Founded a brand? Operated a brand? Worked at a brand in literally any capacity? Then chances are, you’ve heard the term ‘brand strategy.’ Maybe your brand already had one, or maybe you sat on one too many calls with creative agencies standing on a metaphorical soap box talking about how important they are (guilty).
But here’s the thing. They’re pushed by branding agencies, creative partners, and content creators for a reason: they’re necessary. Because you don’t build your brand on sand, you build it on a rock-solid strategy.
At Paper Tiger, this is how we define our brand strategies:
“We develop the foundation of your brand through a methodical approach that begins with analyzing your competitors and identifying your right to win. Then we craft the positioning, key messaging, archetype, and tone of voice that becomes your comprehensive guide on how to capitalize on it. All built around the driving force that fuels your brand: the ‘why.’”
So let’s break that down across five key points that showcase just how crucial a kickass brand strategy is.
Brands need to understand their competition.
It might sound like a given that a brand would know everything about their competition, but you’d be surprised. It’s not uncommon to find that a lot of teams don’t do a truly deep, comprehensive look at their direct competitors when defining their brand positioning. Often, one of two things happens instead:
- They compare themselves to brands they think are their biggest competitors, but are actually just ones they admire (that aren’t really targeting the same audience)
- They know their competitors’ offerings, but don’t take the time to look at the actual brands themselves — positioning, archetype, voice, messaging — and understand how they compare to their own brand.
Both of these usually lead to the same place: a group of brands in the same industry chasing the exact same audience, using identical positioning, language, and value propositions with little differentiation. Their offerings might even be drastically different, you’d just never know it. Everyone is just shouting the same words in the same tone of voice wondering why they’re not being heard.
That leads us to our personal favorite benefit of a brand strategy.
Brands need to know what differentiates them.
When you know your competition (i.e.you’ve identified your true closest competitors and done a comprehensive analysis of them), you can find out where you win.
At Paper Tiger, we use what we call ‘brand building blocks’ to determine this for our clients. We assess the fundamental elements of brands we work with to determine what makes them tick, stand out, and stick. Then we do the same exercise for their competitors.
We look at brand, story, voice, products, services, offerings, talent — the works. We find the key elements that differentiate your brand, and then we build your positioning around them, leading to your whitespace — the one thing you can say that no one else can.
Because when brands know what makes them stand out, they can do just that.
Brands need a purpose.
Ah, the elusive ‘why’. A brand’s epicenter, its engine, its mitochondria (science!). They’ve all got one. The problem is that often, as evolution after evolution of a brand takes place, the ‘why’ gets lost. Which isn’t ideal, because it’s every brand’s superpower. It’s the story that humanizes your brand and makes it resonate with your audience because brands are so often founded to solve the exact same pain point their target audience is experiencing.
A developer pines for a particular software function to make life easier — so they build it. A young mom knows transporting her child via car seat would be easier if it just had a different latch mechanism — so she invents it. Brands are founded as solutions to problems, and that’s not something you ever want to lose sight of.
When you turn that why into a concrete mission, a vision, core values, a tagline… the rest flows naturally.
Brands need consistency.
The average person has to do something 66 times to make it a habit. They need to see the same message around seven times before they remember it. And the average consumer interacts with your brand nine times before making a purchase or buying decision.
That’s nine interactions that, to be frank, you’ve gotta nail. So if your voice sounds a little different each time, your language is all over the map, you’re jumping around from value prop to value prop with no singular message — you’re going to lose them by the third or fourth interaction.
Brand strategies are designed to create consistency, because they develop the hierarchy of your messaging across all your communications — from your website, to your emails, to your social media channels, to your organic and paid search. If a consumer interacts with your website, then heads to your Instagram page, the more consistency they see in your brand, the more likely they are to trust it (four times as likely, in fact). And you know what brand trust breeds? Brand loyalty. Brand loyalty builds customer retention, and customer retention is what makes or breaks a business.
Brands need a single source of truth.
In line with the consistency your customer needs, your internal teams (and outsourced agencies and resources) crave it, too. Your brand strategy serves as a single source of truth for anyone that works with your brand, especially your creative partners.
Having a golden standard that every partner can build from ensures everyone is aligned with the same mission, values, and guidelines that you set from day one. If your product is a SaaS on a mission to streamline the financial arm of companies by automating 70% of their processes, you want your content to look and feel simple, clean, and straightforward. Not busy, complicated, overcrowded or tedious.
But without a definitive set of boundaries to keep everyone in the same lane, it’s easy for creative team members and partners to start swerving over the lines. We have a saying that we love: “Creatives are only as good as the guidelines you give ‘em.”
So give your team the ultimate guideline — a damn good brand strategy.