Lesson 2: Understanding brand strategy

What is branding?

It seems like a simple question but it actually carries a lot of weight. And with so many definitions for branding, it can be hard to pin down exactly what branding is. 

Typically people think of the visual component of a brand first, but your brand is made up of several elements that go much deeper than the visuals on the surface level. It’s not just a logo, colors, or a stylish website. Instead, branding is the holistic representation of your business. It encompasses every facet that makes up your brand. It’s your promise to deliver certain features, benefits, services, or experiences consistently to your customers. It’s what people say, think, and feel about your business.

For online businesses, branding extends beyond physical assets. Digital branding involves creating and promoting your business’s online identity and brand story using tools like websites, social media, webinars, and blogging to build engagement and drive exposure.

Your brand is the overall reputation associated with your business, including what people say, think, and feel about it. It is an accumulation of everything you do — the look, the words and language you use, your values, & interactions with people.

A brand is made up of 4 main components:​​​​​​​

The Difference Between Branding and Marketing

Even though we are focusing on branding in this course, I thought it would be helpful to note the difference between branding and marketing to better understand specifically the role that branding plays in your business and how branding fuels your marketing.

While branding is the perception of your business, marketing is how you communicate that perception. In other words, branding is strategic, while marketing is tactical. Effective marketing is built on a strong brand foundation, as it relies on a clearly defined target audience and message.

Branding is what drives marketing because branding is strategic and marketing is tactical. When your marketing is done right, the right person will get the right message and have the right perception of your brand. BUT you can’t put the right message out there through marketing unless you first understand what that is – and that is what your brand strategy does for you.

The most successful marketing campaigns are built from strong brand foundations because the marketing is fueled by a clearly defined target audience and message. When you know who are you talking to and what you need to say to them for them to pick up what you’re putting down and become a loyal customer or client – you can easily talk about your offerings in a way that doesn’t feel so salesy. 

When you prioritize your brand strategy the way you should, your marketing instantly becomes more effective.

Brand Strategy Defined

Now that we understand branding, let’s dial in and talk specifically about brand strategy and why it’s important for your business.

A brand strategy is like having a long-term plan to become the coolest and most successful brand out there. It’s all about knowing how, what, where, when, and who to talk to when it comes to spreading your brand message.

But it’s not just about talking the talk. A well-defined brand strategy creates this magical connection with customers, making them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And you know what that means? Higher brand equity.

Now, here’s the good part. Your brand strategy isn’t just some fancy thing on paper that you never look at again. It’s the boss of your entire business. It influences every decision, from market research to figuring out your target audience. It even helps you map out the customer journey, find your unique position in the market, and develop a killer voice and personality.

Having an effective brand strategy is like having your own personal guru telling you what to do. It sets guidelines for everything you do in your business, from your actions to the content you create. It’s like having a GPS for all things branded in your world.

If it’s done right, your brand strategy can be your secret weapon, guiding you through the crazy world of business.

The Brand Strategy Framework

These are the 4 pillars of brand strategy that you’ll work through in the rest of the course to generate a complete and well-thought brand strategy. 

The heart of your brand: the why, how, and what of your brand

Your zone of genius: finding the gap and your key differentiator

Your people: who you are serving and how you do it

Your story: what you’re saying to them and how you say it

Why You Need a Brand Strategy

The relationship between a business and its customers has evolved over time. When it used to be more about the actual transaction and the features they were receiving from a product, it is now more about the emotional relationship between the customer and the company and the benefits that you can provide them. 

Because of this, it’s essential that you can attract and build genuine relationships with people in an authentic and transparent way in order to build your brand. But if you, as a brand, don’t know who you are or how to communicate it, you can’t form those relationships. That’s why having a brand strategy matters.

A brand strategy can have a huge impact on the success of your business. It helps you:

Eliminate confusion and overwhelm: A clear brand strategy provides clarity, reducing confusion and overwhelm for both you and your audience. It enables you to understand your brand’s direction and communicate it confidently.

Make big business decisions more easily because it acts as your guide: Your brand strategy acts as a guiding light for making critical business decisions. It ensures your actions are aligned with your brand’s mission and goals.

Stay focused and consistent: A cohesive brand strategy promotes consistency in how you present your brand. Consistency builds recognition and trust among your audience.

Communicate more effectively with your market: With a brand strategy, you can communicate more effectively with your target market. It helps you craft messages that resonate with your audience.

Generate more effective marketing campaigns: Effective marketing is built on a strong brand foundation. A well-defined brand strategy fuels marketing campaigns that deliver better results.

Strategy-driven approach to branding

Most people skip the challenging strategy part and go straight to design because it’s more fun and seems easier. But if you change your perspective, you’ll be more prepared and excited about developing your brand strategy first.

But what if we flipped the script? What if we got excited about crafting our brand strategy first?

Instead of viewing your brand strategy as a huge mountain to climb, treat it as a roadmap to clarity. It’s making sense of all your thoughts, and guiding you to work smarter when building your brand.

Imagine running your business without a clear brand strategy. It’s like trying to assemble IKEA furniture without instructions – confusing, inconsistent, and often leading to less-than-ideal results. Without a solid foundation like this, your business will lack direction and struggle to grow.

I’ve seen many business owners wrestling with their brands, thinking they’re on the right track but not seeing any progress. It’s like they’re running on a treadmill – lots of effort, but no forward movement. The common thread? They’re not focusing on the right thing at the right time.

You can’t effectively sell anything until you understand what you’re selling. It’s like trying to pitch a movie without knowing the plot. Pouring resources into brand or website design without a crystal-clear brand strategy is like buying a fancy car without an engine. Sure, it looks nice, but it won’t get you anywhere.

That’s why I suggest starting with the brand strategy.

Building a brand isn’t just a series of steps; it’s a journey. And every journey needs a map. Your brand strategy is that map, charting out your brand’s purpose, mission, uniqueness, target audience, values, personality, and messaging. These elements are the foundation of your brand strategy, guiding all of your branding efforts.

A strategy-driven brand puts strategy first, before design, website development, or marketing. It’s about taking a moment to ponder why you’re doing these tasks and how to supercharge their impact.

Instead of focusing only on the surface-level appearance of your brand and website, you take a deeper approach. You connect the dots by understanding your ideal client, refining your positioning and messaging, and creating coherence. This way, when it’s time to design your brand or market your business, you have a clear understanding of what you’re selling, who you’re targeting, and what message you want to convey.

No more randomly trying things and hoping for success. With a strategy-driven approach, you’ll confidently operate and grow your business.

Take Action

Remember that your brand strategy is just the beginning. To reap the benefits, you must implement it consistently and across all aspects of your business. Strategy without action won’t yield the desired results.

This lesson is focused mostly on making sure you have a clear understanding of branding and brand strategy so while there aren’t any specific exercises to complete in your workbook, I do want you to take a minute to let this soak in. Having this clear understanding will help you develop a better brand strategy in the next module.