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First Steps in Brand Strategy

It is easy to hear the word “Brand” and associate it with logos, letterheads and colour schemes. After all, the name comes from the images that were burnt onto livestock by property owners to show others where they came from (and therefore, how good they were). When we speak about brands today, we often think about how McDonald’s has the golden arches or Coca-Cola uses red and white for their marketing. What we may not realise, but marketing experts do, is that our brand has as more to do with our mission, our market and our mindset than it does with fancy fonts or good-looking logos.


Fortunately, those same marketing experts can help us take what we have and develop a strategy that includes past expectations of our market, where we want our business to go, and what brand guidelines we can create to get us there.


It all starts with three simple questions.


WHAT IS OUR MISSION?

As every good business knows, it is imperative that we have a well-thought-out, written statement as to the Mission and Values of the company. From a lone-trader to the biggest corporation, we recognise that we need something solid to guide our way into the future without deviating from the priorities that set us apart from the competition. Of course, sometimes we let this slip by us. We might just be starting out, or hadn’t considered our business in terms of missions, marketing and brand until this moment. Not to fear! While we want to take our time in creating the perfect mission statement for ourselves, we already know enough about our mission to use when developing a brand strategy.


So what is it that sets me apart from anyone else in my industry? Do I offer the cheapest service available? Do I have unique local knowledge that attracts the community more than a faceless corporation would? Perhaps I care greatly about the environment and put helping the natural community above making a profit? There are many right answers and no wrong ones. What matters is being able to precisely point at the things that make us special and say “I want people to know about this.”


For well-known charity “March of Dimes” its values have never changed, with an emphasis on caring for children, specifically at a very young age. Created before WW2 as the “National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis” by F.D. Roosevelt, it’s original mission was the eradication of Polio and the treatment of children afflicted by it. Over the years, as Polio was all but eradicated, the Mission changed towards preventing birth defects, on to healthy pregnancy, and now the charity, which has been around for nearly a century, spends most of its time funding research, treatment and education around premature births. The values of the organisation have changed, but its Mission hadn’t, and developing effective Brand Strategies (which included a name-change along the way) has helped it continue to raise funds to save lives.


WHO IS OUR MARKET?

Closely connected to our Mission is our Market. We know that many of our clients come to us for cheap pens because they like to save money on stationery, or we know that most of our clients use us as mechanics because we treat their car with the care that only a true lover of automobiles would. This is good. What is better is knowing who else might like our business but don’t know about it!


Doing Market Research can create a strong Brand Strategy. Market research sounds expensive, and for big businesses it can be. Simple market research, however, can be done in a morning’s brainstorming session. What are some of the things in common with your clients, besides the fact they visit you? What other activities do they commonly do and what things do they commonly like? What type of people do you wish would visit more often but don’t? Why might it be that they don’t visit you? Asking these questions provide unique insights that help develop effective brand strategies.


Imagine you wanted to put on a play, but only have a hundred posters. You know that people who like the theatre go to plays, so you could put all the hundred posters in front of the theatre. But these people were likely to come to see it anyway!


Fortunately, having researched your market, you know that people who visit bookshops a lot are also interested in theatre (they just might not know about your's, or haven’t visited one in a long time). So you put a few posters in bookshops and suddenly you have a bigger audience! Everyone has a budget, so you sadly cannot afford to just put posters everywhere, but you have put them in the right place.


This is why toy stores advertise on television on Saturday Mornings, while financial planners advertise during the evening news. Knowing your market saves money and helps bring new customers.


WHERE DO WE WANT OUR FUTURE TO BE?

We know who we are, we know who wants us, now we need to know what we are trying to do. Developing a Brand Strategy, for a lot of businesses, may simply be about attracting new customers to a business that has not changed. In these cases, we need to look at the people in our Market that may not know about us, people we haven’t thought to advertise too.


In other cases, it may be that our product or service has changed; we want to break into a new market that we don’t normally attract and are trying to find a new way to do so. This could be because we are selling a new line of products, or we have decided to become more eco-friendly as part of our Mission.


Finally, it could be that our Market has changed. People want to buy online more often, but also care more about supporting local business. People hesitate more about buying expensive products. People are going to see our store in a new town and need to know that we care about local communities.


When we know where we want our Business to go, we can also learn how our Brand Strategy can get us there.


Before we think about what colours represent us, what fonts most attract a reader’s eye, and how we can come up with a logo that suits every occasion, the start of our Brand Strategy comes down to three simple questions:


  • What is our Mission and what are our Values?

  • Who is our Market and who do we want our Market to be?

  • Where do we want our business to go in the future?

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