You know why your organization exists, what its mission is, and what it has to offer to core customers. A solid brand strategy allows you to cohesively and accurately share that vision with your target audience, positioning your brand in the best possible light. As a marketer, delivering that message is the core of what you do. But developing that strategic vision in the first place calls for specialized skill. A brand strategy firm can build the effective foundation for all of the messaging you’ll develop. But how can you choose the right firm or consultant for your needs? Here are the most important characteristics to look for in a knowledgeable brand strategist.
1. The Right Brand Strategist Always Starts with a Clear Plan
In the early stages of any company, you’re going to face numerous challenges. Everything is exciting yet deeply familiar, everything feels urgent, and prioritization becomes difficult. You may feel compelled to churn out plenty of content, but without a unified plan behind that content development. So when it comes time to build a cohesive brand strategy, where do you start?
Many organizations try to build their brand strategy internally, but this comes with challenges of its own. Your brand is your baby, so it can be hard to gain the perspective necessary to see it from the outside, as potential customers might see it. Industry insights and customer experience consulting can offer even more perspective on how to position your brand, but for these insights you need to turn to a B2C or B2B market research firm.
Partnering with a brand strategy firm brings a framework to determine your current brand positioning. Or, if you’re developing your brand for the first time, such a firm can identify opportunities for your brand activation and brand strategy. The details of the framework this firm will develop for your brand will be uniquely tailored to what’s most important about your organization and its target audience. The brand strategy development journey will always be just as intentional as it is unique.
2. They Have Insights-Driven Knowledge About Your Industry and Audience
It’d be a major understatement to say that creating an effective brand strategy without industry knowledge would be difficult. For example, the brand strategy for a pharmaceutical company will be different from that of a medical equipment supplier. How would your brand strategist understand the differences if they’re uninformed on these industries?
A well-rounded brand strategy firm has an insights arm as well as researchers and content writers on staff. This way, they’re able to dive into the nuances of your industry, producing accurate and compelling content more efficiently.
3. They Care About Your Goals
Any dedicated brand strategist will have their own set of goals in order to create successful outcomes for you. But those goals must function in tandem with your own. Most often, your brand strategist is here to shape your brand, not reimagine its concept.
That’s why a clear sign of a great brand strategist is that they’re genuinely interested in learning more about your brand and your goals. This allows them to ask questions that are difficult to even consider from the inside of your brand, such as, “What is our key product/service lacking that our target audiences desperately want?” or “How does our current messaging make our core consumer feel?” In short, a brand strategist sheds light on the details that you don’t even realize you weren’t considering.
4. They Understand & Value Authenticity
All the promises in the world don’t mean anything if brands don’t follow through — or if audiences don’t trust that they will. The most effective brand strategies encompass promises you know you can keep, because they’re foundational to your organization’s success. These promises will be lofty but achievable. They will be inspirational as well as grounded. And with the help of a brand strategist, you can ensure that you’ll deliver on these promises for the life of your brand.
This is not to say that you will not innovate — electricity is just as important as authenticity. In fact, once your brand strategy is fully developed, some of the communications you release may at first surprise you, because they’ll channel the unique innovations that make your brand truly special. Hopefully they’ll also surprise your audiences!
And any strong brand strategy keeps the future top of mind. It allows space for growth — in fact, it anticipates that growth. In doing so, it ensures that your team and your core customers will recognize that your new initiatives still come from familiar values.
5. They Develop a Brand Positioning Playbook
Your brand strategy and brand activation approaches are purposeful studies of your brand, and they must be executed faithfully to maintain consistency. But without documentation, that’s all but impossible. Find a brand strategy firm that will build a brand positioning playbook detailing how and why your brand makes the moves it does. This should include a brand story and key value propositions. It might also dive into customer personas, as well as brand voice and tone. And it should help inform your visual identity. Which brings us to …
6. They Are Both Visual Strategist & Brand Strategist
How will all your brand strategy work be represented visually? What do the insights you’ve learned about your brand tell you about the appearance of your brand to core customers, investors, and the general public? When executed well, brand strategy and visual strategy are inextricably linked. They each support and build upon key foundational elements of your brand.
Visual strategy is the way in which you use visual communication to connect with your key audiences. The strategy for the means and methods of communicating with your brand must consider how your brand will be viewed — literally. The choices you make in developing your visual identity and campaign-specific visual languages — from colors and fonts to illustration style, use of photography, data visualization style, and more — reflect upon the choices you make when developing your brand. When your brand’s goals and its look and feel are in competition, it’s difficult to build audience trust. Because of this, developing them together — and with the same agency — can only serve to bolster the impact of both.
Choosing the right brand strategy firm can be the key to a cohesive and successful brand launch or rebranding effort. Consider these tips and make sure the strategist you choose is well equipped to support your brand’s journey!