CEO Insight: Brand Strategy and Its Discontents

From this week up to the fall, TopRight will be speaking on the power and essential importance of strategy: what it means, how it works, and why it’s at the heart of what we do (bringing stories to life, growing audiences, and converting customers into brand advocates). As we regularly do, the research and articles we post over the next three months will culminate in a webinar event, tentatively scheduled for September/October. (If you missed our last event, check it out here.)

Why Strategy?

Strategy is absolutely key—in some ways it’s the most critical operational element of how a brand impacts the market. Why? Because with the wrong or inconsistent strategy, even the best sales and marketing campaigns, product development and management roadmaps will fail. Even a compelling story with great creative, absent the right strategy to deliver it within a specific competitive framework, will fail if the strategy fails to deliver with ruthless consistency.

“Story without strategy is art. Story with strategy is marketing.”

– Dave Sutton, Marketing Interrupted

On the flip side, bad strategy will erode, even destroy, months’ or years’ worth of beautiful branding work. I’ve seen this—don’t let it happen to you.

Common Mistakes

A central strategic mistake that I see time and again is an overly strong focus on what organizations think their brand is: brand name, logo, and creative. I’ve witnessed it too many times to count, a company making their roadmap, nomenclature, and the marketing campaigns that go with it the focus. The campaigns that flow from this approach, too often, become a proxy for strategy.

This is wrong. Strategy is not your product roadmap, and it is not the copywriting and design around your products and services that make them look good or sound good. It is not the newest iteration of your sales campaigns and incentives.

What is it, actually? It’s the very deliberate and specific operational plan for how you deliver the story of your brand, the impact you make and the outcomes you deliver for your customers in such a way that your customers choose you. Your strategy is how you give customers a reason to care, listen, engage, buy and stay with your brand for life. You want audiences to become your vocal advocates because they fully understand how you impact them and why it matters.

Now, it may be that you’re in the market for a redesign or rebranding of your brand name, visual identity, and service offerings for a variety of reasons, including the need for a new go-to-market story and strategy. It may be you are looking at how to revitalize your sales and marketing campaigns and creative. These do not live in a vacuum or happen in isolation.

To do this well—to achieve a fully integrated approach among brand story, strategic assessment, and operational planning specific to your markets and target customers—you need a team (internal, external, or both) steeped in the experience of developing a uniquely compelling brand narrative and marrying it to a clear and aligned strategy that makes your creative come to life.

Regardless of where you are in this process, you should be able to answer the following questions clearly and consistently.

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • What is the outcome you deliver to your customers because they have engaged with you?
  • Your customers’ world changes in some way because of what you do with them and for them—how?
  • Who are you speaking to, who do you want to speak to, and in what market and competitive context, that enables you to have a unique conversation with your customers?
  • Do your customers understand why your brand matters to them?
  • What is your destination statement that guides your entire organization and what does your buyer’s journey look like?
  • How are you applying the required brand and operational strategic discipline of ruthless consistency throughout your entire organization?
  • Finally, in what ways does your story and strategy pass the test of simplicity, clarity, and alignment? (Remember, you either pass this test or you don’t.)

The Takeaway

To create and implement a strategy that is truly integrated with your story and that brings your brand to life for you customers, you will need to go through this process to ensure that you maintain that essential ruthless consistency for story and strategy both internally and externally. To avoid the many common mistakes and detours on this road and learn more about how your brand and strategy pass these tests, contact us directly any time with questions or inquiries.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for a few months’ worth of serious strategy talk from the TopRight blog. And, oh yeah, sign up now! Then follow me @bill_fasig or say hello on LinkedIn.