Brand Strategy, if well-articulated and executed, can assist your content marketing in cornering almost immediate and unbeatable competitive advantages. Effective brand strategy can create a clear and consistent identity for your business and products, and reinforce the unique qualities that are important to your target audiences. Your brand strategy can position your solopreneur business and help differentiate your products from competitive offerings.
The right Content Branding & Design can foster positive recognition by your target audience – with a consequent impact on your content marketing success. The early days of your brand strategy development will not give you a hint of the huge value that can be acquired by your brand in the years to come. Look hard at the balance-sheet of any content marketing business, that has grown to big success, and it will inevitably reflect the equity of its brand as one its most valuable and coveted assets.
What is brand strategy and why is it important to your solopreneur business?
Very few people really understand the word “brand”. Sometimes they mix it up by really meaning “business” when they say “brand”. So how do you make out the difference between your business and your brand?
It may surprise you that the word “brand” came from the old days of cattle-farming when cows and bulls being sold used to be stamped with a burning hot branding iron with the farm’s name or logo on it. The hide of the animal used to thus get singed with the farm’s logo, and the animal thus became “branded”. What was the reason for this? Because when cattle was being sold from a “reputed farm” the stamp on the animal raised its market price, and declared it to be the product of that reputed farm.
So the word “brand” started signalling the “symbol of repute” of a business. Sometimes a business may choose its own name as its symbol of repute. At other times, if there are many different types of products, the business may choose to create separate brand names for its products distinct from its business.
Here again, we must understand when it’s worthwhile having a brand name that’s different from the business name. It’s useful when, say, years later, you want to sell off the brand to someone else but keep the business name for yourself to start newer brands. It can equally apply to you as a solopreneur.
There is often the question of whether you should market your business by your own personal name or choose a separate brand name. If you have a separate brand name you can sell the business later. But it’s hard to sell your business if its on your personal name, unless you sell yourself and your services with it, right?
What is emotional branding and how does that play into your business strategy?
Apart from a brand name being a symbol of repute of a business and its products, some emotional strings get attached to brand names when more and more people start associating the brand with some life-happiness-elements. For example, when you say “Ferrari cars” you get a different emotional cue than when you say “Mercedes cars”, don’t you? Why and how does this happen?
It happens when you, as a customer, mentally complete the sentence “This car is reputed for (what)?” When you try to say what the reputation of the car symbolizes to you, you may see the reputation of one car as different from another, because you start associating the value of each car with different emotions in yourself. Thus Ferrari makes you feel the emotions of “fiery and sporty”, while Mercedes makes you feel the emotions of “luxury and richness”. This is how brands become emotional things.
After that, as a consumer, you start feeling you personally have acquired a particular reputation because you are using one particular type of car. You feel its brand has rubbed off on you – and you like that. So the story of the brand, belonging to a business, goes from being just a symbol of repute … to acquiring some emotional associations … and then rubbing off those emotional values on the users of the brand.
Does all this happen by accident – or by consumers imbuing brands with their emotions? These days, so much psychology of consumers has been studied, that businesses are deliberately trying to associate their brands with certain emotions and selling these emotional highs to consumers. So, for example, a business may tell you (overtly or subtly): “If you buy this brand, you will be seen as an intelligent person, because this brand offers emotional cues of being in the intellectual bracket”.
What happens is that the brand actually cleverly repositions you in your own mind, as a different and better person now after you have bought the brand. This is the ultimate secret to brand marketing.
The moral of this whole story is that brands that succeed wildly are those that make their users feel extra-special and privileged in some emotional way, as a result of buying and owning the brand – apart from also enjoying the physical benefits of the brand.
When you, as a solopreneur, worry about getting your brand strategy bang-on, think about how you want the customer to feel after he buys the product.
Once you get that hook in place, give your brand the visual, verbal and emotional cues that reinforce those feelings in your target audience. State this emotional advantage as your prime brand promise, supported by the physical benefits that your brand additionally offers.
The 4 key elements of brand strategy that you need to focus attention on!
Brand strategy can be broken down in some sub-concepts. Here are four you should know about …
1. Brand Promise: The brand promise is primarily, as we saw before, the emotional message that speaks to your target audience. It tells them what to expect from purchasing your product. The promise also reflects the other benefits of the product other than just the emotional quotient.
2. Brand Perception: Perceptions are the ideas in consumer minds about your brand. Are these the same that you intend your brand to have? If the answer is “Yes”, your brand is on the right track with its overt and subliminal messaging. If the answer is “No”, you’ll have to change your messaging.
Understanding how your brand is perceived is especially important if you are looking to change your business strategy: if you’re looking to enter new markets, or you’re looking to move up pricing, you may be up against the challenges of changing brand perceptions.
3. Brand Voice: Every brand has a “personality”, because it is this personality element that imbues the brand with some emotional values. So what is your brand’s personality? In MBA classes on marketing we are often asked to describe brands as if they were humans.
For example, is Brand X a “young, energetic and articulate person” or is Brand Y a “distinguished, elderly and knowledgeable person”? Depending on how you want to shape your brand’s personality, your brand has to speak with the right language and tone. An “elderly” brand can’t be speaking in teenage lingo, and a “casual” brand can’t be sounding “officious”. It wouldn’t resonate well with audiences who expect to vibe with the personality of the brand.
4. Brand Positioning: This concept is a bit different from the other three concepts above, because positioning is about where your brand stands as against competition – in the market and in the consumer’s mind. In what way is your brand “different or unique” in the context of its competition.
Positioning is about defining the “uniqueness” that makes your brand stand out from the crowd. If your brand is genuinely unique, you’ve got less work to do. If it isn’t truly unique, and it’s just one more “me-too” brand in the competitive landscape, you’ve got to think creatively to present it to your audiences in some unique way. Even if the brand itself is not memorably unique, it’s communication method can and should be memorably unique.
The big benefits of a great brand strategy to your solopreneur business!
There are many advantages that accrue to your solopreneur business when your brand becomes stronger, and more recognised and valued. But I would reckon these to be the Big Three benefits …
1. Your growing brand equity attracts a faster tempo of growth for your business. What is brand equity? The dictionary describes brand equity as: “A brand’s power derived from the goodwill that it has earned over time.” In other words, brand equity usually is a result of the positive vibes gathered by several strengths of the brand including brand awareness, loyalty, perceived quality, strong brand associations and other assets such as patents, trademarks, and channel relationships. It involves fulfilling the promise the business has made to the customers and maintaining the relationship well.
It’s a truism in business that the principle of “accelerated acceleration” happens when you start seeing even small increments in brand equity. What that means is that even with a small growth in brand equity, there is a larger than proportionate growth in everything else in the business – from traffic to conversions to even later sales. Brand equity acts a multiplier … and that’s one of the main reasons why you have to zealously grow your brand, and also guard against all forms of brand value erosion.
2. Your growing brand authority attracts more target audiences with less effort. What is brand authority? It’s useful to think of brand authority as your perceived expertise within your industry or topic. If your target audiences accept you as a legitimate go-to expert within your field, and therefore throng towards you, we can say your brand has authority. Brand authority is not a status you can confer on yourself, though. It’s actually a combination of the reputation and trust that others – your audiences, competitors and the public at large – must assign to you.
Now, the beauty of strong and growing brand authority is that it will help by lessening the effort you need to put into business, to achieve bigger and bigger audiences.
It’s a bit like cycling. You can afford to pedal less harder after some momentum is created, right? Similarly, with an increase in brand authority you get a lot more traction in your business and are able to spend less to extend your reach and rope in a bigger subscriber base with good loyalty.
3. Your growing brand recognition attracts partners of higher caliber towards you. What is brand recognition? At a superficial level, we can say “recognition” is achieved when people are able to remember your brand’s values and attributes even by just looking at your brand symbols like your logo, your tagline or your “branding elements”.
But recognition can go beyond just that. It can also mean respect and renown for your high standards. Additionally, there is also the concept of being recognized spontaneously (that we know as “recall”).
When people mention your industry, and your name instantly pops up in public memory as one of the leading lights of your industry, it’s what we called “unprompted recall”. When you gain that sort of brand recognition, you truly have achieved a lot.
Growing your brand recognition to this level makes it easier to gain influencers and followers, and the support of potential joint venture partners.
Your growth becomes aided spontaneously by external elements that recognise your association to be of great value to them. You gain the ability to magnetize people towards your business and your brand, without your having to make the effort to “market” yourself a lot.
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Branding & Design”:
- Designing A Knockout Brand Identity For Your Solopreneur Business!
- Designing A Solopreneur Website To Look Like A Million Bucks!
- What’s In A Brand Name? For Your Solopreneur Business, It’s Everything!
- 8 Huge Benefits Of Branding For Businesses Doing Content Marketing!
- Your Maverick Factor Must Underpin Your Solopreneur Brand Strategy!