Why brand strategy is bigger than both marketing strategy and corporate identity

Imagine a brand brought to life so perfectly that it allows a company’s desired reputation with key stakeholders to shape its actions and achieve its business goals. Imagine a company where every touchpoint is infused with what they stand for—a place that proactively manages their reputation to be unique, demanded, and relevant to the marketplace.

Are you imagining a brand like Starbucks? Starbucks delivers a consistent brand experience in every one of its 24,000+ stores around the world. And they accomplish this by purchasing high-quality beans, allowing nothing—not even their baked goods—to interfere with the powerful smell of coffee in their stores, and also by taking exceptional care of their employees—offering full-time benefits to part-time workers, paying an above average wage, and even investing in a college education for those who desire it.

Can you imagine other perfect brands? Maybe Apple? Or McKinsey and Company? They’re also great examples of organizations that have a definitive reputation with all of their stakeholders (customers, shareholders, and employees). But the brand we really want you to imagine as perfect is yours.

What do you see when you imagine this? An eye-catching logo? A mold-breaking identity? An advertising campaign? Fine…but keep going. Because the perfect brand you’re imagining should define “brand” as even more than that: like the examples above, it should define “brand” as a company’s reputation with key stakeholders.

To bring a perfect brand from imagination to reality, your senior leaders must come together and define what a perfect brand means to them, keeping in mind that a brand includes both the experience a stakeholder has and the message the brand delivers. Then (and here’s the even harder part), your senior leaders must ensure all of their departments work together to achieve their ideal brand through a plan that will make every team member both believe it and live it.

When a brand is positioned as a key strategic goal, it serves as the filter for decision-making, better informing the business strategy in regards to the alignment of resources, processes, standards, accountabilities, and rewards. A strong brand strategy will also set the agenda for design, development, communications, and the decision-making process for the entire organization.

Brand strategy, when totally integrated into the company culture, operational plans, and performance and management systems, will provide both a focused direction for the entire organization and a context by which to evaluate new business opportunities, allocate resources, and drive bottom line results.

Try getting a logo to do all of that.

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