In response to Bynder’s ‘The State of Branding’ survey, 85% of marketers said there was more demand for brand content than ever before.
Couple this with scientific support that it takes only 7 seconds for consumers to decide on whether they trust your brand, the importance of updating your brand strategy to engage with your audience has undoubtedly risen.
In the recent GO! workshop - ‘Updating Your Brand Strategy for a New Landscape’, we asked 3 experts to share their knowledge on current challenges that may impact your brand strategy, how to assess your brand, and how to execute the right routes to refresh for your business.
In this article:
- An introduction to Brand Strategy
- Updating your Brand Identity – Laying the Foundation
- Constructing your Brand Creative – Refreshing Collateral
- Re-establishing your Brand Activation Strategy – Planning and Executing
Brand Strategy – An introduction
A Brand Strategy outlines how a company will build a rapport and ultimately gain a competitive edge within the market.
Whilst the end goal of a brand strategy is to become memorable in the eyes of the consumer, your brand is built up of countless elements, from your values to your advertising.
So, if you're not sure where to start, let's divide this into 3 core areas:
Brand Identity – From values to positioning, your brand identity is everything at the heart of your brand.
Brand Creative – Everything that goes into the way that you express your brand - beyond logos and colours, this can include your creative collateral, brand guidelines, and more.
Brand Activation – Beyond the brand itself is your activation strategy - the channels, campaigns, and process of making a brand known, increasing awareness and audience engagement.
Updating your Brand Identity – Laying the Foundation
Alexa Arrowsmith, Founding Partner of brand research agency, Monkey See, spoke to us about the changes, trends, and challenges that might be impacting your brand strategy in the new year - and what this means for the core of your brand.
What’s Changing in Approaches to Brand Identity?
For Alexa, the largest change in how businesses approach their identity in recent times comes down to priorities.
“At the forefront of people's conversations now is trying to find a kind of commonality between the brand and the consumer."
She adds that there is scientific proof that "consumers relate to brands in an emotional way the same way they relate to people.”
This is supported by a recent retail study, that showed consumers who connect with a brand emotionally have 306% higher lifetime value.
Examples of Brand Identity Projects
Brand research and identity projects can take many forms:
- Focus groups
- Research surveys
- Consumer research
- Industry insights and data
However, the type of project you undertake is going to depend on your unique needs.
“Energy suppliers have an increasing need to stand for something different which has resulted in a brand identity refresh across organisations.
Their consumer hasn't changed, but their whole category has, so they need to rethink that.
Ultimately there's quite a few different angles to what's your change, what's your disruption, and some of them have been created by world circumstances. But some of them are just because your brand's growing up.”
When Should you Prioritise your Brand Identity?
“Explore new ideas with a small budget, and then if you decide your ambition is massive, you can build that in and do more thorough research to quantify and validate your next steps.
At the start of any research project, we ask 4 key questions:
- Where are the people you want to target?
- What do they want?
- What your brand is?
- Where it could be?
Once you determine the answers to these questions, you can find areas you need to build on as well as recognising the ‘golden nuggets’ of your brand strategy."
Common Challenges – and How to Solve Them
“Don’t just say it – behave it. Too often we go through these massive projects, transform the brand, and then nobody notices - because you didn't tell them. After creating a brand strategy, portray it at every possible touch point!
Every part of your brand that the consumer views should tell them what your strategy is.”
Measuring the Impact of your Brand Identity
“Check how that audience is doing on a regular basis– see how things are moving. They'd look at your brand, and your competitors, and they'd see whether things are shifting in the way that you wanted them to.
If your strategy relies on an insight, for instance - cost of living, you also need to track that insight, because that insight may begetting more prevalent.”
Constructing your Brand Creative – Refreshing Collateral
So you know what you stand for, and what resonates with your audience. How are you bringing it to life?
What’s Changing in Creative Strategies?
For David, when it comes to creative activation of your brand, “organisations are more open to embracing strategy change. Across the board, we're seeing more marketing leaders be open to working from the end goal backwards, whether it's requiring a new website, or wanting a new visual identity.”
Brand strategy isn’t seen as something that is just for highly funded businesses. David found that “consumers want to invest in that side of things, and are appreciating that it has big outcome on that end goal.”
Examples of Creative Branding Projects
Creative branding projects cover far more than just visual refreshes - what you choose to undertake relies massively on the challenges you're facing.
As David shares, the variety of projects under the creative branding 'banner' can differ in scope, audience, and delivery depending on your final objectives. These can include:
- Visual brand creative refreshes
- Brand guidelines development
- Brand consolidation and internal rollouts
- Brand communication strategy
- Brand delivery - online or offline
David flags the importance of focusing on the strategy before deciding the exact nature of the creative project you want to take on.
“It's important to see the reality of what you're working with.
For example, thinking about a creative project, the traditional approach is to start with the consumer, but in truth, some businesses are not going to be able to change their whole brand to reflect their audience.
If you're a huge B2B business, and you can't change your values, the creative projects aren't necessarily going to focus on what the consumer wants. Instead, the focus shifts to ensuring that you promote the values of your business in the right way and target the audiences that fit those values.”
When should you Prioritise your Creative Brand?
“You need to know how to use data gathered from your strategy research – read between the lines! It’s not necessarily thinking about what the consumer wants and then how can we change this business, but rather understanding who the business is and promoting it.
As mentioned, there are now a variety of different channels out there, so the next step is prioritising which channels will work best to bring your strategy to life.”
Common Challenges – and How to Solve Them
“It’s all about Collaboration.
I think the biggest pitfall is when people don't work together and don't have that openness across the whole process.
Stakeholders should be involved at every stage, whether that's at the top of the business, or right at the very entry level of the business, rather than the brand creative being delegated solely to a team of marketers.”
Measuring the Impact of your Brand Creative
"It’s much more about understanding what's happening now, and how that might be impacting on your activity."
Re-establishing your Brand Activation Strategy – Planning and Executing
What’s Changing in Brand Awareness, Engagement, and Activation?
“Consumers are interacting with brands on a variety of platforms with the pandemic accelerating a lot of behaviours from audiences. There’s a lot more opportunities to connect consumers with brands, and it’s hard for brands to stand out within all this.”
She adds, “it has become even more important to have a brand identity and a strong creative, enabling you to have those distinctive assets that people can recognise across different channels.”
Examples of Brand Activation Projects
So, what can brand activation projects look like? As Katy shares, there are plenty of routes to activation - and what works for you is going to depend on two things; the ambition, and the data.
Brand activation efforts can be broken into several key stages:
- First-party data research
- Audience targeting and demographic analysis
- Audience-channel matching
- Media planning and buying
- Creative activation
- Brand perception and awareness tracking
Starting with the first-party research, Katy shares that actually, “a lot of this information is already in businesses. It's just about how you interpret it, and that’s where agencies can help to build on that data.”
When should you Prioritise your Brand Activation?
“We've done quite a lot of third-party data research to dissect information such as high value customers, low value customers, times of booking - once you unpick this you can start to identify where the growth areas are.
It starts with ambition – it requires bigger budgets.
Don’t just think about the next campaign or building brand but think about how that plays out over two to three years, and what investments and what tests you need to build now.”
Common Challenges – and How to Solve Them
“I think the biggest pitfall is expectations. That's why it's so important to have clear measurement frameworks upfront, because different metrics come in at different times - there'll be points within a campaign where you will out big lumps of information, which will help plan for the next.
I’m quite surprised that people are willing to spend a large sum of money but not pre-test their creative - to make sure it does what you’re expecting it to do and make necessary changes.”
Measuring the Impact of your Brand Activation
“Brand awareness tends to work on the longer term, it's one of the better predictors for future growth - but it's also much harder to measure.”
You can measure across three different elements to get a better idea for success in the campaign:
- What people think and feel – consumer demand
- What people do – where they go to view your brand
- What people buy – business and profit outcome
Looking ahead: How to future-proof your brand
David reiterates, “the brand is not just a logo, it's about putting something together that can stay updated, fresh and can keep moving.
The logo shouldn’t change, instead other elements of the brand strategy can be updated to keep up with trends.
Be more open minded to the fact that some things can stay the same and some things can change completely – your brand strategy should be coherent, not consistent.”
If you're investing in a Brand Strategy refresh this year, make sure you're getting the most from your time. GO! offer cost-free agency recommendations, pitch management, and more - get started here.