A brand strategy is the way a company intentionally presents itself to the public. Brand doesn’t just mean a logo and the appearance of a company’s products or services. Rather, a brand strategy involves many facets, including deciding on a brand’s purpose, values, messaging, voice, and the channels used to promote the brand.

Brand strategy also closely involves selecting the brand’s ideal audience, and how to best position the brand in front of that audience in a way that’s different from its competitors.

We wanted to know what marketing experts consider the most essential elements of a brand strategy. We also asked about their best advice for businesses taking their first deep dive into brand strategy.

Sixty-four marketers shared their insights. Not surprisingly, nearly all of the marketers we surveyed (98%) have a formal brand strategy.

But what do they include in a brand strategy, and how do they measure its success? How has a formal brand strategy helped them grow their businesses? Read on to find out.

Brand positioning: The most popular brand strategy

When asked what types of common brand strategies they use for their own companies, 80% of marketers reported they use brand positioning, making it overwhelmingly the most popular brand strategy. Strategic partnerships came in second, used by 58% of marketers.

Brand positioning is the way a brand is presented to its target audience to differentiate it from competitors.

Common types of brand strategies companies use

What marketing methods do companies use to implement their brand strategy?

More than 9 in 10 experts (91%) use SEO, and more than 8 in 10 (83%) use organic social media, making them the two most popular methods.

Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters of marketers (73%) use email marketing, while around half of marketers use paid search (53%), referral marketing (52%), or social media ads (50%). You can review the frequency of use of these and other methods in the chart below.

Methods used to help build brand strategy

Ways a brand strategy helps businesses

When we asked how brand strategy has helped their business, the most popular responses were that it grew their customer base (80%) and grew their company as a whole (75%).

Meanwhile, 69% reported a brand strategy helped them increase profit, and 61% said it helped them increase customer loyalty. Thirty-eight percent reported it led to more employee engagement.

Ways a brand strategy helps businesses

Ways to measure the success of brand-building

How do marketing experts measure the success of their brand strategy? Nearly all of the marketers (94%) track website metrics, including traffic, clicks, and conversions, making this the most popular tracking method by far.

Meanwhile, 47% of marketers use social listening, which involves tracking and analyzing any mentions of their brand on social media, in reviews, and more. Another 47% use advertising metrics, while 33% used customer surveys.

Other ways marketers measure brand strategy success included tracking user engagement, media coverage, referrals, and other word-of-mouth marketing.

Measuring the success of a brand strategy

21 tips for developing a new brand strategy

Now, let’s dive into the tips our experts gave for marketers preparing a new brand strategy. These tips include ways to best establish a purpose that drives your brand, position your brand against the competition, and telling your story to the right audience.

Start with your values

Lynn Power of Masami shares, “Start with figuring out your brand positioning and narrative (including archetype and values) at the beginning of the process. All too often, I see companies de-prioritize the brand foundation for the product news, and then need to unravel communications and marketing later when they realize it doesn’t hang together.”

Let your brand purpose drive your brand strategy

Kimberly Gordon of KSG Group shares, “It’s critical to articulate the higher purpose of your brand in your customer’s life. It’s not just about what you are selling, it’s how you are improving your customers’ lives. If you can effectively define that, then you’re halfway there.”

David McHugh of Crediful tells us, “Make sure you convey purpose. As you’re developing your brand, it’s important to think about what ideas, thoughts, and images customers will associate with that brand. When people think of your brand, what kind of value do you want them to attach to it? Even more important is what messages you want to send to the market through your brand, and what feelings and emotions you want to associate it with.”

Understand the many facets that make up a brand

Landon Ledford of Double L Brands shares, “Before starting, clearly understand all that a brand actually encompasses. Be overly detailed with documenting your brand’s target audience and your competitors’ audience. Just as it takes more than a cowboy hat to make a cowboy, it takes more than a logo or name to make a brand. A brand is the set of expectations, memories, and relationships – the overall feeling – consumers associate with a certain product/service when thinking about it (consciously or subconsciously).”

Don’t rush – take time to form a solid brand strategy

Joy Corkery of Latana recommends, “Take the time to think about what you want your brand to stand for. It’s a competitive world out there for companies and it may lead you to the conclusion that the faster you concoct a brand strategy and get it out there, the better. Of course, time is of the essence and you do need to factor it in as you set out to compete. However, speed is worth nothing if you release a brand your target audience doesn’t emotionally connect with.”

Set measurable goals to track brand marketing success

Laurel Mintz of Elevate My Brand advises, “Start with a baseline or hypothesis against which you can measure success. Even though it’s not an attractive conversation, it’s exactly where most brands fail. They just start throwing money in different directions without specific and measurable goals or KPIs they’re tracking month over month.

“Just like driving across the country, you need to know the streets, roads, and highways you’re going to take to get there. Otherwise, your likelihood of successfully reaching your destination is slim to none.”

Target the right audience

Harshil Bhatnagar of Staiir Social Media Marketing recommends, “Choose the correct target audience. One of the biggest mistakes people make while creating an individual brand is trying to appeal to everyone. But in reality, that never happens. Find out your ideal audience’s demographics: What are their dreams, goals, and aspirations? What is preventing them from achieving their goals? The more you learn about your audience, the better you will be able to convert them.”

Rex Freiberger of GadgetReview agrees, “The first thing I do is look at who the brand will be serving and who we’re hoping to reach. This is the whole purpose of creating a strong brand, as you want it to resonate with your target customer. Developing profiles for your target audience can help you reverse engineer a brand strategy.

“For example, if you find your ideal customer spends a lot of their social media time on Instagram, then Instagram needs to be a part of your strategy. If they’re more responsive to videos than images or text, you can incorporate videos. Everything should serve a purpose that will draw in your target audience.”

Kevin Walker of Boardwalk advises, “Start by defining your market. List all the groups you need to perceive your brand in a positive light. Your customers and employees, of course, but everyone else, too. Omit nobody. Once you’ve done that, determine the need your product or service fills for that market. Remember, people don’t buy drills because they want a drill. People buy drills because they want a hole. What you’re selling is the ‘drill.’ What is the ‘hole’ your market needs?”

Sanjay Patoliya of Teclogiq advises, “Your goal is to develop a strategy that will get your company in front of as many eyes as possible, but make sure those eyes belong to your target audience.

“Research your competitor’s audience, as well. Find out who your competitors are targeting and how they’re promoting their business. Your goal is to get an idea of how you can capture some of that attention, or on the flip side, what niche they might be missing out on.”

Be authentic, relevant, and different

Shannon Riordan of Global Brand Works advises, “For a brand strategy to successfully drive a business, it must be three things:

  • Authentic. You can’t just say it, you have to be it.
  • Relevant. Customers buy for their reasons, not yours.
  • Different. Offer something your competitors can’t.

To establish authenticity, we conduct a deep listening tour with internal stakeholders. To establish relevance, we collect customer insights to understand the drivers and barriers of choice. To establish differentiation, we look at the competition and make sure we understand trends and mindsets in the marketplace.”

Authentic, relevant, and different branding

Consult customers to find out what they want in a brand

Christine Perkett of Mindfull Marketing advises, “Don’t work in a black hole. Involve and engage your current customers in the process, even if just at the beginning to set a benchmark. Why do they engage with you? What are their current greatest needs? Where do they spend their time?”

Nikola Baldikov of Brosix says, “Too many brand strategies are developed in the bubble of a marketing team that assumes they know what people want. Take the time to see your own business and your competition through the eyes of your customers. Take the time to go directly to the source. In this way, you’ll be able to identify what you’re offering that your competitors are not.”

Mark Hayes of Kintell agrees to “Really do your research – high growth organizations narrow their focus rather than targeting everybody. If we have a grasp on what customers look for in a brand that resonates with them, we’re able to consolidate our own reputation, position ourselves on top of competitors intelligently, and align our brand strategy with our business objectives.”

Find the weaknesses of competing brands and position against them

Bruce Harpham recommends, “If you are struggling to come up with a brand strategy, think back to brands that disappoint or frustrate you. For example, if a competitor is routinely late for appointments, make on-time service a key part of your brand positioning. This kind of positioning makes it easier for your customers to remember you.”

Determine a unique selling position (USP)

Marcin Muras of Upmenu says, “You are, of course, looking to snag brand new customers – but that’s only one branch of your strategy. The second branch – and the one with more low-hanging fruit – is where you will lure existing customers away from your competition with your USP. Make a compelling argument as to why customers should ditch a known and trusted brand and give yours a go instead.

“This kind of brand strategy has been around since the 1940s, but it works. Take a long hard look at the product or service you intend to sell and then do some really thorough research on your competition. Once you have all of the information in front of you, figure out what makes your brand better or different from everything else out there – that will be your brand strategy.”

Establish brand recognition with a strategic brand name

Milosz Krasinski tells us, “Give your brand a name that is memorable, explains what the brand does, and comes with a great slogan. These days, lots of people make the mistake of choosing a brand name solely on its SEO potential (with some even creating names which are very similar to a large, well established brand). While this may work short-term, you’re much better off finding a great brand name and identity which is all yours.

“The goal when creating a brand name is to turn your moniker into a noun. For example, ‘Fancy a Starbucks?’ where the brand name is synonymous with having a coffee.”

Create and apply a consistent brand message

Madeleine Seah of Astreem shares, “A brand manager needs to work on creating a consistent brand message. The message should be aligned across the company’s digital channels, including its social media and website, and repeated throughout the company’s brand elements, like its logo, mission statement, and tone of voice. This removes the risk of confusing your audience and creating inconsistencies that make your brand seem disorganized.”

Malte Scholz of Airfocus advises, “Be consistent with your messaging across different media. All of your teams should communicate the same branding story: marketing, sales, customer support, you name it. Make sure they all hear the same branding story and find ways to implement it in their everyday work. Otherwise, your communication will be misaligned.”

Get your team involved in branding

Lisa Tadewaldt of Urban Forest Pro shares, “Your branding strategy is born out of your ethos, both as a team and as a company. It used to be that companies branded with one goal in mind – to sell to customers. While that is certainly an element of advertising, the public has grown very adept at tuning out and identifying advertising messages.

“You need to focus on being better and doing better than the competition, and your branding message needs to portray that. The message needs to be honest and plain-spoken, and I’d highly recommend incorporating [your team] into your branding.”

Matthew Myre of PurpleCup Digital offers a visual approach to teamwork. “People want to do business with people, not corporations. If you have a website, use images of your team, not stock photos of random people. Have a story, share your story, ask for others to be a part of your story. Humanize your brand and people will interact.”

Master your unique brand voice

Artem Minaev of FirstSiteGuide suggests, “The most important thing is mastering your unique brand voice to create a strong emotional attachment with your target audience. To create that connection, some companies use mascots to give their brand some character. For instance, Moz has Roger, a funny robot that everyone loves. So, once someone sees Roger, they automatically think about Moz.”

Tell a compelling brand story

Sushil Sharma of ReviewsAndGuides shares, “One of the most effective brand strategies is storytelling. People don’t connect with brands and products. They connect with a story behind them.

“For example, out of thousands of fast food joints, KFC is a market leader. Why? The story of Colonel Sanders and his struggles to establish KFC inspires people. Stories are memorable, emotional, and most importantly, drive actions. A story establishes an empathetic connection with customers. A customer who feels that you understand their problem will always buy from you.”

Mike Sadowski of Brand24 shares, “As a new business, your brand strategy should be all about your story. You’re new and nobody knows who you are – and probably doesn’t care. Your job is to make them care. And you do that by telling your story.

“Your brand story should explain who you are, your background, and the factors that came together to compel you to create your new brand. When somebody sees an ad or promotion, it will usually inspire little to no emotion or interest. However, when somebody is able to read about your passion and vision, they are likely to become much more invested in your brand and become a customer.

“An example of a great brand story is Warby Parker Eyewear, a brand which sells affordable, designer glasses. The brand story tells of the founder and his friends as broke students, struggling with the cost of glasses. This was such a problem that one of the students spent an entire semester without glasses after losing a pair on a backpacking trip and being unable to afford another pair. A brand story like this is compelling, relatable and, ultimately, marketable.”

Build brand awareness in your community

Damon Winney of Jump Realty shares, “Focus on your community, particularly if you’re a service provider or in a sector that relies heavily on referrals and partnerships. We host or participate in as many community events as possible. At first, it was a mixture of networking and a desire for exposure, but now it’s just part of our company’s fiber. These activities solidify our role in our communities and produce shareable assets great for social media!

“Each time we complete an event, we create a recap about it for our website, share the recap and photos on social media, and try to work with local media when possible. This creates an incredibly positive feedback loop among our clientele and peers that really differentiates us from other options. Now, when people think about real estate and they don’t have a realtor already selected, new clients come to us due to the top-of-mind awareness we’ve secured via this community engagement.”

Jason McCarthy of DigiNo agrees, “Make your customers feel like they are more than customers. Find ways to make it beneficial for them to generate content and involve them in the marketing process. Your audience will feel as if they are joining a community – not just joining an email list.”

Select brand marketing channels carefully

Tom Mumford of Undergrads Moving recommends, “When kicking off a brand strategy, don’t spend all your time on one specific approach or channel. While you want your strategy to be targeted, test a few approaches to find out what works. Pick three main focuses of your brand strategy campaign, and track incoming traffic and revenue to find out what channel is driving the most sales. Then, pivot your strategy accordingly.”

However, Bart Turczynski of ResumeLab cautions against using this as a long-term strategy. “While there are lots of brand strategies and marketing channels to choose from, avoid trying them all out at once. You might end up spreading yourself too thin and wasting resources on something that doesn’t yield great results.

“My recommendation is to focus on earned channels that provide organic exposure to your digital content. That includes crafting SEO-optimized content, building robust backlinks from authoritative sites, and continually improving your site architecture. If you get those right, you’ll eventually show up on the first page of Google and enjoy traffic to your brand.”

Go against the norm with your campaigns

Amy Hernandez of electrIQ marketing suggests, “If everyone is doing the same thing, how can your brand strategy turn that on its head? Think about the brand campaign that put Volkswagen on the map. All of their competitors were branding themselves as being larger than life and taking up one to two pages in magazines. Volkswagen saw this and did the opposite with their Beetle ‘think small’ messaging with a small image of the car that did not even take up a quarter of a page.”

Collaborate with influencers

Simonas Steponaitis of HostingWiki attests, “There is still no form of marketing that competes with the effectiveness of word of mouth. Influential people are the best advocates for your brand. These are users of social networks who have gained trust in a specific category.

“As a rule, influential people should have many followers who read their content and are influenced by it. Using content created by influential people to promote your brand can help your business grow.”

Form strategic brand partnerships

Eleanor Bennett of Logit.io advises, “Find partners that share a target market, who can work with you without direct competition. What service can you offer that would make their lives easier and result in wider brand awareness for your business? Even in niche fields such as cloud computing, project management, or communication tools, you’ll likely find a wide range of complementary partners. An SEO tool like Ahrefs can be used for gap analysis for finding partners who work with your near competitors to perform outreach to.”

Write out a formal brand strategy

Eric Hoppe of Crowd Content tells us, “Write out your brand strategy in a formal document. Have your staff understand what your brand stands for, how it should be communicated, and make sure someone is ultimately responsible for upholding your brand message in all communications.”

Wrapping things up

Forming a brand strategy is beneficial for companies of all sizes, as it helps you connect with your audience and clearly differentiate yourself from your competition. It may take time and effort, but creating a new brand strategy (or revamping an existing one) will likely pay off in many ways, including increasing your customer base and accelerating business growth. To save time and increase efficiency, you can consider using branding agencies to help you achieve exactly what you’re looking for.

For more on creating a brand strategy, be sure to check out our definitive brand marketing playbook, including our article on assembling a brand strategy template.

Also, check out 22 iconic brand strategy examples to inspire your own, also shared by experts.