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Brand v. Branding

Contact Author Lisa Kovner, Kovner & Company
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Lisa Kovner will be blogging all month on beauty brand strategies, from Getting a Buyer to Say "Yes" to The Cost to Inventory Management and Forecasting. Be sure to read Kovner's previous posts, "Who Needs a Business Plan? You.," "Beauty Distribution 101: Getting Your Products Into Their Hands," and "Ops are Essential to Your Beauty Brand." -Editor

Too many emerging brands develop elements of branding without any strategy to great detriment to their brand. In other words, you can’t have a successful brand without strategic branding in place. 

What’s the difference?

A brand is a promise to your customer. It’s a story you tell. It’s a problem you solve.

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Branding is a strategic process that creates the outbound identity by which your brand will be known. Logos and packaging are elements of branding, but without a brand strategy in place, they quickly become irrelevant and can appear out of touch. What is

What is brand strategy?

Your brand strategy is a highly detailed document that helps keep the brand on track as it hires employees and outside consultants or agencies. Brand strategy includes:

Market Relevance

  • Competitive analysis
  • Gap analysis
  • SWOT analysis
  • Go/no-go points
  • Carving out white space (points of difference)

Target Audience

  • Target personas (usually three to five personas)

Brand Story

  • Brand story
  • Overarching brand strategy
  • Brand positioning
  • Brand anchor points (pillars)
  • Brand mission statement
  • Brand voice and tone
  • Tagline inspirations

Creative Branding

  • Logo, packaging, web/digital and retail merchandising mock-ups
  • This section is your brand’s graphic standard

Marketing & Distribution

  • Top purchasing factors (wholesale and retail)
  • Preliminary marketing strategy (including corporate social responsibility)
  • Marketing story 
  • Marketing mandatories
  • Preliminary wholesale strategy
  • Wholesale mandatories

A brand strategy can serve as a powerful presentation tool for potential investors, strategic partners and retailers, ensuring them of a strong and focused vision and a comprehensive growth plan. It can also prevent individuals or agencies from making unilateral decisions about what they “think” the brand should be so time isn’t wasted on off-track initiatives.

What makes good brand strategy?

Where most brands fail is a lack of originality and failure to create something other people can get excited about. Your only goal as a brand founder is to create in others the same level of passion and excitement you feel about your brand.

Hallmarks of a good brand strategy include:

  • An understanding that you’re not creating a brand or even a product, you’re creating a community of passionate devotees. You won’t enjoy ROI until you’ve invested in ROR (Return On Relationship).
  • An acceptance that while it’s your brand, your investment and your idea, it’s the customer who owns the relationship and decides whether you succeed or not. Most brands think they know best, and often regard themselves as benevolent grantors of hopes and dreams. The brand doesn’t actually want to listen to customers. This old-school thinking puts you on the fast lane to going out of business.
  • The realization that you’re not in the product business. Rather, you’re in the problem-solving, hope-creation business. The product is a delivery system for the promise you make to your community. The story you tell about the brand, the promises you make… that’s what strong branding for a brand is all about. Unique and original points of difference—this is sadly misunderstood to mean features and benefits. What it actually means is how your brand is different from your competitors…and how you plan on keeping it that way.
  • A scalable and relatable brand identity—if your brand identity is so rigid that it can’t evolve, then people won’t be able to relate to it. If they can’t relate to it, they won’t buy it.

Forbes.com published an article in 2014 on 6 brand strategies most CMOs fail to execute on, and it’s a must-read!

Next Steps

Once your brand strategy is complete, then it’s time to design your marketing, sales and distribution plans. Be sure to include the overarching strategies laid out in the brand document in addition to goals, objectives and the tactical implementation details necessary to successfully launch your brand into the world.

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