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How to Develop a Brand Strategy

05.26.2011 / Posted in Articles, Branding, Strategy

Note: This is the fourth article in a series on brand strategy from FrogDog. To begin from the beginning, click here.

Once a company has determined what its brand promise is and what its brand values and attributes are, the work isn’t done. (To figure out how to figure them out, click here.) It still has to develop a brand strategy that uses these key elements to shape how it does business.

The brand strategy must take into account internal and external audiences, how the company will implement the brand promise with both, and how adherence to the strategy and the value of the brand will be measured.

Meaning: There’s still a lot of hard thinking ahead.

Internal Audiences: Buy-in is Key for Success

Internal audiences are critical for a brand promise to succeed. If the internal team—staff, board, and even strategic partners—doesn’t buy into the promise, it certainly won’t help keep the company keep that promise. (And if they don’t get what you’re trying to do, who will?)

To begin to develop a brand strategy for internal audiences, you need to map your internal stakeholders by division, role, or both. Don’t forget to include important operational functions like human resources. Human resources and similar operational teams are critical to ensuring your brand promise is carried into the life of your company. As an example, your HR team will need to ensure the brand promise is in play when it comes to hiring, retention, and employee relations.

Use your map of internal audiences and an understanding of your company’s culture and the way it operates to develop activities—tactics—that indoctrinate internal audiences with the company’s brand promise, why it matters, and how it will be implemented. Don’t just have a few big meetings where you talk at people about the brand promise and then leave. Meetings may be a good idea, but reinforce them with other activities.

Each internal group will have different opportunities to express the brand promise in how it operates. Ensure that each division or function has an action plan for how the brand will be implemented in its area, takes ownership to ensure that the work will get done, and accepts accountability for achieving the targets.

Be sure employees understand why they should care personally—how it applies to their day-to-day lives and how it affects their success in their positions. Staff performance reviews should include measures around adherence to the brand promise, given that each staff member now has a clearly defined role to play in keeping it.

External Audiences: Living the Brand

Once the internal stakeholders are on board, they will be invaluable in realizing the brand strategy with external audiences.

As with internal audiences, map out who the company is likely to connect with externally .Then plan tactics for each interaction that keep the brand promise with each group of people. Current communications, marketing, and branding activities may continue, but these should be enhanced or refined to reinforce the brand promise.

Your internal audiences can help you develop the strategy for external audiences—and often involving them at some level in developing the methods by which the company keeps the brand promise with external audiences helps solidify their buy-in. Work with your different product or service managers to determine how the brand promise can be fulfilled in the way items are presented and sold and how customer service is performed after the sale. (For thoughts on developing plans to communicate with clients after the sale, click here.)

Measurement: Do Your Audiences Get It?

No plan is complete without ways to measure its progress. Brand strategies should cover how activity will be measured and how the brand’s value will be monitored.

It’s fairly simple to determine whether your internal stakeholders are living the brand and to measure their success. If you have clearly defined benchmarks for brand practices and guidelines, track their use and reward people accordingly.

To determine whether your brand is increasing in value through keeping the promise is trickier. Keep in mind that it takes time to solidify your brand value in the eyes of the external world. External audiences will need to see the brand promise carried out multiple times in multiple different ways before they will begin to respond. And they may never consciously be able to say, “Oh yeah, XYZ’s brand promise is ABC.”

So how you do measure it, then? It’s not impossible.

Qualitative measures of brand value help companies understand external audiences’ brand associations, and quantitative research helps companies assess brand awareness, use, attitudes, and associations. Both research methods help companies determine whether the brand strategy is having the intended effect. (Is the public’s perception of the brand what the company is trying to communicate?)

Companies can also measure the overall value in their brands through assessing the discrepancy between the financial value of the company or product and the overall book or accounting value of the company or product. In other words, how many people are buying from the company because of convenience (in terms of location or price or ease of purchase) and how many are buying due to the brand name? That discrepancy is the value of the brand, and measuring it involves further qualitative and quantitative research.

Is all this work worth it? Sure is. Our next article in this branding series will look into the real value of a strong brand. (And you’ll be surprised at what you learn!)

This article is the fourth in a series by FrogDog about brand strategy. To begin from the beginning, click here. Our next article in the series discusses the value of a strong brand.

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