How to Grow Your Business Using Brand Strategy
“Your brand isn’t what you say.
It’s what they say it is”
Years ago, when I first started out as a designer, I learned pretty quickly that successful branding isn’t just about stunning visuals. Of course, beautiful and interactive graphics play a huge part in attracting customers to your brand, but without strategic thinking behind it you’re going to lack substance.
The ‘Leaky Bucket’ Effect
Imagine pouring water into a bucket with holes in the bottom. Frustrating and fruitless, right?
Well, that’s your brand without strategy.
You may have been there before: you’ve worked with a designer who simply hasn’t delivered. You’ve had to spoon-feed them with design direction and the final result looks like an art project rather than a holistically strategic brand that’s aligned with your business goals.
The truth is, no matter how much money you pump into marketing, you won’t see success until you start analysing your customers and working out how to attract them effectively.
What is Brand Strategy?
Brand strategy is an analytical process that uncovers root cause problems faced by your business. It uncovers compelling insights, aligns customer needs to business services, clarifies and sets your goals and prioritises them in an organised road map.
This in-depth, multi-tiered action plan allows you to make well-informed choices about how to present your business based on objectives.
I often describe trying to create a brand without knowing your business objectives as trying to shoot a basketball through a hoop with the lights off. You’re essentially ‘hitting and hoping’. In this analogy, the strategy is the light. It illuminates a way to get your ball swiftly through the net or your target.
A brand strategy is a clearly defined process, which at the end gives you clarity and a vision of exactly how design will help drive your business to its goals. When you’ve wrapped up, you should have an in-depth action plan that’s ready for execution.
Turning Aesthetics from Subjective to Objective
When you’re starting off, it can be tempting to think of entering a design studio like going into a dessert parlour with an abundance of treats on offer. You pick whatever takes your fancy.
As enticing as this might be this is not the best way to approach branding your company.
A simple face-lift is going to be a superficial adjustment and will certainly be an expense instead of an investment unless you target the underlying problems you are facing in your marketing efforts.
For example, your ultimate objective is to get from A to B, but you want an impressive image to go with it. Imagine you buy a sexy-looking sports car but it’s got a faulty engine. You’re going to look great and attract attention when sitting in it, but without a working engine, you’re not going to get where you need to go. Ultimately the money you spent has only solved half of the issue and has therefore been a fruitless expense.
Essentially brand strategy is the ‘engine’ which drives the design aspect of branding directly to your goals and gets your business moving.
Brand strategy will address these problems and ensure design deliverables are an objective measure of your goals instead of being vague guesswork derived from aesthetic discussions on personal taste and subjective preferences.
Speak Your Customer’s Language
Effective branding strategy is all about putting your customers first. After all customers are the lifeblood of your business; without them you don’t have a business. This allows your brand to attract and retain the customers you actually want.
Another way to look at it is to think of branding like fishing; you have to put out the right bait to attract the fish you are after and in order to do this you need to understand the fish in question.
Keeping this in mind is your ‘bait’ effective? Do you know your customers as well as you think you do? What makes them tick. What are their biggest headaches and problems? What is meaningful to them? How can you communicate to them with purpose? If you can’t buy your customer the perfect gift you don’t really know them.
One of the key frameworks used in the strategic process is defining your customers in great detail, so that you can market to them in the most effective way. The strategy process uncovers the pain points of your target customer, profiles them and allows you to understand their goals and challenges.
This allows every factor of your branding to be focused on the customer experience and engaging them with your company to make them into loyal brand fans.
Ok, where should I start?
A good starting point is to focus on your growth customer. Simply targeting your existing type of customer isn’t going to grow your business. You need to target the customers you want but aren’t attracting…yet. Your current customers are already loyal to your brand, but the growth customer is where the true magic lies.
Who are your 5% growth customers that are going to have the biggest effect on revenue? And how do you target them?
A true understanding of your growth customer can help unearth and ignite ideas for marketing campaigns, services and even additional revenue streams.
The Power of Strategy-Led Design
Our recent branding for #0f development is the perfect example of how using a strategic approach to branding, with customer analysis can help find other revenue streams and product lines.
#0f development wanted to market to their growth customer: high-end minimalist UI designers. In-depth analysis of the customer revealed an attraction to avant-garde, yet highly crafted goods, irrespective of products or services.
As a result we realised that natural side revenue streams were products like artisan coffee or chocolate. Although coffee seemed a bit odd at first for a digital company, it made perfect sense after the customer analysis stage.
Essentially, the branding strategy uncovered a potential revenue stream that would have remained unknown and unused. The outcome was a successful, strategic brand targeting new growth customers with maximum impact.
In a nutshell, the tangible results of brand strategy can have a huge impact on your business.
1. Pick a branding agency who understands strategy. You need someone experienced who you won’t have to spoon-feed. Any branding agency worth their salt will lead the branding process with knowledge of both strategy as well as design. You need a partner who aligns business goals with highly crafted aesthetics.
2. Get the basics nailed down. Remember, in-depth analysis from the start is going to save you a lot of headache later down the line. You’re building solid blocks that will support your marketing efforts for years to come.
3. Connect with your customers. Clarity in thought provides a strategy that’s weaved into all design work including the design of interiors, a logo, marketing campaigns etc. These thoughts and ideas run like a golden thread across your entire company, making the branding go far deeper than surface level.