Many people like to reduce brand strategy to a clever logo. I take a broader view. A good brand strategy includes answers to these questions: Is the brand readily available to the buyer now? Does it offer value to the buyer for a specific use? Is it unique? If the answers are yes, that’s a good brand strategy. Brand strategy is the comprehensive approach for wide-ranging use of the brand.
- Identify your market. Brand strategy requires an in-depth analysis of every facet of your market. Identify who the brand appeals to, and what the market is you’re targeting. Is it the general public, or a trade group? Is your buyer young? Old? Car owners? Air travelers? By identifying your market, you must also think about how you’re going to position and price your brand.
- Get the word out in the niche you’ve identified through print media, online recognition and all other means of communication at your disposal. The Mac Tools company has a great brand strategy. Their large vans drive to construction sites with we’ll-come-to-you convenience. And their logo is prominently displayed on all their vans.
- Strategize before your product is released. Is your product a line extension of an existing brand? If it’s a Ford Focus, it’s already a Ford. That’s a line extension. If it’s a totally new brand, it’s much harder to get traction. You need to do networking in advance of its release to create curiosity. Also, consider a test market, make adjustments, then increase your distribution. Big corporations can do a test market then go national right away because they already have distribution.
- Align your brand with groups important to your buyers . Subaru uses this facet of brand strategy brilliantly. They sponsor the American Canoe Association, the American Association of Snowboard Instructors, International Mountain Bicycling Association, and many other groups all of which support the same outdoor-activity associations that are meaningful to the sub-niche folks who buys Subaru’s cars.
- Brand strategy can include leveraging. Leveraging is used when a brand goes into a narrow niche, gets established, and then extends the product line. Tesla, for example, came out of the gate with a two-seat model that was very sleek, attractive, and fast. The company even got movie stars to drive it. In no time, owners were proud to drive a Tesla. Then the company introduced the sedan.
- An essential part of brand strategy is customer service and feedback. After sales, customer service is the single most important department in any company. That’s how you find out what your customer thinks. Customer service becomes part of your brand strategy when you link that feedback directly to production and marketing. When those departments have a disconnect, the company suffers.
In my experience, brand strategy is a marketing plan based on a comprehensive study aimed at identifying the terrain upon which your brand will be launched, grow and, hopefully, survive.
Of course, there’s much more that could be said on this subject. What’s been your experience? Michael Houlihan, co-founder of Barefoot Wine, the largest selling wine brand in the nation, invites you to join the discussion on Branding Strategy with your comments, thoughts, and opinions below.
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders