6 Important Brand Strategy Steps

Spring is in the air, and this is the time of year businesses are energized about meeting and exceeding their goals.  I like to call it “new better bigger stronger” season.

It’s also time that many businesses consider a change in their marketing efforts and presentation overall to help reach new prospects and customers.  Many brands go as far as consider developing a refreshed positioning message overall to upgrade and uplift their communications to new potential clients.

If you’re one of those thinking hard about your brand’s real position in your market today, there are a few simple steps you can take that will get you down the path to a good start:

1. Conduct A Comprehensive Brand Audit: Take the time (and a survey) to listen in on how your prospects, customers and employees/vendor really perceive your brand.  This feedback is critical to discover any “disconnect” between what you think you’re conveying, and what they’re perceiving.  Once you find the gaps in your strategy, you can make appropriate changes for resolutions.

2. Take Time To Create Your Brand Architecture: It’s important that you take time to really define your unique value position, and prioritize it’s very specific features and benefits. Now is also a good time to define some important keywords that you’ll target your communications with for search engines and your various audiences.

3. Develop A Brand Strategy: Take the findings of your unique architecture and match that messaging with your various target audiences.  Make a list of where you plan to find and engage them, and what type of media or marketing support you may need.  Consider every possible media channel you can think of, from public relations and social media to traditional and interactive media.  Write them down and make a list!

4. Create Your Brand’s Story: By developing and writing out your compelling story that addresses your brand strategy, you’ll begin to be prepared to communicate with your market.  Be sure to think from your target audience’s perspective, and not from you own as an owner or employee.

5. Determine Your Brand’s Visual Requirements: Now for the fun part – from selecting colors, type styles and logo characteristics, you must visually reinforce your brand at every step of the way. Perhaps it’s a tweak of your existing logo that’s in order to update it, or an entirely different visual brand is needed – now is the time to make and execute on that part of the brand process.

6.  Develop Your Brand’s Operational Requirements: From logo use, to how the phone is answered – it’s important that you communicate the tone of the first five steps to every single person you engage.  Consistency is key to branding – and you now have the power behind your brand to communicate it with confidence.

Complete and document these steps with care, and you’ll not only see how you stand out from the competition, but you’ll be laying the foundation to grow faster than competitive brands in your same category – even in your same smaller community.

The biggest brands in the world know from experience that a well-defined business brand will generate more leads, rapidly accelerate their sales cycle, and create solid returns to their bottom line in faster time frames.  No matter what size company you are, the same principles of success apply to you.

If you’re like most of our clients and need help clearly defining and positioning your brand, we’re here to help.

Simplify Your Brand

One of the hardest challenges in our business is simplifying our client’s message to its core emotions and values.  It sounds so simple, and so many think they can do it for, and by themselves.  It’s more than a challenge to focus on the simple value of a product or service, than address the complexity of the market environment, and the barrage of messaging customers receive every day.

In 25 years of helping people craft and deliver their company’s message, there’s one simple, important step that is often passed by.  Simplifying the message.  Stepping back for a moment and saying with intent – How can we make this simpler?  Then start stripping away at each and every word and thought until you find the very core basics left.

I can guarantee that your target audience will not only be more responsive, they’ll consider your message a welcome lifeline in a sea of complexity.  What is most confusing to them is a result of giving them too many options at once, then not clearly helping them make a choice best suited to their specific needs.

In order to be simple, you must first go to the extremes of complexity – and peel back the hyperbole and marketing speak until you reach the core message that speaks to solving your customer’s problem – or enhances the basic values of their everyday lives.  Then…the message will resonate like none before.

The difficulty is in taking yourself out of your current thinking – and stripping away the constructs you’ve built about your product or service that you’ve convinced yourself is exactly what your customer wants.   Your perspective counts, of course – but your customer’s counts more.  Without polling or engaging them one-on-one, you’ll only guess at how your brand is perceived – and how best to communicate what can best be sold.

No matter what stage your brand development is currently in – whether a start-up or an established product or service – you’ll be well served by taking a moment to step back, and simplify your messaging.

If you’re challenged in doing that by yourself – call on us – and we’ll help you through the process to your success.

What’s in a brand name? Everything.

A great product or service name requires little or no introduction, explanation or advertising to give it power.

Of all the powerful forces in branding, marketing and advertising, a memorable brand name ranks one of the highest in importance.  It immediately connects your audience with an emotional tug, while helping define what makes you uniquely different – all in just a word or two.

Truly great brand names only come through a powerful positioning strategy – one that focuses in on the emotional appeal that can stir the hearts and minds of your market.  A great brand name can do all this by itself, and take a center place within an industry.

Because brand names, whether old or new have so much riding on them, I wince when it’s left to a few employees or friends as they toss around ideas – or worse yet…enter a contest to find the right way to communicate all the values in a brand.  While well intended, they’re not equipped to take the time to account for all the important aspects of landing a truly great name.  What about it’s memorability?  Positive or negative associations?  Competitors and trademarks – and especially domain name availability?

What do I think a great brand name does (in part)?

  • Easily communicates your brand strategy.
  • It should literally roll off the tongue.
  • Like the last puzzle piece, a good brand name fits perfectly.
  • And as most importantly, a great brand name is the ambassador of your company.

What your specific target market thinks of your brand name is much more important than any opinion of  any branding, marketing, advertising or naming expert (even us!).  And so, any great naming effort must utilize some fairly advanced methods to enable the market to react to your name before you decide on it.

No naming project is ever identical. There’s no set formula to arrive at a winner. The only thing you can really control is the kind of work you do to come up with a name. If you do the right kind of work, you’ll likely come up that one special word or phrase. Brand Identity Guru Inc. knows what “the right kind of work” is and has the skills necessary to follow through on that work. Hence, our motto, “Pump Up Your Brand.”

Although every brand or re-brand name process is unique, SmartBrand conducts a few key steps to help our clients review, assess, develop or rename their brands:

  • We’d start with an analytical survey of your competition. Which ones are a hit with the market?  Which miss…and why?   This information will help the naming team determine the specific positioning strategy for your brand’s name.
  • Positioning. Perhaps the hardest aspect of all, we’ll have to target your brand’s core values and create a foundation of messaging and ideas from which a truly winning brand name can emerge.
  • Truly great name development takes the positioning strategy, and look again at it from multiple angles to find ways you might leverage marketing and advertising to convey it in a truly unique and memorable way.
  • Consider Trademarking. We can screen a series of promising names with our legal counsel to find if there’s a feasibility of using them as brand names.  This is an important step to help avoid legal action by unknown competitors in the future.
  • Then the fun begins with some creative concepts and drafts. We might even consider some advertising treatments… all based on the stories we’ve helped create around your ideal positioning.
  • Finally…it’s time for a well though-out deliverable. We’ll give you a most important  short list of final, legally feasible names with an in-depth positioning strategy for each.

Once this foundation is established, the entire marketing, advertising, social media and public relations efforts fall easily into order.  Without a truly sound foundation to your brand name, you’ll struggle to find the right way to explain what you do – and find those who can be excited about buying from you.

What are some of the great brand names of our time?  Tell us who you think has succeeded in this important first step today?

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