have when they interact with you.
For example, when you say "Harley Davidson," people, by and large, think of "classic motorcycles for the long road, preferred by the rebels and free souls of the world." That's their USP.
5. You have the data, so create the story
At this point, you have all the information you need to craft your brand story. A brand story is the narrative that conveys the reason for your existence to the world, especially your customers. It creates a sense of familiarity, trustworthiness and relatability for people on the other end of the transaction.
When crafting your brand story, consider how you want your customers to feel about your brand and how you can cultivate that emotion by incorporating experiences into your brand strategy.
For instance, let's say you're producing and selling sustainable, biodegradable outerwear. Utilize your brand strategy to communicate the origin of your materials, the people behind the clothing production and demonstrate that they receive fair wages. Take your customers and online audience through the entire production process to unequivocally show that you're committed to preserving the planet and not harming the environment while providing them with new leggings or shoes.
The brand story is the core around which your brand strategy should revolve. Every interaction, whether online or offline, with your brand should aim to reinforce this story and evoke emotional resonance with customers. Avoid relying solely on simple logic to make your point; an emotional connection not only attracts customers but also retains them.
Instead of just explaining why your product is superior, illustrate how purchasing your product can enhance customers' lives. Highlight how it objectively improves their quality of life.
For inspiration, consider iconic brands like Coca-Cola or Adidas. What does it take to cultivate customer loyalty at that level?
Read More: 9 ways to leverage social media data to drive business growth
6. Translate your brand story into action
Now that you know the story you want to tell, condense it into real-world actions. Consider the following essentials:
Brand messaging: How will you communicate with your audience? What tone and vocabulary will you adopt? Do you prefer to be as concise as "Eat Fresh" or as legacy-driven as Levi's "Quality never goes out of style"?
Brand value and behavior: What personality traits and actions does the brand want to embody? In today's world, where everyone has an opinion online, customers value brands that back their words with actions. For instance, who will be taken more seriously: an "eco-friendly" brand that manufactures biodegradable clothing, or an "eco-friendly" brand that manufactures biodegradable clothing AND has planted 1 million trees in the last 5 years?
Brand Visuals: Half of the human brain is directly or indirectly devoted to processing visual information. That's why how your brand looks matters significantly. Pay meticulous attention to logos, colors, typography and other imagery. Ensure that everything aligns flawlessly with your brand story and looks aesthetically pleasing while doing so.
Solicited brand mentions: If you're collaborating with third-party influencers, experts, websites, podcasts or any other platforms, ensure that they don't have previous affiliations that contradict your brand story. Work with media outlets that maintain a neutral stance, at the very least.
7. Prepare for crisis situations
As much as we'd like to, we can't control the world. Crisis situations will arise, and you will need to engage in damage control. However, you can use crisis-time communication to strengthen your brand.
An excellent example of this is Samsung. Do you remember when, back in 2016, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone started spontaneously combusting, with some phones even exploding? As a result, the company had to discontinue the phone, provide replacement products and suffered a loss of stock value worth $26 billion.
Furthermore, the US government recalled the Note 7 and its replacements, banning them from air travel. Rumors circulated that Samsung lost nearly $17 billion and was on the brink of collapse.
However, Samsung saw things differently. The company entered a "war room" mode, dedicating 120 days to obsessive problem-solving. They conducted an internal investigation with 700 engineers testing over 200,000 devices and 30,000 batteries. Additionally, three third-party auditors evaluated the issue.
All these efforts eventually led to the discovery of the cause: Samsung found that some of its factories had been slotting phone batteries into cases too small to accommodate them. To ensure this never happened again, Samsung established a battery advisory board, implemented new mandatory tests and deployed software that rendered existing Note 7 phones fully redundant (preventing anyone from using them).
This tremendous effort did not go unnoticed, and as of 2023, Samsung has fully rebounded and regained its industry-leading status.
The point of the story is this: use a crisis to promote your brand as one that doesn't cover up mistakes but acknowledges them and works to rectify them. While you can't control whether a crisis arises, you can control how you respond to it. Leverage your response as an opportunity to restore your customers' confidence, just as Samsung did.
Of course, don't forget to invest in brand safety solutions to minimize the occurrence of crises. But if and when you do face one, turn it into an opportunity for growth.
Also Read: How to protect your brand reputation in the social media minefield?
8. Monitor progress & course-correct
Alright, so you've implemented the specifics of your brand strategy across the digital and real world. Now, closely monitor the audience responses with a keen eye.
The best way to achieve this is by using a social listening tool to track people's responses online, including your website, third-party sites and social media platforms.
A tool like Sprinklr Social allows you to consolidate all this data in a single dashboard. Given that 71% of consumers who have a positive brand experience on social media are likely to recommend that brand to friends and family, acquiring comprehensive data is vital for creating such positive experiences.
Be meticulous in your routine check-ins with performance numbers. Expect that your tactics will take some time to show results, but maintain consistent records of numbers week-on-week for statistically accurate conclusions.
Monitor brand strategy gains with Sprinklr
When monitoring the impact of your brand strategy, marketers must be aware of all customer interactions on every digital channel, including other websites, chat and messaging. Constantly scanning social media to view updated numbers and engage with every comment and query is not feasible for a manual team.
Sprinklr Social allows you to be present and engage with audiences across every digital channel. You can interact with users on every platform from a single, unified dashboard.
A few of Sprinklr Social's standout features (the ones that matter to your brand strategy):
Integrated listening: identify, study and participate in relevant conversations that don't directly involve your brand, but provide opportunities to showcase thought leadership
AI-driven automated inbound triaging: categorize messages by intent, allowing you to prioritize conversations for engagement effectively
Track branded content: monitor content development through deployment across all digital channels and enable cross-team collaboration and visibility, all on a single platform
Account-level permissions and governance: implement controls to prevent PR crises and the publication of content that violates brand hygiene
Filters for global compliance: establish a framework for approvals, governance rules and moderation processes
If you're curious, contact us and let's talk about making social media the star of your business growth channels.