In the late 1990s, Apple was in a difficult financial situation. The brand was considered unprofitable and meaningless. Today, the tech company tops the list of the world's most valuable brands. How did it get there? As CEO, Steve Jobs returned to the company and radically turned the place around. He had a clear vision and a brilliant plan. He developed the brand strategy that changed everything: from then on, Apple focused on marketing premium devices that combined technology and design to perfection. But to realize his vision, Jobs had to take several steps. He drastically cut Apple's product lines and focused on developing innovative devices: iPod, iPhone, iPad. In the process, Steve Jobs optimized the design of the products down to the last detail. The result: attractiveness and user-friendliness that still set standards today.
The strategy paid off and made Apple one of the most successful companies of our time. This example shows that a clear plan and absolute consistency are needed to advance a brand in a competitive environment. So while the content of the strategy itself is important - and will be discussed below - confidence in the chosen approach is also crucial to success.
A brand strategy focuses on all essential aspects of a brand. It is the guideline for successfully positioning a brand to make it great. We divide the individual components of the strategy into six categories.
First of all, there is the brand identity. We have already dedicated a separate blog post to this topic - so if you want to know more details, you can find them here. In short, the brand identity fixes all relevant core values, the personality of the brand, so to speak. But what is relevant? In sum, the internal target groups (employees, managers, owners, subsidiaries, etc.) need to clarify these and a few other questions for themselves: How can the brand be described - what characterizes it and sets it apart from others? What is its history? What visions does it pursue? And finally: How does it present itself? Of course, this also includes topics such as corporate design, wording and culture. In order to create a good basis for these brand characteristics, one simply thinks of the brand as a real person and tries to describe it with meaningful attributes: Is it loud and flashy or more reserved, refined? Unconventional or much more traditional? Trendy or timeless? Charming, perhaps a bit cheeky or humorous?
Let's make the whole thing more concrete with a well-known brand example: Coca-Cola. The brand is defined worldwide by values such as optimism, open-mindedness and fun. The brand image conveys a positive attitude to life that focuses on enjoyment, individuality, and shared moments of joy. All this is represented by the unmistakable cola taste, bottled in the iconic glass bottles, with the red logo with white curved lettering on top. A true prime example of maximum recognizability and timeless authenticity. For over 135 years, Coca-Cola has remained true to itself and yet evolved with the times.
In the case of a start-up, the first step is to collectively agree on the brand identity. This is the foundation for all subsequent strategic steps. However, if the strategy is a new one for an existing brand, as in the Apple example above, it is a matter of weighing up whether and to what extent the previous brand personality will be overtaken. In order to make this decision, it depends on the status quo of the brand on the one hand. On the other hand, it depends on the defined goals and intentions. If there is a wide gap between the actual and the target state, a reinterpretation of the previous brand identity makes perfect sense. We would be happy to advise you individually on this.
You have it in your own hands. The response to your brand communication depends largely on the second category: a correct and detailed target group analysis. Only those who know and understand their customers, suppliers and investors also know about their interests and needs. But a truly in-depth analysis goes even further. With a little foresight, much can also be gleaned from public opinion. From it, medium-term trends and long-term new mindsets develop. If the findings are applied to the brand's industry-specific solutions, this also gives it a progressive image.
The following questions are central to target group analysis: Who specifically does the brand want to address? What do the target groups value and what is important to them specifically in the context of the brand solutions? For example, is it primarily about the quality of the products, or is the focus clearly on the idea of innovation? How important are credibility and first-class service? Do your target groups value sustainability and responsibility above all, or value value for money?
And then the transfer: To what extent do your brand solutions satisfy these demands - or even top them? Not only can precise focus points for brand communication be derived from the answers, but also the way to address them.
Let's come back to Coca-Cola. In its communications, the brand mainly addresses teenagers and (young) adults between the ages of 18 and 35. Of course, older people are also part of the target group, provided they value quality, taste and brand awareness. Coca-Cola has a global presence, presents itself openly and inclusively, and thus incorporates a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and lifestyles into its communications.
Let's move on to the third category and the second part of the analysis. Because it's not only a matter of what the target group wants, but also what the competitors offer. A careful analysis of the competition provides the answers. By observing the market behavior of competing companies and determining their position in the market, we can make an informed assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. What is the competition doing on social media? How do trade show appearances work in your industry - what is the demand, what is typically offered? So if you look not only at the important details, but also at the big picture, your unique selling points and brand advantages can be precisely determined and specifically promoted.
What might that look like? A major competitor of Coca-Cola is PepsiCo. Globally, Coca-Cola holds the largest market share, and its product portfolio is similarly extensive to that of its competitor. While Pepsi is perceived as a modern and dynamic brand, Coca-Cola is seen as timeless and traditional-authentic. Both invest heavily in advertising campaigns, sponsorship and their presence in social media. And they also spend a lot of money on product innovation. Both brands regularly launch new flavors, variations and "healthier" options.
As a rule, substantive statements can be derived from the previous steps. This is where good preparatory work pays off in the truest sense of the word. On this solid information basis, we then move on to the fourth strategy phase: brand positioning. Whereas brand identity refers conceptually to self-perception, positioning is all about image. In other words, how should the brand be perceived from the outside? In positioning, the brand values, mission and vision are once again anchored - only from a different perspective. What are the strengths, brand promise and good selling points? What does the brand have over the competition? Advantages and added values that have emerged from the competitive analysis must be brought to the fore here - in order to communicate them accordingly later. Can the brand demonstrably be described as a premium provider or even the market leader?
This is true of Coca-Cola, for example. As already mentioned, the focus here is on tradition, diversity, joie de vivre, and the unique taste experience. The brand wants to reach people all over the world - regardless of gender, age, culture or lifestyle. A product for the masses that simply appeals to everyone through successful and varied storytelling: campaigns tell of moving family stories, romantic dates, a happy and carefree time with friends, and their very own personal moments of enjoyment. Everyone can find themselves in at least one of these (social) constellations, and this subconsciously creates an emotional connection to the caffeinated soft drink Coke.
This brings us straight to point number 5, the marketing strategy. Not to be confused with the actual brand strategy. As already mentioned, the latter focuses on making the brand big and successful or keeping it at a high sales level. Brand strategy is what the text you are reading is about. The marketing strategy is a part of it. It aims at marketing the brand, i.e. the way of communication and concrete measures, such as social media, PR, content marketing or events. As a communications agency, of all the building blocks of brand strategy, we deal most often with the marketing strategy. And, of course, with its creative implementation. What does that look like? Project management clarifies budget and schedule with our clients, after which our creatives formulate possible approaches, translate ideas into drafts and present initial communication media and visuals for various channels. The focus is always on authenticity and recognition value, with content and stylistic realization clearly aligned with the defined brand identity and positioning.
Ultimately, all measures and efforts have only one purpose: measurable success. What this means in each individual case depends on the predefined key performance indicators (KPIs), i.e. the defined individual objectives. In order to determine where the brand stands, how the communication is received and, above all, what effect it has, the final step is a comprehensive evaluation - the sixth and final category. Here, for example, sales and profit growth, market share, customer satisfaction, long-term customer loyalty or increased reach play an important role. If the results fall short of expectations, it is advisable to adjust the strategy or measures. Now is the first possible and at the same time the best time to do this; because previous brand work was essentially based on assumptions, forecasts and speculation. But thanks to data-based evaluation, there is now secure, meaningful information available. In the best case, the collected values and data volumes confirm the direction taken. Otherwise, they suggest a change of course. The good thing is that there are clear indications for the adjustments. In order to secure the long-term upward trend of a brand, it is recommended anyway to question previous steps and decisions on the basis of continuous observation and evaluation. Especially when campaigns run over several years. Because the secret of success is flexible, authentic and always customer-oriented brand management. We are happy to support you in this - from analysis and strategy to creative implementation and evaluation, we are your lead agency.
In summary: The brand strategy defines long-term brand goals and provides the roadmap for the entire brand presence. The basis for this is, among other things, the brand identity, which combines all brand-specific characteristics from an internal perspective. Once the target groups have been narrowed down and the competitors analyzed, a differentiating brand positioning can be formulated. The entire strategic communication is then based on this: individual measures on various channels communicate the benefits and added values of the brand to the customer. The tone of voice and design are coordinated with the brand identity. The core message and brand promise should be clearly conveyed via marketing and motivate customers to buy or use the service. Strategy results and the course of brand development are delivered at the end of the evaluation, in black and white.
We combine analysis, strategy and creation under our roof - so you can count on our brand expertise in each of these steps: Make your brand even more successful. Right from the start. With the right brand strategy.
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