How are brand strategies evolving (or why?)

How are brand strategies evolving (or why?)


Are traditional brand strategies and guidelines are no longer as effective in our fast-paced business environment?

These days, it’s all about sustainable growth, digitisation, and reaching new customers and talent. Simply focusing on the old ‘positioning + visual identity’ formula in isolation may not cut it. That’s because it doesn’t answer the most pressing questions of CEOs and CMOs;

  • How can we kick-start growth in our company?
  • How can we digitise our business to stay competitive?
  • How can we reach the next generation of customers and talent?
  • How can we adapt to the changing market and consumer needs?

The traditional formula of positioning and visual identity can be limited in providing answers to these questions. It is mainly focused on creating a clear message and visual identity that differentiates a brand from its competition, which is important, but it can be restrictive when it comes to adapting to changes in the market and reaching new customers.

By shifting the focus from positioning and visual identity to a more holistic approach that emphasises growth, digitisation, and creating positive experiences for customers, CEOs and CMOs can better address these pressing questions. This approach can help companies to adapt to the changing market and reach new customers, which ultimately leads to growth and success.

Here's the thing, branding should be viewed as an effect of doing the right things, not as a cause of growth. As author Marty Neumeier, says, ‘A brand is not what you say it is, it's what they say it is.’

Take Adidas for instance. They’ve grown as a brand by consistently offering high-quality products, innovative designs and by aligning their brand with a sustainable and socially-responsible image. Their focus on meeting customer needs and values has resulted in a strong brand that is synonymous with sports and lifestyle. Their purpose is both functional and aspirational: ‘to be the best sports brand in the world’.

Or French luxury brand, Hermès. They’ve built a strong brand by focusing on craftsmanship, heritage and exclusivity. Their commitment to quality and attention to detail in every aspect of the brand has resulted in a strong brand that is synonymous with luxury and exclusivity. Their purpose: ‘to create objects that withstand time and retain their beauty, while remaining faithful to the spirit of the craftsman who made them.’

So, what should you do? Well, it’s all about design.

First, stop thinking just positioning and think about purpose. Don't just try to manufacture your place in the world. Instead, define a sense of purpose - the difference you want to make, socially and commercially. ‘The most powerful brand in the world is the story of you and what you stand for.’ Jeff Bezos. Or put another way... ‘if you wish to persuade, appeal to interest, rather than reason’, Benjamin Franklin.

Although positioning still has a key role to play, it should be supported by purpose (and delivered with personality). Your clear and compelling purpose can guide the positioning strategy.

‘Every CEO should know their company’s mission and values. Good CEOs know that these statements need to amount to more than slogans for office posters and use them to influence decision making and day-to-day behaviors. Excellent CEOs go further: they reinforce and act on a corporate purpose (the “Why?”) that involves not just making money but also benefiting society. This posture, along with a granular approach to prioritizing stakeholder interactions and a sound corporate resilience plan, lets CEOs minimise the company’s exposure to customer- and stakeholder-related risks, and capitalise on new opportunities.’ The mindsets and practices of excellent CEOs, McKinsey

Second, don’t think only visual and verbal identity. It’s certainly important, but better to focus on creating whole experiences for people. You must be more than a name, logo, or tagline. To lead the way, design experiences that people will remember and talk about. Experience expert, Don Norman: ‘Design is not what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’ In a similar way, I often argue that nobody cares about your values (or at least that they are written down). They care about your behaviours which is how values are really lived and demonstrated, again this is experience. Think deeds over words (although having the right words is essential to articulate what you are about, and then communicate it to your people and your audience).

Finally, embrace experimentation in public. Don’t be afraid to try new things and see what works. The high-growth businesses of the future will continue to be, at heart, purposeful. And purpose is the source of meaning. Meaning is the source of brand value creation.

To achieve a strong brand, companies should go beyond positioning to focus on developing a clear purpose and values, and then consistently deliver on them. If you focus on creating positive experiences for customers and all stakeholders—and you’re willing to experiment and adapt to the changing market—a strong brand will follow.

More articles
The (brand) creation story

The (brand) creation story

In the beginning, there was... Your brand’s creation story.

The (brand) creation story
Build the best foundation for your brand.
If you want to discuss the issues and opportunities you face…
get in touch