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As a business owner or marketer, it’s essential to understand the difference between brand strategy and marketing strategy. While both are critical components of your overall business plan, they each serve a unique purpose and require different tactics.

Whether you’re just starting with a new brand or have been in the industry for years, it always pays to review your brand and marketing strategies to ensure they’re working for you. Consumer expectations change, as well as technology and trends. With solid strategies and regular reviews, you’ll be prepared for anything.

Let’s break down the difference between brand and marketing strategies and why you need both.

What is brand strategy?

Your brand strategy defines who you are and what you stand for. It identifies what makes your brand unique and tells people why you exist.

Your brand strategy is the plan you put in place to develop and maintain your brand. It encompasses everything from your company’s mission, vision, and values to the personality and voice of your brand.

View it as similar to how an architect lays out plans for a building, considering how every aspect will impact the people using it. Your brand strategy is the blueprint you create before showing your brand to the world.

Key components of a brand strategy

To develop a successful brand strategy, you need the following components:

Brand Message

This is the heart of your brand. Your brand message should communicate your company’s story, purpose, values, and how you differentiate from your competitors. It shares your vision for the future and how you will help create it.

Craft your brand message with why you do what you do at the core. Authenticity is more important than ever – one study found that 86% of consumers say that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support.

Target audience

If you’re going to resonate with your audience, you must know who you’re talking to. Research your audience to get to know them. How old are they? Where do they live? What do they worry about? Who do they look to for guidance when they have a problem? What is it like to walk in your audience’s shoes? Don’t assume you know anything. Do your research.

Brand identity

Time to walk the talk. Once you have decided on your message and who your audience is, create a brand identity that will connect with them emotionally. Your brand identity includes your brand name, logo, colour scheme, and visual elements. Every element should reflect your identity and be consistent. Your visual identity must distinguish you from your rivals and be easily identifiable. Represent your brand well.

Brand personality

Now think of your brand as a human. What are their characteristics? What do they sound like, what language do they use, and how do they act? Consumers want to connect with brands personally, and giving your brand a human element helps to make that connection. Humanising your brand builds trust and loyalty with your audience. A strong brand personality also differentiates your brand from competitors.

Read more about differentiating your brand by downloading my free book.

Cement your strategy with a brand playbook

A brand playbook is a comprehensive guide that is a reference for your entire organisation. It helps your team to represent your brand consistently across touchpoints. It can guide them in visual representation, how they behave, and how to make decisions.

Collecting your brand’s stories as part of your playbook is a compelling way to get your team to absorb your brand’s messaging without feeling like they must follow a set of rules. Stories affect us emotionally, sticking in our memory more effectively than a list of dos and don’t’s. Your brand stories create a context for your purpose and values that will resonate with your staff, aligning them with the brand.

Every brand has stories. You have an origin story – it all started somewhere. You have a story about how your brand evolved from the beginning. Your product has a story about how it will solve a problem, how it came about, and what it has done for people.

If you need help identifying and telling your brand stories, email me today – all it takes is a fresh set of expert eyes and a knack for storytelling to unearth your unique stories.

What is marketing strategy?

If your brand strategy is like an architect’s blueprint, your marketing strategy is how you plan to get people to come to see what you have made. (No matter what the movie says, “If you build it, they will come” is not a viable strategy.)

Your marketing strategy is your plan of action. It includes what you will implement to promote your brand to your target audience. It has everything from advertising, public relations, social media, content marketing, and other tactics.

Your marketing strategy is how you plan to reach your target audience where they are and persuade them to take action. It includes objectives and goals and how you will measure performance.

It takes a lot of planning, but it will be an invaluable tool.

Key components of a marketing strategy

Here’s an overview of what you need to develop a successful marketing strategy:

Understanding your target audience

You need to understand their needs, wants, and pain points to create messages that resonate with them. You assessed your target audience when creating your brand strategy. Now, identify specific segments of your audience to target with messaging that will resonate with them rather than aiming at a general target. This is where customer personas come into play as a critical part of your marketing strategy. (I have developed a Customer Persona template that I would be happy to share with you – drop me an email.)

Marketing mix

The marketing mix concept goes back to the 1960s, but it is still valid today. It consists of the 4Ps of marketing:

  • Product – the goods or services you provide and what makes them unique from what is already on offer.
  • Price – how much you charge and how that affects the way your brand is perceived.
  • Place — where you will find your customers, because you have to go to them (don’t expect them to come to you).
  • Promotion – how your customers will find you; identify the media they use and what type of messaging is effective.

It might seem basic, but defining the 4Ps is how you know what you’re marketing, where, and how. From here, you create campaigns for social media, advertising, public relations, and any other avenue appropriate for your brand.

Goals and metrics

Your marketing goals and metrics are the key performance indicators (KPIs) you use to measure the success of your marketing efforts. KPIs vary – you might measure customer engagement, new leads, or conversion rates, for example.

By setting clear KPIs and regularly monitoring progress towards them, businesses can ensure that their marketing efforts are aligned with their overall goals, and can make data-driven decisions about where to focus their resources. Effective use of KPIs can also help businesses identify areas for improvement and optimize their marketing strategies for better results.

Documenting your marketing strategy

A 2022 survey found that those who documented their marketing strategy were 414% more likely to report success than those who didn’t.

The strategy document can be short, even one page. It is a long-term overview of your strategy – the specifics of executing each campaign are separate marketing plans. Your strategy document should include:

  • Objectives and goals
  • Market Overview
  • Customer profiles
  • Competitor research, and
  • A statement highlighting your brand’s points of difference and how you will position your brand.

Refer to your marketing strategy document when designing new campaigns to ensure you are sticking to your plans.

Breaking down the difference between brand strategy and marketing strategy

Your brand strategy defines who you are, what you stand for, and why you exist. Your marketing strategy, on the other hand, is the tactical plan for how you promote your brand to your target audience.

Let’s look at an example from a brand everyone is familiar with.

Nike’s brand strategy focuses on inspiring and empowering athletes around the world. Nike’s brand strategy is built around the “Just Do It” concept, which communicates the brand’s belief that anyone can achieve greatness through hard work and determination.

A general brand strategy for Nike would look something like this:

Mission: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.

Target audience: Athletes of all levels, from amateur to professional.

Brand positioning: Nike positions itself as a brand that helps athletes achieve their full potential by providing high-quality products and innovative technologies.

Brand messaging: Nike’s messaging is focused on inspiring and empowering athletes to push beyond their limits and achieve greatness. They are not just about selling shoes and apparel but about promoting a lifestyle and mindset that resonates with its target audience.

Visual identity: Nike’s iconic “swoosh” logo and bold typography are instantly recognisable and communicate the brand’s energy and passion for sports.

Brand personality: If Nike were a person, they would be determined, inspiring, motivated, and humble. They would be a charismatic, innovative natural leader with a strong sense of purpose.

Nike’s marketing strategy, on the other hand, includes a wide range of tactics aimed at reaching and engaging its target audience. These tactics include high-profile advertising campaigns featuring top athletes, social media content highlighting its products and brand values, and experiential marketing events allowing customers to try its products and engage with the brand in person.

There are many campaign examples to illustrate their marketing strategy. One of the most memorable is the “Dream Crazy” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the former American NFL player who took a knee during the National Anthem to protest police brutality. His action offended the patriotism of many Americans. The campaign included the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” This campaign is one example of how Nike stuck to the messaging outlined in their brand strategy.

In short, your brand strategy is the foundation of your marketing efforts – it drives your marketing strategy. It ensures that every marketing element is consistent and identifiable as your brand.

Your marketing strategy ensures you’re not just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. You have a solid plan of action based on your brand strategy.

You can see why both strategies are essential to the success of your business.

It’s important to remember that your brand strategy must always come first. Your marketing efforts must align with your brand strategy. Every message you communicate should reinforce your brand’s values and personality.

Can your strategies change? Of course. A critical part of any strategy is building a set time to review and revise it as needed. For instance, when Covid lockdowns hit in 2020, many brands had to adjust their strategy quickly due to the changed playing field.

Optimise your strategies for success

By taking a strategic approach to branding and marketing, you can build a brand that impacts and resonates with your target audience.

Get in touch today if you’re looking to develop or refine your brand or marketing strategies. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, I can help you get your brand on the right track. We can start with a free 30-minute consultation.