Brand Strategy: that thing you didn't know you needed
Brand strategy can feel like an intangible and unclear concept. Here's a brief overview of what it is and why it's crucial to the creative process.
Some concepts and terms used in the creative industry can be difficult to grasp, especially when they're a little less tangible than a logo. This tends to be the case with the important yet misunderstood role of brand strategy.
To understand what brand strategy is, let's start with the basics. Brands exist for a very simple reason: to give companies an identity. They help outsiders get a feel of who's behind a company name - and help insiders align on a core identity.
Building a brand means defining what the company looks like, how it behaves and how it talks. To figure all this out, we strategise.
When we talk about brand strategy, we essentially talk about building the framework on which all creative work relies on. Setting the right parameters means everything that follows is coherent and seamless. If you go straight into visuals and copy without that framework, things can get messy. Brands without a clear strategy can be spotted from miles away. Here's how:
- When a brand doesn't successfully differentiate nor reflect the ethos of the company
- When the designers can't tell you why they made specific design decisions
- When there's lots of conflicting and inconsistent messaging
- When a brand continuously needs to be refreshed or updated
Now let's dive a little deeper into what the brand strategy process looks like. The first thing we do when creating or refreshing a brand is to listen. We gather all kinds of perspectives so we can get the whole picture. We talk to people within the company, but also with customers. We look into what competitors do, how the industry is evolving and what the overall context is. Once we're swimming in information and knowledge, that's when we start to simplify and define what the brand should be about. To do so, we ask ourselves questions like:
- What makes the company truly unique?
- What's the company's overall vision and ambition?
- What personality traits reflect the company's culture? Should we create a brand that's fun, serious, mysterious, caring, daring?
- What audiences is the brand trying to reach?
- How can we simply explain what the company does?
- How should we structure and present the entire offering to the outside world in the clearest possible way?
- What are the reasons to believe everything we claim is true?
Clarifying the above is critical for designers and copywriters to work their magic as it gives them a structure in which to be creative.
Beyond the creative process, a well-defined brand strategy can help with business decisions and team alignment as it provides a clear and unifying direction for the company.
To summarise, this thorough process aims to build brands that last by accurately reflecting what the company is about and where it's going. Brand strategists don't tend to come up with anything new but rather uncover truths that are buried in a sea of information, thoughts and opinions - and package them in a clear, sensible and compelling way.
2 March 2021