Part I: The foundation for your brand to become an asset
Brand strategy’s end-result is more money.
Let’s try a little harder:
Brand’s goal is to increase the chances of you making exponentially more money over the long term.
In this essay, we’ll give you a roadmap to set the foundation for your brand strategy, so your brand can finally start pulling its weight.
That’s right. There will be no fancy introduction this time.
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Where Brand stands?
Before we can dig into why and how Brand becomes money, we need to understand where it stands in the organizational pecking order.
What? We said no fancy introduction. But, we didn’t say anything about laying out a nuanced context (something we love to do at SHFT).
In a simplified visual form, we believe the structure of a high-performing company should look like this:
The Structure of a High-Performing Company. S. Egger. 2022 (Inspired by John James, Founder at Project x 1AB)
Please note the interdependencies and connections between some functions.
We know, we know. Some will argue with this. They’ll say this hierarchy simply doesn’t work. “How about this and what about that? Huh?! It just all falls under sales or marketing, not brand!”
Just give us a minute to explain, will ya?
Brand strategy is in direct contact with the overall business strategy, because its concern lies in (1) how the customer perceives your entire company, and (2) how the company can impact said customer perception.
*Side-note: we’ll explore how a business can influence that perception and measure its efforts in an upcoming essay –by looking at creative, assets, and distribution.
The important part here is realizing we’re dealing with perception.
Assuming you’re a human being, you’re probably aware that every interaction, touchpoint, or conversation with your brand can help improve or destroy your customer’s perception of you.
From this angle, it becomes hard to argue that Brand shouldn’t command a bigger consideration when it comes to strategic business thinking moving forward.
Yet, too often brand strategy is still left dealing with mundane short-term tactics –logos and billboards. Now, this isn’t to say Brand doesn’t have to deal with this. It absolutely should.
After all, how can you track and measure your internal efforts for clarity and directions if you never turn them into visible, tangible output? But, when you get that the game we play has to do with perception, you realize short-term thinking won’t help much.
Companies that put Brand first understand the need to focus on the bigger picture to positively impact the customer’s perception with clarity and intentions.
Armed with the necessary authority, your brand department can then lay out a plan and dish out instructions to align your company’s every function on the ones who matter most: the customers.
This is why, for high-performing companies, and as shown in the illustration above, brand comes before marketing, sales, and other departments that do serve a critical purpose; just not one that is as concerned with creating lasting impressions with customers–existing and potential–as brand is.
Now that Brand holds a critical seat inside your organization, let’s see why brand becomes money over the long term.
Why Brand becomes money?
Beyond focusing on current customers, brand thinking looks to increase your organization’s influence and success with future buyers.
Future buyers sit at what we in the industry call the “top of the funnel”. They’re people who are starting to warm up to the idea of your category and type of products or services. Yet, they’re still scrolling, browsing, and gathering information.
Where it gets interesting is that most companies tend to give up on those–at least in the B2B space. Instead, they expect everyone to be ready to buy now. That’s probably because it’s much easier to justify budget spendings on people who will give you their money in the next month or so.
What this way of thinking fails to recognize is the lost opportunity to immensely simplify the work of your demand gen, sales, and marketing crews.
Failing to make a connection and create a memory before customers are ready-to-buy is a sure way to struggle quarter after quarter.
That’s because as a general rule, and as pointed out by the B2B Institute for Linkedin, only 5% of the market is actively looking to buy, and 95% isn’t just ready yet. Imagine then fighting over and investing all your money on just 5% of the market? Things could get ugly.
By catering to the top-of-the-funnel, you’ll already have a place in their minds when they’re ready to make a final purchasing decision.
The focus of Brand on connecting with future buyers is precisely what sets it apart as a long-term money-making machine.
Everything you do when it comes to strategic brand thinking should increase your opportunities to drive revenue. And do so more easily over the long term.
That’s because once you have an imprint on future buyers’ memories, you will convert them from bottom-of-the-funnel to paying customers much faster and easier.
It all happens when you focus on three things:
- Getting more customers through the door
- Getting them to crave your stuff and come back for more
- Getting them to be totally fine paying a premium for your stuff
Looking at the list, you quickly realize that going after these means you’re playing a long game. One that leads you down a long road of research, trial, errors, and hair-pulling overthinking at times.
The good news is, if done properly, and with enough grit and consistency, you will slowly but surely be able to measure your results, and become the only choice—or top of mind, the only thing that truly matters.
Now, let’s not forget: Brand becomes money, because it dictates how every function can increase the organization’s chances at being the only choice for a certain group of people over the long run.
Eventually, you want to create relationships with existing customers. But you also aim at generating memories with your future buyers.
A Brand Strategist’s job is precisely to obsess over creating memories and building experiences that are in alignment with your ideal customers. This ultimately creates the perfect environment to turn in a generous profit in the future–and doing so more easily.
Now that we know why Brand becomes money, let’s focus on how brand becomes money over the long term.
How Brand becomes money?
How do you consistently work towards lofty goals so that your brand becomes a crucial contributor to your bottom line?
For your brand to become an asset that makes money, we need to set a strategic foundation first.
Only then can we start talking about going out there and being heard and seen —once again, something we’ll explore further in an upcoming essay.
Let’s have a look at this 4-step roadmap to a solid strategic foundation:
1. Know your audience
Since we’ve been talking about how much of its energy Brand focuses on customers, it’s only fair to start here.
Your customers sit at the center of everything you can, should, but also shouldn’t do to be successful as a business.
How well do you know who you’re going after? What makes them tick? What makes them buy your product on the shelf at the store? What makes them consider you, but then pick someone else?
To answer these, there are three things you can do:
- Qualitative research: run 1-on-1 interviews with existing customers and people who fit the profile of an ideal customer.
- Quantitative research: define some hypotheses you have about a market and send out a questionnaire to confirm or invalidate them.*
- Observation: something that is too easily discarded–maybe because it got a little harder to do online, especially for B2B brands. But, it still matters to note body language and behavior that is under no scrutiny.
*Careful: your number of respondents must be at least over 300 for it to be considered statistically relevant.
Build a customer file, blueprint, or persona–whatever you want to call it. Fill it with lots and lots of information about who they are, what they want, how they want it, and why.
If you listen carefully, they’ll tell you what they actually want and how they want to get it.
Then, move on to the next step.
2. Work on your positioning
Positioning is all about finding a sweet spot and owning said spot.
Ideally, you want to find the best possible position in the market for your service, and go all in on it. Whether you’re a startup, scale up, or need to reinvent yourself to finally get your numbers out of the red.
This means you’ll spend a ton of time researching your customers (as previously mentioned), but also your market, and your own company to figure out where the sweet spot is.
Establishing your position also means working with different dimensions than just logo, voice, and communication. Because you’ll need more than that to convince people you’re the right choice for them.
Before we dive into the dimensions, here are two things you can do to get a solid foundation for your positioning:
- Competitive benchmarking: Stalk your direct and indirect competitors. Rank them in terms of market share or size, and look at what they have that you don’t–and vice-versa. This will help you consider your uniqueness in the field.
- Market analysis: stay in touch with current trends, events, and socio-economic circumstances. Be ready to pounce on any opportunity that could give you an edge. Maybe the way to become relevant in your field is to create new demand for a non-existing product or service?
Once you know where to establish yourself, you need to work on how you’re going to establish yourself…
3. Design your brand dimensions
Positioning isn’t just about finding the sweet spot.
It’s about identifying the best opportunity, and going after it with everything you got.
This means going on the offensive and establishing yourself with more than your communications and marketing campaigns.
They matter a lot. Because they’re the tangible results of your internal research and efforts after all. But there’s more to positioning yourself in their minds.
Establishing yourself as the only choice is about…
- Product and pricing,
- Service and care,
- Environments and distribution,
- People and training
So, we look at your product or service and how it’s perceived by the customers. This might lead us to adjust your pricing and packaging strategy.
We might also look at your environments —where do you get in touch with people, customers or not? What happens at those touchpoints, how are people responding to them, and what type of relationship it creates between them and your brand?
Also, where do you make your product or service available? If you’re a chef at Nobu, you need to hold a certain standard and prestige. You sure as hell won’t make your menu available to the general public on the Santa Monica pier.
Instead, your guests will be hosted at your beachfront restaurant in Malibu. All of those actions are what create the feel for something, a product, a service, a person, an organization, a brand.
By creating a feeling and a memory, those dimensions create the position.
Eventually, your brand dimensions work together to create a feeling of meaningful belonging for your target audience. They also aim at building lasting connections, which will make it easier for you to convince them to buy once they’re ready.
The ultimate goal with this being that your customers are totally fine paying your premium price, they’re okay paying that premium on the regular, and they’re willing to become ambassadors without you even asking.
Everything you are and do speaks to the value you bring and how well it connects to a certain group of people.
This also means that you can’t focus on just one or two dimensions.
Sure, some are more important than others. But, you still need to create a cocktail of value through as many facets as you can to become the only choice.
Let’s take a closer look at a brand that we think does it well:
NFQ Gear and its mix of Communications-Product-People.
Their cocktail of value looks like this:
- One purpose: Never Fxcking Quit
- Communications: Ad and campaigns promoting their mantra
- Product: Highly resistant and military-inspired workout clothes
- People: Athlete-veteran ambassadors spreading the word
Led by their Never Fxcking Quit mantra, these three dimensions come together to create a mix of value that is hard to resist for people who can relate.
*We highly recommend you take a look at their website (after finishing our essay, pretty please).
4. Create distinctive brand assets and distribute them on multiple channels
The best positioning and strategy in the world won’t do any good if you aren’t seen and heard.
The research and positioning inform the internal efforts needed.
The strategy gives directions and purpose.
Now, it’s time to use them to come up with (1) distinctive creative brand assets and (2) a solid distribution strategy.
Combined, your creative and distribution model will help you reach more future buyers, and make them remember you faster.
But, to be completely honest, and as we previously mentioned, those two deserve their very own essay.
So, get your popcorn ready. We’ll have plenty of time.
Brand is Money
Brand strategy gives you clarity and confidence in how to become the only choice in the not-so-distant future.
With structured brand thinking, you can make informed decisions towards innovating at every level of your organization, and move towards your lofty goals.
Some may look at a one-page strategy made out of statements like brand purpose, promise, customer vision, and scoff, seeing it as just fluffy nonsense.
What they don’t see is the alignment around a vision and purpose that will create long-term financial success for years to come.
Because those elements give the directions (strategic and creative) to turn your brand into tangible assets that move the needle for you.
Done right, Brand will guide, inspire, and rally around the one differentiated business idea you have. The reason why you’re in business and why you have a legitimate case for growth and success.
Research your customers, align with their needs and wants, offer them something unique, and show up with a well-crafted brand identity.
Then, deliver memorable customer experiences, and answer why they should pick you over the competition at every possible roadblock —product, service, people, environments, touchpoints, and operations.
This is the way to generate better results in the four top-level KPIs that matter most:
- Getting more customers
- Getting them to come back
- Getting them to stay longer
- Getting them to pay a premium
Improve in just one or two of those areas, and you’ll grow faster in no time.
Ultimately, brand strategy is a lot of research, testing, analyzing, observing, adjusting, and validating. And then turning all of it into tangible assets and results.
All of this done right leads to more space in their minds. And more money in your bank account.
PS: the 4-step roadmap we described above is only the beginning.
It’s the foundation for a great brand strategy.
As mentioned in the last step about distinctive creative and distribution, you’ll eventually need consistent visible efforts that you can track, measure, and compare.
Part II of How Brands Become Money will be exactly about this; We’ll look at how you can turn this strategy of yours into creative brand assets and distribute them appropriately. This way you can track, measure, and get a wayyyy better feel for how Brand can and will eventually bring in more money.