Your brand's success relies heavily on whether you have a successful (and proactive!) brand management strategy in place.
When I say brand strategy I mean, the rules and guidelines on how, what, where, when, andto whom you should communicate your brand message. And it is based on your business DNA – what you do, who it's for, why you do it, and why they should care.
Brand strategy management is the governing of said strategy and making it a part of your business so it grows and changes along with your company and does not get set and then forgotten in the corner to collect dust.
Running a company without a brand strategy is like going on a road trip without a map – you might stumble on some interesting places, but the journey won't be as streamlined, effective, or as enjoyable as it should be.
Your brand's health (and your company's success) requires strong leadership, a clear vision, and a well-maintained brand management strategy. One of the goals is to build a strong brand in the process of running your business.
Basically, having a brand strategy is a way to future-proof your brand as much as that is possible. You're setting up sustainable processes for staff to create, manage, and develop your brand in a way that actually works. It's like owning property vs. renting, after 10-20 years you have something to show for your hard work beyond a book of business and tangible assets. You have a brand that means… well whatever you set out for it to mean.
A solid brand management strategy takes time to figure out and get integrated into your culture – so let's get started and take a look at how you can create a proactive brand management strategy for 2021.
What does a brand management strategy do?
First, let's take a look at what you're aiming to achieve with a brand strategy (the rules and guidelines on how, what, where, when, andto whom you should communicate your brand message).
There are six main benefits of following a brand management strategy:
- Improved public perception (intentional branding can shape perception – adds clarity)
- Increased client retention and loyalty (you stand for something meaningful to them)
- Brand differentiation and market positioning (an answer to “why hire you?”)
- Impactful marketing that converts (branding makes sales easier and marketing more effective)
- Employees know what they're working towards, and they feel like an important part of the company as a result
- Your company is less vulnerable to changes in your industry
Sound good? It is.
How to create a brand management strategy
A great brand management strategy takes a lot more than just throwing a social media calendar together!
There are quite a few moving parts to a successful brand management strategy, including:
- Having a defined business DNA and brand pillars (differentiation, positioning, core messaging, and visual identity)
- Aligning your brand positioning and values across all company touchpoints
- Monitoring your brand reputation online (who says what, where, and when – and responding when necessary)
- Keeping your brand materials in one easy-to-access place, so everyone knows what to use, where, when, and how
- In all things, be clear, consistent, and exude credibility
- Consistently measuring and analyzing your performance
Let's take a closer look at each of these brand strategy pillars.
Brand Positioning & Value
We've written extensively about brand alignment and positioning before – it's an integral part of a successful strategy. You can't focus on getting the word out there if you aren't sure what the word should be or who your audience is or where to find them.
When your brand is out of alignment, it can make everything else harder and inconsistent, causing you to waste a lot of your marketing dollars on unclear offers and ultimately draining your brand's credibility – which is something you definitely do not want for 2021.
An aligned brand has a solid foundation of who you are, how you talk about what you do, and what your brand looks like. although this is very simplified, it should look something like this:
This foundation supports your website and your targeted marketing campaigns.
All of this supports your sales and business development team as well as your recruiting team. It's all a cohesive machine that's built with purpose and in perfect alignment.
Hopefully, you already have this one in the bag. If you don't, you got some work to do!
There's a bunch of different things that need to go into a well-positioned brand, including competitor research, audience research, and a hard, deep look at your own company and where you want to take it.
Do you have company values defined? They're going to create a core part of your position.
Whatever brand values you follow, don't leave them as a list on your notepad – integrate them into the core of the company, stand by them, and show them at every customer touchpoint.
Online Reputation Management
Not all PR is good PR. If someone's saying something shady, or you've been left a bad review on Google, you need to know (and respond) ASAP.
Thanks to modern technology wonders, there is a whole bunch of media monitoring and social listening software out there. With the right tool in place, you'll get an instant notification when something's being said about your company, where it's been posted, and who posted it.
We all know a brand's reputation is based on its image – so doing quick damage control when a negative comment rears its ugly head online is essential to maintaining a positive, strong brand online.
Creating a Brand Toolbox / Brand Asset Library
A huge part of creating a trustworthy brand is consistency.
Keeping all of your communication channels on-brand is a time-consuming process that needs everyone to be on the same page – or you'll end up looking like an amateur.
How can you keep everyone in-the-loop and using the right promotional materials? Keep all of your brand assets in one place.
Depending on your team size (and their computer savviness), there are two ways you can keep your brand's implementation on track.
- Create PDF brand guidelines to show them how to use your brand, with a set of assets and files stored on Google Drive or in Dropbox.
- Invest in a brand management system software – basically a cloud-based home for your brand assets.
Either way, you'll have a dedicated place staff can go to that'll give them instant access to the most up-to-date branding materials they need.
But before you can make sure your team is using the right stuff… you have to create the right stuff. I run into so many sales teams that have to rouge and create their own collateral because what the company provides is severely out of date and unhelpful.
Monitoring & Maintaining Your Brand's Performance
Phew, with all that hard work done, it's time to set it and forget it, right?
When you leave your brand to fend for itself, it devolves and brand decay sets in, ultimately resulting in you having to tear it all down and start it all again.
Your brand management strategy is an active, evolving process – to get the best out of it, you'll need to analyze and optimize it consistently. And by consistently, depending on the size of your firm, that can be monthly, quarterly or yearly. This doesn't have to be hard or time-consuming. What it does take is a mindset shift from set-it-and-forget-it to branding is an integral part of our business. Think of your brand as a badass employee who gets stuff done, but must be in the loop to be effective as possible.
If you're not sure where your brand strategy stands, a brand audit can help. Brand audits are best done by an outside set of eyes – they can accurately pinpoint issues you may overlook. Generally speaking, brand audits should cover:
- Internal branding – internal perceptions, culture, are guiding principles in place, etc.
- External branding – all your marketing materials, your website, social media accounts, etc.
- The customer experience – do you serve your customers in a way that's consistent with your brand ideals?
Your brand should be clear, consistent, and credible across all three of these categories. Where can you upgrade the information, assets or experience?
Measuring, analyzing, and adapting your brand strategy should be a regular part of your quarterly review to avoid unexpected problems further on down the road.
Ready to build the brand strategy that your company deserves for 2021?
Here at Branding and Beyond, we specialize in uncovering the brand hidden in your company and showing the world how great your business is. We create custom brand strategies that work.
Build the perfect brand management strategy and get in touch today.
Tracy O’Shaughnessy Founder / Lead Brand Strategist of Branding & Beyond
Tracy and her team help B2B firms in the construction industry and professional services look and sound credible online and off.
She has been in the industry since the early '90s and is tired of great companies being treated as commodities and competing on price because they don't look and sound as credible as they really are.
You can find Tracy on Linkedin and here on this blog.