A brand is an attempt to make the intangible real.

Common Brand Strategy Questions - James Walter Thompson

James Walter Thompson, considered to be the founder of modern branding

A brand is a simple concept with an almost infinite number of potential executions. And that’s why developing a brand strategy can become so difficult. Let’s take a look at an example.

Recently, we sat down with a firm that needed help with their brand architecture and strategy. They were a small group housed within a larger business unit that was part of an even larger company, and their job was to sell services that would be a potential client’s initial introduction to the company as a whole. The only problem? Their group was branded under a completely different name than their business unit, which was in turn branded separately from the parent company. Because of a convoluted brand strategy, customers had no idea who they were initially doing business with or why people from other companies were suddenly calling them. The company was having trouble increasing its customer value, because it was pursuing a failed brand strategy.

Clarity and Consistency are the most important brand hallmarks.

Developing a brand strategy requires clear vision, careful planning and detailed execution to avoid situations like our example above. And to get there, you’ll need to start with a brand strategy session. These exercises can seem mysterious, but we’re here to help you build your brand by answering your most common brand strategy questions.

1. How Long Does it Take to Create My Brand Strategy?

Common Brand Strategy Questions - Apple Logo

Apple, the largest brand in the world by revenue as of this writing

A brand can be developed in a few minutes, or a period of years. The real answer to how long it takes to develop your brand strategy is lies with how many stakeholders your brand will touch, and how quickly you can communicate your changes to them. Depending on the size of your business, you may need a number of brand strategy sessions over a significant period of time to address issues and decisions. Brand strategy exercises typically begin with a broader overview of your business and its functions in order to understand exactly how much of an effect any brand changes will be.

Consider Apple Computer, the world’s most valuable brand as of this writing. Apple is the standard for millions of technology consumers, and it employs thousands of workers all around the world. If Apple makes a change to its brand strategy, the impact will be massive. And so, the company spends significant amounts of time surveying its customers to understand their experience with its brand as it plots its product roadmaps.


2. To Whom Am I Selling?

Common Brand Strategy QuestionsThis question typically arises when discussing how to identify your target customer, and many hours of meetings and calls have been spent on this particular subject. The answer lies in buyer personas. Buyer personas are research-based characterizations of your target customer that help you guide your brand strategy. Most brands have several buyer personas, and they are typically determined based on primary research of both current customers and prospective customers that uncovers different psychological need states and practical use cases for purchasing from the brand.

When crafting your buyer personas, consider customer demographics and lifestyles, buying behavior, motivations, and any other criteria that will help you make strategic brand decisions. Ultimately, creating these personas will help your business in having a deep understanding of you customer.

 Use a template to create your buyer personas here

3. How Does My Brand Decide What to Say?

One of the most difficult aspects of brand strategy is distilling your company’s value proposition into key messages – brief statements that reflect the core of your business. These key messages provide guidance for everything your company does, from advertising executions to how your employees interact with your consumers, but creating them can take significant effort.

Young Marketing Consulting will typically approach a brand strategy session by asking a number of questions such as those below to help surface an organization’s core values:

  • What values do you want to portray to your audience?
  • What traits are important to your customers?
  • Why do people purchase your brand?
  • How should all of your employees perform?

The output of these questions is a rough draft of how you’ll talk about your brand. As discussed above, brand strategy will need to be vetted with a number of stakeholders, and they’ll often have input down to the amount of punctuation in your value proposition, but continually distilling what values you brand holds dear and revising your language will tell you exactly what to say to your market.

4. What Do We Do if We Don’t Agree About Our Brand?

Common Brand Strategy Questions - Survey

When in doubt about your brand, ask your target audience.

It’s not uncommon for different stakeholder constituencies to disagree on various aspects of brand strategy. The key to solving these issues is to make decisions based on research that demonstrates what your audience wants, not what the room thinks your audience wants. Using both primary and secondary market research techniques will allow you to have the deepest understanding of your target audience. Conduct interviews, use surveys, and consider setting up focus groups with current and potential customers. Integrate your results with existing data such as government census information, market research reports, and any other material that has already been collected by another organization. Gathering this kind of secondary data is often quick and inexpensive, and can help solve business questions about things like market size, revenue potential, and other financial factors.

5. How Will We Know if Our Brand is “Right”?

At its core, marketing is always a leap of faith. You won’t really know if your brand strategy is going to work until you put it out in the market.

The key to evaluating whether you’ve got the right brand is to listen to your customers and market – they’ll vote with their eyeballs, feet, and wallet. If your messages aren’t resonating, you’ll see that reflected in your business metrics and will know it’s time for a change. Monitor metrics like web traffic, lead conversions, sales, and social media conversations to see if you’re gaining traction. And don’t fret if your sales aren’t flourishing immediately after you craft a branding strategy – it can take years to see market share increase. The best way to know if your brand is “right” is to listen to your customers once your brand strategy has been implemented and make small tweaks based on their feedback.

Need help with branding or anything marketing-related? Feel free to contact Young Marketing Consulting.

Branding matters. Your brand defines how you conduct business and differentiate yourself from competitors. Once a company has solidified these areas and established brand awareness in its market, its focus will often turn (as it should) to consistent application of these principals.

Three Signs it's Time to Rebrand - McDonald's Logo

McDonald’s, a brand that has experienced difficulties pivoting in a changing market

But every market evolves as new competitors and technologies arise, and brand qualities that might resonate with an audience today can shift quickly. Just ask McDonald’s, which after decades of selling cheap burgers and fries struggled to pivot when consumer tastes shifted to healthier fast food options and upscale burger experiences.

So how will your organization know when it’s time to rebrand? In Young Marketing Consulting’s experience, there are three signs.


Three Signs it’s Time to Rebrand:


1. Your current branding is visually outdated



This sign that it’s time to rebrand is an easy one – here’s an example. We recently found ourselves in a room with a client discussing the visuals they were choosing for the next iteration of their website. Their senior leadership had great affection for the design style that the company had been using since its inception, but its competitors had gone through several iterations of visual design and their websites looked much more modern and cutting edge when placed side-by-side.

Whether the organization liked it or not, it was going to have to keep up with the proverbial visual joneses and our advice was to modernize its execution. In a Google-driven world where a visitor will judge you instantly based on the appearance of your website, your brand’s initial impression is more important than ever.

Brand logos go out of style just like fashion does. Fonts, colors, and execution that once seemed modern can soon look about as cutting edge as a pair of bell-bottoms, which will quickly turn away potential customers.

In many ways, visual refreshes of your brand are the easiest to process. As the chart at right shows, you may not need to make significant changes. Logos like McDonald’s and Apple haven’t always looked like they do now; they’ve continually evolved to communicate the same visual message, but with a contemporary and fresh look.



Looking for examples of the latest “modern” designs? Check out How Design’s Logo Design Award Winners.




2. Your business is changing

The second sign that it’s time to rebrand is if your business is changing. This could occur for any number of reasons, with the most common being:

In each of the cases above, the operations and capabilities of the business changed significantly, which required a communications to the market in order to inform customers. This is a fairly straightforward rebranding trigger, although its execution is often quite difficult due to internal conversations and disagreements about exactly where to focus. in many cases, an outside facilitator can best mediate these discussions to help a company work toward its new brand in non-biased fashion.

Two notes to consider when your business changes:

Brand Consistency: the larger your organization, the more difficult brand consistency can be to maintain and the more individuals will need to be involved in delivering that consistency. It’s important that you spend the time to iron out consistency issues internally before you decide on or announce any changes to your brand. Otherwise, you run the risk of appearing ill-prepared.

Rebranding Won’t Fix Business Issues: If your business is struggling, as Yahoo!’s has been for some time, a rebranding won’t fix the issues affecting your sales. It might generate a bit more attention for your company, and you may see a sales lift as a result, but those gains will not be sustainable unless you’re able to correct the core issues limiting your growth.


3. Your audience is changing


Three Signs It's Time to Rebrand - Changing Audience

Remember when your audience looked like this?

The third, and most difficult, way that you’ll know if it’s time to rebrand is if your audience is changing. Audience changes come in two flavors: your business might be targeting a new audience, or your current audience’s tastes might be changing and forcing you to adapt.

The first scenario is usually growth related: you have a product or service that you feel would benefit a different audience, and you want to start a conversation with them. The second audience scenario is growth related, but usually negative: you’re seeing declining sales or having a hard time finding new customers, and the pressure forces you to reexamine your audience’s needs.

In both cases, audience-driven rebrandings are best positioned to succeed when accompanied by strong market research to understand exactly what your audience wants. Young Marketing Consulting has done a number of these studies, and while sometimes an organization’s initial hypotheses about its market proves correct, other times what our clients have thought would resonate in a market simply doesn’t add value in that audience’s eyes.

The worst thing to do in these rebranding situations is to assume you know your audience’s needs better than they do. If for example you’re dealing with a struggling product, your research might find that it takes too much time or effort to go through a rebranding in the first place and it would be better to kill off the product entirely.

If any of these signs are relevant to your business and you are going to rebrand, remember that it takes careful planning and execution. If you need additional help with your branding strategy, feel free to contact Young Marketing Consulting.