Marketing

How to Develop a Brand Strategy: A Step-By-Step Guide

Melissa Rodriguez
Published on Oct 28, 2019

How to Develop a Brand Strategy: A Step-By-Step Guide

Before we jump into how to develop a brand strategy, let’s take a moment to really define branding. It’s fair to say there’s some confusion in the marketplace. 

What is branding? Is it your logo? Your tagline? Your company name? Your website design? Your features and benefits? Well, yes and no. It’s all these things and a whole lot more.

A brand is a lasting impression a customer has based on their interactions with your company. Seth Godin really nailed it when he said:

“A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one service (or product) over another.“

You may want to think about branding as a building experience. Using all the tools available to you (words, images, video, music, personal interactions), how can your company build an experience that will influence them to choose your product or service?

Naturally, you need a coordinated process to build your brand so all the pieces work together and consistently reinforce your customer’s perception. That’s what a brand strategy does. Let’s get started.

Table of Contents
1. Create Your Brand Foundation
2. Clarify Your Brand Pillars
3. Define Your Brand Personality
4. Write Your Brand Story
5. Name Your Brand
6. Develop Your Visual Brand
TL; DR

Step 1 – Create Your Brand Foundation

The first step in developing your brand marketing strategy is to define your brand type and value proposition. These will guide decision-making throughout the process.

Determine Your Brand Type

Brands generally fall into four categories – organizational, personal, product/service or idea. It’s helpful to understand the differences since they often overlap. Let’s look at an example to see how they work together.

For example, check out Coca-Cola’s Who We Are statement.

What kinds of brands might Coca-Cola need? 

  • Organizational Brand - Coca-Cola 
  • Product/Service Brand - A wide range of beverages 
  • Idea Brand - Coca-Cola’s delicious, environmental-friendly, health-conscious drinks 

All these brands should build on each other and support the experience as a whole.

Define Your Value Proposition

A value proposition is your key selling point. The one that stands above all the rest. It can be tempting to choose more than one, but the best brands are laser-focused on one type of value.

There are three primary types of value:

  1. Product/Service Excellence - You offer the best products and services because your focus is innovation and thought leadership. 
  2. Operational Excellence - You can deliver your product/service at a lower cost than your competitors. Perhaps due to better manufacturing processes or streamlined systems. 
  3. Relationship Excellence - You solve your customers' problems. You’re selling a relationship with customized solutions that meet their specific needs. 

For example, Coca-Cola’s value proposition is a product/service of excellence. Coca-Cola places the needs of the customer first, standing on the pillars of quality, diversity, sustainability, and growth on a global scale. 

how to develop a brand strategy

Step 2 - Clarify Your Brand Pillars

We’ve established that a brand is an experience. Experiences are shaped by emotion. By defining your brand’s benefits, you can zero in on how your brand creates an emotional impact. This can be challenging for a B2B audience, but for companies that get it right, it’s a big advantage. In fact, 77% of B2B marketing leaders say branding is critical to growth.

Once you know which of your benefits create the most impact, you’ll have your brand pillars.

We should begin by clarifying the difference between features and benefits.

  • Feature - an element of what something does or is. 
  • Benefit - a positive result that the feature delivers. 

Benefits can be either functional or emotional:

  • Functional - directly related to the functionality of the feature. 
  • Emotional - benefits the user's feelings. 

Make a list of your brand’s features. Then begin thinking about both functional and emotional benefits. When considering emotional benefits in a B2B setting, focus on the decision-maker. In this case, it’s likely an entrepreneur starting an e-commerce business. For example:

Feature Functional Benefit Emotional Benefit
Coca-Cola is more than the name suggests, offering more than 800 beverages in the U.S. alone. There is something for every customer.   I won’t have to struggle to find a drink I enjoy and aligns with my health.
Coca-Cola is an international brand and is often associated with happiness. Consumers all over the world have access to the company’s products. I can indulge in this product with confidence knowing it fits my cultural needs and I associate it with good times.  

Take a step back and identify your strongest features and benefits. These will make up your brand pillars. 

For example, one of Coca-Cola’s brand pillars is its diversity, both in products and in its people. This makes sense since the value proposition is product/service excellence. 

It’s often helpful to have a marketing consultant for a neutral perspective. Pacific54 can guide you through this important process. It’s also important to have feedback from your prospective customers. It’s easy to have tunnel vision when you’re so close to the industry or product.

Step 3 - Define Your Brand Personality

If your brand was a human being, standing in front of you, what would they look like, sound like, or act like? Sound like a strange exercise? It’s actually a powerful way to communicate your brand. People relate to people. 

Let’s identify five human traits that describe the way you want the market to view your brand. These traits will make up your brand personality. Make sure they’re consistent with your value proposition and the emotional benefits of your brand. Look at some other brand personality examples to get ideas.

For example, Coca-Cola has determined that their company’s brand personality is customer-centric, knowledgeable, inspirational, supportive, and accessible. This supports their value proposition. It also touches on some of the emotional benefits of their brand. 

Step 4 - Write Your Brand Story

Brand Promise

Your brand story begins with a promise. Branding experts emphasize that your brand should stand for one thing in the customer's mind. For example, ever call a tissue a Kleenex? Perhaps you’ve used Google as a verb? If this sounds intimidating, don’t worry. Most companies will never achieve it, but the point is to have that kind of clarity internally. Think about:

  • Your value proposition
  • The strongest emotional benefits you deliver, or your brand pillars
  • Your target customers’ greatest pains
  • Your brand's human personality traits

For example, Coca-Cola states “Our central promise at The Coca-Cola Company is to refresh the world in mind, body, and spirit, and inspire moments of optimism; to create value and make a difference. Two assets give us the opportunity to keep this promise – our people and our brand.” 

Brand Positioning Statement

Your brand positioning statement will expand on your promise. It should succinctly capture the essence of your brand. Having a positioning strategy clarifies many other aspects of your marketing. It also makes an excellent elevator speech.

Your 25-35 word positioning statement should contain:

  • Your company/product/service name
  • What you do
  • For whom (your customers)
  • One or two of the most important reasons customers buy from you

Check out other companies’ brand positioning statements to get an idea. 

An example comes from the Coca-Cola website, which states, “Coca-Cola may be one of the world’s most familiar companies, but we make more than our name suggests. We’re an organic tea company. A premium juice company. A coconut water company. And much more...”

how to develop a brand strategy

Brand Story

A brand story takes this a bit further. Brand storytelling evokes emotions within your audience to establish a relationship. For the B2B market, it may seem strange. But as noted earlier, you’re selling to people. The brand story should:

  • Build your credibility
  • Differentiate you from your competition
  • Show your brand’s personality
  • State your purpose on an emotional level
  • Tell your customer why they should listen to you

If you’re not a writer, that might feel like a tall order. You might want to make bullet points for each area and engage a marketing partner. Pacific54 can help you hit the right note in a concise, compelling way.

For example, Coca-Cola touches on the following points:

  • Their background as one of the world’s largest beverage companies
  • Their sincere desire to help make the world a better place
  • The company’s unique approach to creating a diverse lineup of products
  • They are global, diverse and growing 
  • They value customer happiness 

how to develop a brand strategy

Step 5 - Name Your Brand

It might seem odd that naming your brand is step 5, but by now you can probably see that every element needs to work toward building your brand experience. The building blocks of steps 1-4 had to happen first. Pacific54 has assisted many clients with the process of naming their company or product. Here are the steps we recommend:

  1. Word Brainstorming - Sources may include brand personality, brand pillars, industry publications, and a thesaurus for added inspiration. With all these resources, form a comprehensive word bank of phrases related to the business.
  2. Naming Framework - Cluster the words into categories as much as possible.
  3. Potentials - Once you have a substantial list of name ideas, narrow the list down to the top 20-30 favorite choices.
  4. Evaluation - Consider each of the options using these criteria:
    • Is your first impression of the name strong?
    • Does it sound good?
    • Is it easy to understand?
    • Use it in a few sentences, does it feel right?
    • Does it relate to your positioning or who you are?

For example, Coca-Cola is short for “The Coca-Cola Company.” Its official name conveys that the company is a strong, large and powerful institution, but the short name makes the brand more accessible.” Coca-Cola means “Delicious Happiness” in Mandarin, calling to the company’s global mindset. 

Step 6 - Develop Your Visual Brand

The next step in how to develop a brand strategy is your visual identity. There are three important elements to consider as you build out your visuals:

  • Relevance - Do the visuals support the written brand strategy and promise?
  • Quality - Are the visuals professionally designed?
  • Consistency - Are the visuals consistent at all customer touchpoints?

If you keep these front and center during the creation process, you’ll have a better chance of reinforcing your positioning and brand experience.

Your visual brand has three basic components: colors, logo, and font. 

Logo

Carefully consider any designer you choose to create your product or company logo. Given the importance of your brand, making an investment in a great designer is worth it. Pacific54 has collaborated with many clients to create logos that resonate with their clients’ audiences.

A great logo should have the following attributes:

  • It follows basic design principles such as space, color, form, consistency, and clarity:

how to develop a brand strategy

  • It’s functional and flexible; you can use it on lots of different backgrounds and surfaces:

how to develop a brand strategy

  • It represents the company’s product or service
  • It’s unique, especially within your industry:

how to develop a brand strategy

A few of the most recognizable logos that adhere to these rules include the Apple logo (a Macintosh apple with a bite taken out of it), the Nike logo (a checkmark), and the McDonald’s logo (the “golden arches”). Something that these all have in common is that no words are included, yet consumers will instantly recognize the brand. These logos are also solid colors that fit on a broad range of backgrounds and materials. 

Color

Many business owners simply choose colors they like or have used in the past. They’re overlooking the power of color in connecting with people on an emotional level. A study from the University of Loyola found that color increases brand recognition by up to 80%, there’s a whole psychology behind why marketers choose certain colors

For example, red correlates to passion and urgency, blue represents calmness, and black represents luxury and power. Ecommerce retailers might benefit from using red in order to project a sense of urgency (example: a pop-up that says BUY NOW! in red letters), while high-end jewelry stores may wish to use black to showcase the classiness of their products. 

Select a color palette that supports your brand theme and personality. This is another opportunity to reinforce who you are. It can also be a way to differentiate yourself from the typical competitors.

Font

Fonts are another way to convey your brand’s personality. The first decision is whether to use a serif or sans serif font. Serif fonts are classic fonts that look like they were created with a calligraphy pen. Whereas sans serif is simple, has less variation and doesn't have flourishes at the end. If you want a more serious tone, you may want to select sans serif. If your business has a more casual vibe, serif might be a better option.

For example, Coca-Cola uses a visual brand that is recognized by 94% of the world’s population, with red and white. These colors are likely to appeal to a broad, global audience. The website also uses a mix of serif (for the body text) and sans serif fonts (for the headers and subheaders) to signal the serious nature of the business program, but also the friendliness and welcome of the broader community.

how to develop a brand strategy

Style Guide

Once you’ve developed your visual identity, you want to ensure consistency. Pacific54 can create a style guide to keep your company on track. Often a one-page overview is all you need. Here's what it should contain:

  • Brand Personality
  • Brand Value Proposition
  • Brand Positioning Statement
  • Brand Pillars
  • Logo (with dimensions and examples of use)
  • Typography and fonts
  • Specific colors (with Pantone, RGB, HEX identified)

Pacific54’s Branding Guidelines

Let’s put these tips into practice! Take a peek at how we here at Pacific54 ensure our branding is streamlined across the board. 

Our Colors

  • Navy Blue: #212744
  • Main Green: #21C5B5
  • Soft Gray: #78909C
  • Text: #263238
  • Light Gray: #F3F3F3

how to develop a brand strategy

Our Fonts

  • Monsterrat Medium
  • Monsterrat Regular
  • Body 16 pt - Regular 

how to develop a brand strategy

See It All In Action

Check out our website to see how these moving parts all come together. 

how to develop a brand strategy

Too Long; Didn’t Read (TL;DR)

Whew! That’s a lot of information. Let’s recap how to develop a brand strategy.

Step 1 - Create Your Brand Foundation 

  • Are you branding your organization, yourself, a product/service, or an idea? 
  • Is your value all about the best product, best operations, or best relationships? Choose one and stick with it.

Step 2 - Clarify Your Brand Pillars 

  • Figure out your features and benefits, especially your emotional benefits. 
  • Rate them by importance and those are your pillars. 

Step 3 - Define Your Brand Personality 

  • You’re selling to a human. Make your brand human by identifying adjectives that describe the essence of your brand.

Step 4 - Write Your Brand Story 

  • Make a promise. Identify a word or phrase that says hits at your purpose and value.
  • Write a positioning statement. In about 25 words, say who you are, whom you serve, and what you do differently.
  • Craft a story. Forge an emotional connection by writing about your purpose in a way that resonates with your customers. 

Step 5 - Name Your Brand 

  • Brainstorm all the words that come up when you think about the brand you’ve just created.  
  • Cluster them by category.
  • Test out the top contenders.

Step 6 - Develop Your Visual Brand 

  • Work with a designer to create your logo and decide on colors and font.
  • Make a style guide for consistency and quality.

Need help with some or all of these steps? Contact Pacific54 for a consultation.

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