Why Brand Strategy Gives Me the Feels

Laura Amarillas
September 28, 2020

You’re sitting at your favorite coffee shop, sipping a delicious pumpkin spice latte. Perhaps you’re flipping through a good book or simply enjoying the inviting coffee aroma. You feel comfortable, relaxed, even cozy. Feels pretty homey, to be honest.

A woman posing with a Starbucks coffee cup.
Best to always be Instagram ready.

Now, think about what has led you to visit this particular coffee shop. Is it the tasty yet pricey coffee selection? Is it the odd mermaid creature smiling back at you from your coffee cup? Well, it’s something a bit more intangible than that. It’s the feeling you get from sitting at this place, which came to be thanks to a clear brand strategy.

Having a well-defined brand strategy can go a long way in creating and maintaining a successful business. If you feel like your current strategy isn’t really cutting it, or maybe you still haven’t applied one, read along, my friend. We’ll tell you the key steps in the brand strategy process to help you re-evaluate or get you off on the right foot.

What is Brand Strategy?

Branding is the foundation of your brand. This strategy shapes the way your customers will interact with your company. It’s the message you want to share with them and how you want them to feel. Basically, it will help customers connect to your brand.

A well-defined and executed brand strategy affects all aspects of a business and is directly connected to consumer needs, emotions, and competitive environments.  - Carly Stec, Brand Strategy 101: 7 Essentials for Strong Company Branding

Even though brand strategy and brand identity are used together, they are not to be mistaken as the same thing. Identity is the tangible look of the brand that is based on the strategic overview. Brand identity is the company’s visual communication and includes:

  • Monograms
  • Logo
  • Slogan/taglines
  • Colors
  • Typefaces

While you can hire a graphic designer to create a logo, you should leave your branding to a strategy team. Here are the key differences between brand, identity, and logo:

The difference between a brand, a brand identity, and a logo.
Source: Hey Now! Media article BRANDING VS IDENTITY: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

To help us clarify, let’s consider the nationwide restaurant chain, the Olive Garden. Why do people keep going there? Is it because they have authentic style Italian dining? Nope, not even close. Do they have an incredible logo design? No, not particularly. What they have done consistently well is stick to their brand message:

                                                   We’re all family here, so pull up a seat

So simple, and gosh darn it, it works! Go there any given family Sunday, and you can see it for yourself. Confession: I love going there because I am a breadstick monster and can have my fill of them, no extra charge.

This is the Breadstick Monster dance. Practice at your own risk.

Developing Your Brand Strategy

According to Laura Lake from The Balance Small Business, there are three important components to consider when developing a brand strategy:  

1. Purpose: This explains why you are in business and the specific customer needs you must fulfill.
2. Consistency: Be able to define what allows you to provide your service every day.
3. Emotional Impact: This is what helps form a connection between you and your customers. A brand strategy should develop this impact and build upon it.

In addition to understanding and defining these components of your business, you need to determine your target audience, identify your competition, decide on a mix of products and services on which to focus and establish a unique selling proposition.

- Laura Lake, How to Develop Your Brand Strategy

One Step at a Time

To help guide you through the strategy process, consider these steps and questions to ask while going through it:

  1. Assessment: How is the brand perceived today?
  2. Promise: What will define your brand?
  3. Strategy: How will you manage and position the brand?
  4. Promotion and Culturization: How will you create the brand’s image externally and how will you live up to the brand promise?
  5. Advantage: How will you enhance and innovate the brand?

Strategy Makes A Difference

We mentioned before how the Olive Garden has been successfully communicating their brand message for years. Another company that has been doing the same is Chipotle:

Chipotle's description of a burrito.
You can clearly define Chipotle's audience, message, and personality from this image.

Chipotle has managed to differentiate itself from other competitors (too bad, so sad Taco Bell) by branding itself as a provider of high-quality ingredients. Even though Chipotle is a fast-food restaurant, they don’t want their customers to feel like they’re having the typical fast-food chain experience (still judging you, Taco Bell).

We also cannot allow you to “leave” here without watching this brand strategy gem from Dollar Shave Club:

The Dollar Shave Club’s revolutionary branding is evident in this video.

As Ryan Scott, Head of Marketing at Lean Labs points out: “Dollar Shave Club is another brand centered around the promise of simplicity. Dollar Shave Club saw the potential for simplifying an archaic process.” They stick to their brand promise and do it in a way that is humorous and connects their customers to them. Maybe if I become a bearded lady I can join this fun club.

Time For A Makeover

No, not that type of a makeover (but frankly if I’m ever getting one, it better be with the Fab 5). We’re talking about a “makeover” for your brand strategy. How do you know if you need one, though? Well, if you feel like your customers aren’t connecting to your brand as they should, or maybe your brand is all over the place, then it’s time for a change. Or perhaps you have a defined brand but you feel like it doesn’t really represent who you really are and do. If any of these apply to you, then you should invest in a fabulous brand strategy makeover that even Jonathan Van Ness would be proud of.

Let’s talk.

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