If your business is not growing as you like, or if you have seen a drop in sales or engagement, a brand strategy will help you identify the problem and create a solution. It goes way beyond the visual elements such as your logo and instead looks at the way your company is seen and compares this to your goals. By knowing this, you can create a roadmap from where you are to where you want to be, with actionable steps based on facts rather than guesses. We will look at the different steps to go through to create a strong brand strategy that can help you reach your business goals.
You are probably familiar with the concept of a business plan. Brand strategy is essentially the part of this plan that deals with the perception of your company.This can include a marketing strategy, the values you decide to put forward and how this is communicated visually, but the key is that it must start with an end goal in mind and be highly focused around people. For example, if you sell sustainably made baby clothes, your goal might be to help parents make smart choices and support eco friendly production. Knowing this, it is much easier to start communicating a united message in all your online and offline marketing and interactions.However, how you best get this message across requires a bit of research.
Before you start looking for answers, it is crucial that everyone involved has a clear set of questions. This will focus your research and avoids mudding the water with information that does not directly help you form an effective brand strategy. Even though the exact questions can vary, we find that these 6 questions help almost any business form a strong strategy:
1. Which customers are most interested in what you are trying to sell
2. Where do these customers find information
3. How do these customers make decisions
4. Which brands are you competing with (directly and indirectly)
5. What are your competitors doing right and wrong
6. Look in to other industries that have the same customer base
Social media and online reviews:
It might seem intangible, but the way people speak in comments to competitors, reviews and on your own pages are a great place to start. Look for emotional words that describe how the customer felt when something went right or wrong. These are things you can highlight in your own language and it also helps you tailor your service to avoid common pain points.
Also look at the demographic. Is it who you expected it to be? If you set out to provide a product for teenagers but realise that everyone leaving a comment is a parent, perhaps speaking directly to them is a better idea.
It is very common for governments to publish big reports that can help businesses make better decisions. These often cover spending habits, demographics and other information that can help you form a better understanding of your customers. For example, if you run a tourism related business, the report might provide valuable information on the peak visitor times, age groups and other information that can help you provide a better experience. If you live in the UK, try the Office for National Statistics.
For understanding the psychology of consumers, there is a surprising number of scientific papers published on this very topic. This is especially helpful when you are trying to decide which demographic is most suitable or when you see behaviours you do not understand. There is also a significant amount of advice for specific industries available published by large corporations. Look for good sources with a clear method, enough participants and published fairly recently. The more technology focused the topic is, the more recent you want the paper to be.Places like Google Scholar lets you sort papers by publication date which can be a great tool.
Market research publications:
Many sites aggregate and sometimes conduct their own research. They often make a large portion of the data public while some more in-depth analyses are available for purchase. A great place to start is Statista which publish a lot of content, especially on the topic of social media use.
If you already have customers or if you would like more in-depth information, conducting interviews or a focus groups can be helpful. These are much more labour and often cost intensive than using statistics but allow for follow up questions and provide more context. A great option if you don’t have a big budget but a very specific question in mind is to use online testing sites such as Usertesting. These allow you to set a specific test and ask users on the platform to complete it. Some sites allow for a voiceover by the user as they attempt to complete a task or you can opt for the cheaper option of answering set questions.
“How do you know how much is enough information?”
Once we have collected the relevant information, it is time to look back at our initial questions. Do we have enough information to confidently make decisions? How do you know how much is enough information? The riskier the changes you want to make are, the more sure you want to be. For example, a very established brand have more to loose by altering their brand message and appearance compared to a new company. That is to say, for a small change such as trying out a new social media platform, using a few sources to find the best hashtags might be sufficient, while a larger change such as changing your target customers requires more in-depth information such as interviews.Once you are happy, write a summary of your findings including your sources and any visuals such as graphs that could help someone else understand your reasoning.
Ok, we have our clear questions and our data. All that is left is to create a roadmap. This should be clear and actionable steps of how to get from where you are to where you want to be. Start by stating the problems you identified. To make this clear, let’s look at an example.
Green fashion Co. realised that they did not get any return customers. This sparked the need for a clear brand strategy.
They looked at their social media and customer reviews and realised that many of their customers were not happy with the packaging when they received their orders.
After looking at what other popular brands were doing, they realised that many had branded packaging and even a thank you note inside with discount offers for the next purchase.
They decided to take the following actions:
1. Create a new design for their packaging with higher quality and a design more in line with their brand values.
2. Start a referral and discount program for returning customers.
3. Test the new ideas on half of the customers over a 3 month period to see if there was a difference in how many customers made a second purchase.
By being clear on what is not working, the company was able to be specific and intentional about their research. This saves a lot of time and money.