This question originally came in on Quora.
Definition of a Brand Strategy
A branding strategy is a document that shows how you plan to get from the current image you project to the future image which you would like to project.
It's Not a Marketing Strategy
Note that a branding strategy is not a marketing strategy. A branding strategy is a long-term investment in your image versus a marketing strategy is a short- to medium-term investment in driving increased revenue.
The Connection Between the Two
Branding and marketing strategy can happen sequentially or, more often, simultaneously because most businesses don't have the luxury of waiting until their image is fully refined before they go to market. Also, the results of marketing normally inform the branding strategy and help to refine it.
Goal of a Brand Strategy
The goal of a brand strategy is increased brand equity, meaning that you can charge more than your competitors for selling basically the same thing.
Essential Elements of a Brand Strategy
Notes: Not an academic dissertation. Normally best done by brand consultants. It should combine the visual (identity) and messaging (communication) elements with team elements (organizational culture) and business elements (operationalization). Most likely it won't look like this, but you should expect to walk away with an action plan that tells you something like the below. And you should agree with it...if you try to implement something that feels alien it won't work.
1. Problem Statement
Example: "We are starting a new line of high-performance fashion sneakers in a crowded market and nobody knows who we are. We need a good brand to help us stand out and charge a premium. There isn't a lot of time to get this going, maybe six months or less."
2. Baseline Assessment
Example: "We have a great product, proprietary technology, an experienced and talented team, and funding. But the partners disagree on what the brand should be, and they're very opinionated."
3. Goal Statement
Example: We would like to sell 1,000,000 units by Year 3 at a price of at least US$75.
Example: Our designers will develop two brand prototypes. We will recruit customers from among our target market to participate in focus groups where they will see and respond to each design, and indicate which they think is stronger.
5. Results (to be filled in after research is complete)
Example: We found that our audience prefers neither Style A or Style B, because they didn't have a clear sense of what our unique value proposition or desired identity was, even after we explained it to them. We did some internal work to clarify this, had outside designers do some draft designs, and tested those. Our customers responded strongly to Style E, so that's what we went with.
6. Brand Identity Spelled Out
This is where you clearly articulate all of the above.
7. Implementation Strategy
This is where you'll list all the particulars of how you'll carry out the brand strategy. It will normally be very involved and should have a component for every department in your business.
Note: Are you passionate about branding? Do you basically think about it nonstop? Consider joining our new daily discussion group, "All Things Brand: The Conversation." It's not on LinkedIn, so you don't have to worry about your image :-)