“Brand strategy” is one of those phrases that gets tossed around a lot in the branding and design world. In fact, I use it on my own services page. But what does it actually mean? I’m going to break down the process that I go through with my own clients.
Keep in mind that I work specifically with personal brand development, and I’m usually approaching it with the intent to translate your brand visually. So my brand strategy process reflects this. There is SO much more that could be said (and I probably will in future blog posts) on each of these points, but here is a general overview.
Putting the “personal” in a personal brand
When it comes to a personal brand, you know you want to end up with something that accurately reflects your true personality. One of the biggest worries I hear from people is that their brand won’t “feel like me.”
The thing is, you are a multi-faceted person. If you’re anything like me, you’re both chic and boho, you value minimalism but also appreciate beautiful ornate designs, you’re super sweet and encouraging but also a fan of “no-bs realness.”
That’s because you’re a real person! And real people have many, many layers. But when it comes to your personal brand, you need to be strategic with how you share yourself and your work with others.
A brand strategy helps you narrow down how you want to present yourself. It’s a plan on how to best develop the reputation you want to build for yourself and your business.
That is not to say that you create a fake persona. Not at all. I love wearing cutoff shorts (my daily work uniform, in fact), but I’m not going to wear my cutoff shorts to a potential client meeting. They just don’t fit the initial impression of professionalism that I want to give to people. That doesn’t mean I’m being “fake” when I choose to wear a cute dress, instead.
Then again, depending on who you work with and what you do, wearing cutoff shorts might be exactly what you wear to YOUR client meeting. It might fit perfectly with the reputation you want to build and the people you want to work with. That’s what makes a personal brand so personal!
Establishing a mission statement for your business
This is related to the “why” behind your business. Why do you do what you do? Why is it important? Why should people care? How do you do it differently than other people? A clear mission statement provides focus and allows you to decide what types of content and offerings fit within your brand, and what doesn’t.
What emotions do you want to evoke?
When I’m branding my clients, I always ask the question: “What do you want your dream clients to feel when they think about your business?” That’s what a brand is, the feelings people associate with your business. We can’t control what other people think about us, but we can definitely strongly influence those thoughts and feelings.
But you have to focus. To build a powerful brand, you have to narrow down to three feeling words associated with your brand and then commit.
Define your dream client
A key part of any brand strategy is to define your target market, or dream client. The fact is, you can’t effectively attract people to your business if you don’t know who exactly you’re trying to attract. The more you know about your dream clients, the easier it is to design something that they will love. Your dream clients are real people, not merely made up archetypes, so real research (aka actually getting to know real people) is needed.
Establishing a Visual Strategy
This is usually the part of the process that clients are most excited about, the mood board! I love looking at beautiful mood boards as much as the next person, but an effective mood board does much more than just look pretty.
The purpose of the mood board is to say “Hey, here is the vibe we are going for, and a visual representation of the emotions we want to evoke.” This is an important step during the process to make sure that you and I are on the same page. The mood board becomes the go-to reference and inspiration for all design that takes place.
Brand Design Should be Built On A Solid Foundation
I don’t even start the visual design process, aka, designing the parts of the brand that you can see (like the logo) until after we’ve worked through these previous steps. Brand strategy establishes a solid foundation for your design. The result is a visual identity that feels completely genuine for you, and is designed to attract exactly who you want to attract. Everything should work together to get you closer to your vision and goals for your business.
It doesn’t matter how pretty your brand design is if it isn’t effective. You need a strategy.