Brand strategy: let’s start at the beginning

There is a lot of confusion as to what branding is and what it is not. As more and more small businesses emerge, more and more agencies and freelancers pop up to “service” these businesses and offer them “expertise” on branding.

Whether bootstrapping and creating brand visuals online with free tools, or engaging a marketing agency, small-business owners rarely get the direction and guidance they desperately need when it comes to creating their brand. They are at the mercy of countless types of “experts” all selling the same solution: “more business”. After an introductory piece last month, this is the first of a series of articles in which we’ll have a detailed look at brand strategy for small businesses and start-ups.

Sales are the lifeblood on new business

It’s understandable that small businesses take a “first-up, best-dressed” approach to their brand. They strap on their new logo and head into the Facebook ads world where their customers are like fish in a barrel. It’s no wonder that the majority of budget is kept for ad campaigns and not wasted on “nice to haves” like branding.

But Facebook Ads, Google Ad Words, email marketing, funnels and social media are all “tactics” that, in theory should draw attention. But even if the tactics are well thought through and executed to perfection, businesses are left with attention on their “brand” with little to no substance to hold that attention. You might get plenty of foot traffic, but their attention won’t hold long and you’ll be left with an empty house minus the budget.

The way of the turtle

Branding has become a lost art in small business because it’s not easy, it doesn’t spit out immediate metrics and it’s not always about the ROI. Instead, branding is the way of the turtle. It’s about sweating the small stuff from day one. It’s about humanising the connection the audience has with the business and building on that connection with every single touch point. It’s knowing the purpose of the brands’ existence beyond being a monetary transaction and representing beliefs in the way it goes about its business.

It’s about deeply understanding who the audience is and what they feel in order to make a connection through that feeling. A connection through beliefs, values, visuals, language, tone and personality, so every touch-point has a lasting impact that builds on the one before it, hence the term “building a brand”.

Your business has no chance unless it’s connected

Although we all believe we a rational people that make logical decisions when it comes to purchasing behaviour, that fact is, that’s simply not true. Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95 per cent of our purchase decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind.

Studies have shown that even those who state or believe they actively compare brands, rarely if ever give the alternative brand a look in. Though they think they are making logical decisions at the point of purchase, that decision-making process was previously made in their subconscious.

This means that brands that take the time to understand their audience and tailor their strategy to make emotional connections are far more likely to be in and around the subconscious mind of their audience at decision-making time. The way brands make emotional connections starts with their brand strategy.

Core elements of a brand strategy

So, if it’s not marketing, what makes up a brand strategy? Here are the core elements.

  • Brand purpose
  • Vision and mission
  • Brand values
  • Audience
  • Competitors
  • Differentiators
  • Positioning
  • Personality
  • Language and tone
  • Communication

When considered and strategically applied, all of these elements will arm a brand with the necessary tools to appeal to whom their audience is, in a way that will mean something to them.

Stephen Houraghan, Brand Creator,

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