Introduction to Brand Strategy - Part 1: What Is Brand Strategy?

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Posted Nov 17, 2011
Susan Gunelius

By definition, brand strategy is a long-term plan for the development of a successful brand in order to achieve specific goals. A well-defined and executed brand strategy affects all aspects of a business and is directly connected to consumer needs, emotions, and competitive environments. But what does that really mean? That's exactly what you'll learn in Part 1 of my new Introduction to Brand Strategy series.

Goal Definition

As you develop a brand strategy, it helps to start at the beginning. In other words, begin by setting your business goals. Why are you creating a new brand? What do you hope to achieve by launching the new brand? Use those long-term objectives as a basis for all of your strategic branding efforts.

For example, are you trying to reach a new audience? Your brand strategy for achieving that goal is likely to be quite different from a business that wants to steal market share from a category leader, and that's why goal definition is a fundamental starting point for any brand strategy. The first question you have to answer is, "Why?"

Avoid the Short-Term Trap

It's easy to get caught up in the short-term activities and tactics that drive business today, but when it comes to building a brand, that's a big mistake. Brands aren't built overnight, so your brand strategy shouldn't be focused on short-term tactics but rather on long-term goals and sustainable growth.

Admittedly, it's hard to stay strategic when executives are weighed down by data and demand measurable growth and positive ROI right now. The best brand leaders, however, fight against short-term focus, because they know being short-sighted is a brand killer.

Thomson Dawson, Managing Partner of PULL Brand Innovation described this problem well in an article written for Branding Strategy Insider earlier this year. He wrote:

"Brand managers and agency account planners are tactics driven. That’s because 80% of the daily processes within marketing departments and ad agencies are based in project management. Creative Briefs tend to be control documents, rather than a forum for gathering inspirational ideas. Brand managers and their communication partners focus on the best way to manage process and the tight budgets they have been allocated. They usually aren’t thinking long-term when at the crossroads of strategic and creative decision-making. They’re focused on getting a job done (on-time and on-budget).  Add the changing priorities of executive management into the mix, and it’s easy to see how messy creative briefs become."

Instead of focusing on short-term tactics, Dawson urges people to become brand architects which enables teams to design a lasting structure "to bridge brand strategy and brand messaging." He's absolutely right. Without a strong brand foundation built on a well-defined strategy, brands have little chance for success. However, it's hard to stick with that strategy rather than be tempted by the allure of short-term focus.

Staying Flexible

Of course, the best brands stick with their strategies, but those strategies leave room for flexibility as the market, consumers, and competitors change. Think of it this way:

  1. Just as your goals in life might change over time, so might your brand goals.
  2. Similarly, just as you might modify your plan to achieve your goals in life, so too might your brand marketing plan change.
  3. Finally, just as you seize opportunities to move closer to your goals as they arise throughout your life, you'll also seize short-term opportunities to grow your brand and move closer to achieving your long-term brand goals as those opportunities are presented to you.

A specific, achievable brand strategy is an essential component of any business, because it affects every area of your business.

Check out the rest of the Introduction to Brand Strategy series where you'll learn about identifying stakeholders and developing your brand strategy.

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