In our view, an effective brand strategy is not simply about influencing brand perceptions or defining key messages and communications. Rather, it should create absolute clarity of purpose and drive strategic alignment across the entire business enterprise. This starts with the creation of a clear and compelling view of who you are and what you stand for (i.e., your promise, and your key points of differentiation and relevance). But of equal importance, brand strategy should also identify what you must do to deliver on your promise – and therefore, to connect meaningfully and sustainably with your targeted customers.
In order to achieve this level of clarity, our consulting approach begins with intelligent strategy formulation based on insightful market research, competitive intelligence, evaluation of product expectations, new innovations or emerging products/services, as well as exploration of important marketplace trends and influencers. And given the far-reaching impact of our approach – both within the company and across the customer experience – it is critical that this work be conducted in a collaborative, interactive manner that brings together key stakeholders to ensure understanding, enthusiasm and commitment to the key decisions and their outcome.
Our approach to brand strategy formulation involves the following key activities:
Brand Assessment / Brand Audit
Effective brand strategy begins with a rich understanding of the brand – how targeted customers view it, its points of strength, appeal and differentiation, its weaknesses and vulnerabilities, its “elasticity” in terms of what products or categories it can extend to, and its core brand attributes (newness, dynamism, youthfulness, trustworthiness, energy, etc.). While it is extremely important to leverage internal knowledge and wisdom, the importance of the voice of the customer in brand strategy formulation cannot be overstated. Consequently, Brand Assessments must be grounded in insightful and strategically sound market research.
The cornerstone of any successful brand strategy is the Brand Positioning (or “promise”). A brand positioning is a clear, succinct statement that defines “who you are and what you stand for” – i.e., your purpose or “DNA.” It is not a tagline, or a vision and mission statement. Rather, a brand positioning is a strictly internally facing definition of your unique promise to your most important constituencies – based on the end-benefits that your brand, products, services and entire customer experience can (or must) deliver. It provides your reason for being, and your true basis of competition – and is therefore used to focus all of your strategic and tactical activities on fulfilling the promise.
A successful brand strategy requires a method for organizing and naming new products, product extensions, services, partnerships, co-branded relationships, and so on. Brand Architecture is the discipline of developing such a branding system. It establishes the rules and hierarchy of brands that provide structure and discipline in the development, positioning and naming of new products. It aligns the branding new products and innovations with the brand, business strategy and business model. Finally, it simplifies consumer choice by avoiding brand dilution or confusion.
Promises are only meaningful if they are fulfilled. Consequently, a brand strategy can only have substantial impact if it is actionable. A Value Proposition provides the critical linkage between brand strategy formulation and execution – serving as a “blueprint” for the implementation and rollout of the strategy. The Value Proposition impacts and shapes the nature of all customer touch points – bringing them into harmony with the positioning – and it drives the identification and execution of top strategic and organizational imperatives to bring the brand strategy and brand promise to life.