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...

How To Create A Strong Brand Strategy

The Great British Bake Off returns to our screens this evening.

I’m no master-baker, but I would like to think of myself as a master-brander. So it got me thinking about a fool-proof brand strategy recipe. 

So here’s the classic Victoria Sponge of the brand strategy world.

Start here – with this method and the 3 vital ingredients – then, by all means, add some of your individual flourish and flair.

But don’t mess around with the recipe too much, or you may end up with something that doesn’t fit the brief. 

How To Create A Brand Strategy: Method & Ingredients 

There are three key steps in the process, and three vital ingredients.   

  1. First, you need to gather your 3 essential ingredients: Customer Insight, Competitor Insight and Company Insight.
  2. Then you need to sift these insights to get to the ones that are most authentic, relevant and different – the insights that you know must play a role in shaping how you...

Got four minutes? Learn the bedrocks of brand strategy


Got 4 minutes?

Then I’ve got 4 questions for you.  Questions that every world-class brand knows their answers to. 

What am I talking about? 

Brand strategy, of course.   Because all any business needs to do to create a brand strategy is to answer these four questions.

Brand strategy is the answer to four questions

WHY -  you exist

WHO -  you are

HOW - you do things, and how you look, feel and sound

WHAT -  you do

Now you can call these whatever you want. You can call the answer to WHY you exist your brand purpose or your mission. You can call the ‘WHO', your values, principles, or philosophy.  You can call your 'HOW' your behaviours, or mantra, or principles. 

Contrary to what you might see elsewhere – what you call these things DOES NOT MATTER

But what matters very much, is your answers to these questions, and that you answer all of them. 

Why do we have to answer each of these questions? 



Rewind a minute - what is brand strategy??


So I've been writing away about branding for a while, but I got a couple of emails this week from people asking me to rewind a bit, and answer, 'What is brand strategy?'

So here's a 5 minute clip from my free 'Brand Strategy in 7 Simple Steps' mini-course that explains it.

I start by rewinding even further - to what is a brand.

Because you've gotta know that, before you know what brand strategy is.

If you're more a reader than a watcher, get the explanation below.

And if you're itching to know what to do next - how to do your brand strategy - then it's all in the free course - get it right here.

Wishing you clear, confident brand-building progress my friend!

What is a brand?

All brands really are, are the associations people have about a business in their minds. 

And studies and neuroscience have shown that the stronger and more connected these associations are, the more likely a customer is to choose and buy your brand.

So what does this...


Rebranding a company: the 3 approaches and the 2 things you MUST do first

All the questions I’ve got within the last week have been about ‘rebranding’ this quarter.

Perhaps the back-to-school lure of new shiny pencil cases is making you feel your brand needs an update too?

If so, pause for a moment and read this before you get sign-off on a big ‘rebrand.’  

‘Rebranding’ is a very loaded and misunderstood term – usually interpreted to be all about changing the signals of what you stand for – primarily your visual identity and verbal identity.   

It’s used as the great panacea – for declining sales and low pricing, lack of customer engagement, or employee motivation.

And, let’s be honest, it’s also kind of exciting and makes people feel important.

But to avoid, “I’m spearheading the rebranding project,” turning into, “I squandered several thousand dollars…”, keep reading...

What rebranding means

Rebranding can sound confusing but...


Brand Strategy, Branding and Marketing Strategy: get clear on what they are and what often goes wrong

The world of brand and marketing is full of complex terminology.

But brand strategy, branding and marketing strategy can be explained simply.  And once you get this clear in your head you can be more confident with your brand and marketing planning and projects. 

Read on for simple descriptions of what brand strategy, branding and marketing strategy are, and what order to address them.

Defining Brand Strategy, Branding & Marketing Strategy 

As Julie Andrews sang, "Let's start at the very beginning".

First, you have to understand what a brand is. 

"Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind."
Walter Landor

All brands really are, are associations in people’s minds.  And the stronger and more connected these associations are, the more likely a person is to choose and buy your brand.  

More here if you want it, but let's move on... 

What is brand strategy? 

Brand strategy is your decision on what...


Looking for a brand benchmark? These are the top performers

3 is the magic number, or so sang De La Soul. (Anyone else remember that one??)).

Douglas Adams would have you believe it’s 42.

But my magic number is 35. 

35 is the number of brands that appear across all 3 global brand valuation studies (BRANDZ, Interbrand and Brand Finance).  I’ve been researching the brand strategies of the brands that appear in these studies since 2013. (Yes – I’m a total brand strategy geek, and proud of it).  But it’s the ones that appear across all that I do a really deep dive on every year.  And this year there are 35 of them.

Strong brands build the bottom line

Now, I hear some of you scoffing.  Because it’s easy to take pot shots at these valuation studies, as the inimitable Mark Ritson does here. The figures for the same brand are often widely different.  Take Google – who BRANDZ value at $323,601m and Brand Finance have at $159,722m.  Just a teeny $163,879m difference. A mere...


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