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

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...


Storytelling For Brand Strategy: A Framework From Donald Miller’s, 'Building A Story Brand'

I was recently on a post where we all gave our recommendations on the best branding books to read. One book popped up a lot: 'Building A Story Brand', by Donald Miller.

It promises to help you ‘clarify your message so customers will listen.

Since bringing clarity to brand strategy is a personal mission of mine, I gave it a read and found it really useful.  

Read on for the three big takeouts that can help you improve your brand strategy work.

How stories help brand strategy

Overall, the book is a great reminder to brand strategists and marketers of the core things that can make or break strategy and messaging.  

Miller’s point of view is that having a strategy, and then communicating this clearly, isn’t the cherry on the cake.  It’s just as important as having a great product or service in the first place.

“The reality is we aren’t just in a race to get our products to market; we’re also in a race to...


Five ways to measure your brand health

Being healthy.  Is there a better life goal than that one?

But how do you know how healthy you are?

Well, there are lots of things you can check and measure.

And the same applies to brands too.

 So, how healthy are the brands you're working on? 

The five ways to measure your brand health

Measuring brand health sounds like a tricky topic so it’s easy to ignore it - to jump into tactics for growth rather than putting in benchmarks for health.  

But if you don’t know your starting point, how do you know if your tactics are the right ones?

Do this brand health check at least once a year then PLAN against the results and you’re more likely to see the progress you’re looking for.

It’s not as tricky as you’d think. 

Here’s the five things you need to cover, and you can do this in just 2 bits of research – one that’s customer-focused, and one that’s employee-focused.

  1. Funnel health
  2. Brand associations
  3. ...

Why Brand Archetypes Don’t Work

Type ‘Brand Archetypes’ into Google and you’ll find countless articles and explanations of the usefulness of these 12 categories in defining your ‘brand personality’. 

If you’ve never seen this tool – it originated with Carl Jung’s four main human archetypes, which marketers expanded into 12, as this graphic from Iconic Fox shows.

But don’t get too excited.

It doesn’t work.

Why Brand Archetypes Don’t Work 

Where it all falls down is when you try and put it into practice.  What actually happens when you try and use it with a client is a conversation along the lines of, “Well, we’re partly a Sage, but we really offer freedom so I guess that means we’re an Explorer? But we’ve always been known for our humour – so then we’re a Jester too…???”

It forces you into a one-dimensional place, and that’s not a marker of a strong brand.  



Top 3 Brand Strategy Books

All I want for Christmas is to spend time with my family, to be truthful.

But since, in the UK, Boris has allowed us only 5 days, I’m also thinking about the books on my Christmas wishlist. 

I LOVE a new branding or business book.

(I warned you before – I truly am a Brand Strategy Geek).

If you’re the same, find my top 3 recommendations below. 

Best Brand Strategy Books 

1. GROW: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit At The World’s 50 Greatest Companies – Jim Stengel.

Puts stats behind the importance of brand strategy, includes big brand case studies (think Pampers, Discovery, Method) and tells you what it takes to implement a brand strategy successfully.

Here’s a few gems from this one:

“Maximum growth and high ideals are not incompatible. They’re inseparable.”

“The most powerful and profitable tools in business are ideals – ideas for improving people’s lives that speak directly to their instincts,...


The 5 Essential Skills You Need and 4 Courses You Should Consider to Learn Brand Strategy

"I'm not sure I'm smart enough to do brand strategy."

Do you know how often I hear that?


But what’s really behind this?

Firstly - the jargon and unnecessary complexity that can make the whole area feel inaccessible.

Secondly - a case of brand strategy imposter syndrome that occurs, even among strategists with YEARS of experience, because they feel they don't really know what to do or exactly how to do it.  

Here’s two things to solve this:

  1. The 4 best brand strategy courses to give you that necessary clarity and confidence.
  2. The 5 essential skills you need. It’s not about being ‘smart’ but you do need to like doing these 5 things.

The skills you need to do brand strategy

Let's start with the skills, since if these don't feel like you - or don't feel like things you want to be good at  - you won't want to go any further.

From my 20+ years experience, and a ton of interviews with other brand strategists, there are 5 of them...


The 3 Ways To Write Company Values

Wherever you stand on the impending US election result, it’s likely that you’re emotionally invested in the outcome. 

That’s partly because, when we vote for a particular person or party, we’re casting a vote for what we believe in.  It can feel very personal – do they value what I value? Do they believe and stand for what I do?

And politicians know this:

“The character of the country is on the ballot.  Our character is on the ballot.  Look at us closely,” said Joe Biden in the last Biden-Trump head-to-head debate.

It turns out that it’s not just our politicians’ values that we’re looking at closely. 

Increasingly, prospective employees and customers are scrutinising organisations to understand their values.

“Candidates are seeking workplaces where they can intertwine their beliefs with those of the company, and work together on a common vision of purpose and success.” Harvard Business...

How to write meaningful and memorable company values

In my Brand Strategy Academy course this week, we’ve been talking about how to do competitor research, in order to ensure that your brand strategy is sufficiently differentiated.

I choose these words carefully, because despite the old adage of, “DIFFERENTIATE OR DIE!”, the reality is that it’s just not realistic to write a brand strategy where every single idea in it is different from your major competitors’.  This is particularly true when you get to writing WHO you are and HOW you do things – what companies often call their values, beliefs or behaviours. 

Take Visa, Mastercard and American Express – 3 of the 35 most valuable brands in the world.

If you look at WHO they are and HOW they say they do things, all three talk about integrity:

  • We act with integrity and respect – Mastercard
  • Doing well by doing right – VISA

And they all include the idea of...


How to brief a designer - the ultimate guide

I'm in an accountability group with three amazing entrepreneurial women, who are all trying to create their websites.  When we chatted last week, they were bemoaning the fact that they'd been given "bad logos" from the designers they'd hired to help them.  

I suggested that perhaps it wasn't the designers' fault, and asked them what they'd put in their brief.  
There was a shifty silence...

So I wrote them a guide that I shared in my blog last week, then asked for feedback on it from the amazing design talent I know.  I wanted both sides of the story.  

So here's the ultimate guide - from my perspective, having briefed hundreds of design projects over the years, and from the perspective of talented designers who’ve seen many good and bad briefs in their time. 

The summary:

There are four significant success factors in briefing a designer, and managing the design process.

  1. Choosing wisely.
  2. Making sure you tell them the right things about you.
  3. Making...

The 2 Critical Things You Need To Include When You Brief A Designer To Build Your Brand

Are you looking to do your logo, website or brand at the moment? 

These are the three words you might be focusing on when you're briefing a designer to help you. 

I need a logo, then I need a website.  And these are the foundations of my brand.

But this is a surefire way to lead to disappointment and frustration with what you get back. 

Partly, success with any brief is down to the skill of the designer, so, firstly, make sure you’re buying from someone who has a lot of references, who can show you a lot of their work, and who can show variety in their work.

You want them to be able to reflect YOU - not impose their style on you.

But the other two significant success factors in briefing a designer and managing the design process are :

  1. Making sure you tell them the right things about you.
  2. Making sure you ask for the right things.

How to Brief a Designer #1: Tell them the right things about you

We just need to rewind a bit.  Everything...


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