Your brand. It’s your company’s most valuable asset. Do you have a strategic plan for it?
A plan for developing, nurturing and growing your brand is a brand strategy. And like any strategic planning exercise, it is an organized process that is repeated throughout the life of a business.
Yet for many companies, brand strategy isn’t a priority until something stops working. You lose ground to your competitors. Your operations department can’t deliver on its marketing promises. Your company’s reputation takes a few hits.
All are signs that it is time to align brand strategy with business strategy. Without a big picture view of how one supports the other, your organization is missing a major opportunity to stand out and succeed.
Of course, the underlying assumption is that your brand is much bigger than your logo or your tagline. These are elements of a brand strategy, but they are not a strategy unto themselves. Unless they are aligned with fundamental business objectives (revenue goals, growth targets, etc.) they are little more than attractive designs and catchy words.
Naturally it’s more fun to think about a new look (“our new web colors should be orange and blue!”) than it is to contemplate a long-term strategic plan (“oh no, not another SWOT analysis”). This is especially true in entrepreneurial environments, where things move at the speed of light and gut decisions are the norm. Taking the time to conduct a brand analysis is considered time away from doing business.
Brand Strategy Belongs to Everyone
But that’s the thing. Your brand is your business. We live in an age of near-perfect information, where consumers can find out practically anything about a company with a single keystroke. It’s no longer what you say you do. It’s what you actually do. Your actions are what build (and destroy) relationships and reputations.
Some might argue that brands are meaningless when consumers have all the power. In fact, they are as important than ever. They are just different. No longer do they belong to the marketing department alone. Instead, they belong to everyone in the organization—from the CEO to the receptionist to the people who keep back-end operations up and running.
It makes sense then that the brand strategy process has changed as well. Questions like “If your brand were a sports car, what kind of sports car would it be?” have given way to a more critical analyses of an organization’s functional departments and how each of these departments incorporate brand-building efforts into their measurable performance goals.
(“What kind of sports car would your brand be?” is the type of question that brand skeptics point to as proof that branding is up in the clouds instead of rooted in reality. That said, there is value in giving a brand a memorable personality, or persona. We’ll cover this topic in a future blog post.)
So what defines brand strategy? We consider it a plan for defining, prioritizing, managing and measuring all the ways that a brand interacts with the outside world. These points of interaction, or “touch points,” can be mapped to an organization’s functional capabilities and business priorities. When you align them, you maximize brand performance and business performance.