What is a brand? A brand is more than your brand assets, like your name, logo, website, advertising, brochures, or products and services. A brand strategy encompasses your organization's "why" or, in other words, your organization's purpose and character.
As Simon Sinek states, "Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause, or belief - WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it."
Your brand represents your promise to your client or customer, and if you make good on that promise, you will develop brand loyalty. A brand strategy aligns all areas of your organization, and a brand strategy clarifies where your organization is headed; what you are trying to achieve; and provides a map on how to get to where you want to go.
There is truth to the cliché, "Actions speak louder than words." Every action made by an organization must represent the brand because any action that opposes the brand's message or promise causes customers or clients to distrust the brand. A well-defined and executed brand strategy affects ALL areas of a business, and a brand strategy directly correlates with client or customer needs, emotions, and competitive landscapes. Therefore, everything an organization does affects the brand in some way, either negatively or positively.
What are the elements of a brand strategy for a growing organization?
- Core Values - Core values are the beliefs your organization passionately believes in and follows. Your core values exemplify your "why". (Your organization's "why" should be more than to "make money.") An organization's core values serve as its True North.
- Strategic Positioning Statement - A strategic positioning statement defines how you want your organization to be positioned in the minds of your customers or clients. A strategic positioning statement should include the target audience, brand name, category (how consumers think about and categorize your product or service), and unique difference or unique selling proposition (something that you do differently than all of your competitors).
- Ideal Customer Profiles - Your target market should be laser-focused and your buyer personas clearly defined.
- Brand Promise - A brand promise is what you are promising to your customers or clients. It tells them what to expect and experience from their brand.
- Brand Assets - Great-looking design and strong copywriting can help build a brand, and a good strategy can guide the creative expressions of the brand identity to make sure they are aligned with your positioning goals.
- Prioritize Brand Touchpoints - This element is often overlooked and not prioritized, but it is absolutely crucial. A brand touchpoint is any point of contact between your organization and prospective and current clients or customers. Touchpoints include website, emails, newsletters, social media, advertising, stores, service departments, packaging, accounting, human resources, or any other area a client or customer comes into contact with your brand. Additionally, every employee serves as a brand touchpoint and serves as a brand ambassador.
- Communications - How you communicate should reflect your brand strategy. Communications should be clear and consistent, and your brand voice and messaging should be consistent among all internal and external communication channels.
What role do employees play in brand strategy?
At MPWRSource, we emphasize the importance of employees in brand strategy. While establishing consistency in communications and brand assets is important, it is equally important for employees to be well versed in how to communicate with prospective and existing customers and about the brand. All employees serve as brand ambassadors. For example, if a brand is playful and approachable, then a client or customer expects to engage with a playful and approachable employee.
A successful brand strategy incorporates employee branding, which means getting employees to buy in and reflect the mission, values, and vision of the organization. If employees can do this, they will be able to convey those messages to customers/clients, stakeholders, prospects, and their fellow employees. This is extremely important because, according to Edelman Trust Barometer, the employee voice is 3x more credible than the CEO's when it comes to talking about working conditions in that company. That's right. Employee branding also helps to retain and attract employees that are the best fit for your brand.
Some ways to build an employee branding program include:
- Exhibit your company values in everything you do consistently.
- Allow for an open forum for employees to feel empowered and trusted to share their feelings about the brand, the good and the bad.
- Create consistent internal communications. According to an IBM study, 72% of employees don't have a full understanding of the company's strategy. There should be an internal communications plan.
- Establish brand training for new hires and existing employees. Train everyone to be a brand ambassador!
- Encourage employees to share on social media. This empowers and encourages employees to engage, create, and share their own work experiences, which can positively impact colleagues; attract top talent; and drive referrals.
According to Forbes, presenting a brand consistently across all platforms can increase revenue by up to 23%. As you can see a well-thought brand strategy implemented consistently drives revenue.
Dave Buck, professional coach and CEO of Coachville said, "Your brand is a gateway to your true work. You know you are here to do something - to create something or help others in some way. The question is, how can you set up your life and work so that you can do it? The answer lies in your brand. When you create a compelling brand, you attract people who want the promise of your brand - which you deliver."