By now, we all know that branding is important. It’s what defines your organization’s purpose, sets the stage for all organizational behavior and, most importantly, determines the place your organization holds in the minds of both employees and consumers. But even after grasping the importance of a solid brand, many business leaders (and even firms or agencies who profess to be experts in branding) don’t know what a good, solid brand strategy should look like. Whether you have just completed a brand study, or are looking to do so, here are five signs to help you evaluate your brand strategy and know what to look for in a good one.
1. You recognize yourself in it.
Many branding firms come in crying “revolution”. It sounds exciting, but it’s a poor substitute for doing the work it takes to get to the core truths of your organization. Brands are not invented, but discovered. I like to say to our clients, “If you are shocked by what we present to you, we did not do our job.” When we present a great brand strategy, the reaction of our client is usually, “That’s exactly who we are. We just didn’t know how to say it before.” Look for that joyful moment of recognition.
2. It’s actionable.
Too often, companies come to us confused and disappointed—they’ve paid for a large brand study, only to receive the results and feel completely in the dark as to what comes next. Unfortunately, that’s a sign of a shallow or convoluted strategy. At its most basic and valuable level, a brand strategy should drive the behavior of your organization. A good brand strategy will immediately begin to beget next steps in the minds of those within the company for ways to better express the brand.
If you let your car go too long without attention, things can get misaligned. The same thing happens to organizations. If it’s been a while since you took a look at your brand, you may have processes, goals or communications that are not in line with your true vision and purpose. A good brand strategy draws things into sharp focus, exposing misalignment. Just like a wheel alignment, it allows you to make necessary adjustments so that your organization runs straight and true.
4. It brings your organization together.
After the presentation or delivery of your brand strategy, did those inside your company express true excitement? Did they begin conversations about moving the company forward? Did they demonstrate initiative? If not, watch out—you probably have a poor brand strategy on your hands. There is almost nothing more galvanizing to a company than a great brand strategy. With a clarified view of the brand and its importance, you will see those inside your organization come together, working proudly for a common goal.
Last but not least, hold your brand strategy to the ultimate test: bottom line. Do you see increases in revenue, awareness, donations, or membership? Bottom line is driven by imparting an understanding of the unique value of an organization to its consumers, and a great brand strategy drives that understanding.
The next time you evaluate your own brand strategy or search for a firm to help you arrive at one, know what you are looking for. Recognizing the signs of a good brand strategy could save your from the disappointment, confusion and stagnation that come from a bad one and, instead, lead you to the clarified vision, drive and excitement that result from one that is truly great.