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Designing a brand development strategy that will stand the test of time

how to build a brand development strategy

Every entrepreneur is faced with the same challenge. Somehow, some way, you need your company to stand out and leave its mark in the market.

But, of course, this is easier said than done. Memorable brands aren’t built overnight, and a brand development strategy requires much more than a cool logo or a catchy slogan.

As a Wix Partner and founder of Small Business Startup Solutions, I've had the privilege of working closely with entrepreneurs across various industries. Together we’ve built, rebuilt and fine-tuned strategies for solidifying their brand positioning and creating a stronger market presence. Below are some of my insights from over the years, and tips for navigating the many components of brand development.

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What is a brand development strategy?

A brand development strategy is the plan for creating a brand’s image, positioning it in a market and building brand equity. Having a strategy in place will ensure that consumers can identify your brand and distinguish it from others, even as your business evolves.

Often, the first step to creating a brand development strategy is to evaluate your company’s current market positioning, and the brand characteristics that helped you get there. It doesn’t always involve redoing your current branding—rather, a brand development strategy could mean expanding on your existing strategy, and creating better alignment or efficiencies between your assets. While an agency like mine would assist with things like your web design, logo design, email marketing and other marketing efforts, your brand development strategy could also impact your product development strategy and customer service (among other areas of your operations).

Branding vs. brand development: what's the difference?

Branding and brand development are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually two different things.

  • Branding is the process of creating a unique identity for a product or service. It involves the tactical steps of designing your brand’s visual elements (such as its logo and color palette) and brand messaging (such as its tone of voice and value proposition).

  • Brand development takes the branding that already exists and uses it to create new ways to support your company’s growth. For example, think of a pizza shop that wants to start selling their sauce in grocery stores. This requires creating new labels, packaging and quality standards. The pizza shop’s website branding, social media and marketing all need to reflect the new product line, too—which all relies on having a clear brand development plan to guide the way.

How do you know you need a brand development strategy?

While your company’s internal goals may be an obvious reason for needing a brand development strategy, there are also plenty of external factors that create a need.

For instance, a change in the demand for your product or services may cause you to consider adding or eliminating parts of your brand. Consumer feedback can further indicate what is and isn’t working about your current branding. Or, pressures from new competitors or market challenges may force you to rethink your strategy.

A strong brand development strategy can help your products to be seen by the right audience sooner, saving you valuable time and money.

4 popular brand development strategies

There are many ways that you can expand your company’s brand. Let's take a look at the four main ways that companies implement their brand development strategy.

01. Product line extension

If you’re looking to bring more value to your current customers, you can offer an additional product line. A product line extension involves offering a new product in the same category as your existing products. Under this strategy, you’d apply the same, existing branding to your new product line—which can help create a soft introduction to your new product(s) and encourage customers who already enjoy your products to give your new items a try. At the same time, this strategy could help you attract new consumers by offering something that wasn’t available in your store before.

Christiane’s Handcrafted Jewelry offers a variety of silver and gold necklaces, earrings and rings. Christiane is constantly creating new jewelry designs in her studio to extend her product lines within her existing categories. As new jewelry is finished, it can be found on display in her store, online (via her website and social media) or at shows.

Christiane's website featuring different product lines of jewelry

02. Multi-brand

Your company may decide to create multiple brands to target consumers in different markets. Consumers may not be able to tell that the additional brands are housed under a parent company because each brand or subbrand markets itself differently.

For example, Horseshoe Media is a California-based advertising and marketing company that provides digital marketing, social media marketing and consulting services. They house a variety of marketing brands. They own All Country News, a media outlet for country news; Good Scentiments, a candle line that promotes collaborations with musical artists and donations to charity; and MUSICVRSE a music media company that covers a variety of genres. Thanks to this multi-brand strategy, Horseshoe Media has been able to strengthen its following in multiple areas of media advertising.

Horseshoe Media website showing different brands that they own

03. Brand extension

A brand extension strategy is when your business uses its established brand name to elevate a new product, product category or version of an existing product. It can also involve combining two well-known products or services together in order to tap into the brand loyalty of existing customers.

For instance, artist Rigo Peralta established himself by selling surrealist paintings that, in his words, “represents the push and pull between humanity and machinery.” Peralta’s works are available for purchase online and at his studio (Rigo Peralta Art Studio) in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He has also launched an apparel and accessory line called Rigo Collections. Rigo Collections sells print-on-demand products featuring Peralta’s art, and is similarly available online or in the studio.

Peralta additionally decorates his vacation property in the Dominican Republic with his art, creating a fully immersive experience. All of these channels together provide multiple avenues for art enthusiasts to get to know Peralta, not just as an artist but as a powerful, recognizable brand.

Rigo Peralta website demonstrating a brand extension into selling art online

04. New brand

A new brand strategy focuses on creating a new product in a new product category (i.e., creating a brand name from scratch).

Take McPhee Family Farms as an example. This family-owned farm specializes in supplying farm-raised beef, pork and produce to serve its local community. They are preparing to open a second business, McPhee’s Butcher Block, which will pay tribute to the farm while offering an in-person retail location (plus an online store) to meet the demands of the everyday shopper. The Butcher Block logo resembles the Family Farm logo to show the relationship between the two brands. Meanwhile, the Butcher Block site embraces tones of a family-oriented atmosphere by weaving in family history and incorporating cooking methods that have long been honored by the family.

McPhee family farms website

The 6 stages of brand development: steps for building a solid action plan

Identifying the best brand development strategy and creating an action plan starts with analyzing your company's direction, the industry and the overall market. Then, once your plan is in motion, it’s important to set up a process for measuring the performance of your strategy to ensure that you’re making the best decisions for your company, both now and in the future. These six steps can help you to check off all the essential boxes and get your strategy off the ground.

01. Consider your business strategy

Your business strategy can (and should) inform your brand development strategy.

Maybe you’re seeing that one product is driving a majority of sales, or that one particular subset of buyers is making the most purchases from your company. Think about who you want to target (new or existing customers), and how effectively your brand is currently reaching them.

You can use the same KPIs that you use to assess the current state of your business to evaluate the performance of your marketing, and to serve as a benchmark for future performance. By clearly defining the goals, vision and mission for your company as a whole, you can better create a brand that reaches the right people.

Your business strategy can further help you decide whether to focus on a product line extension or another type of brand development strategy. For example, take a look at your current sales and expenses of your business. What drives your revenue and where are your costs high? What do your growth numbers look like?

At the end of the day, you’ll want to:

  • Make sure that your messaging is relevant to your target audience

  • Align your brand with real customer needs, as voiced directly to your team or elsewhere (e.g., social media)

  • Create a brand that’s unique from your competitors

  • Ensure that everything from your logo to your messaging can evolve as your business grows

02. Do market research

Market research is necessary for understanding how your product compares to its competitors, industry and overall market. External factors like overall industry health and/or new trends can impact how well your products may be accepted.

Start your market research with a competitor analysis. Take a look at what your competitors are selling, how they’re selling it and who their consumers are. How have they expanded? Are your competitors selling their products in packages or as subscriptions? By analyzing your competitors, you can dig up some good inspiration or spot strategies to avoid.

Next, study the industries and markets that you compete in to glean insight into current and future demand. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a company that may have wanted to expand into a physical retail location may have decided that the market outlook was too poor to attempt to do so. Even though external factors can be out of your control, they can significantly impact the performance of your brand.

03. Determine your target audience

It goes without saying that in order to clearly and effectively promote your brand, you need to know who you’re talking to. This means going beyond surface-level information and challenging assumptions that you may have about your current or target audience.

This also means narrowing down your scope to specific segments of customers who want and need your products or services. It's possible that your new strategy will cater to the same target audience that you have been serving. However, it’s equally possible for you to identify a smaller segment of customers, or a new segment to engage.

One way to define your brand’s target audience is by creating personas. Pretend that your audience can be represented by a single person. Give that person a name. Describe who they are. What do they like? What do they dislike? Where do they live and what are their daily habits? Tailor your messaging to speak directly to these personas, and find the best channel to communicate with them. Moreover, use your personas to guide your thinking around brand development—how can your brand best serve their needs?

04. Develop your brand story and personality

Before you start crafting your brand assets, ask yourself, what is your company’s mission? What is your vision?

The answers to these questions can re-establish the “why” behind your business, which, in turn, can inform your brand story and personality. Your brand's personality can carry similar traits to that of a person and can be used to influence your company name, logo and taglines.

For example, when engineering company EU Design Consulting approached my agency, they knew they wanted to convey experience, reliability and professionalism in their messaging. Understanding these brand characteristics helped to create a simple yet sophisticated logo, alongside a website that reflects the company’s maturity and expertise.

EU Design Consulting website reflecting the brand's personality and values

Your brand characteristics can further guide the type of content you produce in the future, from your emails and your blogs, to your social posts and advertisements.

05. Build a brand guide

A brand guide addresses the visual and messaging guidelines for your brand. It defines your brand’s preferred typography, color choices and style—with the goal of maintaining consistency and communicating your brand personality.You may already have a brand guide in place, but chances are, you’ll need to tweak it for any new offerings. For instance, if your company chooses to introduce a new product line, how does that tie in to all of the other branding that exists?

To create a brand guide, I recommend keeping it simple. Your brand should involve two to three brand colors as well as font choices. Make sure your guide includes your logo and all of the acceptable variations or placements of your logo. In addition to this, provide guidance on the types of media to be used, brand voice, tone and more to guide any new marketing and communications.

06. Track your progress

As you start applying your new branding across your business, you’ll want to actively track your progress and impact. Establish clear KPIs, such as the ones you already use to assess your business strategy, from the get-go. Use benchmark data to compare your business’s performance from before and after your strategy has entered the market. To that end, Wix Analytics can help you connect the dots between your new strategy and sales or web performance.

You should also compare your progress to the performance of your competitors, industry and market. Tracking your progress will help to identify if any pivots need to be made in your strategy, or can confirm if you’re on the right track.

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