12 Lessons on Brand Strategy

Bibiana Obahor
October 2, 2023
Discover the impact of emotions, community, and consistency on building iconic brands. From shaping perceptions to embracing change, this roadmap guides you to brand success.

I've been immersed in the world of brand strategy for nearly five years now, having laid the foundation through my university journey, where I delved into the intricacies of consumer behaviour, shaping perceptions, and visual communication. This rich blend of knowledge has led me to unearth a treasure trove of invaluable insights that I'm going to share. Think of these 12 lessons as the secret sauce of brand strategyβ€”the kind that most strategists keep tucked away or probably aren't even aware of. Forget about the textbook stuff; in this article, I'm giving it all away. I'm sharing the candid revelations that have made me rethink and relearn.


1: Emotions drive real conversion

Surprisingly, our decision-making process is largely guided by emotions, with logical explanations often coming later to rationalise our choices. Human decision-making is a blend of emotions, memories, and social factors. Our brains weave together these elements to guide us through our choices. It's fascinating to note that beneath the surface of every user's expressed preferences lies an emotional undercurrent, sometimes even hidden from their own awareness.

Relying solely on product features as the foundation of your brand's approach falls short in this landscape of emotions. To construct a compelling brand strategy, it's essential to uncover the emotional triggers that genuinely communicate your brand's worth to users. Instead of just promoting features or benefits, tap into the emotional triggers that truly resonate with your audience. By doing so, your brand can create a deeper connection that goes beyond mere functionality.


2: Facilitate a shift in how individuals perceive themselves

One of the most effective strategies for altering individuals' viewpoints is to facilitate a shift in how they perceive themselves within the larger context of the world. It's not just about convincing them; it's about touching the very core of their self-image. Brands that achieve this feat often stand out as true transformers in their industry.

This process goes beyond direct persuasion, operating on a deeper level of self-identity and worldview. By enabling individuals to envision themselves differently, you create a potent avenue for changing their self-concept and its alignment with your brand's narrative.


3: Evoke strong emotions. Avoid indifference

Love and hate, two powerful sentiments, possess a unique role in shaping perceptions, while indifference poses a grave threat. The majority of brands grapple with the challenge of user apathy – where individuals recognise a brand's qualities but remain unmoved to take any action

Many founders mistakenly see indifference as a stepping stone towards love, when in reality, it's a misleading notion. Focusing on apathetic users can inadvertently lead a company towards stagnation. Rather, the aim is to generate such tension that your brand becomes magnetic to its admirers and averse to its critics, with no space for the middle ground of indifference.

Ultimately, nurturing a community of advocates and critics holds more value than existing within a realm of passive observers.


4: Always reveal the experience

Companies often offer excellent products and services, yet their branding falls short of showcasing the underlying experience. They might highlight features or advantages, but the feelings that accompany these aspects often remain hidden.

It's crucial to note that users tend to hesitate when they don't have a clear grasp of the experience they're signing up for. The fear of the unknown can hold them back from taking action. Waiting until a user converts to reveal the full experience can prove counterproductive, as they might not progress far enough to uncover it. Instead, the focus should be on providing a glimpse of the emotions they'll encounter upfront. This approach allows users to get a partial understanding of your offering without committing to a full conversion.


5: The 1-to-3 ratio

A clever heuristic in shaping a strong brand strategy is its ability to tackle multiple challenges with a single approach. Achieving a 1-to-3 ratio, where one solution elegantly addresses three different challenges, signifies a well-honed brand strategy. It embodies the essence of strategic thinking, where each element serves multiple purposes, contributing to a cohesive and powerful brand identity.

This streamlined approach not only minimises the complexities of managing multiple solutions but also amplifies the impact of the chosen strategy. As a result, the brand gains a competitive edge by effectively addressing a spectrum of problems through a unified lens.


6: Understand your user

At the core of the most remarkable brand strategies lies a common thread: a profound grasp of their users. This principle aligns with the heart of building a company. Success hinges on comprehending people – a core element that nurtures significant and influential ideas.

At its core, comprehending individuals is the foundation of business growth. This insight sparks the creation of impactful ideas that leave a lasting mark. The capacity to grasp users' needs, wants, and emotions empowers brands to shape strategies that truly resonate, resulting in enduring engagement.


7: Bend the market or stay a follower

Beyond being trendy, large, or innovative (which is almost never enough), the core definition of brand strategy revolves around brands that strategically influence the market.

True strategy emerges when your present decisions shape what the market prefers tomorrow. Consider Apple's role in making electronics a statement of identity or Architectural Digest's impact in turning interior design into social voyeurism. Equinox transformed the gym into a hub of "high-performance living." Each brand created conditions that favoured them – the essence of genuine strategy.

A strategy is evident when your brand actions shape how your field is perceived, positioning you as the natural leader. Without this alignment, you're just reacting to others' rules.


8: Community as foundation

While we used to rely on experts to gain credibility, today, it's the collective voice and engagement of a community that truly matters. In industries where substantial investments are involved, the support and influence of a community are vital in generating the confidence needed for successful conversions.

By prioritising your community as the foundation of your brand, you tap into a wellspring of authenticity and relatability. This not only builds trust but also fosters a sense of belonging and shared purpose. The combined trust that emanates from a supportive community can drive significant brand growth in today's ever-changing landscape.


9: Understanding a brand goes beyond the surface

People perceive your brand not solely through your words but also through your actions. Every interaction, through every touchpoint and channel, contributes to their comprehension of your brand's essence. This underscores the essence of brand strategy: to align every business activity towards a singular objective. Consider your brand strategy as a guiding filter for every decision you make.

Powerful businesses are rooted in a core brand strategy. Companies like Tesla, Apple, or Meta exemplify this alignment, where the distinction between business and brand is virtually indistinguishable.


10: Successful brands care about people, not branding

Successful brands of the future are those that humanise their interactions, placing people at the forefront of their strategy. By genuinely valuing and caring for individuals, these brands build a strong and lasting bond, earning not just customers, but advocates who share a profound connection with the brand's ethos.


11: Evolution is inevitable

Rather than change for the sake of novelty, these brands evolve in ways that align with their core values and the evolving needs of their audience. This purposeful evolution ensures that brands remain relevant without losing their essence. It involves a careful balance between honouring the brand's heritage and embracing innovation. By evolving with a clear sense of purpose, brands not only stay connected with their existing audience but also attract new followers who resonate with their journey of growth.


12: Consistency is a cornerstone of trust-building

Consistency in messaging, aesthetics, and the overall brand experience fosters familiarity and reliability, enhancing the brand's credibility over time.

Consistency doesn't imply stagnation; it's about maintaining a coherent identity while adapting to the evolving landscape. Brands that consistently deliver on their promises and maintain a unified presence across various touchpoints cultivate a sense of dependability that resonates with consumers. This steadfastness contributes to long-term success and positions the brand as a reliable beacon in a sea of options.


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