Brand Strategy

What is the definition of
Brand Strategy

A brand strategy is simply the plan to create, grow, and support a brand. With an actionable plan, you have clarity over the goals you want to accomplish. A well-executed brand strategy affects your entire business and is directly connected to what consumers feel about your company and products or services. But, it’s also important for establishing your company identity and to differentiate from competitors.

And no, throwing some ideas together with a logo is not a brand strategy.

A business without an actionable strategy is like a ship without a rudder.

Your approach to brand strategy can include developing visuals like a logo, colors, and typography. But it must also include intangibles, such as how you want your customers to feel about your brand or products, brand growth strategies, and the overall impact you want to make in the marketplace. After all, your brand is not really your logo or colors. It's the way your customers perceive your company in the market and is based on every single touch point they have with your company.

Craft a positive experience and hold a defensible position in your customer's mind and you'll win their business. Failing to do so can spell disaster for your company.

So what is Brand Strategy?

Think about successful consumer brands like Disney, Tiffany or Starbucks. You probably know what each brand represents. Now imagine that we could transpose your brand into one of these industries, let’s cay coffee and you had to compete directly against a starbucks. How well would your company perform? What if you could be the Starbucks of your industry?

In your industry, there may or may not be a strong B2B brand. But when you put two companies up against each other, the one that represents something valuable to the customer will have an easier time reaching, engaging, closing and retaining those customers.

Your brand strategy defines what you stand for, a promise you make, and the personality you convey. And while it includes your logo, color palette and slogan, those are only creative elements that convey your brand. Instead, your brand lives in every day-to-day interaction you have with your market:

  • Your sales
  • Your marketing
  • Your messaging
  • Customer service
  • The buying experience
  • And every other touch point your customers have with your brand

Successful branding creates “brand equity” an easy way to think about brand equity is by the amount of money that customers are willing to pay just because it’s your brand. In addition to generating revenue, brand equity makes your company itself more valuable over the long term.

"Your brand isn't what you say it is. It's what they say it is" - Marty Neumeier

What makes a Brand Strategy effective?

Brand Strategy then is how you plan to influence the experience your customer has with every aspect of your business.

It has little to do with ambition, leadership, vision or the economic logic of competition. The core of strategy work is discovering the critical factors of a situation and designing a way of coordinating and focusing actions to deal with those factors.

Good strategy cannot be stumbled upon by chance. Even some of the world’s biggest organizations do strategy poorly,  and incorrectly owe their success to their decision-making skill. Conversely, many organizations do strategy expertly, from which much can be learned.

The ‘kernel’ of good strategy contains three main components:

  • It starts with the diagnosis of a problem:The example of when a doctor treats a patient can be used to guide good strategy.  A good doctor always starts by diagnosing the situation. Seeking to understand the problem well enough that you can fully describe it will typically reveal many possible solutions.
  • an appropriate guiding policy:A good guiding policy tackles the obstacles identified in the diagnosis of a problem through the creation of advantage or the collection from sources of advantage. Importantly, not all advantage is competitive (in the case of nonprofits or public-policy strategy).
  • and only then, a set of coherent actions:Action points are vital to any good strategy. This is where most companies fail. With Bush in Iraq, the goal was to invade and conquer. The goals were freedom, democracy, and reconstruction; but the strategy was not implemented until General David Petraeus laid out what must be done to counter an insurgence (something that had not been considered before). General Petraeus’ impact was great. This example demonstrates why coherent action must be central to any strategy. A good strategy does more than urge us forward toward a goal or vision. A good strategy honestly acknowledges the challenges being faced and provides an approach to overcoming them.

If each stage isn’t treated carefully, bad strategy is inevitable.

At its core, strategy is the identification of critical factors in a situation, then the skillful design of coordinated actions to deal with said factors. It requires awareness of one’s resources and capabilities and a sharp understanding of one’s industry and its surrounding space. Though there is much to learn, fundamentally strategy is very difficult leg work, not easily replaced with template-style vision building or any other form of pseudo-strategy.

What makes a Brand Strategy bad?

Sometimes a ‘bad strategy’ can be worse than having no strategy at all. Bad strategy is not only the absence of good strategy; bad strategy is itself a hodgepodge of misunderstood or misapplied concepts. Leaders often mistakenly treat strategy work as an exercise into setting goals rather than solving problems.

Useless ‘strategy’ has pervaded the psyche of organizations worldwide. Why? Because good strategy is hard work. From redundant vision-building to lazy law-of-attraction thinking, people do what makes them feel good, whether it helps their company or not. It’s easy to declare wishfully; it’s much harder to put together a plan to ensure execs’ wishes are granted.

Here are four major hallmarks of bad strategy:

1. Fluff:

Fluff is “a form of gibberish masquerading as strategic concepts or arguments. It uses … words that are inflated and unnecessarily abstruse and apparently esoteric concepts to create the illusion of high-level thinking.”

A humorous example of fluff in business comes from a major retail bank that you probably know: “Our fundamental strategy is one of customer-centric intermediation”  In other words, its fundamental strategy was to be a bank.

2. Failure to face your challenge:

Bad strategy fails to recognize or define the challenge, which makes overcoming it near impossible. DARPA, a US military research organization, explicitly outlines what governs its actions (a good example):

  • DARPA focuses its investments on this ‘DARPA-hard’ niche—a set of technical challenges that, if solved, will be of enormous benefit to US national security even if the risk of technical failure is high
  • DARPA changes its program managers every four to six years to limit ‘empire building’ and so that workers challenge previously held modes of operation

DARPA’s strategy is more than a general direction. It includes specific policies that guide its everyday actions. DARPA has led to advancements in various fields, including stealth technology, GPS, nanotechnology, and much more.

Don’t mistake your goals for strategy

Simply stating or documenting your goals is not a strategy. Goals are often not actionable and a strategy that is not actionable is a bad strategy.

Cookie-cutter annual ‘strategic planning’ accounts for most of corporate ‘strategy’ isn't enough. Because opportunities, challenges, and changes don’t come along in nice annual packages. The need for true strategy work is episodic, not necessarily annual.

Bad strategic objectives:

Strategic objectives must help an organization reach its desired end. Bad strategic objectives often fail to address critical issues or are impracticable.

We suggest using the following definitions:

  • Goal: a word used to express overall values and desire. For example: The United States’ foreign-policy goals of freedom, justice, and democracy
  • Objective: used to denote specific operational targets. For example: defeat the Taliban, rebuild infrastructure

Answer these questions to get an idea of how effective your Brand Strategy is:

  • Do you acquire customers quickly because your prospects’ experience with you supports everything you say?
  • You can charge a premium because your market knows why you’re better and is willing to pay for it?
  • Have you thought much about branding?
  • Does your team communicate your value consistently with the market without struggling?
  • Do your target customers have a clear understanding of your product/service or why it’s better?
  • What you do, what you say and how you say it doesn’t contradict each other and confuse your prospects.
  • Do you typically have an easier time acquiring customers than your customers.

If you answered no to any of those questions it would be worth the investment to re-evaluate your company’s current brand strategy.


Your brand strategy isn't about colors or a logo. Your brand strategy is about how your business connects with your customers. By taking the time to create a strong brand position and message (guided by that higher level strategy )it’s inevitable that you become a highly sought after brand in your category. And it will make an immediate impact on the bottom line.

There’s a lot of work that goes into building a brand strategy. And it's not typically the type of role a company has staffed in house, that’s why we encourage companies to hire an agency that specializes in brand strategy. Whether it's us here at CITRUS or someone else, it's vital you start your branding on a strong footing and with someone you can collaboratively maintain and manage it with for the long run..

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