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  • Foto van schrijverJanneke Schmidt

Creating a Brand Management Strategy

Bijgewerkt op: 7 okt. 2021


Are your acquisition results lacking? Are customers already leaving after the first contract term? Then you probably don't know your client enough so you can’t differentiate yourself. In this blog series, I'll explain how to develop a strategy in four easy steps to achieve brand authenticity. To differentiate yourself from competitors, and most importantly, to establish an emotional connection with your customers to generate your brand value & equity growth and thus gaining credibility. You do this by sharing your brand story. From (life) experiences, mistakes or failures, convictions and from your intrinsic motivation. By staying close to yourself in the branding process of your business, you will most easily achieve a true purpose that makes a salient impact. Impact on lives that you change and that makes you successful as a company. The latter is indeed a consequence and not a goal.

At each step I will explain which aspect of the emotional connection is being made and which branding principles are applied. The four proven steps to build an emotional connection between your brand and your target audience are:

  1. Determine your Brand Target

  2. Create a Brand Strategy

  3. Design Brand Rituals

  4. Deliver Brand Proof

I think marketers are still working on marketing 2.0: ensuring that a message is sent to customers from an inside-out perspective. However, with current technology and possibilities, this appears to be very old-fashioned. I would like to propose a different customer centric way. As a marketer you should know the customer as well as you know yourself. If you know what it is that makes your target audience happy or if you can solve problems, your value proposition is in line with the demand and your brand will automatically become successful. How do you ensure that customers remain loyal to your brand and become ambassadors for your brand? This is essential because the power of mouth to mouth advertising has never been outdone.

In the current global economy with free trade relations and open competition, almost every segment is a 'red ocean'. Full of competitors who more or less have the same offer as your brand, but may be slightly more attractive in terms of pricing. How can you differentiate in such a market consolidation? That can be achieved by setting a higher goal for your business and purpose-driven marketing companies.

1. Determine Brand Target

The first step to an emotional connection with your customers and to achieve brand authenticity is determining a brand target. If you are a self employed entrepreneur or business owner, it is important to take initiative and be the first mover. To outdo the competition and to lead in innovative developments. You can only be a leader and show leadership if you oversee the bigger picture and take a clear position, set a clear target. Dream the impossible and reach for the moon!  Ask yourself where you are going, what do you want to achieve and what do you see as the ultimate goal. See it as a mountain top where you want to place the flag of your brand if you like. This is a key part of human consciousness. It is not only relevant for a business, but also for your private life, your working life and even in larger constructs it affects society as a whole. Leadership requires a belief in a higher purpose, where everything and everyone is working on.

The purpose should the next step. This must be able to provide fulfilment and exaltation. It is not aimed at self-interest and the pursuit of profit, but is related to people and society. This goal can be completely different, for example Gravity Water, the goal is to improve water supply to help eliminate the world of disease and misery, they explain it as follows:

“Water pollution enters water systems from on-land sources through runoff after rain events, infiltration through the soil, and through poor management or human-related waste. The primary cause of waterborne illness and death occurs when drinking water becomes contaminated by human fecal waste (sewage), which happens predominantly when inadequate waste management systems exist and / or when there is a lack of multi-tiered water treatment facilities. Gravity Water combines rainwater harvesting, storage, and filtration, providing communities in developing countries with a localized source of safe drinking water that is self-sustaining and 100% energy-free.”

Defining the brand target of your business is a radical and lengthy process. Sometimes a goal can present itself, such as the target of Gravity Water. Generally, it's an intensive marketing process that needs completion: you have to explore and analyze the market and determine your position in the market relative to your competitor. But also define how large your unique character is. Segmentation is applied based on your positioning, and you choose your target audience of your brand. Here you are already claiming your connecting skills as a leader. The connecting ability is important here, because leadership also means that you can transfer a message, you connect and can take care of your audience. You can address your target audience in various ways, like a good story and conviction, or by creating an experience which provoke in escapism or trigger active participation. Either way, you will need to initiate activation. The emotional connection with the target audience has not yet been established. You have only set a clear target. In other words: the realisation that you are at the bottom of a mountain and that you have to take a climb to reach the top. You see the possibilities in business terms, you see opportunities for growth, untapped potential and room for development. You take the first step.

2. Create a Brand Strategy

The second step is perhaps more difficult. The brand target has already been determined (the mountain top), but the road to it is unclear. How are you going to reach the BHAG? How do you ensure that the mountain top is reached? What obstacles do you see and how to make a product/ market fit?  Answering these questions is creating a brand strategy.

Many brands often skip this step they proceed to brand rituals. It’s indeed much easier to put together an outfit of your taste for a mountain walk, then the trip itself. Let alone to explore these in advance, analyze and make clear choices whether you climb the left or right side of the mountain. This step now seems very difficult, but that is not the case if you make it manageable.

How do you determine a strategy? A strategy's nothing more than a preconceived plan of choices to achieve a particular goal. In the strategy you determine how you want to achieve the goal, your vision. How does your Thought Leadership stand out from the competitors? Do you want to join the majority by building up distinctive USPs? It is stronger to act visionary. Think without constraints and dream big and record it in a vision statement. Find creative solutions for the obstacles you may encounter along the way.

For example it may be that your product portfolio is not yet complete, but you will still start as an entrepreneur. The implies confidence that you can still travel the road and gradually acquire the necessary skills and (life) experiences. If you have a strong vision as a person or business, you distinguish yourself from your competition than if you use a different color logo and scheme or search for rituals and public appearances. Therefore, take the time to clarify strengths, weaknesses and to identify opportunities and threats. The confrontation of these items provides a whole list of challenges and choices that must be made. Make concise choices here and do not try to make the most obvious choice. Go for the ‘Moonshot’! Only you can innovate and build up differentiative presence. By recording this in your vision statement, you challenge customers, employees and partners to follow your strategy/path and support you in this.

A derivative of your vision statements is your mission. How are you actually going to climb the mountain, who are you taking to and what do you need? This is an important branding principle, because you are going public; you take a position and you give substance to your strategy. By defining a clear mission and above all determining what you are NOT doing, you automatically ensure recognition. Your value proposition and position in the market start to stand out since you are no longer 13 in a dozen, instead you give substance. Your strategy and thus your brand become tangible and take on a form of expression.

In the mission you record what your business does, what you want to be accountable for and how you can be followed by new customers. For Rituals, for example, by making a piece of experience tangible in a private environment such as a bathroom. They allow you to come into contact with Eastern cultures, so that you can come to yourself and relax for a moment. How are they doing this? By uniting supply and demand and to make clear choices. This makes them stand out from other Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMGCs) and will power their brand 'above the line' presence. In this way they promote top of mind awareness. It is therefore essential for a brand to have a clear mission and vision, because the sum of the parts is greater: a purpose, a larger goal, is made up of the strategy and the fulfilment of this goal (the mission and the vision).

So, as a person and/or as a business, regularly take time for reflection and do not lose in visual style items. Determine what is important, what choices do you make and how will you get and realize what is important within your sphere of influence. Many brands and people skip this step. As a brand you are often considered a hoax and perceived as not authentic. This will be noticed by customers quickly resulting in a lacking acquisition and retention results. By implementing a true vision, you help to ensure recognizability and you build ties with your customer base.

3. Design Brand Rituals

Rituals are part of our history, but the most important ritual is probably storytelling. The spirit of stories can still be felt in social constructs, beliefs, contradictions / wars and inter-country conflict. Rituals are also important on a personal level: they are noticeable forms of expression that make our choice for a brand or a partner tangible.

Viewed from a branding perspective, it is important to differentiate with rituals and give your brand message stature. So you should ask yourself how you want to address your target audience? Is a male or female voice/energy needed and is a distant or an intimate approach required? By properly dissecting your brand identity you can emphasize the choices you have made on a strategic level (such as proposition and positioning) and give them strength. If for instance you want to make your promise (mission) recognizable based on your insights (vision), then it is important to talk with one voice. One coherent inner voice. This does not mean that a brand is equal to one person or that doubt is not permitted. A brand that leads or makes the market is constantly reinventing and adapting itself. Finding an easier path on the way to the mountain top, because you never know what you will find on your journey. As long as this is a conscious process and connects with your purpose, this is a growth path. A voice is accompanied by a consistent visual identity, that makes a good idea into a brand.

It is therefore important to establish a visual identity. This makes you recognizable and stand out. It is often a matter of getting rid of others and putting your head above ground level. Adorn yourself with distinctive attributes and color, go against the grain and set a new standard. Use the input of your branding strategy and purpose here. Your appearance needs to reinforce your identity rather than distract from it. This is a delicate balance that not much brands find, but once found you connect consciously and unconsciously with customers and your brand grows to increase your brand awareness. By also influencing the unconscious level the connection with your customers is established here. The tone of voice and visual identity are merely means to an end to make this process easier. The most important thing is to continue to do this consistently and thus guarantee brand consistency.

This is also an important part of personal leadership. It can be a good idea to change your identity and use a totally different color palette. As an entrepreneur or leader, ask yourself whether this is obviously without content, because then you will give up your unique exceptional position in the market and you will no longer be recognizable. Perseverance and consistency are more important leadership skills that take branding to a next level. It is the ritual that brings your brand and customers together. In the end they do not come for ostentation, but to hear your story and reach the top of the mountain.

4. Deliver Brand Proof

We switch back to the mountain metaphor (the target), we have set the goal, determined a strategy and agreed on attributes and rituals. Now it comes down to implementation. Can you also deliver on what you promise?

This is an important part of branding, because you can still have such a strong vision, exceptional value proposition and beautiful visual style, but if you cannot provide proof as a brand (and as a person) on the losing side. If you can deliver, you create relevance for the target audience, because you promise what you deliver. Is this not possible for any reason? Come clean, try to fix it and propose alternatives. That makes you as a person a lot more powerful if you acknowledge mistakes. By learning from them, you prevent future surprises and dissatisfaction.

In addition to the recognizability where you have worked on in earlier stages, you now provide evidence and therefore relevance because you deliver a promise. Nowadays this is often forgotten. Do you mean what you say, do you dare to stand for your position and defend it and can you deliver when required? This evidence is essential to the emotional connection between your customers and your brand, because brand consistency and relevancy results in authenticity. People put their trust in you, because you fill in core needs and do not disappoint. Should there be unexpected If something goes wrong, the open communication and connection will make them forgive you. Brand trust and believe is thus realized. This has many positive results on a personal level, because through trust you can grow, and you develop into your own true self. At a business level, there are many KPIs thus are influenced by brand trust because customers are more loyal to you. The retention results are good and customer satisfaction is increasing. Acquisition is accelerating too; your brand excels through social proof by the power of word of mouth. Current customers share their experiences in communions and recommend your products and services. New customers rely much more on this evidence than on beautifully designed landing pages with funky USPs. This discipline of social design is not practiced enough or insufficiently within brand management, marketers still do not enter into conversation but continue to send out mass communication.

By facilitating the four steps for you based on your purpose, we can make a difference together with a complete range of coaching, marketing and design services. This can be on a personal level and business wise or a combination of both. Do you want to know more? Then make sure to download my ebook on brand management or contact me and we will ensure that your purpose leads to authenticity with promising results followed.

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