As 2020 comes to a close, you’re probably deep in the throes of preparing your 2021 marketing strategies and contemplating brand strategies. But, what does this nebulous “brand strategy” concept even mean? In simple terms, brand strategy is the long-term roadmap for a business wanting to establish itself as unique and desirable in the minds of its audience. It’s the foundation for everything from credibility to financial performance, even how its own employees feel about working there. It connects every piece of your marketing strategy: the who, what, where, how, and why. Sounds pretty important, right? That’s because it is! Without a proper brand strategy, a business could end up wasting their time on marketing efforts that don’t work, misunderstand what their customers actually need, and miss out on some serious profits.

Okay, I get it! How do we develop a winning brand strategy?

A winning brand strategy is composed of various strategic components that all work together seamlessly. Be prepared to take plenty of time for this. It can take months to fully flesh out, as there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. Here are some of the most common brand strategy components that can guide you and your team’s thought process:

Brand mission, values, and promise

Where does your business aspire to be in the long run, financially and otherwise? What values do you hold above all others? What can your customers expect from you? PS – Do the things, don’t just say them.

Brand positioning

This is where you differentiate yourself. What unique space do you hold in your customers mind?

Brand architecture

Think of this as your “family tree.” Do you have any sub-brands? What are your offerings? Map them out.

Target audience

These are the people most likely to interact with your brand, usually your customer. Learn how to create helpful user personas here.

Brand visual identity

Logos, color palette, font systems, etc. Notice how this is just a piece of the brand strategy puzzle. Be more than just a “pretty logo,” folks!

Brand voice/tone

If your brand was a person, what would their personality be? How would they sound when they speak to your target audience? There is only so much you can communicate through your visual identity, after all. It’ll need to be just as consistent.

Brand message

This is where you spell out, concisely, what you offer and how you’re different. You’ll need to communicate this both verbally and non-verbally.

Competitive Analysis

Take a look at how your competitors have positioned themselves. Now, be better.

What do we need to consider for brand strategy in 2021?

With so many similar products and services out there, it’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself based on perceived values and emotions. After all, 64% of customers are loyal to companies based on shared values. We call this “emotional branding.”

Emotional Branding Image

Emotional branding is the strategy of connecting with the emotions of your audience, creating loyalty beyond price points, and inspiring them to stick with you and tell everyone they know about it. It’s so important to make sure the values and stories you’re telling as a brand are resonating with your audience. This is what backs up the emotional connection. Relevance is the new reputation, after all.

How on earth do we study and quantify such a thing? It’s actually pretty easy thanks to neuromarketing and anthropological research. Harvard Business Review saw an opportunity to define a set of “emotional motivators” based on actual social science research of consumers. Now, there is a handy lexicon for emotions that consumers identify with and corresponding ways for brands to leverage them. For example, if a consumer is inspired by having confidence in the future, a brand can leverage this by helping them perceive the future in a positive way through crafted messaging and offerings.

There are some things to keep in mind, however, when it comes to emotional branding. First, it is not the same as emotional advertising. Emotional advertising is a much more direct form of speaking to your audience’s emotions through ad campaigns. Second, it most definitely is NOT “in these unprecedented times” pandering. It is the foundational approach of positioning your brand close to your audience in a way that must be sincere and empathetic, otherwise it will ring hollow, or worse, off-putting.

A very modern factor pushing emotional branding to the forefront is COVID-19. Remember the toilet paper crisis? Typically, customers tend to stick to their tried-and-true brands. With the pandemic, though, spending habits went haywire as retail consumers started panic-buying in bulk, creating shortages. A McKinsey report found that a whopping 75% of customers have started trying different brands due to availability. With this sudden drop in loyalty, this creates a crucial opportunity for businesses to focus on emotional branding. Beyond just increasing availability, nurturing trust will be key to gaining an edge over competitors.

There isn’t a one size fits all approach

Anyone who’s been in the digital world for more than a few years might recall hearing the advice “be human” or “be authentic.” Those were once marketing buzzwords that have now become marketing expectations. These days, users want to feel understood and spoken to directly. The process of knowing how and what to say is determined through brand strategy.

This isn’t one size fits all, so investing the time and attention into the research phase is so important. Our brand strategy process is always custom-tailored and is often the first thing we work on with our clients. Discover how we put brand strategy behind every design project here.