Unleashing the Power of Brand Strategy

Crafting Your Brand DNA® for Success

For any brand to succeed, it needs to have the right strategy behind it – defining its essence, its positioning, and character. This is what resonates with your target audience, and drives long-term growth. But what is brand strategy, and why is it so important? How do you build a brand strategy that will unleash the potential of your brand? In this post, we explain how.

Chance favours the prepared mind

No matter what “business” you are in, be it consumer products, business-to-business services, or even government departments — Brand Strategy is the secret sauce to unlocking value — mapping out the future direction in which you need to go, and guiding how you interact with all your target audiences. All activities should be aligned with it. It’s your sounding board for human resources, communications, behaviour, innovation, and transformation. In this post, we explore why this is true, and how you can unleash your brand’s potential by defining its essence, resonate with your key stakeholders, and drive long-term growth, and beyond. 

After some three decades helping brand owners across twenty countries in almost every business sector, we have arrived at an optimal methodology that we call Brand DNA®. Like human DNA, we believe that every business needs to find its uniqueness, its purpose, its raison d’être. 

Let’s face it. The world is a crowded marketplace of many me-too brands that fail to live up to their potential. Their success or failure is not only determined by the quality of their products or services – it’s ab out who has the better strategy. For those of you who are old enough, perhaps you’ll remember the “Beta” video format of the 80s? They failed to win over their inferior “VHS” competitors because the VHF guys had a better distribution strategy. So success comes in many forms. A lot of it is down to chance – which is about being at the right place, at the right time — but we would say that “chance favours the prepared mind”, and that’s where brand strategy kicks in.

You don’t drive just looking in the rear-view mirror

So, how to be prepared? If you think of your Brand DNA® as a framework for decision-making — it contains the essential ingredients of your business plan and maps the “What, How, Who, and Why” of your brand. If you are an ongoing concern, you need to consider three aspects and how they overlap (or don’t). 

Firstly, how are you currently perceived in your market? What are you known for? Why do customers consider you? This is good to know, but it isn’t enough, because it’s like looking in the rear-view mirror. It’s history. 

So, next, you need to consider where you are going, and what you want to be in the future. Looking toward the horizon, what’s your vision? Where would you like to take your brand? How would you like to be seen? 

Last but not least, how do you see the future changing? Are you still relevant to all your stakeholder’s needs? What capabilities and skills do you possess today that will help you get where you need to go tomorrow? 

Before we jump straight in and describe how to explore your Brand DNA® — let’s first cover the essentials that set the stage, and add some anecdotes that have been the signposts for where these thoughts and ideas come from.  

First of all, let’s start by answering the key question, what is brand strategy, and what are its benefits?

The soul of your brand

In our early days, when we were commissioned to develop a company’s brand identity — the client was really only asking for a logo, or trademark, and some applications like business card, or packaging, or communications. The client would provide a brief and we would set about the task of designing ‘the logo’. The problem was that often the brief was not right, or not enough. The client might tell us what they did, but not who they were, where they were going, or the challenges they faced in their markets. They failed to consider their competitive environment and lacked the ability to comprehend the true value of their intangible assets. After all, we only want a logo, right? Wrong. 

So, in the wasteland of no information — we started to reverse engineer this briefing process — to create a blueprint for building and managing a client’s brand identity, with the right “tone of voice” that could address their key stakeholders in a way that was relevant for them, with clarity, consistency, and the cut-through against their competition. 

At its most fundamental, we think of brand strategy as an encapsulation of a brand’s values, purpose, and personality, that should guide its every action and decision. It then serves as the cornerstone of a brand’s journey in the marketplace, providing a roadmap for its identity, essence, and perceived value. It goes beyond mere logos, tagline, and marketing tactics, encapsulating the very soul of a brand — the values, purpose, and personality that define its existence and differentiate it from competitors.

Once defined, it should address the fundamentals — What does your brand do? What makes it unique? What does it stand for? How does it connect with your target audiences? 

Everlane is a fashion brand driven by an ethical philosophy in terms of sourcing, manufacturing and sales which they call “radical transparency”. Customers are invited to pay what they believe the product they are purchasing is worth

Connecting the dots

In most articles about brand strategy, people talk about the well-known brands like Nike or Apple as examples — as their brand stories are well-known. We can all Google them, and Google is another one in the same basket. Instead I’d like to talk about a brand I discovered while traveling to the US last year. 

Everlane is a fashion brand with a difference. They call it “radical transparency”. As I entered their store in Santa Barbara, I noticed a message on the wall behind the sales counter. It said … 

“At Everlane, we believe that the ethical choice is the right one. That wearing clothes you love shouldn’t mean sacrificing your values. And that everybody can and should make a difference. That’s why we’re striving to change the way retail works. How? By taking you inside our ethical factories, developing a more sustainable supply chain, and revealing the true cost of every product we make. It’s a different way of doing things. We call it Radical Transparency.” 

It’s a strategy that talks to those who see “fast fashion” as unsustainable. I was one of these folks. And instead of a retail price, they told me that I could pay what I believed the product was worth. A strategy of “transparency” that saw me going back to their stores several times before leaving the US. Voting with my feet, and my wallet 🙂

The reason this strategy works, is that it aligns who they are and what they do, with how they want to be perceived, with clarity and consistency. It’s a very powerful brand strategy — at least, until somebody else plays catch up. 

In summary, therefore, for brands to succeed, brands require a well-thought-out brand strategy to navigate the complexities of the modern marketplace, and carve out a distinct identity that resonates with consumers. 

That just about sums up what brand strategy is, but what are the benefits for brand owners? What does brand strategy bring to the table?

Clarity, Consistency, Differentiation

What are the benefits of brand strategy? In our experience there are three key benefits — it’s about creating clarity, building consistency, and driving differentiation.

Creating Clarity: Returning to how we described the lack of ability to articulate their challenge, most brand owners are focused on the operational and entrepreneurial aspects of their businesses. They get stuck when it comes to talking about intangibles. A brand’s DNA should include all these intangibles, and acts like a map, charting out the brand’s purpose, values, and objectives. By clearly defining these elements, a brand strategy provides clarity and direction for the brand, ensuring that everyone within the organisation understands the brand’s mission and how to achieve it. This clarity enables cohesive decision-making and aligns the brand’s actions with its overarching goals, ultimately driving growth and success.

Building Consistency: Consistency is key because it reinforces the brand’s philosophy and builds long-term trust and loyalty among consumers. It’s like talking the walk (as well as walking the talk). This applies across all touch points of the brand, including marketing materials, product packaging, customer service interactions, and online presence. It’s more than just a consistent message. It’s a well established fact that 68% of customers who return to a brand have done so because of a positive experience with your staff. This is where the rubber meets the road — your staff are your true brand ambassadors, and must walk and talk the brand consistently, every day, for every customer. 

Driving Differentiation: In real estate, they say “location, location, location” … in brand, we say “differentiate, differentiate, differentiate.” With 5,000 new brands created every day, and over one billion websites — standing out is critical. Understanding what your competitors are doing, what they are saying, and how they are going to market, is essential. Because it will help you see the ‘white space’ you can occupy, and ensure that you don’t become a “me-too” brand. Building a unique personality and narrative (like Everlane) begins to get eyeballs, that then can be translated into sales. Successful branding is basically about standing out from the crowd and being recognised among a proliferation of customer choices. 

So much for the benefits of brand strategy, but how can you build a strategy that works? What steps are involved? Here we describe how.

Building your Brand DNA®

So, the time has come when you see a need to define what your brand is, and develop your own brand strategy. But how do you do it? Well you employ a brand consultant like Equus of course, but in order to reassure you that we know what we’re doing, we’ll tell you how we do it. With our decades of experience we’ve distilled the process down to five clear steps, finishing up with the core objective, which is about defining what your brand’s essence is in terms of its ‘Brand DNA’.

Step 1: Research your market — We begin by immersing ourselves in the client’s market landscape, through a rigorous process of market research. It includes investigating the macroeconomic trends impacting your brand and analysing the competitive landscape, to identify key competitors and benchmarks. Understanding the market dynamics will help differentiate your brand and identify essential benchmarks for credibility — as well as help you decide how to stand out from your peers and competitors. 

Step 2: Identify and understand your target audience — In this step we delve deeper into understanding your target audience by assessing their demographics, behaviours, and psychographic drivers. We also identify the functional needs and emotional triggers that influence their purchasing decisions. This deeper understanding will inform your brand-building efforts and help tailor your messaging and experiences to resonate with your audience.

Step 3: Audit your existing brand identity and communications — Next we conduct a comprehensive audit of your existing brand identity, and all your collateral, and seek to get a better understanding of the customer experience. For service-based brands, this includes mapping out the entire customer journey to identify the touch points and “moments-of-truth” that shape how your brand is perceived. For example, identify the pain points in the customer journey and they can be turned into great opportunities for differentiation and improvement.

Step 4: Interview your key stakeholders In this step we engage with key internal decision-makers to gain insights into your brand’s vision, strategy, and aspirations. This involves conducting in-depth interviews to understand the internal culture and values of your organisation. Additionally, we gather feedback from external stakeholders, to understand market perceptions and expectations. Balancing internal insights with external perspectives ensures a holistic understanding of your brand’s positioning.

Step 5: Define your Brand DNA® — In this final stage we synthesise all the research findings and stakeholder inputs in a report that defines your Brand DNA®. This provides the foundational framework that defines your brand’s essence and strategic direction. The step begins by facilitating a workshop in which all the key research findings and stakeholder inputs are discussed and synthesised in a collaborative way, to define your Brand DNA®. This collaborative approach fosters stakeholder buy-in and ensures alignment across the organisation. 

In our terms we capture your Brand DNA® in terms of 5Ps — defining its Purpose, Positioning, Personality, Promise, and Platform.

  • Purpose: We begin by clearly defining your brand’s purpose—the reason it exists and the impact it seeks to make on the world. What does your brand stand for, and why does it exist? Basically, your purpose should guide every decision you make about your brand.
  • Positioning: This is about identifying your brand’s unique value proposition and positioning in the market relative to competitors, and establishing key differentiators. How do you want your customers and the general public to perceive your brand, relative to your peers? 
  • Personality: This phase is about defining who you are and establishing the traits, characteristics, and tone of voice that embody your brand’s personality. Whether it’s playful, sophisticated, or down-to-earth, your brand’s personality is one of your best intangible assets, and the most effective tool to resonate with your target audience. Because it creates that emotional connection.
  • Promise: What is the implicit ‘promise’ your brand makes to your customers, and how do you deliver on it? This phase is about articulating the promises and commitments your brand makes to consumers, delivering value and satisfaction at every touchpoint. Your brand promise should be clear, consistent, and believable. Because this is what creates trust in your target audiences.
  • Platform: How do you project your brand in the marketplace, visually and verbally? How would your customers describe who you are, how you look, and what you say? This phase is about building your brand identity, including your visual identity, your messaging, and your brand experience across all channels. From visual identity to tone of voice, every aspect of your brand’s presentation should reinforce your core values and messaging.

Once agreed upon by the key stakeholders (usually the CXO), we define your Brand DNA® in a simple report (the Brand DNA® Toolkit) that provides a foundational framework defining your brand’s essence and strategic direction.

Brand Strategy — It’s a mindset change

In summary, we would say that for most brand owners, building a brand strategy is as much a mindset change as it is a process of brand development. But interestingly enough, once you’ve been through this process, there is a cathartic moment where you no longer see things the same way, the smoke clears from the battlefield, and you can see a clear way forward. 

So, what’s your brand strategy? If you don’t have one, maybe it’s time to start building your Brand DNA® with us.

Build your brand identity with us: We know how to create a compelling brand identity and design the iterations of it in a consistent way, at every customer touchpoint. With our unrivalled expertise in brand strategy, naming and identity design, and having worked with brand owners across Singapore, SE Asia and the world, we are able to craft inspiring brands and a holistic brand experience, in any market. If anything we have written above in the blogpost strikes a chord, and you need our assistance, do get in touch with us here.