A sound brand strategy outlines how your brand shall be expressed
By Ashwini Pable
In a perfect universe, you would create a great product, which would rake in profits on its own steam, build brand loyalty and make you a rightful market leader in your segment. Unfortunately, brand building isn’t as straight-forward a road as that in reality.
There are many twists and turns in a brand’s journey. The pandemic and market downturn converging to create distress for brands, might seem like a one-off in a brands life cycle. But many have been lost in the corridors of time over far lesser crises.
Few can forget the swift end Compaq came to in 2001 after ruling the industry for 15 glorious years. A poorly planned merger diminished the brands’ reputation, the brand lost its essence and subsequently its market share. The pandemic too revealed how it took just a few short weeks for consumer psychology to undergo significant changes, impacting buying behaviors.
The point we are making is — global crisis notwithstanding, the marketplace is a constantly changing landscape even on a run-of-the-mill day. This is why consistently working to build a brand identity that is unique and memorable helps brands stay relevant and front of mind with customers. It is this hard earned brand love that insulates businesses from market downturns and helps them navigate any crisis.
At the core of strong hard-to-miss brands lies a well-designed brand strategy.
A Cohesive Brand Strategy
A sound brand strategy outlines how your brand shall be expressed; its tone of voice, visual assets of color, design among others, its purpose and finally its relevance in the consumer’s life. Everything flows from your brand strategy. In effect, your strategy gives your brand a personality and a life of its own. This informs how you communicate and interact with your consumers and is foundational to setting you apart in a crowded market place.
Brand strategy is the single most critical element in a brand’s existence and not just new entrants but leading incumbent brands must also prioritize re-visiting their strategy if they witness a slump in either sales or brand awareness. Take the brand Fortune for instance—owing to its success in the edible oil segment, despite having successfully diversified its product portfolio, consumers continued to identify the brand only with edible oil and nothing else. The Adani Wilmar group decided to address the evolving needs of the brand by re-visiting its brand strategy to modernize its identity and grab a larger market share.
Standing tall vs Standing out
Whether you are a start-up wanting your brand to establish its own voice and personality or a successful corporation looking to pivot course in order to stay relevant and loved, the following tips will help inform your strategy, helping you accomplish your underlying purpose of grabbing attention:
- Be Brave
We have been firm believers in the art of bravery for 25 years. Being braver makes brands stand out. It fuels movements by challenging consumers’ pre-conceptions, behaviors and attitudes. Challenging the way the category “should” look. Nike turned the daily jog into a movement. “Just do it” wasn’t an instruction, it was a note to self, heard inside millions of minds. We are tribal. So are great brands. There are genuine “rewards” your brand can offer which can be something more fundamentally human, above the mere physical and functional. How does your brand represent a set of beliefs, a view of the world, a collective spirit that people can literally “buy into”, forming a community defined by its habits? When you are brave, you don’t simply run a brand. You start a movement. That means producing creative ideas and designs that cut through the noise and raise the pulse with beauty and relevance.
- Think Inside Out
Enough has been said about brand purpose lately. An analysis of the BrandZ database from 2006 to 2018 revealed that brands with a strong purpose grew in value by 175%. This was more than double in comparison with brands which had a weak purpose. Not surprisingly, somewhere along the line, ‘purpose’ entered the marketing mix, and having one became an obvious thing to do. At the ‘core’ of the brand, lies its ‘essence’— its purpose and values. This core drives everything that orbits around it— like your assets and your brand world, and ultimately sets the tone for your communication. Getting it right therefore will build a brand that lasts, leads and becomes truly iconic. To arrive at an authentic brand purpose, brands need to ask themselves not just what they stand for, but also what they simply won’t stand for.
There are many examples of how inauthentic posing is quickly called out by consumers. When Pepsi used Kendall Jenner in an ad designed to address the unrest around the black lives matter protest, viewers called out the attempt as being superficial as they felt it was ignorant of the reality. Pepsi apologizes and immediately pulls the ad down but it stays in the memory of the viewers as a tasteless attempt to capitalize on a climate of social unrest. In contrast, when Starbucks stepped into controversy and faced backlash when its staff member in New York called the cops on two black men waiting for their friend, Starbucks responded from the inside out. Instead of brushing the case aside as an isolated incident, they closed down 8,000 stores across the United States for Racial Bias Training. The move cost them $12 million in profit, but won them brand loyalty mending consumer sentiment.
Brands are built on trust, which is why brand strategy must be authentic and free of gimmicks. In the long run, using ‘purpose, sustainability, transparency’ as mere buzzwords to resourcefully manipulate consumers and drive profits will do more harm than good. When brands are built steadily and consistently on ethics, trust naturally flows and brands are able to create involved relationships with their consumers. For as long as the brand strategy is off, lazy or inauthentic, the very foundation of the business remains cracked.
When your brand strategy is intelligently designed, it consistently delivers a promised experience building confidence and brand love— helping you stand tall however cluttered the market shelf.
The author is strategic consultant director, Bluemarlin