Businesses of all sizes develop branding strategies to ultimately develop a distinction over competitive offerings in a customer’s mind. Your customers should be able to distill your brand’s essence in your stories, marketing activities and products. Needless to say, building brand differentiation and a narrative requires careful thought. Your products communication must maintain your brand tonality and also help your brand stand out. You could cause serious damage to your brand if you are perceived as unreliable and untrustworthy. What could you learn from big players in 2017? How could your small business brand aim for a strong brand presence? This post outlines a few powerful brand strategies that help.
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Here are five branding strategies, used by the big fish, one or more of which could be adapted to suit your company’s personality.
Top Five Branding Strategies You Can Leverage in 2017
Strategy 1: The Premium Product/Service Strategy
a) Design a remarkable experience
This is the time-honored ‘our product is the best’ type strategy. You focus on quality above all else, enabling you to justify a higher price tag. To succeed with this strategy, everything about your brand must ooze class from the logo and packaging design to staff attire. Often forgotten, the quality must especially shine through via customer representatives as they answer the telephone or respond on social media.
b) Discover your ideal buyer’s desire and journey
Identifying where best to place your products or services to attract the attention of your target market becomes crucial as marketing spend is likely to be high. Using high quality market research companies or brand agencies help you understand your premium customers and discover their needs and desires.
c) Know why premium would work in your chosen market
A premium strategy can work well when the market is saturated with cheap, low quality products. There is a subtle distinction between a premium brand and a luxury brand. Luxury brands often tend towards greater uniqueness, refinement and even sensual appeal. Luxury brands are often intimately connected with their founders, artisan designers or advocates (think Emma Watson and Burberry). Brands such as Dior, Chanel and Hermes are generally considered to come under this luxury heading. A premium brand need not be so niche. Apple, as an example focuses on a much bigger market while being premium. Identify how you’d like to position your brand.
Strategy 2: The Anti-Branding Strategy
a) Understand consumer behavior
Anti-branding strategies cleverly feed on the consumer’s mistrust of big brands. They exploit the close association that successful brands have with their logo designs, names and other marketing tools. One of the most successful anti-brand strategies is the concept of the supermarket white label or ‘own brand’ . Consumers are encouraged to believe that they are receiving exactly the same quality of product but at a cheaper price. Whether or not this is actually the case, the strategy allows for a company to slash its production costs by using basic packaging, simple logo designs and limited advertisements.
b) Create a new customer niche
The anti-brand branding strategy can also appeal to consumers interested in green issues and anti-capitalist movements. These customers tend to identify big brands with environmental destruction and unethical practices. One of the challenges with the anti-branding strategy is to overcome the tendency for customers to overlook low key presentation. This means that marketing spend needs to be just as carefully allocated, and may prove to be expensive as brands educate customers.
c) Create a different aesthetic to reset expectations
One facet of anti-branding is so-called ‘local washing.’ A big brand will alter the appearance of stores or products to give them a more local aesthetic. One big brand took this to the extreme in Seattle by entirely replacing its name and logo from some of its stores. Ever heard of 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea? You may know them as Starbucks.
Strategy 3: The ‘Expert Recommended’ Strategy
a) Explore the trust tactic
The human tendency to look up to the experts, particularly scientists, doctors, dentists and other health professionals, was seized upon by marketers very early on. For example, 1920s cigarette advertising often featured doctors smoking their favorite brand. They were even seen recommending some types of cigarette for the treatment of asthma.
b) Identify influencers for your brands
We have come a long way since questionable cigarette ads, but there are multiple products and services which market themselves with specialist recommendations. If you have a product or service and an expert (or group of experts) willing to back it, it’s gold. You will immediately give your brand a boost with their help. Experts don’t need to necessarily wear white coats to attract kudos. The experts at evaluating baby products attend to be mothers so getting the backing of a well-known moms’ group might be your ticket to success.
Strategy 4: The Cult Brand Strategy
a) Create your niche
You can be different by being cheaper, you can be different by being better and you can be different by being more ethical. And the again, your can be different by just being different. Kapish?
If you don’t have the resources to compete directly with the market leaders, to undercut their prices or to appeal to a niche audience, don’t lose heart. You can still grab a big slice of the market by doing things in your own unique way. The most successful of these brands, like Harley Davidson, Porsche, Apple, Formula 1 Racing etc. attract a die-hard following. These customers wouldn’t go elsewhere even if they were paid to do so.
b) Ensure brand consistency
The ‘brand battles’ between cult brands and their mainstream rivals often form a central pillar of their activities. If you opt for a cult strategy, brand consistency is paramount. Deeply loyal followers of your cult brand are heavily invested in everything you do. These customers expect the brand to conform to certain standards. In that way, cult branding overlaps with premium branding. You need to create the expected quality and not appear like you ‘sold out’ to the mainstream.
Strategy 5: Brand Appropriation
a) Be aware of the risk
Warning! Brand appropriation is a risky strategy that can land you in serious hot water if you get it wrong. This strategy involves piggy-backing off the back of another brand by associating it with yours. For example, you may be able to receive an endorsement from a national firm and ask them for permission to use their logo on your marketing collateral.
c) Ask for permissions
The bigger the company, the more protective they are likely to be with their brand image. Large brands will also have more resources to sue any copyright infringement they come up against. If you do opt to appropriate another brand the services of a good lawyer are essential. Ask for permissions, and ensure all legal agreements are watertight. Of course, a risk-free way to appropriate a brand is to buy a company outright if that is feasible in your situation.
Has your brand used any of these strategies? Do share your experiences with us!
About Guest Author:
Joshua Beam is a professional writer from Norther Oregon. Currently he blogs about Branding & marketing for Brand IQ -a Los Angeles based brand strategy firm that specializes in helping businesses with consumer insight & market research. The company offers full-service qualitative and quantitative consumer research strategies. He’s a business owner and a freelance copywriter too. He lives with his partner of ten years, Jen and their son Cody. Connect with Joshua via Twitter.
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