Do you have a clear brand strategy that you keep coming back to? One that guides the way you do things and the decisions you make? If the answer is no, and your budget is zero, it’s not the end of the world. As a bare-minimum, a quick cheat-sheet can make a difference…

There are 1,001 ‘strategy’ and ‘brand’ words out there – don’t worry if you’ve heard some and not others. And don’t let the long list repel you. There’s no exact right or wrong way to do things and no exact right or wrong answer. If your brand strategy answers the question “What do we want to be famous for?” you’re in decent shape.

Brand strategy cheat-sheet – illustration of a character holding the cheat-sheet.

The Cheat-Sheet

Putting together a simple one-page ‘Brand Strategy Cheat Sheet’ will help give you some focus and clarity. Your one-pager should include:

  1. Your brand idea
  2. Why customers choose you
  3. Your personality

Let’s go into a wee bit more detail on those three…

1. Your brand idea

This should be a sort of emotional shorthand for the benefit of choosing you (whether you happen to be a product, a service, even a place). Don’t feel pressure to do it a certain way because you’ve seen it in a case study. Brand ideas come from all angles – from a social purpose to a time-of-day…

Brands with ideas.
Apple = a mindset, creativity.
Harley-Davidson = a feeling, freedom.
Disney = a feeling, magic.
Volvo = an issue, safety.
Innoceny = a personality, chatty.
KitKat = a ritual, break-time.
Patagonia = a cause, save the planet.

While they’re all totally different brands and totally different ideas, you’ll notice these all have a few things in common:

They’re easy to understand
You get the idea in a couple of words.

They’re single-minded
It takes a lot of effort to be famous for something.
It’s almost impossible to be famous for multiple things. Stick to one idea.

They’re specific
Paint a specific picture in your audience’s mind and you’ll stand out and be remembered. Your brand idea can’t be to be ‘good’,  ‘the best’, ‘customer-focused’ or ‘engaging’ … None of those paint any sort of clear picture – they’re all too vague.

A quick and easy test for your idea is ‘Could someone use the opposite of this?’. If yes, you’re onto a winner. For example a motorbike brand could be about Freedom (like Harley) but it could just as easily be about Control. If the answer is no, there’s a good chance your idea is just an expected feature in your sector – like a ‘fun day out’ or ‘reliable advice’ or ‘products that work’. This doesn’t help you stand out or be remembered.

Your brand idea – illustration of a character that stands out.

2. Why customers choose you

Start with a simple statement or list of exactly what type of people you appeal to. Then add what they get out of you – rationally and emotionally. If you haven’t got any up-to-date research, dig through your old surveys, Twitter mentions, Facebook comments, TripAdvisor reviews for the rough raw material.

3. What’s your brand personality?

How do you express yourself? Bigger organisations might have clear values that shape the way they behave and the way they communicate. Or you might have a full tone of voice guide. At a minimum you’re going to need a statement or a short list of adjectives that describe how you want to come across. But make sure they’re sharp, specific adjectives…

Don’t tolerate ‘engaging’, ‘vibrant’, or ‘professional’ here. Aim for personalities that would really shape a brief.

For example… 

  • A fastidious, detail-focused ‘geek’ who can’t wait to show you the special editions in her comic collection.
  • A warm, friendly grandad who greets you with open arms and tells you a story.
  • A rebellious teenager who wants to bring down the system.
  • A well-schooled butler who you don’t even notice is there, but who puts everything in the right place at the right time.
  • A cheeky chancer who’s always spinning a tale (think Del-Boy).

A quick tip 

If you’re doing this yourself and getting nowhere – don’t be afraid to define what you’re not. Find a load of personality trait adjectives and discuss them with some colleagues. When somebody says “We’re definitely not that”, the discussion about why will usually lead you towards what you really are.

Express yourself creatively – illustration of a character with a pencil

And finally – express yourself creatively

With your Brand Strategy Cheat Sheet as a brief, you can now get creative with anything new you put in place. So before you create anything ask yourself – how could we make this fit our personality? How could we tie this into our idea? How do we do this our way?