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What is Brand Strategy vs Brand Identity?

Simply put your branding is how your customers come to recognise you, engage with you, and in turn, experience your business through everything that you do.

So firstly you need to Identify your customers, understand the benefits of your business, define your mission and story, and then, you will be able to successfully position your brand and create a strong brand identity. So, when you start out on a branding project it is not really a case of one versus the other but a case of tackling both.

Branding plays a pivotal role in the success of any business. Consider the likes of Apple, Google or Uber – successful brands with both a clear brand strategy and brand identity.

They all have a distinct and recognisable brand, from their brand identity, to the way they communicate, to their brand story and brand vision, to the products/services they sell.

Branding is an important feature of any business and all businesses should consider it as a vital part of their marketing strategy.

Brand Strategy - thinking

Your brand strategy is the core of your brand and helps to enforce or reinforce your position in the market.

A brand strategy is a plan of action for your business, that helps to outline specific, long-term, goals as well as your brand mission, and brand story. Essentially, your brand strategy is ‘the smart thinking behind your brand’. Put simply the who, what, where, when, why, and how. But it’s not always as simple as it sounds.

You should be able to answer:

  • Have you undertaken full competitor research, interviews and analysis?

  • What makes your product/service unique?

  • What is your unique selling point?

  • Who are your target customers?

  • Who are your competitors?

  • Who is your target audience?

  • Brand mission and vision – what are your ultimate goals?

  • Brand values – what value your brand brings your customers?

  • Brand promise – what do you mean to your customers?

  • Brand pillars – what are the main pillars and driving factors of your brand?

  • Brand story – the “why” of your mission, why did you set out to do what you’re doing?

  • Tone of voice – how should you communicate and the language you use?

  • Your brand positioning statement – what's your quick 'pitch' that encompasses the above and defines your place in the market?

Questions like this form the basis of a brand strategy and should be established within the company as early as possible.

Then ask yourself these 5 possibly trickier questions:

1. Consistency

How will you remain consistent and “on brand” in your communication?

2. Emotion

What emotional connection do you want to make with your target audience?

3. Flexibility

How can your brand remain flexible and react to the marketplace?

4. Employee Involvement

How can you get your employees involved and invested in your brand vision?

5. Loyalty

Is there an option for you to reward loyalty among customers and staff.

Brand strategy is a specialist service in itself. That’s why a lot of businesses prefer to partner with an agency to work through these questions as the shared experience can both challenge and enrich the process and lead you to a better outcome.

What should I expect from an agency for this?

Depending on your business, you may require some strategy sessions to flesh out all or some of your unanswered questions. This process can take anywhere between 3 days to 3 weeks depending on your type of business. However, the more you can do yourself upfront the less you will incur in agency fees. Read 'How much does branding cost?'

Your agency should then wrap this up into a concise brand on a page and/or report that you can use and share within the business.

Your brand strategy is essential as it will inform your brand identity...

Brand Identity - design

Your brand identity are the ‘words and pictures’ that represent your business’ brand.

Brand identity design includes everything from your logo, colour palette, typography, messaging and imagery – and then how these elements apply themselves to your website design, social channels and marketing materials etc.

Your brand identity builds recognition with your audiences and presents your brand strategy in a highly visual and engaging way, thereby planting your ‘story’ in their minds.

Consider Apple or Red Bull – their stories are well told through their brand identity.

A typical brand identity project may include some or all of the below:

  • Naming and messaging

  • Logo Design

  • Logo Design lock-ups (horizontal, vertical, small format, animated…)

  • Business collateral (business cards, letterheads, etc)

  • Sales presentation and marketing materials

  • Packaging design

  • Signage or livery

  • Interiors or environments

  • Website design

  • Social media content

  • Any other physical assets

What should I expect if I use an agency for this?

There are 4 key stages:

1. Design Concepts

Based on your completed brand on a page or strategy document your agency will undertake a design concept stage where you will be presented 2-4 creative routes. This usually takes between 2-4 weeks.

2. Design Developments

Then you would move to a design development stage of your chosen route. Here the agency will show you examples of how it will look across your key chosen applications – again allow another 2-4 weeks.

3. Brand Toolkit and Guidelines

Once your brand identity is all approved, your agency should then wrap up this work in the form of a brand toolkit and guidelines. This can take just a few days to several weeks.

The job of your brand guideline is to help people understand your brand and vision.

The toolkit should package all the assets such as logos, icons and templates in one place.

With these established you can move onto final production of your website and materials.

For example, when you work with a different agency, or start to advertise on a different platform, its always a good idea to share your existing brand guidelines and toolkit. It will make your ongoing roll-out easier and your brand stronger. It will save you time and money in the long run too.

Below is an example from Uber's Guidelines. They do it particularly well see here

As you can see, this can be a huge job in itself. A four page PDF guide and dropbox folder to store your assets may also suffice, but if you have multiple people using and managing your brand then this could become a much more complex ebook, or even an online interactive real time solution with a supporting asset library that is content managed and searchable. Your budget and size will most likely determine this. Your agency should work to find the best format that works for you and your business.

4. Final Production and Development

So you have all your brand ingredients – now it's time to bake!

Wether it is the final design and development of your website, content for your social channels, a company video or printed items, every company will have a different set of needs. These are usually referred to as final deliverables and an agency will have a project plan and timings for each.

At this stage you may choose to work with multiple agencies who specialise in different things. However, working with the same branding agency for rolling out your key items will ensure that all important brand consistency especially during those all important early stages when you are cementing your brand.

WATCH OUT! We also tend to provide all the original design files, some agencies won’t, so it is good to establish this up front to avoid awkward conversations later.

Brand Strategy + Brand Identity

Some businesses don’t need as much in one area as they do in the other, and that’s fine. Your chosen agency should be able to guide you as to what you need and what works for your budget and requirements. Read our 'How much does branding cost?' post.

For example, if you run a single coffee shop then brand strategy may be less important than brand identity. This is because you’re going to grow through the strength of your product, and brand recognition, than through huge advertising and marketing campaigns. However, if you run a global coffee chain, then both areas of the branding spectrum are going to be needed.

Regardless of size or sector, every business needs a brand strategy and brand identity. Wether you look to an agency for extra support or you create the strategy yourself you can't do one effectively without the other.

If you are thinking about a branding project of your own, which services you require all depends on your business type, goals, and vision. We suggest talking with professionals as early as possible in the process to set you in the right direction.


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