When you observe the trajectory of successful organizations, whether Microsoft, Apple or upstarts like the Dollar Shave Club, and Warby Parker, it’s clear that innovation sets them apart from the competition.
But these companies also stand out because they built an effective brand strategy — one that is focused on a deep understanding of their customers’ needs throughout all stages of the buyer journey. They are able to excite their loyal customers long after their initial purchase.
Whether your company is just getting started or considering a rebrand, you’ll want to set a solid foundation through a branding strategy that reflects how well you know what your customers want and, in some cases, anticipate what they want — even before they do.
And, it requires differentiating your brand from the competition in ways that are relevant to your customers. Without a strong, thoughtful approach to brand development and messaging, you’re putting your brand launch at risk of a lukewarm reception.
Give your new branding or rebranding efforts a solid foundation with these 7 essential steps.
- Gain a deeper understanding of your target audience. A successful brand strategy must be built around your target audience. Why? Customers’ perception of your company defines its brand; not what it promises or sets out as its mission. More importantly, they will determine whether your company will continue to exist two decades from now … or just for a year or two.
Let market research guide the formation of your target audience. It’s possible that the audience you had in mind may not be the ideal fit for your brand. Or it’s possible that your efforts will be more successful if you narrow or broaden the parameters of your target audience. Keep your branding strategy focused on close connections with a specific audience — only those who will get excited about what you’re offering them.
Also, commit to a continual pursuit of learning about your customers; their needs, challenges and preferences may shift and evolve. Be ready to accommodate those changes through branded content that reflects you’re paying attention to customers’ needs. Be prepared to delight them in ways they didn’t anticipate.
- Create your brand’s value proposition. After researching your customers, clearly identify your company’s value proposition — the reason why your prospective customers should choose your over any other in your industry.
Some questions to consider include:
- What are our customers’ leading challenges and needs?
- How will our solution help solve those challenges and needs?
- What are the specific benefits of our solution?
- How can we delight customers with our solution or service?
- How is our company and solution different from our competitors?
Invest the right amount of effort in addressing these questions. Go beyond simple responses like better, cheaper, and faster. Develop more complex answers that can guide your brand messaging, including the elevator speech employees can use to clearly communicate what they do as part of your company’s mission. The answers are essential for creating the framework for your content and messaging strategy.
- Establish your core message. Having a clear understanding of what makes your company different from any other brand is critical; it helps you build a convincing case as to why customers should choose your company.
Spend time reviewing your company’s mission statement, vision statement and the answer behind your “Why?,” as Simon Sinek puts it in his popular TedTalk presentation. In other words, why does your company exist? Why is it entering the market? Go beyond the basics of “What” you’re selling and dig deeper.
Invite numerous employees to join the discussion about these topics. You’ll get more insights about the heart of your company, including why your team is passionate about serving customers.
Be concise when developing this core messaging; analyze how well it matches up to what customers are seeking to make their lives better. Clarity about your audience and your company’s mission will help shape the foundation for your messaging.
IKEA, for example, has a mission to “create a better everyday life for the many people.” The project management platform Asana wants to “help humanity thrive by enabling all teams to work together effortlessly,” while SkyGiraffe, a mobile platform, aspires to “make enterprise mobility a reality … in a single day.”
- Establish the voice and look of your brand. Branded messaging and visual assets, such as a tagline and logo, can be used to reflect the dynamic relationship between your company and your customers. They should clearly convey the message behind your mission statement and the personality of your brand.
Simple, a digital bank, was able to differentiate itself as a user-friendly alternative to traditional banks through a strong branding strategy. From the company’s conversational tone to straightforward, concise messaging throughout its site and app, Simple used a unique voice to target an audience that found traditional banking inaccessible.
If you’re working with a partner to develop branding assets, including the tagline and logo, work with an agency that works alongside you in understanding your customers, your company culture and your mission. They should also engage a market research company who is committed to spending time with your team to gain critical insights that clearly reflect your company’s personality and energy as part of your visual brand assets, including logo, colors, typography and photography.
- Build a meaningful content strategy. Promote your brand with a strong content strategy that outlines how you’re meeting your customers’ challenges at every stage of their buyer journey.
Use a market research partner to gather the insights you need to create the right messaging for the right customer at the right stage of their journey. Let data insights and creative testing guide you on the best media types for your audience, such as videos, podcasts, blogs and webinars.
By demonstrating your understanding of your customers — guiding them in ways that are highly relevant to them, your team can help establish brand trust. For a new company, establishing brand trust is especially critical during the Awareness stage; it helps build your reputation as a viable contender in your industry.
- Research the competition. While it’s important to build your company’s own brand story and unique relationship with customers, a new brand strategy should follow an analysis of your competitors. It allows you to identify the main differentiators between your company and the competition.
Deep research conducted by a knowledgeable partner like Vennli can help you determine how well your competitors are meeting your customers’ needs. It also can help you identify weaknesses in the industry, areas in which you can gain an advantage by showing customers that you understand them and that you can uniquely meet specific needs.
You also may discover areas in which you can more strongly communicate your brand value proposition in comparison to your competitors. Find ways to integrate those discoveries into your brand strategy.
- Continuously manage your brand strategy. A brand strategy must be regularly managed to ensure consistency and encourage brand loyalty. This includes making sure that all employees are following brand guidelines, including the use of visual assets such as the logo and font, and brand tone and messaging in content.
Determine how the aspects of the brand will be communicated to employees on the front end, and how it will be reinforced. Consider designating an employee or a team of employees to monitor how well your company is adhering to your brand message, personality and visual appearance. and story.
Consistent brand message and visuals will help your customers easily recognize your company, as well as establish your brand as an industry leader.
Great branding communicates how remarkable your company will be as a partner with your ideal customers. And, with the actionable insights provided by agile market research and creative testing, your brand can consistently deliver a branded content experience that meets customer expectations.
Understanding your customers — who they are and what they need — is essential to the success of your organization. It is important to use customer data and creative testing to deliver actionable insights about how to be more effective and develop deeper connections with your customers.