Step three in developing a brand identity is strategy (I can hear you cringe). I get it. This word has gotten a bad rep as the reason for it is a bit vague, especially within creative fields. Why the hell does creative need a strategy? Aren’t they just making things look good, we know when things look good, don’t we? Well, let’s hope this article clears up some speculation, paints a clear picture of why a strategy is crucial to creative work, and how to create one. To get up to speed, please read the prequel articles:
6 Step Brand Identity Process
Brand Identity Goal Setting
Brand Identity Investigation
a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.
Sounds simple enough, you make a plan to achieve a goal. Where confusion sets in is applying this mindset to creative work. Usually, the goals are pretty lofty and not very helpful. I’ll spill it out with an example:
“We want a logo that looks cooler than our old one.”
This is unachievable. There is so much room for subjective interpretation that it is impossible to gauge success. No designer, strategist, or creative professional will be able to use this effectively. Furthermore, it’s a recipe for missing deadlines and failure to meet expectation.
Let’s try again:
“We are repositioning our company to attract a different, specified market. Our current brand identity is too general and is not aligned with the customers we want. Our new customer base is comprised of single males between the ages of 22-27, who just moved to a new metropolis. They have a hard time finding friends, so we are looking to create a mark that will encourage them with a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie. There are a lot of touchpoints this mark will be applied to and we need to make it work for all of them (list coming later).
Our top competitor is Meetup, so to make our brand standout, we will not use the same vibrant color palette or language, but instead focus on the rich heritage of making lifelong friendships with down-to-earth, relatable dudes. We are doing this because we believe every man should have trustworthy companions to journey through life with.”
See the difference? These goals can be achieved and they are clear. Not only that, but they are measurable and realistic.
If the previous steps are followed, it’s not difficult at all. The business goals and what is stopping them from being achieved will be unearthed by the investigation. It is important to note that new opportunities and gaps could surface while talking to stakeholders, but you have to discern them as they arise. If all follows suit, a brand strategy will consist of four parts. Positioning, Focus, Tasks, Metrics
A brand’s positioning is the space it occupies within the mind of a prospect. The goal is to define and stake a claim for a clear spot so that you are not associated with a competitor. In layman’s terms, how can you build a brand that is not a copycat?
Competitive analysis comes in here so that there is a crystal clear understanding of who is already out there and what plots of the consumer’s mind are available.
A good framework for this can be found in Marty Neumeier’s book Zag:
WHAT: X Company is the only (insert product/service),
HOW: that (differentiation in offering),
WHO: (target audience) who (target life setting),
WHERE: geographic location,
WHY: who need (target underlying need or goal) ,
WHEN: in an era of (trends that influence the brand, negative or positive).
For our example of the men’s friendship app earlier:
WHAT: X Company is the only social app,
HOW: that curates masculine social gatherings,
WHO: for young men who just moved to a new city,
WHERE: in the United States,
WHY: who need a source of brotherhood and camaraderie,
WHEN: in an era of social deprivation, loneliness, and toxic masculinity.
Apply this framework to your company, can you fill in all of the spaces? How do they compare to your competitors?
Brands are not defined by services, they are gut feelings and perceptions. The best way to bring these ethereal subjects down to earth is by linking them to a purpose. Biologists and sociologists would refer to this as walking the consumer up Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon, gave a great example when he said:
“In the factory we make cosmetics, in the store we sell hope.”
Products are great, but they are replaceable. Any low-level on the need pyramid item is. The higher up you move in the need pyramid, the more competition subsides. Every single creative deliverable, product, or marketing campaign is rooted in this big idea.
We’ve found it is easiest to take the positioning statement and distill it into as few words as possible to create the big idea. Following the example of this article, the big idea would be something like this:
“Forged in brotherhood.”
Keep your big idea simple, at a maximum one sentence in length, and think big.
Alright, you know who your brand is, who it serves, and what it stands for. Now it’s time to figure out how to bring it to life. During the investigation, you would have been asking stakeholders what their initial perceptions of the group were and what caused them. After unearthing the disconnect, you can create new deliverables to combat anything getting in the way of success.
This can get overwhelming as the list grows, especially at the beginning. But you can approach them methodically. Use the chart below for reference as we show you how.
How long the task will take? Labeling the task as 30 days or less (Short Term “S”), 30-60 days (Medium Term “M”), and 60+ days (Long Term “L”) gives a solid context for what is feasible.
What is the deliverable?
How crucial is this to the overall business objectives on a scale of 1-10? 1 being “nice to have, but unnecessary” and 10 being “we needed this yesterday.”
How achievable is this task on a scale of 1-10? Take into consideration resources, funding, and similar factors. Do not factor in time here, focus on whether or not you can do it or can afford to pay someone else to handle it.
Add the desirability and the obtainability to get a total.
You are looking for short term tasks (S) with a total score (T) greater than 15. Those are immediate tasks you can start working on to get the ball rolling.
What gets measured gets managed. These metrics to gauge the success of your brand identity should be concrete, achievable, derived from the goals set at the beginning, and relative to the deliverables. For example, a new logo is not going to directly decrease your website bounce rate, but redesigned website or updated content could.
We want to increase our perceived value by 15%
We want to increase our social media following by 10k in a year
We need to streamline our internal design time by 20%
We need to decrease our bounce rate by half
We want to look more masculine/feminine
We need to look more modern
We want to look more expensive and high-end
We want to stand out from our competitors
Anything can be measured so long as there is a clear metric and the right questions are asked. The point is that we make these strategies to achieve specific goals so we can evaluate what works and what doesn’t.
All of these goals are on your mind as a business owner, what will get them done is writing them down and creating a plan of action. Going deeper, prioritizing them, and giving yourself metrics for success will give you a sense of accomplishment.
Strategize. You’ll feel rewarded and it will be easier to get everything done.