Strategic branding is a crucial factor in growing a successful business. If you’ve wondered how to build a brand strategy, Contra can help.
Every business’s first priority should be offering a stellar product or service. But if no one is aware of its offerings, how will those products or services find their way to an appreciative customer? That’s why strategic branding is one of the most important aspects of growing a business.
What is it about Coca-Cola or Apple that makes their brand so distinctive? Whether it’s eye-catching typography or a simple and effective logo design, elements of branding strategy have helped these mega-corporations become what they are today. Knowing how to build a brand strategy is crucial in the modern marketplace.
What is strategic branding? 🔗
The importance of branding can’t be overstated, but it’s always best to work smarter, not harder. This is where strategic branding comes in.
Strategic branding is, essentially, planning for success. Building a basic brand encompasses graphic design and demographic analysis, but a strategic brand looks to the future for expansion opportunities.
Some important reasons to create a solid brand strategy include the following:
- Building connections and loyalty. Brand recognition is essential, and so is trust. Strategic branding helps consumers instantly identify your brand, regardless of venue, so they can build a relationship with your product or service. Recognition keeps existing customers loyal and entices new ones.
- Ensuring consistency. Consumers like a consistent brand experience. They don’t want to worry about realigning their habits to fit new brand identities. Therefore, a brand that fluctuates will have a hard time retaining customers.
- Standing out. Stellar graphic design grants some brands remarkable visual aesthetics, but they won’t have an impact without substance. Brand positioning goes beyond visual identity, so a company can establish a brand persona — a trusted voice that aligns its core values with those of its audience.
Types of branding strategies 🏘️
Once a company decides to brand strategically, there are a few different approaches. Each carries distinct pros and cons, but they all focus on building a consistent, reliable identity that sticks in the minds of potential customers.
- Branded house. A branded house is a company with consistent and prominent branding across all products or services. Apple Inc. is a prime example of a strong branded house. Although the parent company provides a wide range of services (e.g., App Store, Mac, Apple Music), its offerings retain the same brand philosophy and Apple’s iconic logo.
- House of brands. More often in the contemporary marketplace, companies house a variety of strategically-branded services and products. Molson Coors, an American-Canadian brewer, produces Coors Light, Fosters, Molson Canadian, and Miller Lite. Although each of these beers is distributed by Molson Coors, each has its own brand identity that connects with a different target audience.
- Hybrid brands. If there are two different ways of branding a company — branded house or house of brands — then a hybrid model is inevitable. This frequently occurs when a company acquires an already-branded business or a product’s branding outperforms its parent company.
- Endorsed brands. Endorsed brands are an extension of hybrid brands, wherein some house brands will endorse other services and products within their stable. A recognized parent brand’s name can lend its consumer associations to its offspring. The Nestle company endorses its Kit Kat bars and Smarties by including the company name and logo above the name of the product.
Elements of brand strategy 🧬
Regardless of a company's marketing strategy, some elements of strategic branding are universal.
- Target audience. Without an audience, any strategy is useless. Stiff competition requires a company to locate a gap in the marketplace — a niche where it can stand out. Hiring a community manager skilled in communication and communication platforms helps a company understand its target community.
- Brand story. A brand story forges a personal, emotional connection with the audience. The story should describe why the business was started, its intended audience, and any ethical frameworks (e.g., mission statements, core values) that influence how the company conducts itself.
- Brand voice and message. Tone, be it written or spoken, communicates a great deal about a company. Voice and messaging are highly dependent on the target audience. The business owner (or their independent brand designer) must conduct research to pinpoint a brand personality that speaks to the desired demographic.
- Brand identity. A brand’s identity is what consumers latch onto. This recognition drives brand equity (aka a brand’s commercial value, discrete from the product it’s promoting), so it’s a vital consideration for any company or Independent.
- Competition analysis. It’s easy to consider other brands only as rivals for new customers, but they’re also valuable for research and inspiration. Understanding what has and has not worked for similar businesses ensures a more successful brand experience.
How to create a successful brand strategy 🛠️
Now that we understand strategic branding, its applications, and the elements of a brand strategy, it’s time to get to work. Here are the first steps to get you on the right track:
- Define purpose and objectives. What is the goal of the branding strategy? Knowing this before embarking on your branding journey is important. A clear conception of target markets and how to speak to them will aid with the hurdles down the road.
- Identify and research target demographics. Most successful brands focus their energy on a particular audience. Is there a subset of the public that competitors have ignored? Learning how to communicate with that demographic may help your brand stand out and achieve success.
- Analyze competitors and the landscape. A bit of research into competitors and your general industry will reveal gaps in the market and missteps to be avoided. Read through competitors’ websites, and note how they deploy visual identity and brand elements to connect with their audience.
- Create your brand’s identity. Once you’ve figured out what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to, you can begin to craft a cohesive, recognizable brand that will push your business to the next level. How is the tone of your company reflected in its visual identity? What platforms will your brand focus on (e.g., TikTok, Facebook, Instagram)? Answering these questions refines your brand’s messaging.
Complete your branding team with Contra 🤝
This information is helpful to consider, but what if the necessary skills are outside your wheelhouse? That’s where we come in!
Contra is a commission-free job search platform for Independents (our word for freelancers). Independents on Contra are always guaranteed a fair wage, and clients are guaranteed to find the best and brightest copywriters, social media managers, and many other brand strategy specialists.
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