Five characteristics of a winning brand strategyMarch 19, 2018 - by Magda Adamska
This article was originally posted at BrandStruck
Last year, we wrote a post about the four things that are generally believed to help build a strong brand but which, in our humble opinion, rarely matter.
Today, we share our reflections on what should be considered if you want your brand strategy to be successful. We’ve put together a list of five factors, which, based on our experience, will help you avoid the biggest branding traps. As important as these points are, they often get overlooked or may even be deliberately ignored.
1. Differentiating offer over differentiating messaging
Sometimes, coining the right selling proposition is enough for a brand to succeed. This happens particularly in categories where it is often difficult to distinguish one product from another. That said, formulating a winning brand strategy is much easier if your offer is simply different or better than the rest of the market. Using differentiating words and visuals is not enough if you still do the same thing as everyone else.
If your main offer is not different, try launching new, innovative line extensions and/or sub-brands to create new categories or subcategories. David Aaker, one of the most famous branding professors, goes as far as claiming that building new subcategories from scratch is the only way to achieve growth (read his post about it).
2. Relevance over uniqueness
We have written about this many times before. It’s great when you have a unique offer and create a unique brand strategy for it. Sometimes, however, brands try to be unique just for the sake of being unique. What is more important than uniqueness is the relevance of your offer and how you present this to your target audience. It’s not uncommon for brands to choose too narrow niches just to be different; what matters more is how well your offer and your messaging addresses the consumers’ needs (even if a few other brands offer the same product or service).
How unique is Amazon’s promise to deliver convenience, the widest selection of products and the lowest prices? Not very. How relevant to the consumer? Probably couldn’t be more.
3. Simplicity over sophistication
As part of our work, we read a lot about the latest brand launches and relaunches, and we always try to understand the rationale behind them. Unfortunately, all too often we struggle to comprehend what the marketers had in mind and what the new or refreshed brand really stands for. We observe this phenomenon with a mix of disbelief and amusement.
If we, as branding professionals, can’t get it, how on Earth will consumers know what you are talking about? The best brands can be summarized in a few words; brands that need 100-page brandbooks to explain their strategy will never be understood.
An example of a brand with an unnecessarily complicated brand strategy is Uber. Initially, Uber was a high-end black cab service positioned as “everyone’s private driver”. When the company became more mainstream, it wanted to describe its revised proposition. Instead of focusing on its most obvious benefits, Uber used a complicated metaphor about bits and atoms to represent the digital and analogue worlds. We dare say that something simpler (and more relevant) would have been easier to use in marketing campaigns and could have helped Uber to grow its customer base more quickly.
4. Perfect execution over perfect strategy
The world’s most admired brands (which often happen to be the world’s most valuable) have one thing in common: they carry out their business strategies flawlessly, perfectly executing their offering, customer service, marketing solution or all three together. Unfortunately, many other companies spend too much time strategizing and not enough time implementing.
Burger King’s brand strategy is about allowing people to be themselves and its brand personality is fun, bold and edgy. What really differentiates Burger King is how it brings this personality to life. The “Proud Whopper” and International Day of Peace “McWhopper” proposals are just two brilliant examples of the company executing its marketing strategy.
Apple’s brand strategy is about creating a better world through technology and design. Many companies could have a similar philosophy but only Apple executes like Apple.
5. Internal buy-in over customer acceptance
Finally, if the people at your organization either don’t know, don’t understand or don’t agree with your brand strategy, then it makes little sense to attempt to communicate it externally. Getting stakeholders’ buy-in can be a long and painful process but without it you risk diluting the brand, as everyone will be implementing the brand strategy, according to what they individually believe. Thus, your product and communication activities will not build a coherent image.