You’re five years old and one foot is on the pedal.
Looking down, the pavement beneath you burns. Harsh and unforgiving.
Looking up, the path ahead seems impossibly long.
You feel the sting on your elbow from yesterday’s attempt. Your helmet straps dig into your ears. Your standing toe stretches to grip the uncertain ground.
And your hands feel clammy. Uncertain on the handlebars.
But you’re determined to make it. You know that riding a bike is something you want to do.
And you know that you will only enjoy the success of your dream if everything works together.
If you balance evenly on the frame.
If you keep the handlebar true.
If both feet drive in the same direction.
You know that if one foot suddenly decides it would rather run, it won’t end well.
So you take a deep breath, and push off…
…and I’m not really talking about riding a bike. But you knew that.
I’m talking about your business. And by the end of this blog post, you’ll know why skipping a stage of your brand development strategy will doom it to failure. Just like skipping bike-riding practice might make you crash into a tree and fall in a heap.
Sure, it’s tempting.
You think you know most of the steps. How to establish a powerful brand. How to identify your audience and speak in a language that moves them.
Can’t you speed the process along just a hair?
Well, you probably could.
But at the cost of confusing your audience and hamstringing your potential growth.
Just like the horse needs to go before the cart, you need a brand strategy in order to design a knockout content marketing plan.
And you know the other secret? You’ll find the whole journey a cleaner, easier, sweeter experience from start to finish if you give it due process.
For the record, I’m not just talking about multi-national-corporation-top-feeders here. Done properly, these steps work for any business, whether a kitchen table start-up or fast-growing household name.
And then who knows. Maybe you want to teach that bike to fly.
But let’s not skip straight to dessert, and get started.
THE BIG PICTURE: WHY NOT WHAT
Before you can nail any element of your brand development, you need to sort your business plan.
And I don’t even really mean your business plan.
You need to nail the point of your business.
Ten years ago former ad man Simon Sinek’s TED talk blew everyone’s minds by telling us that we’d been getting it all wrong.
Businesses shouldn’t be starting with the What or the How. But with the Why.
Why does your business exist?
And why should your customers care?
Ok, I know I said that every step is important. And that’s true. But this is quite possibly the most important of them all.
This lies at the very heart of developing your brand.
- Inspiration builds loyalty far more effectively than manipulation (on price, promotions, fear, novelty etc.)
- With a clear purpose, you can inspire your audience to share in it
- People want to belong to communities and cultures
So if you can inspire your audience to share in your purpose, you’ll build a far deeper relationship. A tribe, not customers.
(And did you spot how explaining ‘why’ made my point all the more convincing?)
If you can inspire your audience you will build the kind of brand loyalty enjoyed by the likes of Apple and only dreamed of by pretty much everyone else.
Remember their old strapline, “Think different”?
You buy an Apple product because you share in their ideal of challenging the status quo. And sure, because they make great products. But it’s the emotional response that matters.
And to get your audience in the gut, you need to tell them why.
And then read on to see how you’ve just made every other step a thousand times easier.
WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?
So you’ve whittled the why down into a juicy little nugget of goodness.
You’ve found your cause. And you’re ready to march up the hill waving your flag.
But you don’t have any followers. Yet.
So that’s where step two comes in.
Who are your customers?
They share in your Why, we know that already.
But we’re going to need a bit more detail.
So for each audience segment, you’ll be asking yourself:
- What’s their demographic?
- How do they think?
- What do they read?
- What do they care about?
- What turns them off?
- What problem do they have? And how do you solve it?
- How would they identify themselves?
The secret here is painting such a clear picture of your audience, that you can easily address them. You can hear their response. You can see what draws a reaction.
For a few handy tools, dive into this post on HubSpot.
Once you know who you want to talk to, you can work out a plan for where and how to reach them. And how to get them on board with your Why.
TIME TO BUILD THE STRATEGY
Phew. Still with me?
That bike isn’t going to ride itself.
I know you’re starting to see how we’re building a house here. And that if you decide not to put in any windows you’ll definitely notice it later.
So now we’re at the main event. Building the strategy.
That sounds big and complicated.
And as a smart marketeer you already know all this, but let’s make it nice and clear for everyone in the back.
Your brand strategy is your overall plan for how you communicate your brand.
Let’s break it down:
What does your brand care about? What do you stand for? What do you stand against?
If the brand was a person what personality would they have? Would they take you on adventures or protect you from danger?
You can see how straightforward answering this will be once you’ve got the Why nailed down from earlier.
What do you want to do?
How will your brand serve its values in practice?
Apple’s status quo disruption means a mission of reinventing electronics, television, music…you name it. A mission to reimagine our relationship with technology. All in service of their values.
You can’t work out what you’re going to do until you know why you’re doing it –
Ok, ok. I’ll stop hammering the point.
We all love to be told a tale.
We like to know where things came from. And that includes brands.
So how will you communicate your values and mission?
Take Jack Daniels.
They are adept at using storytelling across their marketing. But their brand story is one of the sharpest out there.
It’s a story about warm hospitality and pure authenticity. The sense of things having been done the same way for generations. Of knowledge and craft passed down.
It keys in to:
- The value of taking your time when making fine liquor
- Heritage, vintage values
- Celebrating longstanding members of staff
- The Jack Daniels character, with his ‘uncertain’ September birthday
If you too can weave a story that communicates your values and mission clearly and movingly, you’ll be well on your way.
For some other top-notch brand tales, see this HuffPost piece.
Where do you sit in the marketplace?
Are you the value own-brand? A premium choice for more selective customers? An outsider or challenger brand for those who like to be different? Or a household name that everyone can rely on?
Knowing where you sit in the market informs all the steps that follow.
You might also have noticed that this is the first time I’ve mentioned the competition.
That’s because at the heart of brand development is working out who you are before you think about anyone else.
Brand Messaging and Identity
Once – and only once – you know all of that, can you start thinking about content. What your brand says, and how it says it.
While messaging is your ‘verbal’ communication, identity is your visual style. This is where logos, artwork and design all come into play.
In the noble land that is brand messaging, clarity is king.
Everything you do needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet. You want your brand to be memorable, and for that, your brand needs to be clear.
That applies everywhere your customers meet you.
You’ll be looking across your social channels, blog posts, website, print media, packaging, internal comms. All of it. You need a consistent tone of voice.
Check out our very own blog post for the importance of creating a unique tone of voice that matches your brand personality.
And guess what? You need to have clear values, a clear mission, and be clearly communicating your story based on your intended position in the market.
Now let’s delve into a first-class example of coherent brand development.
Who Gives a Crap?
About time I showed you how all this works in practice right?
Premium toilet paper brand, Who Gives a Crap? have their brand strategy turned up to 11.
Manufacturers of recycled toilet paper, the business started Down Under and has since gone global.
You only have to be on their website for 5 seconds to get their values. Making a difference.
Even the name epitomises that idea.
And their mission?
Increasing access to toilets across the world. And doing better by the planet.
With recycled and ‘forest-friendly’ products and 50% of their profits spent building toilets, they’re living those values.
And that gets customers on side. Fast.
As Simon Sinek writes:
“Trust begins to emerge when we have a sense that another person or organization is driven by things other than their own self-gain.”
Add all of that to a charming and playful tone of voice across their content and identity and you’ve got a brand strategy to die for.
Their voice is confident, bold and comes with a skilfully balanced sense of humour. They even include an ‘emergency roll’ with every delivery.
Take these lines:
“Delivered to your door. Well, to your front door. To your bathroom would be creepy.”
“Nice bum! It deserves some seriously soft toilet paper.”
Expertly done, right?
CHECK THE RESULTS
So that’s it.
Your strategy is ready to go, and you’ve added a marketing plan to get your brand out there.
Hopefully, you’ll be seeing results.
And you’ll be regularly checking that your brand is being perceived the way you want it to.
Jump over to Qualtrics for some quick tips on how to measure your brand’s perception.
And if you ever get lost or lose direction? You can return to the steps above and get back on the right track.
WHERE FROM HERE?
Well, that’s up to you.
Maybe you need to get someone to craft a killer brand strategy for you? Along with a razor-sharp copy and content plan. Because we’re pretty awesome at that.
(You didn’t really think I wasn’t going to talk about copywriting did you?)
So jump in the comments and let me know what you found useful.
And as always,