When we talk about branding, we don’t just mean the image of your company — we’re talking about how customers interact with your business and its products or services. To some extent, this is out of your control. However, with the right brand strategy, you can influence the experience.
As you’ll see in these brand strategy examples, there’s no single way to position your brand. Instead, you’ll need to pick the right strategy according to the needs of your company.
What Is a Brand Strategy? The Definition
A brand strategy encompasses the core values of your company. It allows you to decide what you want your brand to represent and to define the personality of the brand.
There are a few essential elements to every brand strategy:
- Cohesion. Every message from your brand, every interaction from the company to a prospect or customer, needs to have the same tone and voice. If you lack a clear brand voice, it will be difficult for people to know who you are.
- Adaptability. Being flexible while also creating cohesion may sound contradictory, but this is actually a necessity. At times, it will be important to adapt to a changing market, without losing your identity.
- Involvement from everyone. For a brand strategy to be successful, it’s necessary to have buy-in from the top and participation from all levels of employees.
- Purpose. Why are you in business at all? Obviously, you want to make money, but what does your brand bring to the world that no other company has to offer? This is your purpose.
- Connection. Prospects and customers need to feel a connection to your brand if they’re going to buy from you. Often, there’s no rational reason for this connection: it’s driven by feelings and emotions.
- Competition. Monitoring your competitors will reveal what branding strategies are likely to work with your target audience.
- Acknowledgment. Your brand is nothing without its customers. Publicly expressing your appreciation will help you retain customers and show prospects what treatment they can expect if they choose your brand.
Why Is Brand Strategy Important?
By developing a brand strategy, you can see greater customer loyalty and set your brand apart from the competition. A successful strategy will also lead to brand equity — in other words, customers will be willing to pay more for your offerings because they come from your brand.
Bear in mind that a brand strategy is not just important for introducing your brand; you need to keep strategizing throughout your time in business. For instance, a brand strategy is necessary for decision making in product development, strategic partnerships, dealing with internal and external issues, guiding you market campaigns, and much more.
Brand Strategy vs Marketing Strategy vs Business Strategy
Before we start looking at examples of brand strategies, it’s important to be clear about what the strategy includes. For example, what’s the difference between a brand strategy and a marketing strategy? And how does a brand strategy differ from a business strategy? Let’s look at each in turn.
Brand Strategy vs Marketing Strategy
Branding is not marketing. Whereas you may use marketing with the intent to improve branding, a brand strategy is about defining who you are.
A marketing strategy, in contrast, puts your brand in front of more people or keeps your brand fresh in the minds of customers and those who already know you.
Brand Strategy vs Business Strategy
What about a business strategy? This centers on how you make money and is usually laid out in a business plan.
Brand strategy and positioning, however, specify how you make customers feel about your brand. This is based on the qualities of your offerings, the advantages of your brand over your competitors, and the values you stand for.
In other words, a brand strategy helps your business grow whereas a business strategy is focused on the finances.
Examples of Winning Brand Strategies and Why They Work
The best way to choose a winning brand strategy is to look at some examples. It also helps to consider how famous brands have used strategies to see success.
Often, the first thing that comes to mind when talking about branding is differentiation. This is an effective strategy, as it allows businesses to target a specific audience and helps consumers feel like the brand is talking directly to them.
For some brands, differentiation can mean offering a superior quality than their competitors. An example of this is Chipotle, which uses high-quality ingredients while remaining a classic fast-food brand. A second example is Tesla. By entering the market offering luxury electric vehicles, it was instantly in a different realm from mid-range brands like Toyota.
Another way to use differentiation is in brand voice. Two companies can offer almost identical services, but one has a serious tone and the other fun. Uber and Lyft are a great example. They entered the market around the same time with the same concept. However, Uber was focused on comfort and professional experience. For instance, drivers had to meet certain standards for their cars. Lyft, on the other hand, wanted to provide a personal experience. Their cars had pink mustaches, passengers would often ride in the front, and drivers were encouraged to make conversation.
Since they started out, both brands have deviated somewhat from their original vision to better meet market needs. This demonstrates the importance of adaptability in brand strategy.
2. Targeting a New Audience
Related to product differentiation is the targeting of a new audience. This is a popular tactic in an industry that has existed for decades or more without undergoing any significant changes. A brand comes on the scene and does things in a completely new way to appeal to a different audience.
Take banking, for instance. For a long time, banking was formal — even technical — and services reflected this. Simple was one of the first innovators on the scene. Launching its mobile app in 2012, it became one of the first banks without any physical branches. More importantly, it dismissed the traditional image of a bank and took a simplified approach. This specifically appealed to younger consumers like Millennials.
3. Name Recognition
The best-known brands rely on their name alone to attract customers to new products and services. These are the types of brands that most people can recognize just by the logo, slogan, or even color scheme. A recent example of this working in practice is the release of the Apple AirPods. Other companies sell similar products, but Apple has its brand in its favor. In fact, many customers wouldn’t even consider products from other companies than Apple.
4. Individual Branding
To give a product range its own identity, a company may decide to create a separate brand. This is useful if the product range has a distinct target audience or different qualities from the company as a whole. An example of a company with a huge number of individual brands is Procter & Gamble, which has Pantene, Olay, Vicks, and Pampers, among many others.
5. Brand Extension
The opposite of individual branding is brand extension. This is when a company has established a brand to sell a certain kind of product and decides to expand into another area. The company benefits from the associations customers already make with the original brand.
An example of a company that has used a brand extension strategy is Honda. Using the brand it created for its vehicles, Honda was able to become one of the biggest names in lawnmowers.
6. No-Brand Branding
It may sound paradoxical, but one type of brand strategy is the no-brand approach. Consumers are attracted by these generic products, as they’re able to spend less without sacrificing on quality. When companies create generic products that consumers can trust, this creates fierce competition with their branded counterparts. One company successfully using this tactic is Japanese retailer MUJI — the name means “plain.”
7. Private Labels
Another way companies are taking advantage of consumers’ desire for generic products is through private labels. Retailers do this by licensing a manufacturer to produce an item and then put their own label on it. In particular, this allows stores to release their own product range to compete with those that they’re selling. As they gain a greater percentage of profits from the private-label items, they’re able to keep prices low.
Most supermarkets take advantage of private labels. Another example is Amazon, which has two several lines.
8. Attitude Branding
With attitude branding, a company goes beyond its products and services to create a feeling about the business. This gives the brand a fully-formed personality and represents the lifestyle consumers want to be associated with. It’s an excellent way to include customers in your branding. A top example of this is Nike. The brand has created the idea that consumers who wear Nike are athletic and free willed.
9. Brand Councils and Managers
Many companies dedicate an entire team to brand management. Called a brand council, the team is made up of senior executives from every department of the company, including HR, legal, marketing, and finance. It may also include the CEO and outside consultants. A couple examples of companies with brand councils include Bristol-Myers Squibb and New York Stock Exchange.
Although it’s particularly common for multi-nationals to have a brand council, this practice is useful for midsize and even small businesses. However, an alternative is to just have a brand manager. The person in this position is devoted to ensuring that the brand fulfills its mission and meets its goals by tracking markets, trends, and revenue. Companies with multiple individual brands within the same organization assign a different manager to each brand.
Of course, you could even combine both approaches. A brand council is responsible for oversight, whereas the brand manager works in implementation.
Companies use crowdsourcing for many things, including brand strategy. When customers and prospects are involved in the branding process, they help shape a brand that appeals to them. Plus, they feel more personally invested in the brand and interested in its offerings.
The most famous recent example of crowdsourcing for branding is actually a failure. When the National Environmental Research Council in Britain asked the public to come up with a name for their new research vessel, the people almost unanimously voted for Boaty McBoatface.
Nonetheless, there have been many successful attempts at crowdsourcing. These range from the “Do Us a Flavor” competitions from PepsiCo (where consumers have created new flavors for Lay’s chips) to the voting on a new cookie design from Oreo.
The right type of brand strategy for you will depend on many factors, including your target audience, budget, and industry. You’ll likely want to use more than one of the branding strategy examples from above. Whatever you pick, it’s crucial that you have a clear vision for your brand and infuse plenty of innovation into your ideas.