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Brand Strategy OS: Think like a brand builder

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A thoroughly documented, well-considered brand strategy is the foundation for any effective communications effort.
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If you’re like a lot of folks, you might question what, exactly, a brand strategy entails and whether it’s worth the effort to develop one. That’s natural. After all, the world is full of marketing consultants trying to sell you products and services you don’t truly need.
A well-considered brand strategy is different, however, because it sets the foundation for everything else you do. Laying that foundation early — and doing it right — can save you a lot of time, money and frustration.
A good brand strategy will define who your audience is, who else is competing for their attention and how you should talk to them in order to distinguish yourself from competing brands. These questions are critical to any marketing effort you undertake. Without answers, your initiatives simply will not perform as well as they should.
Likewise, approaching this work in a systematic way and documenting the results will ensure everyone on your team is in alignment from the get-go, avoiding costly miscommunication, pivots and mistakes.
I had two goals in creating this document: First, I wanted to create a guide that could help anyone bring order to their brand-building efforts — regardless of their budget. This guide should serve you equally well whether you are a large company or a boot-strapped startup, working alone or in a team and collaborating in-person or remotely.
I start by presenting a theoretical framework that will help you understand the core concepts of brand strategy. Then, I break this framework down through a series of short lessons and interactive exercises. By the time you complete this guide, you will have built your very own brand strategy from scratch.
My second goal in creating this document was to give you and your team a new kind of “living brand book” that reinforced the circular nature of brand strategy. Too often, brand guidelines are presented as detached from the research and thinking that informed them. Now, more than ever, this is a false dichotomy.
In a world that is ever-changing, we must stay curious and nimble if are to remain relevant. This guide will help you to do that, serving as a repository for your ongoing market research and brand insights.
This document is divided into two core sections, which I’ve outlined below:
— This is your “living brand book.” Here, you’ll find the core deliverables associated with your brand strategy, which you’ll build by working through the lessons in my guide.
— This section outlines the three “pillars” and nine “elements” of my brand strategy framework, with interactive worksheets that will help you as you build your own brand from scratch.
One can approach brand strategy in a number of ways. My framework is built around nine “elements,” which I group into three strategic “pillars.”
My choice of metaphor is not arbitrary. As I’ve said before, the process of brand building is non-linear. Each component should reinforce the others, like a series of pillars, and the whole structure must be strong in order to support your wider organizational goals and ongoing communication efforts.
Each of the three pillars can be broken down into three elements, and each of these elements includes one or more concrete deliverable that will help us to visualize the different concepts that go into creating a solid brand strategy. I’ve outlined each pillar and element in greater detail below.
— This is the first pillar and the “heart” of your brand, where you decide why you exist, where you are going and the principles that will guide you as you travel there.
— Your purpose statement describes your “why,” the motivation that drives your work.
— Your vision statement describes your “where,” an idealized version of your brand and its impact on the world.
— Your values framework describes your “how,” the operational principles that allow you to consistently fulfill your brand promise.
— This is the second pillar and the “brain” of your brand, where you square your meaning with the market. You need to figure out who is going to pay you to live your purpose and how you are going to position yourself to compete with others who offer similar products or services.
— Your positioning statement communicates the unique value you provide in your market.
— Your audience personas a picture of your primary audience group or groups.
— Your competitive matrix is a simple scatter chart illustrating your key competitors, the core dimensions along which you compete (i.e. price, quality, etc.) and how you are positioned within your industry.
— This is the final pillar and the “face” of your brand, where you define the voice that will best resonate with your audience and set you apart in conversation.
— Your archetypal profile defines your brand’s personality in terms of a primary and secondary Jungian archetype.
— Your voice guidelines define your brand’s voice using the following three deliverables:
Tonal Profile — A visual overview of your tone of voice across the four primary dimensions of tone: humor, formality, enthusiasm and respect.
Voice Descriptors — A series of descriptive pairs that lend additional nuance and definition to your brand’s voice.
Copy Samples — Example copy illustrating how to express your brand voice for a variety of emotional contexts
— Your tagline is a succinct, customer-facing statement that communicates your purpose and positioning in your own distinct brand voice.
Work With Me
I created this guide to demystify the process of brand building — giving you a set of tools with which to orient yourself to the work at hand. That said, the end result of this work will inevitably depend on the quality of your inputs. That is to say: There is still significant value in working with an experienced brand strategist like me.
If you find that you are stuck at any point in this process and need a helping hand, please reach out. I am available for both a la carte, hourly consults and dedicated, longer-term engagements. Reach out to me below.

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