The Anatomy Of A True Brand Strategy

Building Brands Ep 21 - Tim Bouchard - The Anatomy Of A True Brand Strategy

A solo-cast with Tim Bouchard, Partner / CEO of Luminus, breaking down the anatomy of a true brand strategy and what makes it so critical to have when approaching conversations and work regarding sales and marketing initiatives for not just building materials companies, but any company or organization.

Episode Links
Go To The Brand Strategy Self-Assessment Tool
Find Tim on LinkedIn

Episode Transcript
Tim
Welcome Building Brands listeners. For our 21st episode, I’m dropping in on another solo cast for you all. In this episode, I’m going to break down the anatomy of a true brand strategy and what makes it so critical to have when approaching conversations and work regarding sales and marketing initiatives for not just a building materials company, but really any company or organization. So enjoy the episode.

Tim
If you’re an owner or marketer in the building materials manufacturing, distribution, or contracting spaces looking to set up your brand for success now and in the future, this is the podcast for you. On this show, we talk about brand and market strategies used in the real world that grow companies and truly connect with consumer audiences. So sit back, listen in, and let’s get to it.

Tim
Hey, welcome everybody to solo cast number three. And we’re about to dive real deep into the anatomy of a brand strategy, and why it’s so important for setting a company up for sales and marketing success. Before we get started, though, I want to share that Luminus has actually made a quick five minutes self assessment tool online for a website that anyone can use to uncover opportunities, their company has to strengthen and document their brand strategy. So while you’re listening to this, think about it, that might be something that’s useful for you, you can check it out at luminus.agency/assessment. For five minutes of your time, we’ll provide you with an opportunities report that grades each aspect of your current strategy, sort of like what I’m going to talk about on today’s episode provides feedback on your progress. And each aspect of that, and includes actual action items for filling out the opportunity gaps that you might uncover by filling out that self assessment. So again, you can check that out, it’s at luminus.agency/assessment.

Tim
As you all may or may not know our company Luminus is a creative agency, we’re focused in digital, you may not know what that means. So let me just give you a brief summary of that. We take a brand first strategic approach to creative and marketing initiatives like high performance websites, which are of course, the hub for all marketing activities, and executing those through integrated digital marketing campaigns. But basically, everything we do is built as an extension of a actual uniform agreed upon documented brand strategy. And that’s what makes a lot of the stuff that we do successful, Luminus has been around for 10 years. And when we started, we started diving into things like logos and web design. And we were making great looking projects and clients were feeding us content. And we were just developing the site maps that they wanted that we agreed upon during sales processes. And when we started ended up realizing is that what we were digging into projects, we also noticed that the majority of these clients actually didn’t have a strategic direction to go in basing decisions off of assumptions or what they’ve done in the past, which is kind of a weird way to look at it when someone’s going into wanting to do a new marketing execution that they were draw on the past, if they’re doing the new marketing execution, then usually the past isn’t the place that they want to be going to, which is why they’re doing the new projects. But most people know that they need a new website or a new campaign because they feel the old creative and the old content just isn’t holding up there. But what they usually don’t have leading into a project like this is the clarity that comes along with what their presentation should be like with current logo usage and colors and fonts consistently from digital to print and things like that having vector versions of the logo. I know some of you might laugh at the idea that those don’t exist for some people. But it’s still a very real thing that a lot of companies are working off of old JPG files don’t have vector versions of their brand assets. And they don’t know what personality should be as part of the content like so how are you writing the content? Are you just cobbling together things from different departments and throwing them in a folder and sending them our way? What goals the website should be structured around? Is it calls, emails, purchases forms? And that sort of leads it to? Is it going to be a brochure style site? Where just information or do you actually want it to do something for you? We should think about that. Who the website should be written for who’s reading this? How do they want to be spoken to? and probably most importantly, why should anyone read this website or view this campaign, and actually buy or contract services with the company that they’re browsing the website for? All of these things, when you get them sorted out, contribute to a website that actually can fulfill that purpose of being the most valuable brand execution for a company or organization the most valuable sales tool that can be the first touch point or second touch point after someone reaches out through outbound and really instills confidence motivates and inspires people to take action on the site but you can’t get there. Unless You take a strategic branded approach, which is why I’m going to break that down for you today. But because people were missing that when we first started out, we start developing a way that we like to approach pulling that information out from clients that we’re working with, through what we call an advanced discovery phase at the beginning of an initial project, which is usually either a brand identity design, highperformance, website project, or digital marketing, campaign execution. And having all of those aspects of brand strategy is what will inform and guide a lot of the decision making along those processes so that when we get to the end that we’ve launched the end result, we know how it will be measured, to some degree, what the performance of it will be like are expected to be like, and that we know what we’re doing will actually connect and motivate and inspire people to take action. So this allowed us to approach projects with clients totally more confidently, we as the experts from the creative and marketing side that the client is the experts from the service and product side, all speaking the same language, even internally within the company for the client, their marketing and sales and ownership team speaking the same language to it’s a very big deal when you’re talking about doing feedback for creative or are marketing execution. So it also changes the conversations that you’re having when you’re in these projects, instead of starting from scratch on what colors should we use? Or what perspective should the copy be written for? Or what should the conversion metrics be, you can skip that because it’s already been defined. Everyone’s already talked about that. And you can go into more creative conversations about execution strategy and, and how to actually make an impact on someone with what they’re viewing from a presentation standpoint instead of the basics and reinventing the wheel every time. So it actually can save work further down the road if you do a lot of this strategic branding work up front. So that’s when we started to see results with people. And we actually introduce that process before we dove into an identity website or campaign. So once we established that this was how we were going to dive into projects with people, that’s when we started to see results and the proper utilization of our websites and campaigns maximized through a strategic approach and optimized creative execution. So that’s the summary of how we got to being in a position for me to share the things that we look for when we go through an advanced discovery with a client to set up their brand strategy, I’m going to break that down into all the different sections that we go over and why they’re important. So I hope that you find some value and what we’re going to dig into next. So first off, you’ve probably listened to a few episodes where you’ve heard me ask this question to other guests on the show, “how do you define branding or brand?”

Tim
At Luminus we define branding as the sum of all interactions between an organization and its audience. And what that means is that every decision a company makes for any touchpoint in the buying journey or customer service experiences, reflects on their brand’s perception. So again, like customer service, unboxing of packaging, which is very big in the tech world, and shoes of all things, office experience, culture, creative visuals, the messaging that that goes into your marketing, things like that, etc, etc. We break brand strategy down into three main segments, the market, company fundamentals, and the brand identity.

Tim
So the market is the aspect of brand strategy that looks at the competitive and customer landscapes to uncover how to differentiate the company within the industry as the choice and not just one of the choices. So this includes auditing multiple aspects of the industry, as well as internal strategies as well. So some things that we dive into, we do an industry audit, which is used to deconstruct the brand strategy of key competitors in the market direct competitors, to uncover what is common industry strategy, unique messaging and presentation styles that they’re using. So that we aren’t doing something in our strategy, when we do our planning that kind of crosses paths with them and doesn’t differentiate, it’s a way to protect against taking someone else’s differentiated position or copying their presentation, which is just going to make you one of the many in the market that people can choose from. And that actually makes you stand out. So we do actually do the same audit for the client themselves. So that way, we have an idea of the current approach to strategy and we can compare that against what’s happening in the industry with their direct competitors. That kind of gives us the starting point when we document it to us when we go into brand identity positioning creative and campaign executions to avoid sounding and looking like everyone else, like I mentioned. The other thing we look at our audience personas, and they’re developed to better understand who the strategy needs to relate to. And personas get a bad rap, which I’ve mentioned on this show before. And what I mean by personas is, this isn’t just your typical demographic profile, it focuses a little bit more on actual pain point analysis. A brand needs to connect with people. And there must be an understanding of who those people are, in order to be able to excite and motivate and build an experience that breeds customer loyalty. You can only do that if you really dive in and look at what makes the customer’s life easier, while researching seeking to purchase are actually implementing the product. Because those are the value points that you can start to build messaging off of. And speaking of that, positioning development is probably the most critical and impactful piece of the entire market aspect of a brand strategy. Every word visual campaign sales tool, collateral piece, website structures, social media posts, all these things, they’re all going to incorporate or support the positioning statement that differentiates the company in the market, and makes it the choice over the competitors. Without this element, everything that a brand produces will be lumped kind of under the same old same old within the industry and commoditize it which means you’re going to start losing out on pricing and things that you would rather be able to talk past because you offer value through much better ways than than the competitors in the market. So this is basically the element of a brand strategy, essentially where taglines are born from. And you do that by doing claims analysis, and what can the company do for customers that no one else in the market can do. And you pull out the ones that are most relevant to your audiences that you’ve already looked at their pain points for and you match those two things together, and you choose a positioning statement and you build a tagline off of that. So you’ll see that theme spread through every single sales and marketing piece that you develop, once you determine that, and that’s a huge, impactful piece of having a documented brand strategy plus everyone’s on the same page. So that’s a really good bonus to that too.

Tim
The second piece of the brand strategy is the fundamentals aspect, which is focused on building a true connection and a belief in what the company stands for. So this is sort of your your heart and your feel good aspect of a brand strategy. Some of you might be familiar with the why from Simon Sinek. So fans of him will understand like this is what the company relates back to their purpose. And a couple of ways you can execute this, which can be helpful from a creative standpoint is a creation story about why the company was started and how it became what it is today. That’s a really important thing for telling that story of how you stumbled upon a solution or develop the technology and how you saw the potential in it that kind of excites people in that innovation way. Providing look into the leadership of a company allows you to put a face to the faceless Corporation. So that gives the customer someone to believe in and attach their relationship to the company to and that’s you know, what you’re basically saying is like, would a customer see the creation story and the leader and say like, Yes, I would do business with them. That’s what you’re trying to pull out of that aspect of the strategy. You know, you could think Steve Jobs and apple. And that’s the very easy comparison to look at. Another aspect of the fundamentals, which is a little different than what I believe a marketing company can truly help with, but is super important still, which is the mission, vision and values of the company. They’re all key elements to the brand strategy for building internal and external culture with your customers. We actually recommend clients work on these internally with their leadership teams, or sometimes we’ll pull in recommendations for business consultants to work with, since this type of work requires a real deep organizational dive. And sometimes when you’re working through vision and mission, that can touch very much on a business strategy, which kind of deviates from brand strategy in the sense that when you get into mission and vision, you’re talking about are we providing the right product or the right service to the right people in the right market. And that’s a little bit beyond where a creative agency would be able to steer the ship. But if you are able to work that out with your leadership team or business consultant over time, that is the information you can bring back to a creative agency and they can help build the messaging around that which is how do you tell people that this is why you’re doing what you’re doing and why it’s so important to you.

Tim
The third aspect to a brand strategy is the brand identity. And this is something I believe you all are mostly familiar with. But I hope to share some new knowledge and kind of broaden your understanding of this particular piece. Commonly, the brand identity is considered to be the logo, you know, someone will say, Oh, I have a brand. And what they’re really kind of misinterpreting is that they have a logo file, which is technically true, but it falls really short and it’s usability as a full identity. So what am i mean by that? Well, a logo isn’t able to define a brand style throughout all sales and marketing executions. It’s simply just the company’s graphic mark. So you need some extra elements to complement the logo, which helps you build unity and uniformity through all of your Presentation assets. So how do you do that you pull in other aspects and do a full identity to build a style guide. And you use elements like colors defined for digital and print font selections, you can pre determine accent graphics or icons that are associated with the brand. So think patterns or physical icons that are an illustrated style or something like that were some brand identities come up short, and we like to dive a little bit deeper are the common executions of that style guide. So what we’ll do is we’ll actually also find photography examples that demonstrate the type of angles lighting subject matter that we believe that photography in new product shoots or new project or installation shoots should use so that when you’re looking at a collection or photography across a brochure, or website, or catalog or social media posts, that there’s this little hint of uniformity in the lighting and color correction and composition of the subject matter in the photo. We also dive into common graphic layouts and styling for usage that would be an examples for things like advertisements or packaging. So how can you take the colors, fonts, accent graphics, and photography styles and put them together. So if any of your internal designers or an agency or Freelancer or vendor you’re working with needs to know how to execute, they can look at this example collection as an inspiration board to know that they have to stay close to that for consistency, but they have flexibility to be creative, and how they’re doing the arrangement and what type of subject matter they’re putting in there. So that’s one thing we put in there as an extra guard to protect the quality of the presentation of the brand. And we found that to be pretty useful to a real critical piece of a brand identity that often gets overlooked and must be included to execute any sales or marketing piece effectively is the brand persona, which you’re thinking like we just talked personas in the market section, this is a little different. This is the persona of the brand itself, not necessarily the customer. So what you’re looking at here is you’re creating a personality for the company through the brand itself. And what you’re doing there is you’re defining the voice and tone that’s used through things like headlines and copywriting for content. And you’re also taking elements of what a human personality would be something like is this funny brand or a serious brand? And how does that relate on a scale of one to the other. And you do that with multiple aspects of the personality of what a human being would be. And that’s an extra piece of information that a writer can draw from to write consistent content across all executions of a brand’s Communications and Creative executions. What you’re trying to do there as you’re trying to make sure that the way that you speak reflects the attitude and personality of the brand, but actually relates to the audience in a meaningful way. Really simple example of this as you wouldn’t use a super common, almost adolescent voice and tone for a banking ad. It just wouldn’t resonate with clientele who’s mostly older and serious. So that sounds like a really simple in and too straightforward of an example. But the the premises there.

Tim
So Tim, why is it important to spend time and money on all this? Good question audience. Let’s dive into that. That’s sort of the second part of this conversation. So the opportunities to improve communications and lead generation rely on a uniform approach between not only your sales and marketing departments, but also between all of your creative marketing executions that you’ve released into the world. consistency and visual presentation. And messaging is something that breeds confidence with the viewer, listener, ongoing customer and their experiences. And that relatability grows loyalty and connection over time. So brand strategy isn’t just to help in the aid of lead generation marketing, executions, and sales, it’s also to build a connection between the people that you’re selling to, to make them want to come back to make them tell other people that they should go to you and be that sort of promoter because they believe in you so much, and they love the way that they’re treated. Differentiation sets the company apart from the competition as the choice I’ve said that at least four times so far and explaining this and it is the most important part of this entire equation. But you can’t get to the differentiation unless you understand the market understand the customers and understand how you should be talking to them and what their pain points are. So if you can craft that that becomes of everything you can do in brand strategy, the most important and valuable piece, which may change over time, but it will be initially the direction that you go and based off of your collaborative conversations, tangibly having documented brand strategy. So actually having this information in whether it’s spreadsheets or presentation files or text files, it doesn’t matter so much what it’s documented as as long as there is documentation that someone can look back on that shows what the final results for usage are. These are things that can be referred back to you from each of your departments. But again, that documentation, it makes creative conversations move faster. So you’re starting from a common strategic point. So you can skip the strategy beyond just a refresher of, Alright, we’re talking about a campaign in this aspect. Here’s the strategy that we have in place for the brand, here’s how we’re going to apply it to this creative execution or marketing or customer experience. It protects the professional quality of sales and marketing, executions and conversations. So this is any of your departments being able to look back on this documentation as a reminder that this is the way it should look. And this is the way it should sound. And this is the pain point and the claim that you know, you can back up in the most confident way with the people that we’re speaking to through whatever you’re writing, or whatever you’re saying in a conversation. It provides insights on where to spend money, and how you should spend that money for which creative projects are going to do, what programs you might develop, what x what advertising executions, you want to put out into the world. So that gives you a little bit more ammo to work off of when you’re choosing things like what channels should you be spending advertising money? And should it be social media platforms, should you be doing search ads, you do search optimization, content development, magazines, trade shows, if you know your audience, you know the market, you know where you can make a differentiated approach to talking to customers. That helps dictate where you think your money will be best spent when you’re planning your marketing budget. So that’s a very informative way to approach that conversation, you can decide how much effort you want to put towards each channel more into social lesson to trade shows more into pay per click advertising, lesson optimization, I’m not saying those are preferred tactics, it’s just picking things and saying one over the other. You can also take from the strategy, which type of creative projects and executions will work best for each channel. So something like social media might get more play from customer stories, because it’s a little bit more relatable piece of content. But LinkedIn advertising might be more based off with a value proposition with a white paper or something to go download. From a specification standpoint, you can develop creative that works best in each channel, if you understand the channels if you understand where the audiences are playing, and how you can meet them the right way with the right tone with the right presentation to get them motivated to take action. So essentially, what you’ve done by investing the time and effort into setting up a brand strategy is that allows you to optimize your budget for the best results with your creative projects, sales processes, and advertising allocations. Secondly, it also provides the goals for the strategy which allows for each initiative to have an expected value assigned to it for things like brand exposure, and customer experience, education, lead generation. All of those are valuable things to do to build equity for the brand. Some of them are sales based value, some of them are recognition value, it just depends on what allocation of the budget, you want to put towards each metric that you want to measure to understand the progress you’re making on your marketing goals.

Tim
One thing to remember with brand strategy is it is amazing to go through this and build documentation and have that documentation solidified and shared across your departments and your your third party vendors, it is still important to remember that brand strategies can pivot over time, as new products are developed. An economy shifts, society shifts, industry itself shifts, all those are reasons why you would want to go back to your brand strategy and make sure that it’s still relevant for the current times. And you could look at it every year. If you’re very intent on moving swiftly with the market, you could look at it every three years, it’s probably a good time to at least force yourself to either validate that it’s still consistent and relevant to the market. Or if you have to make a couple of changes based off of things like product development or economic shifts. So while this is an incredible strategic initiative to dive into initially, it is something that can and should be evolved over time. And that avoids you losing touch with the market or the audience’s that you’re communicating to. So I want to challenge you a little bit. I’m going to ask all of you wonderful listeners to think about your past experiences with sales and marketing initiatives and how understanding this information from a brand strategy standpoint, documenting it and implementing it could improve your position in the market, professional presentation and performance of sales and marketing initiatives. If you have found yourself in one of those scenarios where it seems like every time you try something, you always get the same result. Maybe it’s the approach to what you’re trying that could be shifted. And if you find opportunities and gaps in what you’ve tried in the past to elevate what you should be doing in the future. That is it. opportunity to capitalize and gain some value from brand strategy work. So this is what we do at Luminus and this is how we approach our creative projects and marketing executions. This is how we take newer and better approaches to our clients creative and marketing initiatives to build something bigger and more effective for them. And of course, what we do is we also track at success because we’re building trackable metrics along the way for things like impressions and mid funnel, clicks and conversions through phone and contact forms and email. So if you’re curious about how your strategy stacks up, again, please go check out the self assessment tool on our website, which is brand new, we just put it up last week. As a reminder, it’s up at luminus.agency/assessment, it should take no longer than five minutes your time it’s super quick. they’ll provide you with opportunities report that has the grades for each aspect of your current strategy provides feedback on your progress and includes action items for finding and filling the opportunity gaps. Again, luminus.agency/assessment for that. Of course, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn at Tim, or shoot me an email if you want to tim at luminus dot agency.

Tim
One other note for all of you, I am always looking for more amazing guests for the podcast. So if you know any owners or marketers in the building materials or product spaces, please consider suggesting the podcast to them and encourage them to reach out to me if they feel like they have a really cool story that they should share with all of you. I love sharing these conversations with you all and meeting the great guests that we’ve had on so far. Do me a solid and pass along the word and let’s keep the momentum going. Thanks for diving into some serious brand strategy talk with me, check out the self assessment tool on our Luminus site and I’ll catch up with you all in two weeks with our next amazing guest. See ya.

Tim
If you’re interested in hearing more stories and strategic insights from industry experts, please subscribe to the building brands podcast on Apple, Spotify or Google. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please post a review and share with others who may be interested as well. Thanks for listening.