The Art of Brand Strategy: Bolder Agency's Five-Step Creation Process

brand strategy


Navigating the world of branding and marketing, we often encounter the concept of brand strategy, a critical element of brand messaging that is as mystifying as it is powerful. We might visualize a brand through its vibrant logo or perhaps its powerful social impact, but what orchestrates these elements into a harmonious symphony is the brand strategy.

A strong brand strategy acts as a powerful conductor, bridging the gap between a company's aspiration—its mission and vision—and its roadmap, or the real, tangible steps they're taking to reach its goals. It doesn't lay out what needs to be achieved; rather, it answers the pressing question of how. How do we traverse the path from our current position to our ambitious objectives? What's the most effective way to get there?

In this article, we give you an insider's look into how we, as an independent creative marketing agency, collaborate with our clients to craft brand strategies. You'll get to see our step-by-step process for transforming a brand's unique vision into a compelling and resonant identity. 

Why does this matter? A potent brand strategy is critical for its multifaceted benefits. It ensures brand recognition, aligns with customer values, and consistently delivers on promises. These factors foster customer loyalty, define brand positioning, and fuel growth. In essence, a well-crafted strategy is the differentiator for successful brands.

The Obvious Benefits of Brand Strategy

1. Communicates the value proposition: A compelling brand strategy showcases a company's unique benefits, pulling in customers like a magnet and differentiating it from competitors.

2. Builds trust and loyalty: A consistent brand identity reassures customers that the product will always meet their needs, creating a strong foundation of trust and loyalty.

3. Distinguishes from the competition: Effective brand strategy carves out a distinct market position, providing customers a clear lens to compare you with competitors.

4. Identifies flaws in the brand experience: Inconsistencies in customer experiences can damage trust, but a clear brand strategy has the power to highlight and rectify these potential pitfalls.

5. Maximizes the value of a business: Brands are trust-builders, serving as a catalyst for repeat purchases and recognition, ultimately boosting a company's overall value.

6. Guides internal alignment: A clear brand strategy unifies actions across departments, promoting team cohesion and efficiency.

7. Fuels customer advocacy: Effective branding transforms satisfied customers into vocal advocates, broadening reach and credibility.

8. Spurs innovation: Informed by core values and customer needs, a brand strategy can inspire relevant, competitive innovations.

9. Mitigates risk: By outlining brand purpose and promise, strategy helps navigate crises, aligning actions with brand image to minimize damage.

10. Boosts partnerships: A strong brand attracts beneficial collaborations with like-minded businesses, widening opportunities and reach.

The Not-So-Obvious Benefits of Brand Strategy

1. Attracts and retains qualified employees: Effective branding is a beacon for talent. It communicates a company's benefits, values, and mission, drawing in the right people and inspiring them to stay.

2. Boosts the accuracy of your marketing efforts: Good branding sharpens the focus of marketing efforts, amplifying the ROI and ensuring your message hits home with the intended audience.

3. Aids designers and creatives in delivering better work: Clear branding guidelines offer a steady creative direction, bolstering the impact and effectiveness of design work.

4. Brings everyone on board: Precise branding unifies your team around the same values, mission, and goals, fostering a cohesive and productive company culture.

5. Filters Out Wrong Ideas: A robust brand strategy serves as a compass, guiding companies to make prudent decisions and avoid trends or ideas that do not align with their customers' needs.

At its core, a brand strategy is a powerhouse, orchestrating a harmonious symphony of benefits for the business and the company's reputation. In our next section, we'll delve deeper into brand guidelines and into the process of creating one.

Step 1: Starting up

In this initial phase, setting your brand's strategic direction is key. It's a deep dive into your brand's unique attributes, values, and challenges. It's about aligning stakeholders, not rushing to business specifics. The aim is to understand the brand's essence, not just its operations. This research-centric stage lays the foundation for a successful in-house strategy.

For us at Bolder, this phase is an opportunity to understand the brand we're working with, its unique attributes, and the vision of its founders. We build a mutual understanding, going beyond business specifics. We interview the client's team to grasp their perception of the brand, its offerings, and the company's goals. It's not just about what the brand does, but also aligning with the collective vision of its team.

- We learn the brand's unique qualities and values, soaking in what makes them distinct and irresistible to their target audience 

- We identify the brand’s fortes and potential challenges of the process

- We set up brand strategy objectives and the requirements for the final document

We typically meet with clients’ team once or twice during the strategy session stage to collaborate and complete the comprehensive brand strategy brief with clearly outlined goals. In our experience, this stage typically spans about a week - learning, and setting the right course for the brand's journey. 

At the conclusion of this stage, we'll have a comprehensive strategic brief in place, serving as a roadmap for our team’s following efforts.

Stage 2: Research & Analysis

Next, we dive into the heart of the brand landscape, delving into three tasks that ensure a comprehensive understanding of the brand's environment.

Market Trends Research

Our first port of call is understanding the brand's audience and identifying the trends that matter to them. We study pivotal changes in consumer behaviour relevant to its product and category, establish the current stage of its target market, and gather data on crucial trends and market participants.

Key Category and Competitors Study

Next, we dissect the category and competitors. A product category is a collection of goods that consumers perceive as a group of similar or complementary items.

Our work here includes:

1. Identifying the primary and indirect competitors, learning their business promises

2. Reviewing competitors' activities over recent years to reach competitive awareness

3. Evaluating current market trends and actions to gain insights into customer experience

4. Pinpointing standout players and unique selling points in their effective brand strategies

5. Conducting a competitor benchmarking on competitors' products, sales methods, and customer experiences for strategic planning (ex. mystery shopping)

Following this analysis, we construct a competitor map to highlight key points of differentiation. We identify where the brand currently stands and where it aims to be.

Customer Development Research

Our process involves a holistic understanding of consumers, merging CustDev sessions with behavioral data analysis. We glean insights from clients' habits, interests, and characteristics, crafting detailed buyer personas. This comprehensive approach shapes our job stories, allowing us to accurately define and cater to specific audience segments.

As we conclude this stage, we deliver our findings—a presentation of key outcomes and a defined communication vector, put together by our strategists. This marks another significant milestone on the successful brand strategy journey.

Stage 3: Crafting the Brand Platform 

In the third stage of the brand strategy process, we transform our deep-dive insights from research and analysis into a tangible, working brand platform. This step is mainly about shaping and deciding the key things that make the brand unique.

The construction of a brand platform consists of:

1. Customer Portrait Development - By understanding the key and potential customers, we can create accurate and detailed portraits of those brand needs to appeal to

2. Brand Positioning - The crucial question we ask here is, "How does this brand deliver value?" The answer helps us set the brand positioning — a unique place in the market relative to competitors

3. Brand Essence - A concise, clear brand message that captures its heart and spirit

4. Brand's Mission Statement and Brand Values - These statements may take extra brainstorming sessions to fully encapsulate the business' core principles and purpose

5. Manifesto - This is your brand's rallying cry, its declaration of intent and beliefs

6. Unique Value Proposition (UVP) -  What is it about a brand that sets it apart from the rest? What unique benefit does it provide? 

7. Reasons to Believe (RTBs) - Why should customers believe in a brand's UVP? What proof points back it up?

8. Brand Vision - Where a brand envisions itself to be in a certain number of years? This is your brand's ambition, its long-term goal

9. Brand Character / Archetype - To make the brand relatable and human-like, we use archetypes to shape the brand's character

By the end of this stage, we'll have a complete brand platform that showcases a brand's personality, vision, and unique value. We conduct a detailed session with a client, presenting all components of the platform and ensuring they align with the brand's values, aspirations, and business goals. With a brand's roadmap in hand, it's ready to navigate the marketplace confidently.

Stage 4: Shaping the Communication Strategy

Communication is how a brand reaches out, touches, and engages with its audience. It's how a brand speaks, looks, and feels. In this stage, we focus on forming the brand's unique style of expression and developing key visuals. 

The tone of Voice (TOV)

Crafting the brand's voice involves more than just words. It's about capturing the essence of the brand and distilling it into a unique, engaging, and consistent tone that permeates every message the brand sends. We set clear guidelines that allow our creative team to intuitively grasp the brand's voice, reducing production time and ensuring the brand’s message is always harmonious and clear. 

Look & Feel

We use mood boards, associations, and semantics to create a distinctive aesthetic when developing a brand - one that resonates with your audience and communicates the brand's essence at a glance. It's about creating an instant, intuitive understanding of who this brand is and what it stands for.

Communication Matrix Development

Here we identify the key drivers and barriers, the communication objectives, the message, and the ideal channels and formats to reach the target audience. This comprehensive matrix serves as a strategic tool that ensures the brand communicates the right message, at the right time, in the right way, through the right channel, to the right audience.

Communication Examples & Key Visuals

We bring everything together, applying the TOV and look and feel to real-world communication examples and creating key visuals that can serve as a cornerstone for the brand's visual identity. 

By the end of this stage, a client receives multiple iterations of our work, showcasing the results and incorporating any edits or feedback. This way, the communication strategy isn't just strong—it's bespoke, tailored to your brand's unique DNA. With the right strategy in place, the brand is ready to converse, connect, and captivate.

Stage 5: Setting Brand Growth Metrics / Next Steps

In this conclusive phase, we delve into the specifics of tracking and achieving the brand's success. We use all the insights and strategies we've built to set clear, measurable goals and map out the path forward. 

Charting the Course for Business Lines

We take a detailed look at the business lines and define the most effective next steps for each. This helps to streamline operations and ensure that every aspect of them aligns with the brand strategy.

Identifying Measurement Categories

To gauge the success of the brand strategy, we need to monitor key areas of performance. These might include customer engagement, brand exposure, follower growth, and other relevant indicators that provide a clear picture of a successful brand strategy's progress.

Setting Goals and Tracking Results

Here's where we bring precision to the process. We establish concrete goals for each of the KPIs, forecasting performance for the next 3, 6, and 12 months. This way, a brand has clear benchmarks to measure progress against and can quickly identify areas that need attention.

Step-by-step Plan Development

Now, it's all about execution. We create a comprehensive plan that details how to achieve these objectives, broken down for the entire team and individual departments. This roadmap provides clarity and focus, enabling everyone to contribute effectively to the brand's success.

With this, we bring the brand strategy full circle, transforming abstract concepts into actionable, measurable objectives. The KPIs and next steps ensure the brand strategy doesn't just live on paper—it thrives in the real world, driving the brand toward its vision.

Conclusion: The Undeniable Value of Brand Strategy

As we've ventured through the meticulous journey of crafting a brand strategy, the importance of this robust process has come into clear focus. 

A brand strategy is a vital framework that aligns all aspects of the business - mission, vision, and actions, - bringing them into a coherent, resonant whole. The significance of a strong brand strategy in harmonizing these key elements and directing them toward the company's aspirations is truly invaluable.

Often, businesses underestimate the power of a well-crafted brand strategy. The truth about branding strategy is, it's not just about looking good on paper; it's about permeating every aspect of your business, guiding decisions, inspiring innovation, and fostering growth. It's about knowing who you are as a brand, where you want to go, and the best way to get there.

See you at Bolder

At Bolder, we live and breathe this ethos. As a creative agency specializing in branding strategies for sustainable and socially responsible brands, we have the expertise and passion for bringing visions to life. We understand the unique challenges and opportunities in this space and utilize this knowledge to create brand strategies that not only resonate with your audience but also pave the way for a sustainable future.

If you're looking to create or revitalize your brand strategy, we would be more than happy to guide you on this journey. Let's start making a real impact together. 

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