For nearly a century, the term “brand strategy” and "branding" has been inexorably tied to the marketing disciplines. Naturally business owners tend to think of these activities as a collection of marketing decisions.
The modern concept of “brand building” has its roots in the early-mid 20th century.
At that time, consumerism was a powerful construct in western societies as large-scale economies were mass-producing commodities. In crowded categories, business leaders needed to distinguish their offerings from competitors.
One of the first companies to establish the idea of marketing and brand building as an integrated discipline was Proctor & Gamble.
P&G wrote the book on how to build brands.
For example, in the branding and marketing “Ivory Soap”, Harley Proctor took purity as the ultimate product differentiator. The brand’s stated claim “99 and 44/100 per cent pure” was what we would call the brand promise, or USP. ”Floats in water” was the reason to believe – because “only what is so pure” can be lighter than water.
The goal of these early companies was to build a trust bias in the minds of customers, an emotional shortcut to a purchase decision and to ensure customer preference and loyalty–all based on distinguishing functional product benefits.
Brand strategy, branding and marketing are terms still inexorably linked to this day. Conventional brand building wisdom still mandates physically distinguishing product and identity attributes from competitors; build a reputation for quality through on-going marketing and hopefully command a premium price.
Now that we’re well into the 21st century, Founders need a paradigm shift.
Brand strategy is not a collection of marketing decisions.
Brand strategy is business strategy – two sides of the same coin.
The strategy is the cause; every aspect and function of the business, including marketing and sales, are the effects of that previous cause.
Call it what you will, but in our modern world of clutter, noise and abundant choice, every business owner/leader must develop a foundational strategy for who they are, what they stand for, why it matters to whom; and how the quality of their presence and behavior distinguishes them from competitors and creates competitive advantage over time.
These are leadership decisions, not marketing decisions.
Your business strategy is a universal organizing principle–spiritual software that organizes people and money and guides every decision throughout your entire enterprise.
Spiritual software written in the code of creating new value rather than competing for the value created by others. Otherwise stated as an “idea of value” customers love and can’t live without.
Patagonia represents an “idea of value” their customers can’t get from North Face or Columbia. The power of the Patagonia brand comes from their organizational values and beliefs not functional product benefits, logos and marketing campaigns.
Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s fabled founder says “we follow our beliefs, customers follow us.”
It’s a simple strategy that built an influential iconic brand.
What “idea of value” does your business represent in the minds of customers, employees, partners and stakeholders they can’t get from anybody else?
What is the source of Brand Power for your business?
If you don’t have a foundational strategy in place to answer these questions, no amount of clever marketing or sales tactics will build a brand people love and can’t live without.