How to design a brand strategy to help you evolve your brand
I spent the first 9 months of 2021 freelancing. I was writing blogs, managing social media accounts, email marketing, and doing some graphic and web design at the time. It was then that I started to notice a common theme. My clients were coming to me for help with content and design without being able to articulate who they were, who they help, and what they stand for. My customers struggled to market their businesses because they didn’t have a brand rooted in strategy. Even the ones had basic brand guidelines, which left much to be desired for the writer/designer. Still, I struggled to market their businesses because they didn’t have a brand rooted in strategy. It didn’t matter how much work I did. It was still putting lipstick on a (well-intentioned) pig.
That was the moment I went from freelance to founder and discovered that what entrepreneurs really needed was more than just a pretty Instagram feed and a website – but that the root of their problems (and success) was in branding. So I set out to find a deeper understanding of who they are attracting, how they will attract and convert them, and how to articulate the value of what they do. I created Cedar June because I knew what these entrepreneurs needed to do was treat their business like a brand.
One of the number one questions I get from prospective clients is, “Do I really need to invest in brand strategy?” You may have guessed, but the answer is yes. An investment can be a lot of things, sure it can be money and paying someone else to help you with brand strategy, but an investment can also be time and energy. So keep reading if you want to design a more whole-hearted brand strategy for your creative small business.
A brand strategy is a customized long-term plan and analysis of your business and brand. This plan is used to guide strategic branding and business decisions. It defines how your brand looks, feels, and sounds to (and this is the key) your ideal client. It also determines who your ideal client is, and how you can connect with them on a deeper level. Designing a comprehensive brand strategy for your business is the first step to building an intentional brand. Brand Strategy creates an overall clarity and connects the dots between how your brand’s identity, messaging, and services work together to convert followers and fans to customers and die-hards. A brand strategy takes the guesswork out of evolving your brand and provides a roadmap to scale sustainably.
Before you start your brand strategy, you first need to lay the foundation with what I like to call the Brand Blueprint. The Brand Blueprint defines your brand’s mission, vision, and service or sales model. You can download the Brand Blueprint Template on the house here. Then, check out this blog post for a deeper dive into its elements.
Next, determine your brand’s values and mission. What are your values? 77 percent of consumers buy from brands that share the same values as they do (Havas Group, 2019). From there, you determine your position. Where do you stand in your market? Who are your competitors, and how are you different from them? More importantly, who are your audience and dream clients or customers? How can you understand them on a deeper level? I like creating 3-4 customer profiles (you may have heard this as your avatar). Here I describe different versions of the ideal client or customer, including personal details, age, interests, career, and income.
Many creative entrepreneurs stop here. They create a customer avatar and then move on. Sure having an idea of who your customer is, is important. But that is just a jumping-off point for the most important part: learning to speak their language and selling your offer or service. How can you understand not just where your customer likes to shop – how much money they make and what types of things they invest in, but on a deeper level, what they want (pertaining to your product or service) and what they are struggling with? What stories can you share that they can relate to and learn from? Defining your brand’s voice, messaging, and the stories it will tell connect your strategy to the real-life application in your website copy and marketing endeavors.
“A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that last, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose your product over another”Seth Godin
Now for the “fun stuff,” your brand identity. This may be what you think your brand is. A collection of colors, a logo or two, and some fonts. But if you haven’t already learned by hanging around this blog, your brand is wayyyy more than that. Your brand is made up of strategy, messaging, and identity. So many of the design cues I take when creating Brand identities for my 1:1 clients come from the preliminary work we do in strategy.
Your Brand Identity is, simply put, the visual identity of your brand. What it looks like from colors to fonts, logos, illustrations, brand photos, and other visuals or backgrounds. Remember how earlier we talked about how you differ from your competition? Your brand identity is another way to leverage your differentiators and stand out from the crowd.
All of these elements can be broken down into your brand guidelines. A set of brand guidelines serves as your “playbook” as you evolve your brand. It is also instrumental when it comes time to outsource and can help you onboard team members, with a deep understanding of what your brand stands for, who it attracts, how it sounds and how your visual elements should be utilized. For example, what are your logos uses? Font colors vs. Background colors, the overall visual and creative direction? Your brand guidelines should answer all of these questions.
Your Brand Strategy is a long-term plan that should be designed to help you leverage your brand and scale it sustainably. Having a defined strategy takes the guesswork out of who you are talking to, why you are talking to them, and what you should say. It creates brand recognition and consistency across multiple platforms and service structures. When it comes time to market those products and services, Your brand’s strategy should take the guesswork out of creating content, from Instagram posts to email newsletters and blogs. It serves as a guide to help you take aligned action as you evolve your brand and business.
Ready to get started? Click here to download the Brand Blue Print.
Need some help? Apply to work with me 1:1.