Brand Strategy

Once you’ve decided on your brand, then you need a brand strategy.  This is the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’.  Brands have many elements and unfortunately many of them are in the minds of customers and can only be influenced by steady and consistent communication and delivery of your brand promise – your commitment to customers.

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Customers are constantly bombarded by commercial messages and have become remarkably good at filtering them out.  Any inconsistency in communication is going to make it harder to break through the noise of other businesses and that means presentation as well as message must be spot on.  Putting your logo on everything, making your brand promise clear and most importantly walking the talk is vital.

Let’s look at an ideal approach and then look at the online opportunities.

Many small businesses regard brand as a Big Business thing; something for big budgets and lots of graphics design and expensive advertisements.  Unfortunately, your customers don’t know that Small Businesses don’t have brands and will make up their minds about your business whether you try to influence them or not.  You have to start where they are.

Understanding where you are

It is worth gathering everything you know about customer perceptions of your business.  In an ideal world a consultant might do some market research for you, but in the early stages, it is probably quicker and easier to do it yourself.  You need to look at each of these things in turn and as you do ask yourself ‘What is this promising the customer ?’:

  • Advertising and promotional material (brochures and flyers)
  • Packaging
  • Distribution Channels
  • Press Kit /releases
  • Internal communications / Intranet
  • Stationery
  • Organisation structure and objectives
  • Employee training, performance objectives and behaviour.  Selection and Promotion
  • Competitor reports
  • Industry analysis
  • Customer comments and complaints
  • Supplier / Partner comments
  • Business plans, budgets
  • Marketing plans, Creative briefs, Brand policy

You are looking for overall consistency.  Telling people one thing and behaving in another way will not work and your business can send the wrong messages unintentionally by not aligning everything.  For example:

  • Does you packaging say “Value for Money ?” or “cheap and nasty ?”
  • Do you sell your product in the right outlets ?  Harrods or a pound shop ?
  • Do you advertise in publications ?
  • Do your employees behave as your brand promises ?  If they don’t, have you given them the right training, the right performance objectives and enough resources to deliver ?  Ring the call centre of any bank or telephone company to experience this kind of mismatch.  Do you reward / promote the people who live the brand ?

And of course if you have a website and social media sites, there will be plenty of feedback on them to guide you !

Creating your Brand Strategy

Once you know where you are, you know what you need to do to get to the aim point or the ‘brand vision’.  There will be a set of messages that you want to communicate in all possible ways, especially in action and it is useful to capture these and offer them to colleagues.  It will also be linked to your brand positioning.  Valspar, a global chemical company publishes the following examples, here

  • Reliability – customers can trust us and we’re available 24 hours day
  • Performance – we’re the # 1 supplier in {various} markets
  • Expertise – Valspar has the technical leadership, account leadership and service to support products worldwide
  • Innovation – Valspar is committed to helping customers with their most pressing needs
  • Integrity – Valspar employees always seek to do the right thing

Large companies have a brand book, which describes how you can use the logo and the typeface and all that. This should be unnecessary in a small organisation where one person buys stationary and everyone works close together.  Nevertheless, consistent format is as important as a consistent message.

This strategy needs to be translated online.  All of your sites should have the same visual look.  All the About Us words need to say the same things and the more you can convince the search engines of this, the better.  As well as social media, businesses can use business listings and any page where you can place a business name, address and phone number on it (Search engines call this a citation).

It is also very important to manage your online reputation with a constant stream of positive reviews and good ratings.  Search engines put your business into a (broad) category before they rank you against the others; the clearer that you can make it where your business fits, the better will be your online branding and this will make ranking easier.

Rolling out your Brand

Internally rolling out your brand is quite a big job.  Spend most time on those who interact with customers – sales people, field support and customer service and explain what the brand means.  Then thoroughly educate line managers and direct them to educate their teams; hold them responsible and show them that you are serious.  A new Employee Code of Conduct reflecting the new brand could also be issued.

Externally, existing customers should be told if a brand is changing; they will show little interest beyond any impact on their business, but it will be an opportunity for your sales teams to present your company in the right light to them.  Having copies of new brochures, stationery and business cards will also show you are committed

Much of the effort in rolling out your brand happens online.  Logos and branding, new websites, new social media sites and so forth must go public on the stroke of midnight.  Business listings must be updated and old sites will need to be re-directed to new web properties (if appropriate).  Much of the old business’s online reputation can be preserved if the right actions are taken.

Monitoring your Brand

Having done one brand audit, you won’t be keen to repeat the exercise very often.  Nevertheless it is worth keeping an eye on the trends and making sure that the customers are getting the new brand.  Keeping an eye on the normal marketing things (do you have a dashboard?) and doing some Voice of the Customer work will give a qualitative idea of how it is going.

Your online approach also has a big part to play here.  Analytics will show you how your site is performing:

  • Visits and Views –
  • Conversions  -optins, phone and email enquiries,  ‘Likes’ and Shares, comments
  • Review Capture – how may customers have said something good about your company, products or brand
  • Complaints – always take complaints seriously – customers often seem wrong, but they’re right and so your business can usually learn how to better meet customer needs from complaints.


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