Developing a brand strategy is an extremely beneficial thing to do. However, it’s not something to take lightly. A brand strategy template is one of the first documents a business should create, before deciding on marketing strategies.
It should be your first business plan: the plan for what you want your brand to be, before you market or sell your products or services.
Fortunately, building a brand strategy can be much easier if you follow the actionable steps we’ve outlined below. We also included a downloadable brand strategy template to help get you started on your business brand strategy.
Before you start to build your brand strategy template
Remember that your brand isn’t just your company’s visual identity. Rather, it’s the overall experience you provide to your audience, and how your audience perceives that experience.
This is where your brand strategy comes in. A good brand strategy lays out goals for how you will provide and optimize your brand experience, and put your brand forward in all your marketing efforts. So, what steps should you take to create your brand strategy template and set your business up for success?
- Outline your brand purpose
- Share your core values
- Flesh out your target audience and its needs, with detailed buyer personas
- Define your brand mission and vision
- State how your brand differentiates itself from competitors
- Explain how you meet your audience’s needs (value proposition)
- Decide on your brand positioning
- Write your brand story
- Figure out your brand identity, including messaging, taglines, voice, tone, and imagery
We break down each of these actionable steps below. (Note: This template is meant to be followed in sequence.)
Part 1: Fundamentals
Before you can create any other component of your brand strategy, you need to define the “why” behind your brand. Think of this as your brand’s purpose – the reason why your brand was created in the first place.
Core brand values
What principles guide all the actions your brand takes? These are your core values. Put them into clear and concrete words, and outline how your brand will always live up to these values. Being open about your core brand values not only wins a customer’s trust, it also sets your business up for success.
Keep in mind, however, the public will also hold you accountable and make sure you walk the walk. See Patagonia’s core brand values in the image below for an example of how they can help inspire and guide their company.
Who is the market for your brand? Knowing who you’re selling to, and how you can make their life better, is key to developing a memorable and successful brand. Furthermore, your target audience should be as specific as possible. This allows you to meet your audience’s specific needs and satisfy their wants.
Some examples of a specific audience include:
- Female high school students
- Young men ages 21–29
- B2B marketers ages 25–40, who work at small or medium-sized businesses
- Customer service representatives at large ecommerce businesses
Part 2: Buyer personas
With your specific target audience defined, it’s now time to drill down and get even more into the details of their exact needs. Develop buyer personas, or individual hypothetical people in your target audience, with different motivations and purchasing habits. This will enable you to develop messaging that resonates directly with your target audience.
Here are the factors to include in a buyer persona:
- Relevant personal demographics (such as age, gender, marital/family status, location, approximate income)
- Information about their job, if applicable (industry, position, size of their company, who they manage or report to)
- Goals they have
- Needs they seek to meet
- Problems they face
- Pain points they have
- Where they get information (websites, TV, or print sources, peers, reviews, particular influencers)
Also consider how your brand would fit into their life to help develop your messaging even further:
- How your brand can solve their problem or meet their need
- Other solutions they are currently using (competitors, substitutes)
- Objections they may have
- How you can respond to those objections
(You’ll find a dedicated section to developing a detailed buyer persona in our free downloadable brand strategy template below.)
Part 3: Brand mission and vision
What does your brand set out to accomplish? What needs does your brand meet? How will it make life better for those who use its products or services? The answers to these questions make up your brand’s mission and vision.
What’s the difference between mission and vision? While your mission statement defines what your brand seeks to accomplish at the present moment, your vision looks toward the future and defines how your brand seeks to make the future better for your audience.
Part 4: Competitor analysis
Now, it’s time to think about who you’re up against. Here are a few key questions to ask about the competition:
- Who are your direct competitors?
- How do they market themselves?
- What are key aspects of their branding?
- What does your competition do well, and where do they fall short?
- What does your product or service offer that your competition’s product/service doesn’t?
At the end of these questions, you should have a firm idea of the specific needs you meet, or the way you help a specific market, which set you apart from your competitors.
Keep in mind, when developing your brand, you want one that stands out from your competition!
Part 5: Value proposition
What is the unique value your brand offers its audience? This should be answered in your brand’s value proposition. A value proposition states the benefits (both physical and emotional) of your product or service. It briefly explains how your brand stands out from the competition, how you solve their problems, and ultimately, why your brand is the best choice.
Part 6: Brand positioning
Brand positioning goes hand in hand with your value proposition. Instead of a focus on products and services, however, a brand position is about the thoughts and feelings you want your audience to have about your brand.
What positive emotions and characteristics do you want people to associate with your business? How do these attributes set you apart from your competition?
Of course, you can’t always control people’s perceptions, but you can use parts of your branding – your story, voice, messaging, and imagery (more on this below) – to influence those perceptions.
Part 7: Brand story
Your brand story is a concise summary of the values and events that led you to start your company, and how that continues to carry your company forward today. A good story can help to show a brand’s “human side,” and further emphasize how your values have shaped everything you do.
Usually, the best brand stories use a three-part structure: status quo, conflict, and resolution. This structure narrates the setting of why the brand was created, what challenge or opportunity led to its creation, and how your brand is now able to meet that need or solve that problem with its products and services.
For more details, be sure to read our dedicated article on how to write a compelling brand story.
Part 8: Brand messaging
Voice and tone
Are you aware of how your brand speaks to your audience? Developing a recognizable voice and tone is a great way to help build your brand personality. The following are a few points to consider when thinking of your brand voice:
- Is your brand serious or humorous?
- Informative or witty?
- Enthusiastic or sincere?
- Comforting or snarky?
- Sophisticated or rustic?
- Formal or informal?
Whether you can nail your brand’s voice and tone with the above comparisons , or it’s somewhere in between, make sure to find your voice and stick to it. Consistency is another way of ensuring people will trust and remember your brand.
Wendy’s is a perfect example of how great voice and tone can work – in fact, it’s been a key in helping them go viral. Wendy’s injects wit, snark, and branded humor into every social media post. Whether it’s a roast, meme, or a tie-in with a popular video game, you’ll always find that signature tone in their content.
“Just do it.” “The happiest place on earth.” Hear these phrases, and you instantly think of certain brands. (Nike and the Disney parks, in these cases.) Crafting iconic messaging like these is key to developing your brand strategy.
Brand messaging includes every piece of copy you publish – your taglines, slogans, and other short key phrases used in your marketing efforts. Make sure these phrases communicate some aspect of your brand purpose, mission, or values in one sentence or less. They must be powerful, and they must be specific.
Don’t try to rush the development of your brand message. Messaging usually takes many sessions of brainstorming to come up with ones that are the perfect fit, so take your time.
Part 9: Brand imagery (visual identity)
Your brand’s imagery includes your logo, the color palette you use, and the font styles and images you use in your marketing strategy.
First of all, your logo sets the stage for all other brand elements.It’s also typically the first point of contact a customer has with your business, and is a great way to increase brand awareness. The right color combo can also catch the eye, help with brand recognition, and even convey the emotions you want people to associate with your brand.
And finally, the images and typeface you use can make your brand even more recognizable, especially if you keep a consistent look throughout. We explore brand imagery in more detail in our article on brand identity.
The free brand strategy template
Ready to develop your company’s own nine-step brand strategy? Our free, detailed brand strategy template can help. Click on the image below to download.
For more brand fundamentals and strategies, read the other articles in our definitive guide to brand strategy.
And once you’ve developed a brand strategy, it’s time to put all the elements to work in your marketing efforts. What types of marketing strategies will you use to further your brand? Use our comprehensive guide to help you decide.