Welcome to week five of our Advanced Brand Strategy Masterclass. We are now getting into the nuts and bolts of how to develop a brand strategy. I have divided that into two parts. And here’s part one.
Brand strategy development is a business process as much as a creative process. Branding is a business process—one that is planned, strategically-focused and integrated throughout the organization. Branding establishes the direction, leadership, clarity of purpose, inspiration and energy for a company's most important asset—its brand. Even the most potentially powerful strategy will fail if not executed effectively and consistently.
Here’s an important point: A brand strategy is not the consequences of planning, but the opposite: it’s the starting point. Here are the three basic requirements before you start:
1/ We need a clearly articulated business strategy / business plan with a view of the scale and scope of the business and how you want to compete.
2/ We must have good customer insights and understanding of evolving business economics. This requires you to look at evolving nature of different target segments and their existing and potential profitability.
3/ We need to first determine the role of branding as perceived by your corporation which will help shape many strategic brand decisions during the development process (Going back to the brand taxonomies introduced in week one).
The most common pitfall is many companies have no long term business strategy, at the very least, they should have an articulated description of the business such as how it creates value and how do they compete in their chosen industries. An effective strategy should act as a bridge between the past and the future. It involves judgments and decisions about when to commit and be willing to bet, when to delay making a commitment, when to kill something that won’t work and when to change the rules of the game. Strategy is a complex system of acting and talking, a system that occasionally manifests itself in rational designs. Many brand strategy development efforts are unintentionally turned into corporate strategy discussions and as a result these efforts are blamed for not delivering any value. REMEMBER You cannot develop a meaningful brand strategy with the absence of a business strategy. Although you can still create a name, a logo, tag lines and a set of graphic elements for brand identification purposes to deal with short term marketing needs.
The key task here and the most challenging one is to craft a brand vision. Crafting a brand vision forces you to think through where you want the brand to be over the longer term to support the corporate strategy. It helps the management team achieve consensus on the longer term goals and the level of branding support that is required to achieve those goals. It also provides guidelines to determine what kind of research to put in place to monitor brand building progress and return-on-investment. Most of all it gives you a starting point and a mandate to start developing other elements to support the delivery of the brand promise.
A brand vision statement has no fixed length or style of composition. It should be relevant, and therefore specific to the business and the world within it operates. A brand vision statement is by definition long-term and transcends particular products, markets or even current executive leadership. A brand vision statement should be complimentary to the company’s vision statement and sometimes can be combined. (click on the slides above to see some examples) Ultimately, it is the interconnection between aspirations, values and the brand that is important, not what the statement is called.
Take a look at this example from Sony:
SONY. We Help Dreamers Dream. Sony is a company devoted to the CELEBRATION of life. We create things for every kind of IMAGINATION. Products that stimulate the SENSES and refresh the spirit. Ideas that always surprise and never disappoint. INNOVATIONS that are easy to love, and EFFORTLESS to use, things that are not essential, yet hard to live without.
What do you think of Sony’s brand promise? Are they delivering on this? Do you think it is too aspirational or it is realistic? Is there anyone out there that execute better than Sony on this? If this brand promise is to drive the future of the company, where Sony should be going next?