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1 June 2020

10 commandments of brand strategy.

In todays’ world, if you have a Facebook page and a product or service, that means you totally have a brand, right?

Somewhere over the years, the word brand left behind the strategy required to truly call a business a brand. While a product or service is at the heart of any business, building a compelling narrative that lives outside it is what makes a brand. And more importantly, creates longevity.

1. We will not copy and paste
The brands that endure the changing times are unique. They aren’t a copy and paste of other brands. They say and do something special or different to competitors. Take a unique tone, follow a ‘controversial’ set of beliefs, look at a problem through a new lens or think about the future differently. Don’t just be better! “Box’s brand is a better version of Dropbox, but that does nothing to differentiate them. Better is actually worse. Different is what matters.” Jasmine Bina

2. Always lead with the story, not the product
As today’s tweeters would say "where are the feels?" Even if it is a delivery service or just about a product, there has to be more to it, there needs to be an emotive narrative to carry the brand. There is no long term for a branded business with an offering. If a search engine can make you tear up or feel an emotional response – your brand can do it too.

3. Why should I care?
The why is not your vision, promise. It’s your reason for existing at all. "Very few people or organizations know why they do what they do." Simon Sinek’s TED talk bottled the concept of answering the 'why' and if you haven’t watch his talk, you should. Asking why seems a bit obvious, but once you do and you get it, you will see the need for it in brand strategy.

4. Don’t define against your competition
It's an easy trap to look at your competitors, but by defining yourself against competitors, your identity is forever anchor to theirs. It is a mistake made by many from creating an identical but “better” website, referencing their content or copying sales strategies.

5. Your company is your customer
"Sell the benefits, not your company or the product. People buy results, not features." Jay Abraham

Something that hasn’t changed in strategy over the decades is the idea of benefits, not features. When looking at user experience, content, packaging, even homepage menus, you should position language not only to speak to the benefits, but benefits that spotlight the customer.
6. Thy shall have secret language
Whether it’s your brand tone or through visual identity, the best brands speak their own language to their target audience. No, not that generic internet speak or the latest visual trends, some they own past a post.
This print ad appeared in 1988 and can still be recognised as Nike over 30 years later. 

A good example is McDonald’s who use their products to make a simple outdoor billboard their own.

It’s clear their secret language creates a private moment between the brand and those who “get it”.
7. Think of the galaxy, far, far away
(It’s May, we had a to make a Star Wars reference.) But to the point – what is your brand going to be in 2, 5 or 10 years from now? Having a service or product offering that only solves a problem today ignores the reality that consumer behaviour changes at the speed of a click.
Your brand strategy needs to be as future-proof as possible; look at the future and what you see there should be informing your approach today.
8. To get attention, create tension
A brand narrative needs tension to captivate a core audience and sell your offering.

Seth Godin explains it best:

9. Actually make a hard decision
You know you have the makings of a great strategy if you are forced into making hard decisions. Having a point of view means you won’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t. The brands we admire the most have heavy narratives that push consumers to believe in them and walk their journey together.

10. Relief beats guilt. Reward beats fears
You will always have the choice to go positive or negative in your strategy. Tell the scary, shame-based story or the positive, goal-oriented story. Neither is inherently wrong, but some do work better than others. Charity, global warming, war – why do none of these narratives work to permanently move people? Because they’re shame based. They inspire guilt. They create a feeling that may motivate in the short term, but most people want to avoid and escape in the long term.

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