One of the most memorable conversations I’ve ever had with a founder came from a brand strategy workshop we ran a few years ago.
We asked an open-ended question to the group: “Why haven’t you worked on your brand strategy in the past?”
A woman who was about 2 years into her business said:
“Brand strategy is a luxury. We didn’t think we could afford to work on it.”
I was kind of struck by this response.
The word “luxury” in particular has always stayed with me. It’s a word that sounds innocent on the surface but has a lot of hidden meaning to unpack.
By definition, “luxury” is something extra. It provides additional comfort but it’s not a necessity. Sort of like an infinity pool at a high-end resort.
The sentiment of what she said touches on a series of misconceptions that we’ve heard echoed by other founders since then — from entrepreneurship students at universities all the way up to folks who’ve worked on their businesses for years or even decades:
- Brand Strategy is only for big, established businesses
- Brand Strategy is too expensive
- Brand Strategy is something that takes a really long time to work on
- Brand Strategy is complex and hard to understand
- Brand Strategy is something to figure out later on
- Brand Strategy is optional
(Side note, there’s a separate misconception of equating your logo with your brand. We also wrote a piece just about that.)
In addition to our client work, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, talking, and writing about these ideas to help better understand them. I believe these misconceptions are rooted in a couple core ideas.
- Mental Baggage: We have deep associations with the term Brand. In our day-to-day lives, the term Brand is usually connected to some massive corporation like Coke or Apple. It creates an association in our mind that brand strategy must be something that only the top companies ever need to worry about.
- Expensive Examples: There are big agencies that charge a ton of money to work on big corporate brands for long periods of time. It’s easy to perceive those type of engagements as the only way companies work on brand strategy. This adds to the perception of mystery and exclusivity.
The thing is, whether you actively strategized about it or not you started building your brand from the day you launched your business.
Your brand is a relationship between your business and your customers. It’s the relationship between the value your business provides and how you communicate it, and your customers’ ability to understand and trust that value.
That relationship gets started the second you put your business out into the world.
It doesn’t mean that there will be perfect alignment in that relationship on day one. It takes time to understand and build a relationship with your customers. It takes time to build trust.
But that relationship has been set into motion.
So, the idea that the strategy for your brand is something to worry about later is inherently flawed. If you’re not alreadying working on it, then your efforts are contributing to a relationship that may not align with what’s best for your business.
How will you know if that alignment is off?
We’ve written about some of the symptoms you might see. Slow growth, vague undifferentiated marketing, poor retention, team misalignment.
These are the things that pop up when you decide that brand strategy is “something for later”.
But you don’t have to wait until issues appear to think about your brand’s strategy. Brand strategy is something every single business can and should work on today.
Every single business can improve its growth, marketing, retention, and culture through effective brand strategy.
And while those giant brand agencies have plenty of talented, thoughtful, creative folks behind them, they’re not the only option.
It’s not a requirement to spend 6 months and 6 figures developing a brand strategy for it to be effective.
In fact, that’s the exact opposite of what we would recommend.
What you need is a focused period of strategic thinking to establish a solid foundation for your brand.
You need to think about your big picture vision and values. You need to understand your brand’s positioning. You need to know how to communicate that information through your messaging and visuals.
And then you need to put that thinking into action, get customer feedback, and iterate on those ideas as your brand evolves.
You need a clear process to help ideate on and implement these ideas.
You need to be able to do it quickly.
And if you want help, there should be resources available that are attainable for every business. Not just the elite.
That’s our mission at Map & Fire, and we’d love to work with you on it.
Crystallize Your Brand’s Unique Position
If you’re ready to get started on your brand strategy reach out for a free consultation. We’ll help you transform your best business thinking into an actionable, shareable, growth-oriented guide. Click below to learn more about the Brand Guidebook process.