A Simple Template For Brand Strategy That All The Best Brands Use

Oct 13, 2022

Do you find that jargon is one of the most confusing things about brand strategy?  

Should you create a positioning or purpose? Mission or vision? Values or beliefs? A brand personality or archetype? 

Wouldn’t it be great if there was just one brand strategy template that works for all brands?

Well, there is, and there’s no jargon in sight.

But it took me a while to get to the right brand strategy template.

10 years ago, I was as confused as you might be feeling.

For the first decade of my career as a brand strategist, I worked at some of the biggest branding and advertising agencies. 

I had to sell the agency's brand strategy approach, which included a template that got blank looks from many clients.

It was full of jargon, focused on the thing the agency made most money from (design), and rarely engaged any of the C-suite.

But I knew that a brand strategy should be more impactful than this: it should give a business the clarity,...

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Brand Strategy Development - What All The Best Brands Do and Why

Apr 27, 2022

Developing a brand strategy is one of the most important things for any organisation to get right. Brand strategy has been proven to increase market share, help companies grow faster than others, help to retain employees and attract new talent and focus and improve innovation.

The world's best brands follow a tried and tested brand strategy development process that I want to share with you here.  They know if you get your brand strategy right, it can be one of the best long-term levers for business growth.  

But this long-term aspect of a brand strategy is one of the challenges.

Because companies don't change their brand strategy often, there are not many people within an organisation who know how to create one. Experienced CEOs and CMOs can work for decades without ever spearheading a brand strategy project.   

So if you’re suddenly in this position of needing to create a brand strategy for your client or business, you need an approach that you can...

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Time efficient brand strategy. How to get those projects DONE!

Mar 11, 2022

These are my cats, Coco and Cotton. 

Just two of a multitude of distractions that can mean brand strategy projects for my clients may not get done as efficiently as I’d like.

As much as I LOVE creating brand strategies, they can be a bit of a slog.  And a recent survey of the people on my newsletter showed that the topic of being ‘brand strategy efficient’ was one people wanted some guidance on.

So here’s what I’ve learnt, the hard way, to shortcut this process for you.

How to get brand strategy projects done more efficiently

1. Read what you need to read, only when you need to 

I used to be so guilty of this one.  A transcript of an interview would come in that I needed to analyse later as part of a report; I couldn’t resist a quick skim through.

Flicking through a book or article that I wanted to pull from for a blog in a month’s time.

An email that I’d already scheduled to deal with tomorrow.

An article that I'd...

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Why have so many smart people “lost the plot” on brand purpose?

Jan 18, 2022

Purpose received one of its most brutal critiques last week when Terry Smith, manager of the £29bn Fundsmith Equity fund, lashed out at Unilever’s “ludicrous” focus on sustainability, in response to their poor -0.2% annual return to his shareholders.

He wrote that:

“Unilever seems to be labouring under the weight of a management which is obsessed with publicly displaying sustainability credentials at the expense of focusing on the fundamentals of the business.… A company which feels it has to define the purpose of Hellmann’s mayonnaise has in our view clearly lost the plot. The Hellmann’s brand has existed since 1913, so we would guess that by now consumers have figured out its purpose (spoiler alert — salads and sandwiches).”

Sadly, this is not a new thing. As I wrote in the 3 Problems With Purpose, the idea that your brand needs to be ALL about a social mission or sustainability is tripping up countless CEOs and...

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The 3 Problems With Purpose - And How To Overcome Them

Oct 12, 2021

Writing a purpose. Have you tried it yet? 

Defining a purpose really means identifying WHY a business exists. It’s one of the four questions you have to answer for a client when defining their brand strategy.

But do a quick Google of the topic, and you’ll see lots of scathing comments about purpose done badly or ‘purpose-washing’.   

So how can you ensure you create the right answer for your client?

Well, start by understanding the 3 ways it goes wrong.

Problem with purpose 1: AUTHENTICITY

The first problem with purpose is lack of AUTHENTICITY. Or just not telling the truth.

There are some great purpose statements out there from brands like Tesla, Warby Parker and Patagonia.

But these don’t suit every brand. 

If you’re not in business to save the planet, solve racial inequality, save the whales… then don’t pretend you are. 

The idea that your brand needs to be ALL about social mission – that...

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Developing Core Values That Create Winning Brands

Sep 21, 2021

One of my brand strategy clients, The Berkeley, won The Cateys this month - what they call "The Hotel Oscars".   

The Berkeley hotel stands out in the crowded field of luxury hotels in London because they really know what they stand for. Part of the work we did together was to codify WHO they are and HOW they do things - what many companies call values, but they call 'The Berkeley Spirit'.  

When we wrote the words under The Berkeley Spirit, one of the phrases we used, that we debated for a while, is the idea of having the ‘freedom to break the rules’. 

Now, in luxury hoteliery they get measured. A lot. By many outside organisations trying to rank them on things like, 'Did they answer the phone in 3 rings?'.  'Is the knife half an inch from the side of the plate?'  On the details that constitute excellence - or so these companies say.   

So telling their staff that they have the freedom to break the rules was a...

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What Warby Parker can teach ANY company about brand strategy

Jun 18, 2021

"We want our brand to be like Warby Parker!"

Heard this one recently???

It used to be, “We want our brand to be like Apple!” (then Patagonia, Tesla and Toms…), now Warby Parker are in the mix. 

It's easy to scoff at this - particularly if you're working with a long standing, firmly for-profit business with no social mission baked into their business model. But here's a thought.  Every brand CAN be like Warby Parker.

Instead of dismissing comments like these, we should be helping clients understand how.

Before you start to tell me that this is the worst advice - that brands that try to create some sort of brand purpose that is inauthentic with their business practices are brands of the very WORST kind…

I get it.

I agree!

But there’s a different way to look at this. 

If we strip out all the terminology around brand purpose and social mission and we just look at what Warby Parker say about their brand, then we have a model that ANY brand...

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The 4 biggest brand strategy myths, and what you need to know instead

May 20, 2021

After 20 years working as a brand strategist, I’ve seen and heard a lot of confusion about brand strategy.  

While it’s the most desired skill CMOs are looking for this year, not many people are offering it, because it appears to be so complicated. 

But brand strategy is a really powerful business tool when understood properly.  

So here’s the four biggest myths about brand strategy that add to all this confusion, and what you really need to know instead, to help you understand how it can elevate your business.

BRAND STRATEGY MYTH 1: Brand strategy is just about guiding your ‘branding’

This view is what prevents solid businesses from building great brands.

Let’s start by being clear on what each of these things are.

Brand strategy is your decision on what you want to stand for: the associations you want to build about your brand in people’s minds. 

‘Branding’ is the process of creating distinctive signals...

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Why is brand strategy important?

Apr 12, 2021

Brand strategy has been of great value to me – it’s been a lucrative career path for 20 years.  But - full disclosure - I suffered from 'Brand Strategy Imposter Syndrome' for a number of years.  Even when I was a senior brand strategist at one of the world's most famous branding agencies, I was always nervous I'd be 'called out' somehow.  And partly that was because I had no back-up.  Great designs and logos? My agency had these in spades.  Data, facts and research on why brand strategy was necessary for a business and how it impacted their bottom line? Tumbleweed...

So when I set up on my own I made sure I developed this back-up. Because many times on my 20 year journey I’ve had to explain why brand strategy is valuable for my clients.  Typically not to CMOs – they get how it’s critical for all branding and marketing activities (but often don’t focus on its impact beyond this). 

The challenge is...

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Business strategy, brand strategy and marketing strategy - what's the difference?

Feb 12, 2021

It’s that time of year when marketers in the UK are writing their strategies for the year ahead (our financial year starts April 6th, which is bonkers, but has been in place since 1800. You know we love our history…)

But what really is a marketing strategy?

And what’s the difference between marketing strategy and brand strategy?

And what’s the difference between brand strategy and business strategy?

And what’s the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything???  (Well, we know that’s 42.  Read on for the rest).

What is business strategy vs. brand strategy vs. marketing strategy?

Business strategy identifies where an organisation wants to go.
It usually includes a hard metric vision or goal like, 'to be a $10 billion business by 2025', or 'to grow by 35% in the next 5 years'.  It also includes the operational changes required to help to get there. 

Brand strategy is really about why people should...

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