What is Brand Strategy? - Bullhorn

What is Brand Strategy?

Imagine you are starting a company selling candles on the internet. You have a great product, a strong core team, a logistics plan. But to sell something you can fundamentally not experience on the internet — smell — you know you need to find a way to break through. Your instinct may be to start focusing on picking great names for your scents or choosing an interesting logo.

But you need more than just a desire to cut through the noise to drive these decisions. You need a guidepost that will tie these decisions and every subsequent decision together in a coherent way. You need brand strategy.

But what is brand strategy? Strategy is often mistaken for goals or aspirations: defining the outcome we want, not the actions we will take to get there. It is actionable. It is so simple that it feels obvious. Like it’s always been there. It is the core of every brand decision you make.

Define the tangible problem.

The foundation of brand strategy is understanding the problem you are solving and for whom. You came up with your brand idea while working from home. Every morning, you light a candle. Eventually, it became a daily ritual, a small joy. When you burned the last wick, lighting a new one was energizing.

But choosing a new candle is overwhelming. There are so many to choose from, but you can’t smell the internet. You craved the convenience of an online purchase and a (pleasant-smelling) thrill. Your challenge? Finding a way to give your customers both.

Outline your unique, specific approach to a solution.

The next layer of brand strategy is how you respond to the fundamental problem. Putting aside the obvious strategy of selling high-quality, good-smelling candles — how does your brand provide a payoff for taking a risk on buying something inherently unknown?

Part of the joy of a new candle is the ritual, where it transports you. Your approach could be to shift the focus away from the exact scent to setting a particular mood. This gives people a manageable decision, maybe even a fun one. How do they want to feel when they light that candle? Relaxed? Focused? Nostalgic?

Apply the strategy to all brand decisions.

With a strategic approach built around the experience of a candle rather than the candle itself, language for this brand should be evocative, illustrative. Design should allow for the flexibility for each candle, each mood, to have its own distinct feel. The focus should be less on describing the scent and more on painting a picture of how the person feels burning the candle. Focus on the setting.

Maybe one candle evokes the stillness of a salty blue sunrise on the beach. The packaging describes sand that is cool to the touch, but as the sun peeks over the water, you feel the heat of the day building. Another candle could evoke the hopefulness and nostalgia of cut grass on a warm afternoon in early spring. Maybe you prompt your reader to think back to playing in the grass as a kid, legs a little itchy and forehead a little sticky, but happy and laughing and without a care in the world.

Brand strategy is a touchstone. But it is also not untouchable. It should evolve, respond, and grow. Like your brand, it’s meant to be tested and retested. Remember, strategy is not a goal. You are not crossing a finish line. Strategy is a means of purposeful action, not a destination.

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