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Art & science: Crafting corporate brand strategy

By Ryan Rieches, CEO and Co-Founder of RiechesBaird

Ryan Rieches
CEO and Co-Founder

Courage. It’s the most important trait for an executive team to call upon when defining their corporate brand strategy. Why? It takes guts to venture into unchartered territory and truly stand out from the rest of the field. When a company commits a blunder, it can mean years of missed opportunities. But when a team nails a visionary brand strategy, it can establish trust, acceptance and loyalty, and lead to sustainable business growth.

With so much at stake, it’s no surprise that company leaders increasingly seek new data and analytics to make informed decisions. Yet when evaluating a corporate brand, it is not a matter of considering science, or data, first and then art, or emotion. What you might call the head-and-heart approach to corporate brand making must be intertwined throughout the entire process.

It must start at the head of companies, too. Corporate brand development shouldn’t be delegated to the marketing department. The entire executive team must be part of the process and ask some tough questions. Among them:  What can this organization be the best in the world at doing? What do the numbers tell us about what moves the needle? Now the heart part: What are we extremely passionate about? What are we willing to sacrifice in order to stand for something truly unique?

After peering in the mirror, it’s important for companies to gaze out the window. They must consider their target audience, their business category, the competitive threats and the potential opportunities ahead. They must study the numbers, layering the science of quantitative research to add rigor to the process, while considering what they hear and know to be true.  The art of qualitative research is the ability to uncover how and why target audiences have an affinity to a potential brand promise.

Armed with these insights, the art of brand positioning can begin. Ideally, a brand should stand for one thing and also have the flexibility to bend with the company and evolve with time. To get to that one thing, it’s important for a company to identify the brand’s emotional drivers and then back those drivers up with logical reasons to buy.

Our brains are made up of two parts. The frontal cortex provides us with logic, and the limbic system drives our emotions.  As humans, the strength of our emotions often overrules logic. Both are important. The ideal brand positioning creates deep engagement with the audience through powerful emotional drivers and is supported by logical benefits, allowing the audience to rationally justify their decisions. 

With strategic positioning in place, it is time to give the brand a unique face and voice—human characteristics that help it deliver its brand promise. Remember, people do business with people. It’s imperative for the brand’s essence, its heart and soul, to be brought to life. Clearly identify the brand’s personality traits to define how you want the brand to be perceived.  Clarify these characteristics to guide the creation of important brand assets such as the corporate identity, brandline and the entire look and feel of the brand. 

The art and science of brand building continues in every phase. The age of Big Data is upon us. We should use every opportunity to assess real-time insights gained via social media with long-term viewpoints of business trends and cycles to maintain a healthy, relevant brand.

But we also should remember: Businesses only achieve their true potential once they take the bold move of unlocking the emotional power of their brand. That takes courage.           

Ryan Rieches is the CEO and co-founder of RiechesBaird, a brand strategy firm dedicated to helping businesses and organizations achieve breakthrough success through the inspirational power of brands built on rigorous, evidence-based thinking and courageous ideas.

Comments (1)
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Ford Kanzler
Posted Dec 05, 2013 at 11:49 AM

Solid thoughts. The lack of strategic, competitive differentiation is epidemic. Few brands have attempted process to completion and then consistently applied their strategy across the full range of sales and marketing tactics. Strongly suggest Richard Rumelts' "Good Strategy/Bad Strategy" and/or Jack Trout's "Differentiate or Die" to help put strategy development on track.

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