If you’re ready to begin building a brand, you may be looking for an effective branding strategy to get started.
Regardless of whether your business has been around the block or is just getting started, using a tried and true brand strategy template can help you get what you need for your branding endeavors.
How Do You Create A Brand Strategy That Works?
At The MMC Agency, we’re a creative agency designed to help business owners build an authentic brand and website that converts effectively. We know that a brand strategy enables you to build a successful company from day one.
But before you can begin those steps, you need to understand how a branding strategy document helps you identify your target market and shape how customers will perceive (and receive) your new brand.
We’re talking competitor analysis, customer personas, and more. So much more.
Let’s break brand strategy down.
What Is A Full Brand Strategy, And Why Do I Need One?
We’re so glad you asked.
A final brand strategy document is the map to help you take your brand where you want to go. Not having one is like getting in the car in NYC and heading out for Los Angeles. Will you make it? Eventually… But will you get there faster with a map? Absolutely!
In fact, before you even turn the car on, you want to start thinking about where you want to go, what you’ll need, how to get there, and more. The same is true with a brand strategy.
But what if you don’t have a million-dollar budget right out of the gates?
Is a brand strategy still a good idea?
And can you do it yourself? Definitely.
We’re walking you through the steps so you can begin to do the work that will help you be successful, with or without a marketing agency at your side. (Although, if you want us, we’d love to be there)!
But wait… what if you have a logo? Or a color palette already?
Let us stop you there. A brand strategy – and yes, a brand – is so much more than a simple logo. The brand strategy begins long before you create the visual identity (with elements like your logo).
Why? Because building an effective strategy, combined with the right visual identity, tone of voice, and more, is what it takes to develop a brand that your customers will love – and that will help you stand out in the marketplace.
Brand Strategy Process
Ok, you’re ready for the brand development process and want to know – what does it look like? Do you need to rent a space with whiteboards or simply have a piece of paper on hand? Is it a one-hour reflection period or a three-day event with team members?
Not to worry, creating a brand strategy doesn’t have to be overwhelming, especially with a solid brand strategy framework from which to begin.
We’ll walk you through a brand strategy template to help you begin the work, whether you have a few minutes each day or a weekend.
What is ideal?
We recommend a couple of hours, if possible, to work through some initial questions and steps. Then, give it a little bit of time (at least a day) and review.
Developing your brand strategy document is imperative to the brand and business you’re building (it’s how your brand stands out) so investing your time and allowing breaks to reflect on your headed direction is well worth the effort.
Want some good news?
The good news is that much of this brand strategy work will be fun. Because even though there are a few steps to follow, you’re ultimately capturing all of the excitement and energy of your brand and putting it on paper.
What seems like a dream now will soon be a tangible, visible brand for the world to see! A brand strategy helps design an awesome road map that will act as a guide for you and your team and as an ad for your prospective clients to come to join you on the journey!
Creating A Brand Strategy
Ok, let’s jump in. You’re here to learn how to create a brand strategy, so it’s time to unpack the elements that will get you there!
You can look at this as who, what, and why or break it into categories like your brand, your customer, and your personality. Either way, we will review the following items one by one, starting with your brand.
Just like a person, a brand has a unique identity. And it’s most often influenced by the leader or key team that is starting the company in the first place. As you think about your brand identity, below are elements that are important in this part of the brand strategy development.
You have to know who you are in order to know how to be successful. So at the heart of your brand are values. These values help explain why the company exists.
If you’re not sure where to start with brand values, below are a few questions that can help you get there:
What do we (or I) care about?
What makes us frustrated in the world or marketplace?
What do I value as I think about my business?
Let’s look at a real-life example of how answering these questions can help you establish your values.
We’ll use The MMC Agency. The MMC Agency is a website and branding agency that serves business owners. As we answered these questions, we had responses such as:
- We care about providing a high level of design.
- We care about relationship building, not just transactional service.
- We’re frustrated by the way that other agencies use the technical side of the industry to overwhelm clients. Or to force them into long contracts because they’re not sure they can do with on their own.
- We’re frustrated by people getting treated like a number. Or by agencies that won’t help a client if they don’t have big enough pockets.
- We value putting people first.
- We value helping business owners have success.
- We value solving problems that are pain points for business owners.
Those answers can then help shine a light on your values, as it did for The MMC Agency. We now operate from values that include:
Putting people first and doing what’s best for the client.
Acting with honesty and integrity at all times.
Going above and beyond to deliver quality work and communication.
Once you’ve identified your values, you can begin to use them for the next step (developing a brand mission) and to help inform your decisions. Your values act as a foundation that keeps everyone on the same page.
For example, if we’re committed from day one to going above and beyond, we know that we’ll never cut corners. We know that we want to act with integrity, so we’ll never alter results or market in a way that doesn’t respect our clients or isn’t truthful.
Values are a great place to start with your brand. And the brand’s mission is next!
Ok, so you’ve identified your values. Maybe they are that you don’t like cheap cell phone holders that break. And as you think about what frustrates you, you realize it’s broken phones and expensive repair costs. Your company is going to introduce a product that solves that problem for consumers.
So, what’s next?
Let’s talk brand mission.
While your brand mission may be one to two sentences encapsulating what you do and for whom, it should include your brand purpose.
And just in case you were wondering, making money shouldn’t be the full story. Of course, a business should include making money, but to get to the heart of the mission, we need to know WHY we do what we do.
(Thank you, Simon Sinek, author of the amazing book Start With Why).
You can start by talking about your services or products you sell (website design, for example, or cell phone cases). It’s the “what.”
The next stop is how and that’s where the values and actions come into play. How are you doing what you’re doing and what makes you unique?
One of the ways we ask this in our onboarding process is a question that says:
What would be the best possible outcome for someone that bought your product or used your service?
Basically, what is your contribution?
The goal here is to connect that contribution to action verbs such as connect, develop, inspire, etc. So instead of just saying we “make cellphone cases for cellphone users,” we might say that you “solve the frustrations of a broken phone with an innovative case designed to protect your connection to the world.”
One is noise in a crowded marketplace. And one is a brand narrative that puts the customer’s problem and desire front and center.
Lastly, you want to review the impact, or the why. As a result of the contribution to your client, what impact were they able to make? Why are you doing what you’re doing? From there, you can bring these three pieces together to create a powerful purpose statement or positioning statement.
Here’s ours: We help businesses grow by creating brand and website design strategies that work.
Developing a mission statement, brand promise, and positioning strategy are all fun parts of developing your brand. But one of the most important steps in developing your brand vision.
Where do you anticipate the brand to be in five, ten, or fifteen years? Write a short vision as if it’s the current day and include answers to questions such as:
- What does the brand look like?
- What does the team look like?
- What is your annual revenue?
- How big of a market share do you have?
- What products or services are you offering?
- What are you the best at?
The point of developing a brand mission is to outline the ultimate goals. Like the map analogy from earlier, we want to know where we are headed before getting started. And that’s not just because the driver needs to know where to go.
Having a vision is important for the team because it outlines the direction and helps everyone know how their role impacts the bigger goal!
Ok, so we’ve identified your brand values and the big vision. Now it’s time to move into brand positioning and how you’ll reach the big goals.
Branding strategies are built on what you offer, but it’s also vital to know what the market wants and who is already in the space.
Let’s jump into brand strategy as it relates to brand positioning.
It can be tempting to want to serve everyone when starting a business. But by saying yes to everyone, you may be missing out on truly serving the right customer that will buy into your unique value proposition.
So, how do you build the right foundation? By understanding your target audience. Sure, your audience may grow and change as you do, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid taking time today to understand your ideal audience. Not only because it will impact your brand voice and brand personality but also because it will help you have a unique place in the market.
So, how do you begin to unpack your ideal audience?
Let’s start with who they are and why they need your product. Ask some of the following questions:
How old is your target audience?
- Where do they live?
- What do they like to do?
- What problems do they face?
- What does their family look like?
- Do they work?
- Have they invested in education?
- How do they travel?
Of course, not all of your audience will be exactly the same (who wants that), but if you can start to understand the general audience, you can answer questions that are helpful for you as you begin showing up.
Here’s how this might play out. Let’s say that a dog food company identifies that its ideal audience is people between 40 and 65 that live in urban environments. They work during the day and usually take public transportation of some kind. Their biggest challenge is having enough time in the day to manage all the things they have to do.
So, what can we do with this information?
The brand position should be one that speaks to being busy, and to solving the problem of getting what you need stress-free. Free shipping might be essential because the ideal client doesn’t want to lug bags of dog food around while they use public transportation. And it might inform if you really need that storefront, versus a warehouse to ship from.
Not only will this inform the internal brand strategy and offerings, but it can also inform marketing. Images of a dog on a farm won’t resonate as well as an urban pet at a community dog park.
An age range can help you decide where you want to market your brand. Social media accounts and user demographics can help you decide if TikTok and Instagram make more sense or if Facebook and LinkedIn are where your target audience hangs out.
Once you know who you’re targeting, you can create branding ideas and endeavors with that audience in mind.
Ok, now you know who you are, the brand’s purpose, and your ideal client. You’re on the road to developing a strong brand.
The next step is to understand your competition better.
Identify a few (at least five) of your key competitors and look at what they do.
- What are they offering?
- What does their website look like?
- What about marketing efforts?
- What is their unique selling proposition?
- What is their brand persona?
- What is their price point?
One mistake that some people make when creating a brand is to look at the competition and try to copy it. While the competition may be doing something that is working, the key to developing a brand-building strategy is to define what makes you unique.
If all the brands look the same, then the consumer won’t find you special.
Instead, you want to build a brand story and brand personality that sets you apart from the competition. You want to understand your brand position, ideal client, and competition so well that you know exactly how to provide what is missing in the marketplace and fill that role.
When you answer the questions above, you learn critical information about what your competition provides, from brand messaging to the customer service process.
Next, review each question again and answer how your own brand will be different. Strategic brands know what they offer and their unique position within the market – and how both combine to provide value to their customers. You can use that to inform the complete brand strategy, the brand essence, and all your marketing efforts.
Speaking of marketing efforts.
This bonus exercise is a great way as you conduct research to identify where – and how – you will enter the market. The systematic development of your marketing can help you know from the beginning what dollars are working and what efforts are missing the mark.
As you outline the marketing component of your brand strategy, think about all the ways – and places – that you intend to market your brand. This can be a long list of activities – and corresponding budgets.
The idea is to brainstorm marketing ideas and opportunities such as using:
- Your business website
- Social media campaign
- Google ads / Facebook ads and more
- Networking and referral partners
- SEO and digital marketing
- Marketing materials like mailers / flyers / business cards
- Paid lead generation sites and partners
- Advertising in print / billboards
If you get stuck, think about an existing brand (or successful brands) that you’ve used. Where did you first hear about them? When did you decide to use their service or product, and why?
Brand awareness doesn’t require huge national ad campaigns. It can start with your local neighbors and friends and build from there. The key to a strong marketing and business strategy is to know where your audience will be, target a few ways to build brand awareness in those places, and have a plan in place to track the results.
Once you’ve made an investment in marketing, you need to know if it worked.
Build a plan to track your spending and subsequent conversions to know where to turn up the efforts and what avenues may not work for your company.
By now, you’ve done the hard work to develop your brand identity and brand positioning. We know what you do and for who. What’s left is to create your unique brand persona that includes your brand name, brand tagline, voice, visual identity, and more.
As you work on your own, or with a brand strategist, you’ll start to notice that your brand has a personality. And just like a person, that personality looks a certain way, talks a certain way, and has core values, just like your best friend or significant other. Those personality pieces help you identify (and love) that person – and designing brand identity can do the same for your business.
When you think about the visual elements of a brand, you might think about a logo or the associated colors. Photography and videography (whether branded or stock) also help tell the brand story.
An effective brand strategy has to include the development of what your brand will look like. At The MMC Agency, our Brand and Logo Package help clients take this step.
We start by creating a roadmap for the brand that includes a mood board, visual inspiration, the brand’s value proposition, and brand purpose. All of this leads to an initial logo concept that brings the brand’s visual elements to life.
From there, we refine the initials concept (or concepts) until we have a solid visual identity with the right use of logo options, color palette, photography, and even patterns.
A couple of things to note about building a logo.
A successful brand takes more than just one logo, developed without a branding strategy. That’s because the complete brand experience a consumer will have goes beyond one touchpoint.
As we mentioned before, when you think about the brands you’ve interacted with (the memorable ones), you’ve likely seen them multiple times before engaging. From a business card to a website to a digital ad or billboard. A brand needs to have the foundational visuals and brand guidelines that can be used in various situations while maintaining the integrity and recognizability of who they are.
One logo in black won’t work on a black background. And an all-white logo might not work on a presentation deck with a photograph as a background. A complete brand has the right assets to consistently show up in various places – unique yet easily identified.
Branding efforts should include what’s needed today and tomorrow so any decision a brand makes can be supported by the brand strategy and visual assets.
Want to learn more about visual identity for a brand? Click here to read about the use of color and how color psychology plays a role in branding strategy and a brand’s value proposition.
If we think back to the example of your friend and their personality, part of that identity is their voice. How do they talk? What do they sound like? What makes them laugh?
A brand’s voice is just as unique as the logo and color and should be considered when developing a brand strategy document.
So, how do you get started when creating your brand voice?
The best place to start is by thinking about how you want to talk to your customers. And if you’re not sure about that yet, let’s back up and think about how you talk to your friends.
A brand voice should be authentic to the brand itself so that what customers read online matches what (and how) you say when they walk in your office or call your team.
The following questions can help you uncover your brand voice:
- What tone of voice do I/we use?
- What words do I/we use?
- What words do I/we avoid?
- Do I/we use technical jargon or terms?
- Do I/we use humor?
From here, you can start to compare your answers with expectations that may come from your audience.
For example, is humor appropriate for the industry you’re entering? Are technical terms expected in the space (for example, in the legal or medical field)? Is the tone of voice appropriate for your audience (for example, a teenage audience may respond to a particular tone differently than an elderly customer base).
This part of your brand strategy document should help you outline best practices when it comes to your brand voice so that it can be consistent no matter where your brand goes. Once established, the brand voice guidelines can be used in your marketing, website, and even scripts that your team can use for phone calls and email templates.
Brand Strategy Templates
We hope this list has been helpful as you begin the process of creating your brand strategy template. While it’s not exhaustive, it can help you think through the way you want to build and design your brand so that you can build a successful business.
By taking the time to develop a brand strategy document today, you will have the foundation to grow in the future!
Need Help With Your Brand Strategy Document?
If you are ready to build a brand strategy, we can help.
Our team has the expertise to help you discover your core values, brand purpose, visual identity, brand messaging, and branding strategies. We’ll use our brand strategy template to help you bring your business to life – and successfully enter the marketplace!
Prefer to sneak a peek at our work first? Visit our portfolio to learn more about our clients and their outcomes.