July 27, 2022

Brand Strategy in Under 20 Minutes

Brand Strategy in Under 20 Minutes

In this solo episode, host and Brand Author founder Zahra Cruzan shares simple actionable steps to help build and create your brand. She discusses the importance of brand value and presents simple tools so you can start working on your brand strategy today.

Thank you for listening,

Zahra Cruzan

Founder, The Brand Collaborative And Brand Author

The Brand Collaborative      Brand Author



Hey guys, welcome to today's episode, I am so excited to be talking to you today about a subject that is near and dear to my heart. So I know we talked about brand here every week. But today I wanted to do something a little bit different today I wanted to talk to you guys specifically about a topic that is hugely impactful and will hopefully have you walking away with some tangible, actionable steps that you can use to build your own brand. So one of the most frequent questions that I get asked when I'm doing a speaking engagement or doing a podcast interview is, what is a brand and how the heck do I put together a brand strategy if I'm in the early stages of business, and no one really knows who the heck I am. 

So today, we're going to answer that question for you and we're going to talk through some simple tools you can use to get started on putting together your very own brand strategy. All right, so let's dive in, the very first thing that we're going to talk about is what a brand is. Now, I know this might seem obvious or simple, but believe me when I tell you that there is so much information out there right now, because brand is a very popular word, it is running the SEO game. And so everybody's kind of putting their own spin on the definition for what branding is and so sometimes the information can get lost like a game of telephone. So we're just going to for the sake of everybody being on the same page, start out with a simple explanation for what a brand is. Because after all, if we're going to be putting together a brand strategy, we want to know what it is. So simply speaking, your brand is the world's perception of your organization. 

Now, that's a very small definition, but also a really big one. What does that mean? That means that when I think of a brand, when I think of Nike or Apple or Starbucks, I have an instant perception in my head. And that perception carries through, I know what even though Starbucks has never had a retail store, Starbucks ever opened a retail store, I can pretty much guess what it would look like and feel like in the type of music they would play, right. And so that's the brand and understanding of perception of what your organization is, who your organization is. And the interesting thing about that is that that perception is affected by so many things. It is affected by your visuals, it's affected by your marketing, it's affected by your offer, by your customer service, by your brand, experience, your brand journeys. The scent of you know, when you walk into the doors of your bricks and mortar, your user experience on your website, what your checkout cart feels like. 

All of those things affect a brand's reputation, even a friend recommendation, a friend of a friend experience, they all play a part in what that brand what that perception is. And so now you see why everybody has their own definition for that, and Instagrammers gonna have their own version of what that brand looks like, as it pertains to Instagram. Graphic designers gonna have their own version of what a brand is based on how it pertains to the visual design, and a web developers so on and so forth, you get the picture. So the reality is, is that all of these things add to your brand. Now, sometimes when a brand isn't performing the way we want it to, it's either because we don't have enough of those pieces working, or we have all of those pieces working, but in but many of them in contradiction to one another. And so instead of it creating something that is remarkable, it's something that stands out against the noise. 

Instead, it's cluttered execution falls into white noise and so we we don't notice it at all. And so if you're somebody who who posts on social media all the time, and who feels like you're constantly working on your brand, and are worried that it's not really having much of an effect, it might be a case of doing all the things, but if they're contradicting each other, there's not really a clear sense of what the brand is. And so that might be something to look at. So now we're all on the same page, a brand is a perception of who you are, as an organization, and almost anything in the world you can think of affects that perception that idea of who you are. So then the next question is, obviously, well, how do I get a good brand? 

So let's define that out, what does it mean to have a successful brand? Quite simply put, the definition of having brand success is having what we call brand value. Now, when you're a big publicly traded company, that can be easily measured through things like market cap. But for most of us, for most of you listening today, that's not really how you're gonna measure your brand value that's maybe a few years down the line from now. For now, I want you to think of your brand success and measure by your brand value. So does the reputation or the idea that people have when they think about your brand, produce a monetary value, meaning if the offer if your product and service was apples to apples sold alongside someone else, would someone be willing to pay more for your product than someone else's, because they see a value with your product or service that they don't see with someone else. And that's a really quick way to tell if you're having any kind of brand success. 

If I sell a logo, and a competitor sells a logo, and I can sell my logo for higher than the average rate, then I've created brand value, it's a very simple test that you can give to yourself to kind of evaluate how you're doing. And so really creating a successful brand story is creating brand value. And in order to do that, you have to understand the audience that you're marketing to that you are trying to connect with. Because value is in the eye of the beholder so what's valuable to one set of people might not be valuable to another set of people. So knowing who you're marketing to, knowing who you've built your offer for, and understanding what they value is going to be a critical piece in that puzzle. 

Okay, so let's move on. We know what a brand is, we know how we define brand success so what does it mean to have a great brand strategy? Okay, this is a very, very simple explanation. The key to having brand strategy is in the name. It's the strategy aspect of brand. Creating a great brand strategy is all about taking a core idea of who your brand is, and strategically creating the components that tell that story. Now, that means that we need two things. One is the right components and two is the right syntax. Having all the right pieces that build the story in the right order is hugely important. Think of it like writing a book, one, you need to have all the right pieces, the character, the plot. But even more important than that, or just as important, as that, I guess I should say, is having all of those pieces come together to tell one story. It wouldn't make much sense if you had all the characters, but you didn't develop them out in this specific way. 

The story would either not be compelling, or it would be very confusing and that's what we see, a lot of times when we see brand execution that fails. It's because either it's not all the pieces aren't there, or they're put together in a way that is either confusing or conflicting with each other and it doesn't really tell a story, it's just a bunch of random pieces. So that's what it means to have a great brand strategy. So how do we do this? How do we build a cohesive story? Well, I'm going to break this up into three parts, which is how our agency puts together compelling brands. The first is by understanding the brand identity so the brand identity is working on the inside, first for us and then the visual components. So just like a human before you dress yourself you have to know who you are inside. What are you feeling? Who do you feel like? How do you identify, and then you wear the clothes that kind of reflect that, right. 

We always talk about clothes being an expression of who we are and so the visual components of your brand, like your logo, and your color palettes, and your typography, and you're spacing, and gridline, and framework, and all those fun pieces are all a reflection of who you are inside. So in order to get at that more working on the identity, first, we have to work on who you are, from a positioning standpoint, so we need to know who you are, what you do, who you do it for, and why it matters to them. Now, those are the four questions you want to answer. Now, when you're working with an agency, they're going to piece it together in a very specific way. But if you DIY this at home, let's start with answering those four questions and having those four questions lined up in a way that makes sense. 

Again, like we're telling a story, if a stranger read this, would it make sense to them without any outside explanation, that is your brand identity, understanding those things. Now, there's a lot of things that play into that, for instance, you're going to have to understand your market, you're going to have to understand what your competitors are doing so that you know what space you hold in your market, you're gonna have to know who your audience is, both demographically, but even more importantly, psychographically. What are those emotional markers? What that trigger behavior, right. So understanding those key pieces, and then who you are and what you stand for, and what your values are, and what your vision is, all of those things are going to play into answering those four questions. 

Now, once you've got the insights of your identity figured out, the next piece is figuring out your outsides. And that's where we get into they're really fun pieces of logos and sub marks babba coms color palettes, typography, grid line framing all of those pieces. And so together, those create the first critical piece of building a brand strategy, it's your identity. This is kind of like think of it like the teacher answer key to a workbook. So from this identity, all of your business and brand questions will be answered. When you're thinking about should you run this campaign or not, does it fall in line with this identity or not. Would my brand persona do this or not, when it comes to who you should partner with and who your affiliates, what affiliates you should bring on board again, we can look to this identity. 

When you're looking to organize your product or service lines, should we offer this, should we develop this product, again, we've got a very strong brand identity that answers that question for you. And so this is a hugely critical piece, everything from your visuals, to your product development to your messaging campaigns will all be drawn from this piece and it will also be the measure against which all of these pieces are looked at. And so it's really important to have that first critical piece so that is, and you may not be able to do, again, all of these pieces, you know, and go to an agency and have them help you right off the bat and that's okay. As long as you're doing it yourself and you can start off with what you have, you can start off with the information that you have asking yourself and your team, these critical questions are hugely important, and they will take you far so that's the first piece. 

The second piece is what we call the brand model and this is how do you organize your product suite? What is your signature offer? What are your brand standards? What are your experiences in your customer journeys? How do you deliver your products and services? So a really cool example of this that everybody gets is what's your blue box, what's your Tiffany's blue box and and that's just one example of it. But what is that whole experience like from when you open the doors to when you get that blue box. What do you put into place and how do those pieces line up against again, your brand identity. So that's how we know when features and customer journeys are just cool to have versus do they back up the story that I'm telling my identity. Am I more than just talking the talk Am I walking the walk? 

Do they line up? Do they sync up? And then the third piece of this is going to be your culture so now that you have you know who you are, and you've developed out what you do, the third piece of that is, let's get your movement started. How do you connect with people in the world now this is where we, we think of PR, this is where we think of affiliates. This is where I am partnerships. This is where we incorporate things like your company lingo. So the way it Starbucks, you don't order a small coffee, you order a tall coffee, or if you're me, you order them tea coffee. It's that that in club lingo that you have, if you are another example of this would be your rituals. 

So what are things that you do that only people who are diehard fans of your brand would know, you know, this is where we built the sneaker heads and you know that Nike has and getting really that fandom built out. How do we make it so sticky that you go from a customer who once bought your product and service to a raving fan, who brings their entire network along for the ride. And so those are the three pieces that we talk about when we talk about building a great brand strategy. So after saying all of that, it may have felt like a lot, and that's okay. 

The important thing is, is that it doesn't have to be perfect to get started, you can start exactly where you are with exactly the tools that you have. You have all the tools you need to get started working on your brand strategy today. Even if you don't have a marketing budget, even if you have never had a logo made before you can get started with your brand strategy today. And so I hope that you found this episode helpful. It is a shorty and I was really intentional on keeping it short because I didn't want to overwhelm you. 

I wanted this to be something fun and easy so for those of you guys listening, I'd love for you to drop in the comments or DM me on my Instagram and tell me one thing that you did one action that you took after hearing this episode to start working on your brand strategy. Alright guys, I appreciate you so much and I love doing this episode with you if you want to have more episodes like this that kind of talked you through the strategy, a brand and and more how to videos then leave me a comment or DM me and we will definitely produce more of those. Alright, well bye for now.