Mastering Branding Strategy: Your Definitive Hub for Building Iconic Brands

All the Insights You Need

Key Points

  • Branding sets businesses apart and fosters loyalty by attracting the right audience.
  • Core brand strategy components include mission, values, visual identity, voice, and target audience.
  • Success stories like Netflix, GoPro, Dollar Shave Club highlight effective branding reflecting values and driving growth.
  • Learn from mistakes and embrace trends like personal branding, experiential branding, and sustainability for adaptability and innovation.

Branding is essential for every business, regardless of size or industry. Your brand is what sets you apart in the minds of customers and makes you memorable. Having a strong, consistent brand that aligns with your business goals is key to attracting your target audience and building loyalty.

This article will explore what a cohesive strategy for your brand entails, why it’s important, steps for developing one, and tips for effective brand management.

What is Brand Strategy and Why Does it Matter?

Branding strategy is a critical element of any company’s future, focusing on the ways it intends to foster rapport and favorability within its target market. Its central goal is to engrave a memorable image in the consumer’s mind, encouraging them to choose your business over competing alternatives.

A Brief History of Branding

Branding as a concept has evolved quite a bit over time. It originated in the late 19th century, when mass-produced packaged goods first became widespread. Brands like Coca-Cola and Campbell’s were among the first to realize the power of building an identity behind a product.

In the early 20th century, the rise of advertising allowed brands to communicate their messages through new media like radio and television. Iconic characters like the Marlboro Man and the Jolly Green Giant became embedded in popular culture. The further growth of television in the 50s and 60s propelled this trend even further.

As the digital age took hold in the 1990s and 2000s, branding expanded beyond conventional advertising. Websites, social media, and other platforms allowed for new, more personalized ways to engage with audiences. Branding became a more multifaceted, nuanced practice.

Some brands have successfully reinvented themselves over time. McDonald’s overhauled its unhealthy image by adding salads and other wholesome options. Old Spice went from a stodgy legacy brand to a viral, youth-oriented marketing sensation. Effective branding must stay relevant to consumers’ changing tastes and perceptions.

Why Invest in a Branding Strategy? Intellectual Capital & the Great Value Shift

You may be wondering why branding deserves so much focus and investment. A common rejection of branding is the perception that it’s superficial or manipulative––that it focuses more on creating a polished image rather than delivering real value. But consider this transformation:

In 2017, a study by Ocean Tomo revealed a striking transformation over the past four decades in the S&P 500’s composition of value, shifting from tangible to intangible assets.

Two-toned bar chart in blue showing the rise and fall of tangible and intangible assets as part of branding strategy.

According to the report, intangible assets, which included only 17 percent of the S&P 500’s value in 1975, escalated to a staggering 84 percent by 2015.

That means that more than 80 percent of the value in what’s often hailed as the benchmark indicator of large-cap U.S. stocks shifted from physical assets (things that could be touched, weighed, or transported) to something less concrete such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights, along with something equally vital—brand strategy.

Furthermore, an examination of the 39 companies featured on both the S&P 500 and Interbrand’s Best Global Brands in 2016 suggested that brand value might constitute approximately a quarter or even more of the average Intangible Asset Market Value (IAMV). It’s a telling insight into the intrinsic power and importance of brands in today’s market landscape.

At a high level, there are several key reasons an intentional branding approach is worthwhile:

Memorable First Impressions

In just seconds, customers make snap judgments about a brand based on its name, logo, website look, social media, and other factors. A cohesive identity makes a strong initial impact and leaves a positive lasting impression.

Inspiring Loyalty and Trust

When customers feel an emotional connection and affinity for your brand, they are more likely to stick with you long-term rather than switch to competitors. Brand loyalty also leads to valuable word-of-mouth referrals.

Standing Out from the Crowd

Your brand identity and messaging set you apart from rivals. Distinct and memorable branding builds recognition so current and potential customers think of you first.

Increasing Business Value & ROI

A strong brand is an asset that boosts the monetary value of a company. Brand equity allows you to command higher prices and earn impressive profits.

In short, branding drives real financial value while also fostering priceless emotional connections with your audience. Investing the time to build your brand is well worth the effort.

Delving Deeper: How These 5 Core Elements Shape Successful Brands

Now that we’ve covered why branding matters, let’s look at five key components that make up an effective branding strategy.

#1 Brand Mission and Vision

Your vision and mission statement establish your brand’s purpose, values, and future goals. This foundational piece should inform all other elements of your strategy.

#2 Brand Values and Positioning

What core values, attributes, and personality traits define your brand? Is your positioning mass market or niche? Affordable or premium? Your brand persona should resonate with your target audience.

#3 Visual Identity

Memorable logos, color palettes, and typography create visual recognition for your brand. A consistent visual design establishes cohesion across all touchpoints.

#4 Brand Voice and Tone

Find your ideal brand voice and tone. Is your communication style formal, casual, humorous, inspirational, or something else? Align it with your brand persona.

#5 Target Audience

Research your ideal customers and understand their desires, pain points, and preferences. Create audience personas to guide your branding efforts.

These core components work synergistically to convey a consistent brand image across all platforms and marketing efforts.

According to Forbes, simply being consistent when you present your brand, no matter where you are posting, can create a uniform message that enhances your brand identity and which can increase revenue by up to 23%.

7 Steps for Developing a Successful Brand Strategy

Building a high-impact brand requires careful consideration and investment of time. A well-crafted branding strategy is a roadmap that guides businesses toward creating a powerful and enduring brand that resonates with their target audience.

By following these steps, you can develop a brand strategy that effectively communicates your unique value proposition and sets your business apart from competitors.

  1. Conduct Market Research. Start by thoroughly researching your industry, competitors, target audience, and existing brand perception (if rebranding). Gather as much relevant information as possible.
  2. Define Your Brand’s Purpose. Use what you learned from research to define your brand’s unique value and purpose. What makes you stand out? Why does your brand exist?
  3. Craft Your Brand Story. Shape your brand origin story, personality, promise to customers, and key differentiators. This narrative will inform all other branding efforts.
  4. Choose Visual Elements. Select a logo, color palette, typography, imagery, and other design elements that reinforce your brand story and personality.
  5. Develop Brand Messaging. Create core messaging that consistently communicates your purpose, values, and audience benefits across channels.
  6. Apply Branding Across Touchpoints. Connect and reinforce branding across your website, advertising, packaging, social media, customer communications, and more.
  7. Monitor Performance and Refine. Measure branding effectiveness with surveys, metrics, and other feedback. Refine over time for maximum impact.

Following these steps will allow you to strategically develop and implement branding that resonates. But branding is never “one and done”––it requires a commitment to consistency and continuous refinement.

Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Success Stories of Well-Executed Branding Strategies

Like anything in business, it can be hugely helpful to learn from brands who have executed particularly effective branding strategies. Let’s look at a few examples:

Early on, Netflix strategically branded itself as a convenient alternative to video rental stores. The brand personality was approachable, cheerful, and human. Messaging emphasized the relaxed and personalized, movie-watching experience Netflix offered. Their strategy helped drive rapid growth.

GoPro built a brand centering on adventure, extreme sports, and high-quality user-generated content. Their messaging spoke directly to their target audience––daring, outdoorsy millennials. This authentic approach fueled viral growth.

Dollar Shave Club
Dollar Shave Club used humor and relatability to brand itself as the smarter, more convenient shaving solution. Despite being a new startup, their branding enabled them to capture significant market share through online subscriptions.

In each case, the brand strategically crafted messaging and partnerships tailored to resonate with its audience and reflect its core values. This emotional connection is what enabled them to find rapid success.

What are the Most Common Branding Mistakes to Avoid?

While the above examples executed effective strategies, many brands falter when it comes to branding. To ensure a successful branding strategy, it’s crucial to be aware of common branding mistakes and steer clear of them. Some common pitfalls include:

  • Inconsistency. Brand messaging and visuals should be cohesive across all touchpoints. Lack of consistency confuses audiences.
  • Ignoring the Target Audience. Branding will flounder if it doesn’t align with your customers’ values, pain points, and preferences.
  • Failure to Evolve. Remember Sears? How about Circuit City or Strawbridge’s? As consumer tastes change, branding must adapt. Brands that don’t change become stale and irrelevant.
  • Overly Complex Messaging. The average attention span of today’s human is shorter than that of a goldfish. Is your brand messaging clear and memorable? Don’t use too many slogans or convoluted phrasing.

Avoiding these missteps takes vigilance, but is key for long-term success. Consistently evaluating and refining your approach can help prevent these issues.

Branding Trends to Watch for 2023 and Beyond

Branding is constantly evolving along with technology, culture, values, and more. With the rise of AI, which is likely to dematerialize many tangible assets, intangibles like brand strategy become more critical to differentiation. Regardless, it’s necessary to stay on top of current branding trends including:

The Rise of Personal Branding

In the age of social media, individuals can build brands around themselves just like companies. Learn from personal branding tactics.

Experiential Branding

Rather than just advertising, more brands are providing shareworthy live or digital experiences. Prioritize interactivity and engagement.

Sustainable and Ethical Branding

Today’s consumers expect brands to be responsible, eco-friendly and show commitment to causes. Align branding with company values.

Staying ahead of trends allows you to shape them rather than be shaped by them. Always keep a pulse on emerging changes in the branding landscape.

Learn From the Best: Essential Branding Resources

Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just starting out on your branding journey, a great reading list can help you gain a deeper understanding of branding, uncover new strategies, and stay ahead of the curve.

A picture of Donald Miller’s book Building a StoryBrand on a desk with blurred bookshelf in the background.

Here are some of our favorites:

  1. “Building a StoryBrand” by Donald Miller – This acclaimed book offers insightful guidance on the art of clarifying brand messaging, helping you connect with your audience in a meaningful and compelling way.
  2. “The Brand Flip” by Marty Neumeier – Learn the art of creatively “flipping” brands when necessary in this thought-provoking read, and discover how innovation can reshape your brand’s identity.
  3. “Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits” by Debbie Millman – This third addition to your reading list offers a diverse collection of essays and interviews with some of the brightest minds in branding, providing unique perspectives and thought-provoking insights to elevate your brand strategy.

Whatever your brand’s size and budget, there are resources available to support your branding efforts. Don’t hesitate to seek out guides and tools that will help strengthen your brand strategy.

BrandDNA & Brand Toolkit for a Take-to-Market Branding Strategy

Developing a comprehensive brand strategy takes time and effort, but it is well worth it in the end. By creating a unified and consistent brand identity, businesses can build trust with their audience, distinguish themselves from their competitors, and ultimately grow their customer base.

Mockup of brand guideline package for Latitude Information Security

Fortunately, you don’t have to do this alone. With our BrandDNA workshops and Brand Toolkit style guide you can develop and uncover:

  • Your detailed target audiences
  • Various buyer personas & customer segments
  • Understanding your customer’s journey
  • Ways to increase retention through clear messaging
  • Setting a unique value proposition
  • and much more.

Contact us today for a customized marketing assessment and to learn more about how BrandDNA & Brand Toolkit can help you achieve your branding goals.