Having a branding strategy is essential for all businesses big or small. Most of the biggest companies in the world have one and teams dedicated to always tweaking and evaluating their processes to make it as effective as possible. Branding is very important if you are starting a business, as you are entering a space where there are already established and recognized players. Creating and following a brand strategy process can help you to stand out amongst these players and even become one yourself.
This is why you need to learn how to develop a brand strategy that is effective for you and resonates with your target audience. There is a lot involved in the brand strategy process and many different elements that need to be carefully analyzed and taken into consideration. If you can do this right, then you can create something amazing that could give your online store major recognition and awareness.
Why is a Branding Strategy Important?
A branding strategy enables you to create an identity that becomes synonymous with your industry and to stand out among all the other competing parties.
People can relate to brands, and also be loyal to them as well. Do you know people who will always buy products or services from the same brands, regardless of the cost or hassle involved? You probably do it too and would have a preference for certain brands when it comes to purchasing specific things.
Branding can empower you to control the message that is relayed to consumers about your business. If you want to convey that you’re an eco-friendly and sustainable company that cares for the planet, an effective branding strategy can achieve this.
Once you have created a brand, you can get started on developing an effective strategy.
How to Develop a Brand Strategy
There are many different types of branding strategies and processes to follow. Because of this, you should determine where your brand fits in so you can decide which strategy would be best for you. It’s no good to just think of what could work and then create a brand strategy around it; there has to be a lot of thought and analysis put in at multiple levels.
Let’s take a look at some key factors which you will need to identify before you can develop a brand strategy. You should correlate the following 6 points into segments so you can analyze it all at the end:
1. Determining Your Brands Goals
The goal of your brand isn’t just to make money.
What do you aspire for your brand to achieve?
Do you want it to win awards, work on notable projects, increase in awareness, be associated with certain clients, build a loyal customer following, be known as the leader in your industry?
While goals can be achieved, they can also change over time and be movable as things happen.
Becoming a leader in your industry requires doing everything your competition is doing and doing it better. It also involves doing what your competition isn’t, because your innovative. This encompasses many objectives along the way that you gradually achieve in milestones.
Increasing your awareness would likely be your first goal if your brand is new.
With awareness comes people, and with people comes customers.
Once you have customers, your awareness can increase more and you can build a loyal following.
This leads to notoriety, which can win you awards, pick up certain clientele, and help you to get recognized as an authoritative figure in your industry.
Once you have decided on a goal, there are certain objectives required to achieve it.
2. Brand Objectives
A brand objective is a step that you take in order to achieve a goal.
If your goal is to raise awareness for your company and get customers, then your objective may be to run an advertising campaign.
Performing the objective(s) reaches the goal.
A coffee manufacturing company has a goal to expand into retail and wants their products inside independent coffee shops.
They go around and ask the coffee shops what the most popular type of coffee is, how it’s roasted, how it is consumed, etc.
They then create an objective (1) to manufacture and produce a product that caters to what the coffee shops identified as what the consumer will want.
They also design packaging (2) to help the consumer identify and understand that this coffee is in fact what they want.
The coffee shops accept this new product and the company has achieved their goal and created an effective product brand strategy.
3. Brand Positioning
Your brand positioning will be what you use to show people what you offer that others can’t.
It’s basically identifying or creating something that stands out against your competition and using it to make people take notice of you. This enables people to associate something specific about your brand that is different and desirable in comparison to your competition.
You can get started by first identifying who your competitors are.
Make sure you take note of them, their websites, and social media channels as you will need to cross-reference them later.
Next, you need to identify the following:
Where do you sit in your niche?
How are you different from your competitors?
How are they positioning themselves?
Compare your current positioning to theirs
Develop a better positioning strategy
All of these factors are going to influence peoples views and perception of your brand. People naturally compare different options available when they’re going to purchase something, especially when it’s so easy to do online.
If you’re Company X and your competitor is Company Y, the consumers could think “Well, Company Y has this which is good, but Company X has that which is amazing in comparison.”
That’s the difference that having an effective brand positioning strategy can make.
Knowing your brand positioning can enable you to come up with a differential advantage to your competitors that you can use to achieve your goals.
Brand Positioning Strategy Examples:
Change The Game
This is when you do something that no one else does and are the first to offer it. There is no market category for this product or service, as you are the one defining it.
You immediately become the market leader because of this and are setting the pace and standard for what you do.
Sometimes, changing the game can become the new normal.
People have been carpooling for a long time, but Ridesharing did not exist before Uber created it.
This is partly due to the fact that Uber is basically a taxi service, and the taxi industry is heavily regulated, so the barrier to entering this space can be incredibly challenging.
Regardless, they did it and even spurred competition such as Lyft.
Uber did this so well, that they even established themselves as a comparison point for companies entering other industries offering similar services.
A company creates a laundry service app where someone will drive to you, pick up your laundry, wash it, fold it, press it, and then give it back to you.
Their brand position strategy?
“We are the Uber for laundry services!”
Reframing the market is when you take something existing and reframe it in new terms. This can be used if you can now offer something that no one else is or if the market has shifted and consumer expectations and demands have changed.
Take Apple for example:
They offer the basic concept of a computer just like their competition does. It has RAM, a CPU, graphics cards, etc.
These are a given, and every computer will have these features. Apple doesn’t even really highlight these features. In fact, it’s well known that Apple offers less of these features in comparison to their competitors who tend to focus more on these features.
Instead, Apple computers have their own sleek and modern style, operating system, accessories, and features such as the Touch Bar.
Fill The Gap
This is the process of finding something that the existing market leader is not doing and creating a product or service around it.
You could market yourself as a specialist for this and gain business that was ripe for the taking since it wasn’t being catered to.
This can also be great because you aren’t even competing with an established player for this product or service, which gives you time to capitalize and capture the market.
There is a giant online food retailer that sells many varieties of food and offers its customers great selection.
The problem is, they only sell food that’s popular and desired in their country.
A smaller competitor could realize that people in this country actually love international food but there are limited options available for getting it.
They then spend some time researching and sourcing the best international products to offer and create a brand positioning strategy and marketing campaign around it.
Sometimes, brands can’t identify that there are more people out there who would be interested in their product or service if it were slightly tweaked or modified for them.
All of the brands in your niche offer the same type of product with similar features, but they can each differentiate themselves with something specific.
The thing is, all of these products are aimed at a certain type of person and start at a specific price point.
You could identify that another type of person would be interested in this product if it had X and could do Y, but was priced at S.
4. Your Target Audience
Executing a branding strategy to the wrong crowd will mean that all your efforts were futile.
This is why it’s so crucial that you really understand who your target audience is and how you can find them.
Identifying Your Target Audience
Your target audience will have a makeup or certain traits and characteristics that they fit into.
This is what’s known as a Demographic.
This could include things such as:
Age, Gender, Location, Marital Status, Occupation, Education, Income, Wealth.
It’s important that you can profile what characteristics your typical customer would consist of, as you can then market to those groups of people accordingly.
You also need to be mindful depending on what you sell.
You may sell certain products that only men will use or wear, but most of the customers could be their wives or girlfriends who buy these products as gifts or on behalf of their partners.
This would completely change your target audience and how you would market to them.
You can start by analyzing your brand objectives and positioning strategy that you collated before.
Think about what type of people would be more receptive to this.
Then, think of the answers to these questions:
Where would your customers be coming from?
What is the main function of your product or service?
Can it do anything else?
Who would use it?
Why would they use it?
So let’s say that you sell lawnmowers.
Where would your customers be coming from?
In this case, you’re a local business with an eCommerce website, but your customers are going to be in the city you’re based in.
What is the main function of your product or service?
The main function of your product is to cut grass.
Can it do anything else?
It doesn’t really do anything else.
Who would use it?
The people who would use it would be people who either own a home or live in a home.
People who live in apartments generally tend to not have lawns to care for.
Would the people more likely to be men or women?
How old would these people be?
People who own homes or rent homes would generally not be too young.
A minimum age of 25 would probably be your lowest starting point.
Would they have to be in a certain income bracket to be able to not only afford your lawnmower but to also live in or own a house in your city?
Why would they use it?
They would use it to cut their grass.
Lawnmowers don’t really have other functions and there are separate tools and products that could be offered as an upsell or cross-sell to cater to other aspects of lawn care.
In this situation, you could have concluded that your target audience would most likely be 25 years of age at a minimum, either own or rent a house, and possibly be earning a certain amount of money per year.
You could then do additional research and find out which neighborhoods in your city have the most homes and least number of apartments.
You can then segment those neighborhood homes by the average value.
People with more expensive homes would be more likely to hire a company to mow their lawns for them, which is a service that your business could offer as well.
If you wanted to dig deeper, you could further identify some psychographic traits which include:
If you can psychoanalyze your target audience, it can give you more ideas for targeting them later on.
Perhaps people who are looking to buy lawn mowers are also interested in gardening.
This business could then advertise on gardening websites or magazines.
5. Your Brand Message
Here is where you have your plan to differentiate and position your brand amongst your competitors.
Your brand message can be a combination of your goals, objectives, positioning, and competitive analysis wrapped into one.
It should convey the overall trait or feeling you want to achieve.
Pepsi is Youthful – Tiffany & Co. is Indulgent – FedEx is Efficient
Whatever form your brand message takes on, it should be relevant to your target audience.
It needs to be simple and easy to understand, while also being different from the competition.
Let’s take a look at FedEx.
One of their slogans is “We Live To Deliver”.
The message is that they’re entirely committed to one thing; getting your package delivered.
If you take a look at their About Us page, they expand on this further.
Here, they convey a message that not only do they just live to deliver your packages, but they also deliver much more than this.
They then explain how customers count on their extensive global network before finishing with a promise to them.
A brands message is designed to strengthen its reputation and values and resonate with their target audience. You can see here in the example above how FedEx does exactly that and even takes it to another level.
6. Your Competition
Now that you have identified all of the former, it’s time to see how your competition is doing it. Take every single point you have come up with so far for your branding strategy.
All of those points should lead to something that is actionable and ready to go. But, it isn’t ready to go, because you need to implement the final analysis step to see how your competition is behaving. This will enable you to make some final tweaks and adjustments because what your competition is doing may change your mind on a few things.
Now let’s do a competitive analysis and study the competition through various mediums to see how they do it.
Remember back in Step 3 when you took note of all your competitor’s websites and social media accounts?
It’s time to put that to use now.
Analyze everything you can, from Google searches to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, other social media platforms, and their website.
Any detail you can think of, analyze it and compare.
If you see a gap and there’s something no one is doing, think if it’s worth to fill it or if they’re not doing it for a reason.
Knowing how much your competition charges is crucial for your pricing strategy. You can add up your costs and determine how much you need to charge in order to not only profit but be competitive yourself.
Look around for your competitor’s product reviews and see what people are saying. This could give you great insight into what your competition is doing right and wrong. Reviews could be posted on their website, review platforms such as Trustpilot, or their social media accounts.
Pay attention to what platforms your competitors use, which ones they use the most, how they interact with people, what they post, how often they post, and what posts are business vs what posts are to get more followers or increase engagement. Then, you can take this analysis and make your social media marketing efforts better.
If you have decided that you’re going to push a certain product and advertise it on Google, enter your chosen keywords into a Google search and look at the advertisements.
For example, let’s search for “mens jackets nyc”
You should be able to see some Google Shopping ads immediately.
(these ads will look different for you)
You should also be able to see some text ads as well, identified by this:
With the text ads, you can read the ad copy that your competitors are using and find some common points that they use.
Do they mention discounts, sales, coupons, % off, delivery, shipping, etc?
The higher the text ads appear, the more money the advertiser has paid. If that advertiser is a well-known figure in this niche, there’s a good chance that their ad copy has been tried and tested and is very effective.
This is something you could try to emulate.
Now let’s take a look at Facebook.
If you want to see what Facebook ads your competitors are running, there are two ways to do this.
Info and Ads Tab
This tab can show you a pages active ads, even if you aren’t in the target audience. It may not show all of the ads that the page is running, but you could be able to see a few.
To check if a page has this tab, simply visit the Facebook page of your chosen company and look on the left side panel under their avatar.
Down the bottom, there should be a tab to click on labeled “Info and Ads”.
Replace “PageName” with the name of the Facebook page in its URL and it should show you some of the ads that it’s running.
Much like with Google Ads, this enables you to see your competitors ad copy.
It also has the added benefit of being able to see what images and videos they use as well in addition to headline variations, color variations, and offers/promotions.
Platforms such as Instagram and Twitter are a bit easier to analyze. You can simply visit your competitor’s profiles on these social networks, look through their posts, and study what you see.
You could also create other accounts on social networks that are not connected to your business and follow your competitors. Don’t give them a hard time, don’t even comment or do any activity with their accounts except for following them. If you have multiple accounts specifically set up just to follow them, then you will get alerts when they post and your feed will be entirely comprised of their posts, which makes it easier to analyze it all from one place.
You could also create another email address and sign up for all of their newsletters so you can study their email marketing strategies.
Once you have studied the competition, you can tweak and refine your branding strategy outline and move onto executing it with a marketing campaign.
Branding Marketing Strategies
The branding strategy process can be a long one but it could be the difference between success and failure. At this stage, you could have a strategy ready to go but just need to think of a way to put it into action. There are many different types of branding marketing strategies, and each type could be better suited to different situations. Let’s take a look at what you could try:
There are many different types of content marketing and strategies that you could use to promote your brand. Content marketing can establish you as an authoritative and respected figure in your niche that people listen to. You can start out with blog posts and move into other forms such as video marketing or infographics.
Guest posting is a form of content marketing that involves you creating blog posts for other websites in your niche. Those websites publish the blog posts which contains a link back to your website. As a result, you can gain traffic and boost your search engine rankings in addition to exposure and brand recognition.
One of the most powerful methods of getting your brand out there is social media.
There are multiple platforms that you can utilize and some of them are better than others depending on the purpose.
Instagram and Pinterest are more image-based and better suited to eCommerce websites.
Facebook is fantastic for advertising to specific segmented groups and LinkedIn is where it’s at for reaching professionals.
Influencer Marketing is when you collaborate with people who are renowned and recognized on certain platforms. These influencers will promote your brand in exchange for some form of compensation whether it be a free product, sales commission, or set fee.
This form of marketing has exploded recently and is incredibly effective. Many companies have even stated that they got a far better ROI from influencer marketing than they did from traditional paid advertising.
No doubt you’re aware of Google AdWords and Facebook Ads.
They obviously require money, but they are by far the fastest way to generate traffic to a website.
Not only this, your advertisements could reach a huge audience and showcase your branding strategy to win new business.
Press releases are statements that are published on news outlets and they are designed to bring awareness to people about what’s going on with a company. It could be about a new product you’re releasing, industry awards you have won, or even a promotion you are running.
These can be picked up by major news outlets which could result in huge exposure for your brand in addition to the added SEO benefit of authoritative backlinks to your website.
Packaging is important before it’s the first thing your customer sees once their product arrives.
There is a whole experience around opening a package and the way that it’s designed can affect your customer’s perception of your product.
Just think about how your customer would feel if their package arrived in a beautifully designed and colored box with small details such as a ribbon, handwritten card, or a thank you note inside.
Now think how they would feel if their package arrived in a generic brown box that’s seen better days and your product is surrounded by a crumpled up newspaper.
The exact same product is inside both boxes, but the experience of opening them is entirely different.
Your branding strategy doesn’t have to be all outbound and you can promote it to your existing email subscriber base or even with abandoned cart emails too.
Develop a solid email marketing strategy and incorporate everything about your brand into it.