Sometimes I think a back office discussion on brand marketing strategy development goes something like this (in true The Office style):
Business owner: “Question: What kind of branding is best?”
Expert: “That’s a ridiculous question.”
Business Owner: “False. An awesome logo.”
Expert: “Well, that’s debatable. There are basically two schools of thought–”
Business Owner: “Logos are branding. Awesome Branding, Booming Business Growth.”
Okay, so I exaggerated a little bit. But to be completely honest, I am concerned that many small business owners believe that their company’s brand consists of their logo and everywhere they can stamp it.
If only it were that simple.
Your company’s branding is more than your logo. It’s the way you connect with your consumers, create a community around your brand, and use the resulting emotive loyalty to beat out the competition. And in order to achieve that kind of a successful brand, you need a brand marketing strategy.
*Disclaimer: this is a big topic that many have written whole books about. See the resources at the end of this article to gain a more in depth understanding of this topic!
What is a Brand Marketing Strategy
Your brand marketing strategy is your plan for communicating to your audience that your product/service will solve their problems better than any other option. Your brand marketing strategy also sets the stage for building community around and loyalty to your company. To be successful, it requires both clear positioning and consumer connection.
According to the Corporate Finance Institute, “Market Positioning refers to the ability to influence consumer perception regarding a brand or product relative to competitors. The objective of market positioning is to establish the image or identity of a brand or product so that consumers perceive it in a certain way.”
In other words, positioning is the definition of what makes your product or service unique in relation to your competition. If you don’t know why your product/service is better than anyone else’s or where it fits into the market, then take some time to figure it out! If you don’t know, your customers certainly won’t either.
All people (yes, even you) make most decisions based on emotion. In fact, up to 90% of our decisions are based on emotion. If you’re a business trying to get people to decide to convert with you, that statistic is huge! You can barrage your audience all day long with all the ogical reasons why your product or service is worth their investment.If they don’t have an emotional connection to those facts and figure, though, they’re not very likely to buy your product or service. Ouch!
Instead of relying on the data of the number of widgets you’ve sold, or the number of 5 star reviews you’ve received for your services, you need to connect with them personally. Your audience needs to be able to imagine themselves as your customer. Or conversely, they need to be able to imagine what their life would be like if they weren’t your customer. Which life feels more appealing?
So to summarize, your brand marketing strategy is your plan for how you’re going to tell people that you’re special in a way that captures their emotions. If you’re wondering how to do that, keep reading friend! Then check out the resources linked at the end.
Brand Marketing Strategy Elements
An effective brand marketing strategy involves 3 primary elements. We probably could talk about a lot more, but these are what I consider the most critical: your mission & vision, consistent messaging, and customer loyalty.
Mission and Vision
This topic is so foundational to business growth that I’ve written about it before in my article on building small business marketing strategies.
In short, your mission and vision are the reason and purpose behind why your company exists. And it’s not to make money. Or to pursue excellent service. Or for a better tomorrow. Or any other corporate mumbo-jumbo that characterizes many of these statements.
Instead, the “why” behind your company isthe real, good, and tangible change you want to achieve in the lives of your clients and even the greater community.
For example, we worked with our client Bespoke Beauty Loft to develop their mission and vision statements. It’s currently summarized in the headline of the website we designed for them: “Building confidence through beautiful hair.”
Another example: L.L. Bean has recently produced commercials and other content featuring the phrase, “Be an outsider.” Have you ever seen someone wearing L.L. Bean clothes and thought, “yeah, they’ve probably not camped outside”? That’s the kind of community that a clear “why” can create – the type of community people want to belong to even if they don’t technically “belong.”
Simon Sinek champions the foundational nature of a business’s “why” in his book Start with Why. He writes,
“When a company clearly communicates their WHY, what they believe, and we believe what they believe, then we will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to include those products or brands in our lives.”
For a brand strategy to be effective, your messaging needs to be the same across all marketing platforms all the time. Your messaging is the language, images, and graphics you use to communicate your why.
Consistent messaging creates a sense of security for your audience. It improves your brand recognition and, subsequently, customer loyalty. Deviating from your company’s messaging can be jarring and confusing for your audience. Do it too often, and your audience will likely stop paying attention to you.
So, as tempting as it may be to post a cute photo of your cat on your company Facebook page, you need to ask yourself a few questions first: Does this relate to my mission and vision? Does it enhance my messaging? Is it similar in style and tone to the other posts on my page (assuming they are also on message)?
To ensure your messaging stays on point, you should develop messaging and style guidelines that everyone on your team can access and use regularly. These guidelines can define everything from the tone of your Facebook posts to the colors and fonts used on your blog.
Customer loyalty relies on two things: creating a sense of community around your company AND leveraging the customers you already have.
The community element of your brand marketing strategy taps into the human need for relationship and belonging. For example, Apple has a huge community of loyal customers. While Apple’s marketing could focus on product speed, longevity, etc., they instead focus on who you are when you buy Apple: When you buy Apple, you have joined a community of social norm-fighting, cool people.
And it’s really hard to leave a community you enjoy being a part of and identifying with. Bingo, customer loyalty.
Social media has made it really easy to help customers feel like they’re part of a community. Audience involvement and conversation in posts are simple to foster. These authentic, on-message posts can make people feel like they really know who you are as a business.
As you work to foster a sense of community around your brand and grow the number of customers in your community, don’t forget about the loyal customers you already have! In fact, the loyal customers you already have are probably your most underutilized brand asset.
Have you ever bought something because someone you trust recommended it? I have. And that’s the power your loyal customers hold for your company.
It’s actually fairly simple to foster their loyalty. A handwritten thank you note is not only unique, but also means a lot. So take the time to write thank you notes to new customers, top customers, etc. And if you don’t have the time, get members of your team to help you.
Here’s a few other ways to encourage customer loyalty:
- Ask your happy customers to write a review
- Send your customers some surprise gifts (like swag)
- Host an exclusive access event for top customers
Don’t get new customer tunnel vision: encourage your current customers to spread the word about you too!
More Brand Marketing Strategy Resources
Brand marketing strategy is critical for your business. To learn more about it, here’s a few resources I recommend:
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
- Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller
- “The Flywheel” on Hubspot.com
- “Brand Strategy 101” on Hubspot.com
- “Why Your Brand is Your Best Investment for High Returns” on Forbes.com
Develop your brand marketing strategy
If you want to grow your small business through a coherent brand marketing strategy, or if you want your brand to mean more than your logo on business cards, Ingenium can help. We work with our clients to build their brands through messaging and style guide development and consistent, on-brand platform development, posting, and more. We’re here to help your small business thrive.