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Business Strategy and Brand Strategy

September 16, 2019

Business strategyMy background as an artist and graphic designer led me to my entire approach to brand strategy. I work with my branding clients the way I do because my background and experience brought me to my unique methodology. I see brands as the shared relationship between marketable assets and their markets. Brand strategy is the art and science of defining and managing that shared relationship for growth and profit. But then I wondered, what is the difference between that and an overall business strategy? So I set out to learn all about business strategy. I fired up the ol’ Google machine and started clicking and reading. It turns out a lot has been written on the subject of business strategy – apparently, all by people who have never talked to one another. I can’t exactly say that the articles I read on the subject often contradicted each other. But they all put emphasis on different things and, often, even omitted different things. In the following paragraphs, I’m going to attempt to describe how brand strategy fits into an overall business strategy. But, readers, please be aware. I’m going to use a definition of business strategy that makes sense to me but it may not be the one that makes the most sense to you. But, hopefully, you’ll see how brand strategy fits into your definition as well.

Business strategy, if I’m not completely off target, is an overall plan that management makes for the business. It spans the entire life of the business, from inception to exit strategy. Every aspect of the business is addressed, at least in broad strokes. Market need is usually the first fact identified, followed by a general outline of how the business intends to meet that need. Financing, staffing, sourcing, equipment needed, etc. It all goes in the plan. Key performance indicators are established, as is a general definition of success.

A key element of any business strategy is the issue of differentiation. In other words, it’s fine if you can meet the market’s needs. But unless you can stand out in the way you do it, you’ll be just another also-ran, a me-too brand that gives the market no real reason to pick you over the competition. That means you’ll be competing on price alone. That means you’re a commodity. Nobody wants to be a commodity.

Ask Boardwalk to establish a brand strategy
that will support your business strategy.

Because you’re savvy readers, you’re probably way ahead of me and have guessed that brand strategy is the part of the business strategy that defines how the business will differentiate itself. Therefore, every business strategy should contain a brand strategy. Management should research to ensure the perceived market need actually exists. And that it is precisely the need they’re ready to meet. To be off even a little bit here can be as devastating to a business as a complete misreading of the market. To realize only 50% of projected sales can, for many businesses, be as lethal as no sales at all.

Most of the material I read recommended revisiting one’s business strategy every couple of years. That is to ensure it is still relevant in the face of an evolving market, new competitors, new technology and other changes to the competitive landscape. I was surprised that the reviews were so frequently required but I guess we live in a time of rapid change. At Boardwalk, we’ve always maintained that, unless your brand is in a trendy sector, like fashion or entertainment, a good brand strategy should last 15-20 years. How is that possible when the business itself might change every couple of years?

The answer, perhaps, is that even if a company finds it necessary to change its business strategy every two years, it probably is going to do so only incrementally. In most cases, the changes are going to be market adjustments rather than total reevaluations of the original business concept. So the original brand strategy is likely to survive. That said, even a small refinement to the business strategy will probably necessitate a corresponding look at the brand strategy as well. A minor tweak there may be helpful.

So brand strategy has a home within an overall business strategy. Though the two often deal with the same topics – markets, customer experience, perceptions, etc. – brand strategy takes a more narrow focus. Brand strategy concentrates on the five services Boardwalk delivers – innovation, strategy, positioning, identity and communication.

Best Branding Reads – Week of September 16, 2019

Volkswagen unveils new branding as part of company-wide reboot
VW, still reeling from its breach of market trust, has to retool in the face of a disrupting auto industry.

Is the Automotive Industry Ready for Sonic Brand Expression?
Can you hear it coming? More disruption in the auto industry.

Building Brands On Customer Passions
This story of the kid who loved University of Tennessee makes you believe in humanity’s decency. It also is a textbook example of how markets shape brands.

Brand Equity: A Strategic Pillar for Competitive Advantage in Luxury Markets
Article shows how and why markets are attracted to brands perceived as authentic.

A Study of 597 Logos Shows Which Kind Is Most Effective
Spoiler alert! It’s descriptive logos. But only maybe – some of the time.

New Wordmark and Identity for Duolingo
Not a big fan of the owl but I guess he’s popular. Really love the typography he inspired.

Struggling J.Crew is getting left in the dust by Madewell, a brand of its own making
Wow. Beware the spinoff brand.

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