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What Is A Brand Strategy – Really?

June 3, 2019

ExperienceEvery business has a brand whether it wants one or not. Every business has a relationship to its market and that relationship is its brand. It’s partly a recognition thing. What does the business look like? What does it sound like? It’s partly a reputation thing. What is it known for? What does it stand for? It’s even partly a legal thing. What trademarks or copyrights does it own? Today, we think of it as a total experience thing. How does the market experience this business? How do the two parties relate to one another? How do people feel about this business? Most small- and middle-market business owners put very little time into thinking about their brand. They commission a logo design, launch a website and leave it at that. They let their brand grow wild from there without ever considering what it might grow into. Shrewd business owners, however, create a strategies for their brands. They decide how they want people to experience their business and they take steps to ensure that they do. They shape their relationship with the market and guide their business to a positioning that affords competitive advantage. The market leaders in every category do this. In large part, that’s why they became market leaders.

To develop a strategy for a brand, one has to begin by peeling back the onion layers. One has to dig past the superficial aspects of the business/market relationship. One must reveal the unvarnished truth about the brand as it currently is. This is done through qualitative and, sometimes, quantitative research. The business’s market must be examined and segmented into various constituencies, i.e. customers, employees, suppliers, financiers, etc. Any group whose perception of the brand is important to its future is a constituency. Some markets have more constituencies than others. But, when defining a market, it is important to be thorough and not leave any constituency out.

Once those groups are defined, the researcher must talk to typical representatives of each of them. At Boardwalk, we like to talk to at least two from each. We start asking questions. Why doyou buy widgets? Yes but why do they buy them from The Widget 


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Emporium when you could get them elsewhere? How do you feel when you get a new widget?, etc. The idea is to gradually take the questions to a deeper level where the psychological needs of the market can be identified. What is the true purpose that The Widget Emporium plays in the lives of its market? Once that purpose is revealed, it’s relatively easy to define the brand’s mission. The brand’s mission, of course, is to fulfill its purpose.

Each constituency in the market will have been experiencing its interactions with the brand in different ways. So, when analyzing the survey/interview results, it’s important to look for the perceptions that are common to all of them. Those are the insights that can be taken as universal truths about the brand. They will reveal the brand’s true purpose as defined by the market.

Concurrent to the qualitative research, a survey of the competitive landscape should also be done. How are the competitors branding themselves? How are their brands changing? How are they positioned? Are they leaving any open territory that can be exploited?

Once all the data is in and analyzed, management should have a strong brand strategy in mind. However, that strategy has to be expressed through a brand platform. The platform should include these planks:

•  The brand promise
•  The purpose statement
•  The mission statement
•  The positioning statement

Once the strategy is so expressed, it is time to ensure that marketing is brought into alignment. This can require significant change to how marketing has been handled to date. Logos, websites, trade show booths all could require updating so as to support the new brand strategy. But it is worth the effort to ensure the new brand is strong and beginning to build value for the business.

So that’s a brand strategy. It’s putting people first. It’s the difference between having a brand that matters to people and having a brand that’s just … meh.


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