Brand strategy is one of those things that most marketers don’t often think about on a day-to-day basis. Sure, your strategy plays out in the tactical activities that keep you busy all day. But how often do you step back to review the underlying strategy that provides the foundation for the projects you’re working on? My guess is not very often. (I know I don’t do it often enough.)
If you work for an established brand, you probably haven’t looked at your brand strategy documents since your first week on the job. If you’re working at a startup or small business, you may not even have a formal brand strategy documented anywhere.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or simply reviewing your existing strategy to make sure it reflects the current goals and vision for your organization, it helps to guide your thinking with a few concrete questions. Here are 7 you can use to nail down your brand strategy.
1. Who Are We?
Maybe I was just an unusually existential middle schooler, but I remember having a serious identity crisis in 8th grade. I had no idea what type of person I wanted to be—I just knew that I didn’t like the person I was. I wrestled with the question throughout high school and eventually became someone close to the quirky nerd girl I am today.
How you answer this question is central to your entire organization. It often helps to think about your brand as a character or persona. If your company were a person, what kind would they be? What would they be interested in? What do they find boring? What would get them out of bed in the morning? What would keep them up at night?
The more you know about who you are as a business, the better you’ll be able to communicate that to your prospects and customers.
2. What Makes Us Unique?
Once you’ve figured out who you are, the next step is to figure out where you fall in the spectrum of other businesses out there. It’s important to identify your unique attributes in comparison to your competitors, but it can also be valuable to see how you’re unique from a broader industry perspective.
Your answer to this question shouldn’t be a laundry list of features or services you provide. It should be the things that are integral to your business: How you run your team, how you interact with people online, how you approach customer support, what you value as a company, where you’re located, how you talk, how you look. All the things that make people special and different are things that can set your business apart as well.
3. Why Are We Here?
This is one of the big questions in life, and one that’s equally important for a brand to answer. Why does your brand exist? What is it designed to do? What’s your vision? Without a solid answer to these questions, your brand won’t be very meaningful or effective.
4. Who Are We Talking to?
Without understanding who your brand is talking to, your product development and marketing strategies will likely be misaligned with what delights your audience. Identifying exactly who your brand wants to serve, what their interests are, where they spend time, and what they care about will guide your marketing efforts and your business development roadmap.
5. What Are We Doing?
Your brand’s mission statement should clearly explain what you’re doing and why. What do you hope to achieve as a brand, both now and in the future? Your daily business activities should tie back to these central goals.
6. How Do We Communicate?
You can’t develop solid a brand communication strategy until you’ve answered the questions above. After you’ve identified who your brand is, why you exist, what you’re doing and for whom, you can figure out how to talk to your target audience and what kind of tone your brand should have.
Another thing you can determine from this question is which communication channels you should use to reach your audience. You can then develop communication guidelines for each channel.
7. Where Do We Invest Time?
This is a really interesting question, and it’s one that brands aren’t always great at asking themselves. If it’s true that where we invest our time is where we invest our lives, then it’s important to identify where the brand should be purposefully spending its time, both in person and online. The answer to this question could involve:
- A digital channel plan.
- An event attendance and exhibitor plan.
- A speaking calendar.
- A list of volunteer opportunities your organization wants to participate in.
Bonus Question: What Is Our Story?
Story is how we communicate. If your brand’s story doesn’t feel authentic, neither will its products or services. Consider how your answers to the first 7 questions shape your brand’s story and how you share it with your audience. Understanding the stories your brand tells is a direct reflection of who you are as a company, what makes you unique, who you’re talking to, and how you communicate. By figuring out what kind of stories your brand should tell, you’ll be able to develop a robust editorial calendar and begin experimenting with new and interesting content types.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re creating a brand strategy for the first time, or simply doing a periodic review of your existing plan, these 7 questions (plus our bonus question) can help you nail down answers that are central to how your brand communicates, serves customers, and creates products and services.