How to Create a Brand Strategy That Will Appeal to the Right People

You’ve probably heard that a brand is more than a logo. More than a product. More than a service.

And each is true.

It’s an umbrella that spans from social media branding to user personas to voice and tone (like Mailchimp’s) to everything in between.

And in some ways, it’s even more.

Because it’s all of these things packaged up and presented—then unpacked and cracked open so the world can see the gooey insides.

In simplest terms, a brand has three components:

  1. Feeling: gut-level reaction.
  2. Promise: the vow a brand makes to its audience.
  3. Relationship: the quality of ongoing interactions between a brand and its audience.

In today’s post, we’ll bring them all together in a simple and energizing way to craft a brand strategy that appeals to the right people.

A brand strategy is a master plan for connecting your unique value with the right audience every time you cross paths.

This one’s called the story-source brand strategy.

It’s the perfect place to start or pivot that will:

  1. Connect your brand to the right people. By defining your audience persona and outlining their challenges, you’ll learn exactly how to craft messaging that resonates with them.
  2. Unify your brand across every channel. By knowing how you can add unique value to your audience, you can continually make a giant, compelling, and *true* brand promise. This is the secret sauce to nurturing an enviable (and profitable) relationship with your audience.
  3. Infuse your marketing with purpose and excitement. Marketing is about driving profitable customer action. But the best way to do this isn’t by soullessly pushing products and services at anyone with a pulse. It’s about tapping into the powerful reason why you truly love helping your audience.

You’ll also want to grab this free brand strategy kit! It’ll walk you through the process step by step.

It includes a branding trifecta: story-source brand strategy worksheet, audience persona template, and a social media message template.

Now, let’s cut the B.S. out of brand strategy 😎

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Your Brand As A Gut-Level Reaction

In his illuminating book The Brand GapMarty Neumeier says: “A brand is simply a gut feeling and a promise.”

Your brand equals the gut-feeling your audience has when your company’s name comes up. It’ll be different for everyone. But here’s a quick test.

Grab three sticky notes and lay them side-by-side.

Now, write these three brand names, one per note:

Even though each brand sells similar products, they evoke different gut-level reactions. This is the first secret of what a brand is and how it works.

The Sticky Note Brand Test

Grab three more sticky notes. Write your brand’s name on one and your two main competitors’ on the others; one name per note.

Take them to someone who knows something about each brand. (And ideally, is someone outside of your company.)

Lay the sticky notes in front of them one at a time. Then ask for the first word or feeling that pops into their mind upon seeing the brand name.

Start with your competition; then move to yours.

Compare the words they gave you. Then ask: “Can you explain why?”

If possible, do this test a few more times and compare results.

Ask yourself three questions ...

As you do, ask yourself three questions:

  1. What patterns emerge?
  2. Am I happy with the honest, gut-level reactions to my brand?
  3. What can we do to make them better?

The Brand Promise

Second, a brand is the promise an organization makes to its audience.

There’s a popular marketing saying that goes: “A brand is a promise made. A great brand is a promise kept.”

 

(As far as I can tell, Bea Perez of Coca-Cola originally turned this phrase.)

Case-in-point: Google’s famous mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Is Google making good on this mission? This promise?

When it comes to news, more people trust Google than traditional media outlets. When it comes to organizations, Google Drive sports more than one million paid users.

More people trust Google than traditional media outlets.

That’s a lot of people trusting Google to be honest with the information they present and the data they store.

Sure, some techy folks don’t trust Google with their data. But the numbers are an avalanche of trust in the brand.

Consumers and businesses believe Google’s promise. And why? Because they’re making good on it.

Making Good On Your Brand Promise

So what is your brand’s promise? What is your reason for existing?

Yes, this borders on a mission statement. But before you roll your eyes, can you finish the following statement?

We exist to [specific action] to help [specific audience] do [something that makes their lives better].”

For example, at CoSchedule we might write:

“We exist to help professional marketing teams get insanely organized and produce the most effective, efficient, and profitable work of their lives.”

Example of a brand statement

(Notice I tweaked the statement’s structure. You can do this, too. The important part is that each element is included.)

Now, it’s your turn.

Can you finish that statement? Even more, do you really believe that you’re fulfilling this promise?

(You’ll also find the corresponding section in the story-source brand strategy worksheet.)

The degree to which you fail to fulfill your promise is called the “trust gap.”

Author Scott Stratten explains this well in his book Unmarketing.

He says the trust gap is “the amount of trust you have to earn before your potential customer will consider buying from you.”

This goes further, though.

Because not only do you have to earn enough trust to secure a purchase—you have to keep it along the way.

Said Bill Kobel: “The real fallout of breaking your brand promise is loss of trust. Once you lose trust, you have to work twice as hard to earn it back—if you can.”

The real fallout of breaking your brand promise is loss of trust.

How does a brand win trust?

Enter the brand-audience relationship.

The Relationship Between A Brand And Its Audience

Here’s the deal. Marketing is all about driving profitable customer action. And brand strategy shares this goal—especially when it comes to your relational health.

At this point, you might think I’m going to provide you the number of a therapist or start asking you questions about your childhood.

But I’ll leave the sappy stuff for another day 😁

Instead, let’s talk about concrete ways go do a health check on your brand-audience relationship.

This relationship can be measured by the quality of ongoing interactions. These touch points can be anything from your content to ads to physical environment to customer support and more.

In short, when your audience interacts with any facet of your brand, the relationship is either helped or harmed.

How To Measure Your Brand Sentiment Score

I asked Leah Schothorst, our Social Media Strategist, how CoSchedule measures the health of our brand-audience relationship.

She explained three metrics brands should pay close attention to. They are audience growth, engagement rates, and sentiment.

While each are important, I think the clearest indicator of relational health is sentiment.

Sentiment measures the weight of positive, neutral, and negative mentions of your brand. PR folks use tools like Mention and Cision to peer into the sentiment pensieve 🔮

#expectosentimento

At CoSchedule, we use Mention. So I’ll show you how to run a sentiment analysis with it.

To begin, login to your Mention account and select “Dashboard.”

Mention-Dashboard.jpg

Next, select “Listening Analysis.”

Mention-Listening Analysis.jpg

Now you’ve arrived at your “Listening Dashboard,” where you can track mentions by channel, the times people talk about you the most, and of course…

How your audience really feels about you!

For example, here’s what our sentiment score looks like over a recent seven-day period:

Each bar represents the total mentions for a given day.

The green segments show positive mentions. The gray show neutral ones. And the red are the ones you don’t enjoy seeing—negative mentions.

I ran this report on the afternoon of August 7, 2017. Up to that point, CoSchedule had 97 trackable mentions.

Of which, 21.6% were positive, 77.3% were neutral, and about 1% were negative.

Pro Tip: Neutral mentions are often shares or similar engagements. However, they’re worth combing through with a human eye. This way you can find and mark positive mentions the tool may have misinterpreted. Additionally, always look closely at your negative marks. For instance, if someone tweeted that, “CoSchedule is sick!” That may be counted as a negative mention. When in reality, it’s a good thing.

Overall, a healthy audience is one that’s growing, engaged, and speaking positively about your brand.

From a brand strategy perspective, one of the best best ways to nurture this kind of relationship is by simply fulfilling the brand promise you make.

Beyond having a great product, your customer service will go leagues in building a stellar brand.

At CoSchedule, our Customer Success Team is absolutely killer in this department. From onboarding to support, they’re nearly flawless at executing our brand promise.

 

I just love braggin’ on them.

Brand Strategy: Where Most Go Wrong

The old way of branding is “Me-Centric.”

It’s about talking “at” people with the primary topic being… Yourself.

Where Brands Go Bad

You know, straight up self-promotion masquerading as branding.

The question brands need to ask themselves is, “How does our message reinforce and fulfill the value we’ve promised to deliver?”

To do this, brands must adopt a “You-Centric” model.

Where Brands Succeed

Jay Baer explained this perfectly in his book Youtility.

He wrote: “What if instead of trying to be amazing you just focused on being useful? What if you decided to inform, rather than promote?”

To hyper-focus on the right people, open up the audience persona template included in your free kit.

Audience Persona Template

 

As you answer the questions in the workshop, you will define exactly who your target audience is and what they’re interested in. You’ll also work through your brand positioning statements.

Most importantly, you will outline their primary challenges and goals.

These serve as the fuel to your brand’s fire.

Why? Because, just as Jay Baer said, it’s about being useful and informative.

Your persona(s) is where you define exactly how you can do both. Because that’s the crux of the story-source brand strategy. 

It rests on five tenets:

  1. Know your audience.
  2. Know your value.
  3. Make a true promise.
  4. Foster a healthy relationship.
  5. Never stop.

Every tenet leads to the end of relationship. Because put another way, your brand is the quality of the relationship with your audience.

Obviously, you’re not taking your customers to prom (at least I hope not). So in this context relationship means the stickiness of trust coupled with compelling reasons to return.

It’s as dear Uncle Aristotle observed: “Man is a social animal…”

That’s how we’re psychologically wired. Don’t ignore it as irrelevant or non-professional. Embrace it as your new touchstone for approaching your audience in a way that works.

Sure, you’ll talk about yourself—you have to. If you don’t, there’s no relationship. But always do so from the perspective of how you’re responding to their needs.

How are they the source of your story? The hero of your narrative?

The story-source strategy creates a compelling, coherent, and flexible message. It’s simple at its core—yet can be layered in complex ways without sacrificing clarity.

How To Craft Your Story-Source Brand Strategy

The idea is to marry marketing and branding; making the two become one.

Your story-source will flow directly from answering the following questions. So pull out your worksheet and answer:

  1. Persona: Who is your audience?
  2. Challenge: What do they need to make their lives better?
  3. Brand Promise: Why do you *really* care about helping them do this?
  4. Content marketing strategy: In what ways can you help them do this right now?
  5. Channel mix: Which channels are best suited to help them?

With these answers, you’ve defined your persona, your unique value proposition, your brand promise, your content marketing strategy, and your channel mix.

Do you see how each marketing layer becomes focused and unified? Every interaction reinforces the same brand idea.

Story-Source Brand Strategy

Your brand promise defines how you will help your audience. Your story-source flows directly from this promise.

In the worksheet, you’ll find the “Brand Relationship Statements” section.

It’s where you’ll catalog the quality of relationship you’d like to foster with your audience and how you will do so.

The first statement can be expressed this way:

We love to help [your audience] because [why they truly matter to you].”

For example, at CoSchedule, we could say:
We love to help professional marketing teams because they face the same challenges we do.”

Your brand can be expressed by completing this statement:

We help [your audience] by nurturing a vibrant relationship through [specific action(s)] with every single interaction.

Another CoSchedule statement could be:

“We help professional marketing teams by nurturing a vibrant relationship through giving away content that can transform their work as marketers.”

Now, all that’s left is to tell the story—the most powerful branding tool at your disposal.

Stories are the ultimate interface between people.

Psychologically, we’re wired to relate to them. In fact, our brains look for story to make sense of what we’re seeing, hearing, or feeling.

Our brains look for story to make sense of what we're seeing, hearing, or feeling.

There are plenty of posts about the importance of telling great stories. But very few that help marketers do so.

Why? One reason is that storytelling means something other than renditions of Jack-and-Jill stories.

(For an in-depth look at storytelling for marketers, check out the single best post I’ve ever read on the topic by Alaura Weaver.)

Brand Strategy From The Storytelling Masters

Coca-Cola is one of the world’s most valuable and recognizable brands.

Coke ranks third on Interbrand’s top 100 global brands list—trailing tech luminaries Apple and Google.

That’s pretty phenomenal company to keep.

Their brand strategy, simply called “One Brand,” unifies the beverage giant’s global brand. In fact, they’ve distilled their brand story into just three words: “Taste the feeling.”

This strategy marries closely with their content marketing approach, called “Content 2020.”

One of the keys to their carbonated kingdom is called dynamic storytelling.

Here’s their pretty technical definition: Dynamic storytelling is the development of incremental elements of a brand idea that get dispersed systematically across multiple channels of conversation for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated brand experience.

Allow me to translate.

Dynamic storytelling means sharing your story-source everywhere, at all times, and via every appropriate medium.

So your “story” isn’t simply your company’s history. It’s not just about your culture. And it’s more than customer testimonials.

It’s the narrative of how you help your audience overcome their problems to get what they most deeply desire.

For more on Coke’s storytelling philosophy, check out the 2:48 mark and on in the video below.

The Strategy At Work In Advertising

Let’s dissect a great example from the classic “Guinness Guide to Oysters” ad created by David Ogilvy in 1951.

The Guinness Guide to Oysters

Source: Ogilvy On Advertising page 59

This is one of my all-time favorite ads. Notice that it does all of the things a story-source brand strategy should do.

It talks with their audience, educating them on how to enjoy a delightful meal. In fact, only four of the ten sections of the copy even reference Guinness.

Instead, they create mistyque. And sections such as “Delaware Bay” make the implicit promise that, “If you do this, you’ll be like William Penn.”

Not only are they promises of an enjoyable meal. They’re promises of being a culinary insider. An impressive and classy connoisseur.

There’s magic here that deepens the relationship between customer and brand.

They speak directly into the hearts (and bellies) of their target audience. This makes them the heroes of the story.

Executing Your Brand Strategy On Social Media

If you’re looking for a place to begin putting these things to work, social media is an excellent starting place.

They will give you nearly instant feedback on what’s resonating—and what’s not.

Combine the forces of your story-source brand strategy and our free tool, the Social Media Optimizer.

It’s the single most powerful tool for writing messages that obey all the laws of social-media physics.

Here’s what it looks like in the wild.

To begin, type in the social media message you want to optimize. You can select from four different message types: text, image, video, or link.

Then simply select the “Score My Message!” button.

Next, you’ll see an array of diagnostic information that will help you get surgical with improving your message.

First, you’ll see a specific score for every major social network.

Then you’ll see a breakdown of how your post type will perform on a specific platform. Plus, a detailed “Overview” of how your message ranks in each measurement category.

What’s so helpful is that the tool already knows which kind of message types work best. And can score everything from character count to emotional sentiment.

Finally, you’ll also see the absolute best times to post. This way you can either schedule your optimized messages manually or in CoSchedule (best time scheduling will automatically do this for you).

With the story-source brand strategy

Go Forth And Brand!

Gary the cow certainly wishes he would have had our brand strategy to work with. Thankfully, we don’t have to go through the pain and confusion branding can evoke.

Don’t forget to download your free kit that includes the story-source brand strategy worksheet, audience persona template, and social media messages template.

This kit is a powerful branding trifecta. So work the process, ask the tough questions, and answer them honestly.

As you do, remember the five tenets of this brand strategy:

  1. Know your audience.
  2. Know your value.
  3. Make a true promise.
  4. Foster a healthy relationship.
  5. Never stop.

And you’re well on your way to successful branding that appeals to the right people.

Happy marketing 😀