Business has evolved and with it so too has the nature of what it means to be a 'brand'. We are operating in a more complex and global environment than ever before. We no longer sell products in local markets, where we only need to know how the demographics of a local community support a brand. Today, the proliferation of the internet and the connectivity it has enabled means that your brand can be positively or negatively impacted around the globe in seconds.
This has brought with it a raft of challenges that organizations have to confront if they want to form a meaningful, lasting connection with consumers. Firstly, how do you, as a brand, represent yourself to a diverse population and engage them? You can't be all things to all people, at least not without diluting your identity to the point of irrelevance. The solution to this is not simply to turn it into a numbers game. You can't think of your audience as a commodity and try and hit as many people as possible with little concern as to whether this translates into sales. The challenge is understanding the conversations you need to get involved with to grow your brand while distinguishing the signal from the noise.
We asked five experts what they felt were the most important components of a successful brand strategy.
B.J. Carretta, VP of Digital Brand Marketing, Media and Communications at Fender
First and foremost, it’s confidence in the product and the team that are the main components of a successful brand strategy. We are very fortunate to always start with amazing products, and our product teams are some of the best in the world across any category. Secondly, it’s paramount to work with real data that helps inform decisions, and then lastly, I believe all campaign facets need to be connected. Media, communications, social, grassroots and content all have to work together to achieve goals. We are not working with auto or beverage money, so our plans need to really be synced.
Ruth Balbach, Vice President of Global Creative Design and Development Live Action at NBCUniversal
- Know yourself – have a clear sense of who you are and your purpose for being
- Know your customer – what are their problems, what do they care about, and why should they care about you?
- Know what makes you special – and remind everyone. A lot.
- Know what you want to say – be consistent and clear with your communication, and be simple.
If you can’t say it concisely, they certainly won’t get it.
John Lui, Brand & Marketing Director, Pizza Express
I believe a successful brand strategy is a long term plan that is borne out of answering a fundamental question: 'What is the common purpose for our existence as a business for all our stakeholders: our target audience, our employees and our investor(s)?' To accurately answer this seemingly trivial question, we must first consider and force ourselves to dissect and understand what ‘success’ means through the lens of ALL our stakeholders. Once this has been determined, some creative analysis is applied to further distil and ‘cut through the noise’ to reveal the common insight(s) behind the true purpose of the brand’s existence. It is with the revelation of this common insight that a successful brand strategy can begin to take place.
Erin Ilgen, Manager, Brand Experience, Lexus
I believe that a successful brand strategy needs to align with the values and beliefs of your company’s culture. It needs to authentically represent and affirm the characteristics and strengths of your business. In addition, the brand strategy needs to speak to your consumers. It needs to emotionally connect with them in a way that they believe that your brand is aligned with their needs, wants, and individual tastes.
Be authentic. The world is constantly changing. The best way to stay relevant is to know who you are and what you offer. The more true and honest you are in your messaging, the easier it is for your customers to find you amidst the chaos.
You also need to regularly check and adjust your brand strategy. Continuous Improvement is not just for manufacturing; marketing and brand management must also apply these principles to stay relevant. Benchmarking is a great way to see what other vibrant brands are doing. Take the time to study and learn from others and look for ways to leverage your learning within your business.
Jessica Novak, Director, Content Strategy, Zoe Media Group
A successful brand strategy plays at the intersection of a brand identity and understanding your audience through data. You need both a strong sense of who you are and a strong external radar, to play in the conversations that are most relevant and important to your readers, while also being able to offer a strong value proposition and engaged audience to advertisers. It’s a constant balancing act. At the end of the day, the strongest brands are able to clearly articulate a reason behind everything they do that ties closely back to their brand identity.