Brand Strategy 101: Six strategies your brand needs to nail to succeed
When you’re in the process of building a business from the ground up, you spend a lot of time thinking about your strategies, but knowing where one ends and the other begins can make all the difference.
The amount of potential experiences and interactions customers have with your brand has never been higher, and they increasingly access your brand on a growing number of platforms and formats. Companies today are also more scrutinized than ever before, with everything from their purpose to their ideals and their employee experience among the things consumers consider before deciding whether or not to buy into the brand.
When you’re in the process of building a business from the ground up, you spend a lot of time thinking about your strategy. Because of this new paradigm between brands and consumers, building a successful modern business and brand means you have to think beyond your overall business strategy.
That might sound daunting, but it’s really not. Many of these different strategies work in conjunction with each other, and when mixed and meshed well together, result in a sound and effective overall fundamental business strategy to guide your process and decisions.
For instance, many people confuse brand strategy and marketing strategy. They can be similar, but they’re not the same thing. Nor are your digital strategy and your social strategy.
What follows is our guide to the different kinds of strategies that you want to consider. There are a number of unique and distinct strategies, which all modern businesses should think of. And crucially, each strategy must ultimately be informed by how your brand ties in.
Your brand is the promise of your company. And that promise implies specific behavior on the part of your brand, wherever it appears in the public eye.
Your business might be about selling your specific product or service, but your brand answers deeper questions about your business, most namely the why. Why does your company exist? Why should people choose your brand over the competition?
Many of these questions can be answered in a brand strategy, because a brand strategy helps you identify your purpose, personality, and behavior when out in the world. Your company wants to sell its goods and services, and it knows which people to target and which platforms to reach those people on. The brand strategy helps define how you’re going to do that—the tone, the phrasing, the values and ideals that undergird everything.
The actions a brand takes should be consistent, and they will be if their personality informs them. We’ve seen brands more eager to take stands on social and political issues in recent times. Not all of these attempts are effective or make sense—the ones that do make sense come from brands that are acting authentically from their values and personality, which resonates with the target audience. Those who swoop in and simply post a reactive statement or change their avatar on a social platform aren’t living their brand values; they’re latching onto a cultural moment and looking to score points.
A good brand strategy can guide what your brand would and wouldn’t do in any given situation. This is the time for you to define why your company exists, what it stands for, and how it will live its values.
Your marketing strategy can be described as, “These are the types of customers/clients/industries we want to pursue, and these are the reasons why.” Since the very beginning of the practice of marketing, “going where the customer is” has been a fundamental tenet. And you can’t know where to go unless you know who you’re going after. So a marketing strategy begins by gaining a deep understanding of the consumer and your target audience.
Then, a marketing strategy also helps you identify the channels you’re going to market on. It makes you think about what times of the year you might want to get more aggressive in your marketing than others. And it helps inform your marketing tactics because your marketing strategy will also identify targets, goals, and numbers you ultimately want to measure yourself on.
Marketing and Brand Strategy work off each other. Part of understanding the platforms you want to market on and your strategy when you’re there is driven by your brand personality. Every brand wants to be “on social” these days, but certain social platforms lend themselves more naturally to a brand than others. While every brand might feel like they need to be on TikTok—because that’s where the kids are!—simply posting content to TikTok isn’t necessarily sound marketing strategy.
The marketing strategy and the brand strategy need to fit together, with the shared goal of growing the brand effectively with the target audience.
In a world of apps and social platforms and branded content, an old reliable remains a fundamental piece of your brand and marketing: your website. Every brand still needs a website, and we’ll go as far as saying every brand needs an effective website. Yes, understanding SEO and how to drive people to your site is crucial, but the ultimate destination (your site) and what people get out of it are just as important.
Your web strategy is built on both your brand and marketing strategy. First, your marketing strategy helps in terms of a deep understanding of your customer. An effective website is one that your audience finds useful, and to ensure that, you need to know what your customer is after.
This is where creating customer personas helps. Take the time to map out the different types of people encountering your brand via your site, and figure out what information or experience they’re after. This will help you determine whether the focus of your website is informational, educational, transactional, or experiential.
The brand strategy that you’ve developed will guide your overall higher-level personality that you’re putting out into the world—in this case, the actual visuals, words, and tone of the content that people will interact with.
Earned media is a huge way for many companies, especially young companies, to tell their story to the general public. Ad buys can be expensive, but getting written up by a popular media outlet or blog can do wonders for your brand’s story. Pitching the right outlet requires you to understand the media that your brand gets its information and content from while also ensuring that the outlet fits your brand’s goals, image, and purpose.
For all of its ills, social media remains a critical avenue for brands to market themselves. But as the (relative) old-school social platforms like Twitter and Facebook continue to change, and new platforms like TikTok and Clubhouse emerge and take over a larger slice of the social pie, brands need to be discerning about where and how they show up on social. For many brands, it’s not realistic to be active and effective on every platform. And it’s also not prudent to try, either.
Again, the brand strategy and marketing strategy work in tandem here to chart the course for an effective social strategy. Your marketing strategy helps determine what kinds of people you’re trying to reach and where, which will help inform which social platforms your brand should place its focus on.
Does your audience skew older, where Facebook is their go-to platform? Or are they younger and spending their time on TikTok? And while they may be the but of some jokes, social media influencers can make a great partner for your brand. But don’t just link up with an influencer because of their large following—the right audience will be more valuable than the simply larger one, and the influencer must be someone that your audience respects and will be an authentic steward for your brand.
Your brand strategy helps create a foundation for your tone of voice and the content itself, which is critical to building out your social strategy. You may have determined that your brand benefits from visual storytelling, so you’ll focus a lot on Instagram. But the types of images you’ll use and the tone of the captions and copy that will accompany your content must resonate with your audience and effectively convey your brand.
What does your brand have to say? What is its mission and the products or services the company provides?
Your messaging strategy ensures that your brand will effectively tell your brand story in every opportunity it has to do so. Whether it’s content on your site and social channels, the words you use in ads and other marketing collateral, or in press releases and statements, having a clear messaging strategy makes sure that what your brand says has both meaning and credibility.
Messaging strategy works on a few levels, depending on the situation and what your goal is. Every brand needs long-term, high-level, evergreen brand messages based on and support your larger strategic brand goals. For example, if you’re a medical brand, you may have a clinical approach or a more lifestyle approach, which would inform your higher-level brand messages. This can take the form of the About Us section of your website or the language you use in your boilerplate on press releases. Think big picture, long-term, elevator pitch of your brand that appears in the public eye.
Then, there are more audience and segment-specific brand messages that may hold shorter-term relevance. These messages are tailored to specific audiences and operate more tactically. For example, these can take the form of product or service benefits or how your brand communicates with consumers during customer service interactions.
For both of these aspects of messaging strategy, it’s important to set some messaging ground rules for which your brand will follow. Which words do you use, and which do you avoid? What type of tone do you employ? When do you make a statement about something happening in the larger society or culture, and how do you go about that? When thinking through these, always think about how your brand can come off as authentic and genuine; consumers today are too savvy and will see right through inconsistent, bland, or inauthentic messaging.
Another place your brand needs to show up consistently and effectively is on the recruiting trail. Your recruiting strategy operates much like your messaging and social strategy, in that it’s informed by your brand and marketing strategy and will only be as effective as the foundation it’s built on. (And, social is a prominent place for recruitment, and your messaging on your recruiting ads and job postings needs to be on-brand, too, so there’s an intertwining nature to these strategies as well.)
When recruiting new talent, many of the same tenets hold true as with the other forms of strategy—when and where to show up, how to effectively resonate with the target audience (in this case, prospective employees). But your recruiting strategy has a different wrinkle to it than the other types of strategy, being that it speaks to company culture and is thus a part of your brand that operates on an internal level.
Internal company culture has taken on an increased importance in the last decade, in part because consumers are so much more informed than they used to be. Sure, some companies can get by the bad press of less-than-ideal employee experience, but most brands don’t want to be seen as difficult places to work. Your brand’s values—your overall purpose, the ideals you stand for—only resonate if you also live those values, and a big part of that is being seen as a place that workers want to be a part of.