Your brand strategy is everything. But while it does determine your overall success, once you’ve perfected the recipe, your biggest challenge will be keeping up with the demand. This is a little cheat-sheet that any brand can use to avoid mistakes and become as indispensable as the sriracha sauce on your lunchroom table. Let’s get cooking.
1. Your first and most important ingredient: nailing down a powerful and unique brand purpose.
There’s no way around it: before you start, pause to consider a wise statement courtesy of Hugh MacLeod: life is too short not to do something that matters. It sounds severe, but far better to fail fast than waste time and money discovering your brand has no purpose.
Purpose has nothing to do with your logo, your name, the shade of purple you agonized over or even a killer product. Your purpose (for now) is intangible and everything that follows exists to bring out its singular flavor, make it recognizable, and position it as a new staple in the lives of your consumers. To have brand purpose, is to promise to make your profit by improving something about the world.
Before a great idea becomes a household staple, it clearly defines a promise it can keep. Ask yourself, what’s the point? Who (besides me) does this serve? If you have answers, that will be your DNA, the secret ingredient, the blueprint for sustainability. It will be what inspires and motivates you, your consumers and your employees every day. Your promise to make the world a better place is what gets people on board, so invest some thought into it and success will follow.
2. Stir up emotion
Make them feel something. Well-crafted emotional marketing informed by a strong understanding of who your audience is gives them the opportunity to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Standing out on a sensory level is the quickest way to encourage gut reactions, Malcolm Gladwell calls it “the power of thinking without thinking”. When we make a purchase, emotion often beats logic. Any shirt can do the job, but you’ll always choose the shirt that best represents what you stand for and how you want to be seen. Know your audience and aim to be that signature t-shirt.
3. Be versatile
Here’s where you may have to kill your babies. Anything that doesn’t enhance your brand purpose must go. We can’t predict the future, but only a lean, purpose-driven brand can react quickly and adapt to a rapidly changing landscape. “Effective identity programs require enough consistency to be identifiable, but enough variation to keep things fresh and human”. Keeping a firm grip on your brand purpose will keep you in good stead. You want to be that condiment that goes with anything— even things that haven’t been invented yet— how’s that for cool? Keep it focused and elemental and your brand can be both a classic and chameleonic for decades to come.
4. Don’t mess with perfection
It’s fun to be experimental but if it doesn’t enhance your brand purpose it’s probably going to weaken it. Less is more when it comes to brand strategy. If you’re going to build a community and strong brand recognition, every iteration of your brand must remain consistent. If every time you went to your favorite restaurant it was a totally different experience, it wouldn’t stay your favorite for long. “Play something new!”, chanted no concert crowd ever. They want their favorite song and they want it to sound just like the version they know. That’s what they paid for. When we know something, we feel a connection to it and to the community surrounding it. Resist the urge to be experimental for the pure sake of experimentation, and look at everything as an opportunity to reiterate your brand purpose.
5. Train your cooks well
Which of your colleagues is responsible for implementing brand strategy? The answer is everyone. Every last person from social media reps to coordinators and developers. They should all know your brand inside and out and adhere to strict brand guidelines. Get everyone on the same page and your brand will hum with purpose. Monitoring your competitors on social media is an easy way to gain insights that also allows you to act quickly when opportunity arises.
6. Become the must-have new staple in every fridge
In order to make your way into the lives of your consumers, you have to position your solution at the moment when they’re looking for it. Your brand should matter to them, it should be helpful and informative, and tour messaging should remain solution-oriented. Insisting that your brand is the best is less meaningful to your audience than if you were to offer a solution and prove that they need you.
7. Accept no substitutes
Be honest: in a pinch, could someone else serve as an improvised version of you? If so what can you offer that they can’t? It’s a given that you’ll have competitors that are doing something similar so keep an eye on what they’re doing at all times and focus on what makes you unique. Try to learn from their mistakes so you don’t have to learn the hard way and then offer what they can’t.
8. Aim for satisfaction with every course.
If you want to build up a committed and loyal community of consumers that won’t just ditch you for the next new thing, a little can go a long way. Make sure every transaction leaves a good taste in their mouths by gratifying them for their interactions. Small little gestures like perks and rewards can be enough to get people coming back. Reward them by making them feel special, appreciated and part of something bigger.
9. Encourage feedback
The best way to make sure you’re being well received out there in the world is to make it easy to receive feedback. If your consumer has an opportunity to offer negative feedback in a constructive way, they’ll be less likely to turn to their friends for an outlet. Collect their feedback, thank them for it, and reassure them that it has made a difference by helping you improve your brand. The better your system for receiving feedback, the better you’ll be at minimizing the damage and improving the quality of your brand in one shot.
10. Spread the word
Once perfected, your brand strategy secret sauce is ready for the hungry masses. Word-of-mouth will go along way if you can reach the right people at the right time. People are always open to new solutions but they also put blinders up when they feel they’re being advertised to. Do your research and position yourself at the moments when they’re craving exactly what you’re cooking up. Catch them at the wrong time or bombard them with messages, and you may never get a second chance.
Referring to this checklist can save you from making a lot of the common mistakes we’ve seen startups and established brands alike make along the way. And remember: if you can ensure that everything along the way is tied to your brand purpose in a seamless and seemingly effortless way, you’ll be that much closer to making your way into every household.