Does Brand Strategy sound intimidating to you? Try reframing it as a Brand Plan…

When considering developing your brand identity, the brand strategy part can seem a bit intimidating... Strategy is a vague word and can cover many meanings, activities and exercises, but reframing 'strategy' as 'plan' can make it more approachable.

Added on:

April 21, 2024

File under:

Strategy

Written by:

Ben Stanbury

When considering developing your brand identity, the brand strategy part can seem a bit intimidating... Strategy is a vague word and can cover many meanings, activities and exercises. 

It's no surprise that when it comes to branding many people want to jump straight to the designing part, the exciting part... I've been asked before 'Do we have to do this bit?'. 

Well, to be honest.. yes, and for good reason!

Make strategy less dry… 

In the context of developing a brand, if 'strategy' sounds like an intimidating word to you (or it sounds boring or dry), instead, try replacing it with the word 'plan'.

Consider a brand plan as a series of questions that will cover several key areas: 

What are the reasons for starting the business?

How is it different to other businesses in that space? 

Who is the target audience?

How will you attract them and why should they care?

Who is the competition?

How should you present the brand (visually and verbally)

Thinking about the answers to these broad questions will allow you to make better-informed decisions when the time comes to design your brand identity and write the messaging that accompanies it.

Thinking about the answers to some broad questions around your business will allow you to make better-informed decisions when it comes to designing your brand identity

So what exactly would we map out and discuss before we jump into any design work? 

What does a plan look like? 

Here are twenty-five basic questions to ask, discuss and write down as you make a brand plan... 

Internal brand questions

Why does our business exist beyond making money?

What is important to us as business owners? 

Is there a story behind the reasons for starting the business? 

Audience and competition

Who are our customers?'

How do we show up for them and solve their problem? 

Who are the competition and what are they doing that we really love? 

What is the competition not doing so well?

How is our brand meaningfully different? 

How will we communicate this difference? 

Why should our customers care about us over the competition? 

Brand personality and feeling

What sort of impression do we want to make on our customers?

What kind of personality will our brand have?

What other brands have this personality too, and what can we learn from them? 

What feeling do we want to invoke in our customers when they encounter our brand for the first time?

Brand naming, language and domains

What should our brand name suggest about us? 

What feelings or ideas do we want to convey?

What do other brand names in our space sound like? 

How will our brand name tie in with our overall brand personality? 

Does our brand need a strapline, and how can we distil our brand essence into a short and memorable sentence?

Do we need a .com domain or can we explore other options? 

Is is essential that our domain name is the same as our brand name?

Can we prefix or suffix a domain name or make use of interesting Top Level Domains?

Leveraging brand identity design to attract your audience

What colours should we use to make the right impression on our audience

What kind of fonts should we use to make the right impression? 

Let's make a plan to use photography with a certain style and tone of voice

Foundational questions are a springboard to future brand success…  

Understanding how you will stake your position in the marketplace is important. Your positioning is built on three foundational tiers: your audience, your competition and your point of difference. 

After asking yourself these questions, you can then begin to delve deeper.  Look closely at your competition, their websites, how they present themselves and how their brands look and feel. 

Take some time to create some audience profiles. Try and humanise a typical buyer, give them a name, and an age. Build a story around them and look at the problem your brand, business or service will solve. 

Understanding how you will stake your position in the marketplace is important. Your positioning is built on three foundational tiers: your audience, your competition and your point of difference. 

The answer to the questions above will create a foundation on which you can begin to design a brand identity. Now you have some clarity, you have some guidance and reasoning behind your decision-making. 

When I design brand identities for my clients, I take them through a brand strategy workshop. These are conversational workshops, usually lasting between two and three hours. They help clients get clarity on the direction the future brand might head in and the kinds of people it should attract. 

The workshops consist of questions, activities and general conversation. I often ask clients how they would like their audience to feel about their new brand, and (if they are rebranding) how their brand might improve or be different in the future compared to how it is now. 

Naturally, we also discuss the target audience, their general personality traits, and how the future brand may present in a way that is attractive to them. 

It is important to remember that a brand should be designed to resonate with the target audience, therefor understanding them is a vital first step before we can begin to craft a visual and verbal identity that will resonate with them. 

A brand messaging framework document

The deliverable of my Brand Strategy workshop is a brand strategy framework document. This document takes the notes and points discussed in our workshop and formulates them into several key brand statements, including: 

Positioning statement

Strapline

Mission statement

Vision statement

Core values and beliefs

Brand differentiators

Audience personas

Audience personality traits

Competitor overviews

For more information about the brand statements, see my recent blog article ‘Brand statements explained

The brand messaging framework document can then be used as a guide to steer future communications and keep business owners focused before, during and after any brand identity work is completed. 

This document can be seen as a sister document to your brand identity guidelines which is produced in conjunction with your identity design. 

If you are thinking about taking the first steps in branding your business, and the concept of ‘strategy’ is somewhat daunting then get in touch if you’d like to discuss creating a brand plan. 

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