Every business needs a brand to communicate to its audience. A brand shows your customers what your business does, what it stands for, and how it can help them. A brand is simply a perception that people have about your business. In other words, your brand is what people — from customers to competitors — see, hear, and feel about your business. To create a meaningful brand, you need a meaningful brand strategy that touches on all aspects of your brand.
While there are many different approaches to brand strategy, they largely use a similar framework. I use a unique brand strategy framework that focuses on your brand message to create a strong identity, rooted in your values and purpose. That’s why we call it the Meaningful Brand Framework.
Here are the 5 brand strategy pillars to help you build a meaningful brand.
Pillar 1. A Clear Brand Purpose
The first step to creating your brand is defining your brand purpose. This is the most foundational step in creating your brand and should conclude with you being able to succinctly answer the question, ‘Why do we exist?’
To get to that answer, you’ll want to first answer the following brand questions:
- What market do we operate in? (Define your overall market – clothing, insurance, automotive)
- Who are our ideal customers and what problems do we help them solve? (Develop your initial buyer persona (aka customer avatar)
- How do we help them? (List the benefits you are providing.)
- What specific products and services are we providing that are the means to achieve this solution? (List your products or services.)
Finding an answer to each of these questions should give you a clear idea of your brand purpose and how you’ll carry it out.
This step is often the most well-thought-out because it provides the baseline for the rest of your brand.
Nail your brand purpose! Download my Brand Purpose Worksheet with clear steps and examples to articulating your brand purpose. –>
Pillar 2. Relevant Brand Concept
A brand concept, the second pillar of a meaningful brand strategy, is the overall approach you’ll take to bringing your brand to life. It’s the idea of how you will show up in the marketplace. A brand concept can help you differentiate your brand.
- Many consulting or process-driven brands use analogies to describe their approach or process.
- Others use mascots as the foundation of their brand concept.
- Local brands with deep roots in a particular town (or even a particular building) use their location as the foundation for their concept.
- Lastly, many brands simply rely on a brand quality (like unique product or strong customer service as the core concept behind their brand.)
While brands in every concept category can be successful, brands with strong concepts tend to be more memorable.
Let’s look at a few examples:
- Apple grabs with its sleekness and simplicity.
- Nike comes on strong with its “just do it” mentality.
- Geico, Mr. Peanut, Michelin Man, Pillsbury Dough Boy, Aflac and many other companies leverage memorable mascots to differentiate their brands.
Looking for something simpler? A brand concept can be about your niche or a signature product or service you provide.
Ultimately, a unique brand concept is the best way to differentiate your brand and create a unified brand presentation. A specific concept allows you to build a whole ecosystem of ideas to keep your brand presentation interesting while staying consistent.
If you are just starting to define your brand and can’t think of a brand concept, don’t worry! Typically, a one-of-a-kind brand concept will find you after you’ve operated your business for a while. For the time being, start with a basic brand concept by focusing on your niche, a set of problems you solve, a unique process or a special product.
Tip: Create a loose concept now and after you go through the remaining 4 steps, come back here and re-evaluate. Oftentimes, working through your messaging will help generate brand concept ideas.
Pillar 3. Documented Brand Personality and Culture
Once you’ve identified your brand’s purpose and found a basic concept, it’s important to define brand personality and culture. Meaningful brands have clear communication and culture guidelines rooted in their values and supported by their personality.
Brand personality (aka Brand Persona) is simply a description of your brand, as if it were a person. Is it fun? Serious? Driven? Quirky? Disruptive? Conscientious?
Start by defining your brand values (beliefs), documenting your desired (or already present) brand qualities and describing your brand’s view of the world. Find the brand archetype that reflects what you’ve discovered about your brand and formalize it to build out your brand persona.
If the brand persona is the summary of your brand’s qualities and character traits, brand culture is how your brand (read; your team) lives this out. For example, if a brand places strong emphasis on exceptional customer service, your brand culture is likely responsive, patient and cheerful.
Your brand personality and culture directly impact your brand’s voice, tone and communication style – and are a foundation of your customer experience strategy.
Pillar 4. Strong, Articulate Message
The fourth brand strategy pillar is your brand message. Now that you have determined your purpose, brand personality and culture, what is the message you want to convey to the world? Your purpose drives the “what” of your message while the concept, personality and culture drive the “how.” The purpose is the backbone of your brand, while the concept and personality influence how your brand interacts with people. Your core brand messages should convey your unique value proposition, supporting sales propositions, your values, your story and your promise.
This is perhaps the most labor-intensive part of the brand building journey and the most important brand pillar. While brand design is important for making a great impression, your brand message is what explains the benefits of your product/service offering and drives sales. I like to say that if your brand were a car, the brand message is the engine, and the brand design is the paint job. You need both, but your car will not run without a functional engine, no matter how nice it looks.
Pillar 5: Attention-Grabbing Visual Identity
The fifth brand strategy pillar is visual identity. This is what your brand looks like. A great, eye-catching visual identity will differentiate you from other brands in your space. While it may be tempting to start designing your brand’s visual identity before identifying your message, you have to remember that crafting and organizing your brand’s message actually helps you to further clarify your concept and culture, and sets the direction for the look and feel of your brand.
Aside from you logo, your brand should have a defined color scheme, typography, iconography and photography direction. A consistent visual language will make your brand look more put together and improve brand recall. Like everything else, your visual language will evolve over time, so it needs to be flexible so you have room to explore and experiment as your brand grows.
Pillar 6: Consistent, Intentional Brand Experience
Systems and Standard Operating Procedures
The final brand strategy pillar is brand experience. Brand experience is how your employees, customers, and anyone else who come across your brand, experience your brand. Instead of leaving brand experience to chance, be intentional about defining how your brand should interact with different audiences. At the end of the day, creating the desired brand experience comes down to developing systems and operation procedures within your brand. These systems set a standard for interactions across different channels your brand operates in.
Your internal and external audiences are constantly experiencing your brand – on your website, in person, on social media, through your products and services – and more. That’s why, you need systems to ensure consistently on-brand outcomes for each interaction.
You’ll need systems for:
- using your message
- executing on your visual identity
- responding to customers
- conducting a sale
- following up
- posting on social media
This is where the process truly comes full circle! By designing these systems intentionally, you can drive how your brand is perceived and live out your brand purpose.
Need help? Reach out to 712 Creative at firstname.lastname@example.org to articulate, design, and build your brand.
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