Be Your Brand:
5 Fundamentals for Successful Brand Strategy
During the last decade as the necessity for a multi-media marketing strategy became imperative for the success of a product or company, society has become familiar with a “new” term: “Branding.” Prior to the integration and understanding of “branding,” the justification for marketing expenditures was a constant point of contention among companies of all sizes.
Since college, I’ve worked with a multitude of clients from documentary filmmakers to multisport/music festival directors, to a local coffee house owner. I guided my clients through what I now refer to as “marketing therapy” before even I was able to generate an effective marketing plan and strategy. Many of my clients, most really, didn’t have a clear vision of who they were and where they ultimately wanted to or could go with their businesses. Now they understand the value of the process as brand development and strategy.
Anyone who has been a “marketing professional” during the past 10-20+ years has felt the frustration and pressure of having to prove that marketing does have value. The growth of multimedia and the overwhelming number of advertising avenues available have caused companies to shift their thinking and recognize that brand development and strategy may in fact be the most important thing they can do for their long-term viability and success in a global marketplace.
Think about it this way: How can you expect to find your life partner if you don’t know who you are and what you want? We all know people who didn’t take the time to get to know themselves and ended up serial dating and in the process got pulled further out of their true selves. We must know what we want for ourselves and be grounded in self worth to manifest it. The same is true for business, brands, and consumers. How can you hope to capture brand loyalty and build sales unless you have a clear, consistent image and product? You simply cannot. Be true to you.
Five Fundamentals for developing a successful brand strategy:
1) What’s your why?
Who are you? Why are you doing what you are doing? What is the current need for the product/service you are creating? Will your future customers/consumers have the same needs you do for your solution (product/service)?
First thing is first, you need to know your WHY before a consumer will be able to answer why they “need to buy”.
2) What’s your story?
Be true to you and others will be too!
Many of the most successful brands in the world weren’t built out of a desire to sell off to a larger entity quickly, a strategy we see rampant in Silicon Valley. They were created for a specific reason: their founders saw an answer to a problem. Ultimately their consumers connected with this same need and desire.
For example, Gary Erickson founded Clifbar out of a need: a lack of an alternative for portable nutrition for himself as a long distance cyclist. He wanted to create “…a better tasting bar made with nutritious, wholesome ingredients to sustain energy…” He didn’t have visions of startup millions selling off to Nestle…he just wanted to be able to fuel his body without gagging on some fake nutrition and keep riding his bike! Today you can buy Clifbars by the case at Costco.
When I was in my early 20s I was a sponsored athlete for Clifbar. I’ve continued to stay loyal to their brand (despite spending summers as a poor college student eating little else, not something I would suggest.) because they have stayed true to their “WHY”, their purpose, one that I believe in too.
3) Consumer loyalty begins within.
While I was a sponsored athlete I worked closely with several companies that included Clifbar, Nike, North Face, and Red Bull. In 1999, one of my Nike contacts who had been with the company for a few years moved into R&D. He moved because he wanted to try something new. “Oh yeah, they totally support us here; if we want to move around and learn something new, we can!” Nike understands that their value begins within.
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t wan to.” - Richard Branson
4) Your Brand is Your Mirror
Words and sounds have energy, masculine or feminine, as do shapes and colors. Logo, design, color, shape will determine who instantly and subconsciously connects with your brand and product.
I was not surprised to hear recently from a photographer friend regarding a brand I am personally devoted to, “Lululemon is having a hard time breaking into the male market…” Their logo is round, feminine as is their brand name itself.
Before you decide on your logo, packaging, colors, know who your target audience is and bear in mind how big you want your company to be (local or global).
5) Be your own redwood: Imagine your future self.
Just as you choose to make certain decisions for your long-term physical and financial health through diet, exercise or investment decisions, do the same for your company and brand. What do you dream your company will do for you and others?
I often tell my clients: “Imagine digging a hole in the ground for a tree. Today it is a sapling but in a few years it will tower high, we can’t imagine where all the branches will reach, some we’ll have to trim, others will stretch further than we can fathom today. But give the roots room to grow larger than you yourself can imagine!”
Know yourself. Be your brand.
In order to successfully identify, engage, and activate a core consumer audience, you must be able to connect with their needs. Knowing yourself, your why, where, and how are the first steps to successful brand strategy.