5 Steps to Defining a Successful Brand Strategy

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Selfmade, Brit + Co’s interactive business course, wrapped up another week of smart business women sharing their best ideas and experiences. This week we dive into all things BRAND, and believe us, there’s a lot to cover! As part of our collaboration with Office Depot, we’re sharing a sampling of what our students learned so you can learn along with us!

Emily Heyward, branding expert, co-founder of Red Antler, and author of Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love from Day One, shared five principles that define a brand strategy. But first, why should people care? “Of all the choices they have in your category and all the places they can spend their time, why should they pick you? Branding at its core is figuring that out, being able to articulate: Why does this business matter? Why does it need to exist in the world? What problem is it solving for people?” says Heyward.

Here’s a recap:

1. Solve real problems. First, figure out what problem you’re solving, not just the solution you’re offering. And avoid the backtrack: “The problem shouldn’t be self-serving,” says Heyward. “You don’t want to back fit it into your business because people are not sitting around waiting for your business to exist.” Instead, ask yourself: “What is the problem that exists even if my business didn’t exist? What’s the human truth that people are walking around and experiencing every day?”

2. Connect the rational with the emotional. What is your product actually doing for consumers? Heyward says rather than thinking, ‘Well, I have my emotional brand narrative and I have my product benefits, how do I balance them?’ — it’s better to ask yourself, ‘How do I connect them? How do I think about one idea that really expresses what my product actually does but brings it to a more emotionally relevant place?’ You want to weave that emotional narrative through everything you do so your customer feels that story and identifies with it.

3. Think beyond a social community. “Because of social media, there’s this feeling of pressure that you have to see your community online, like if you’re not seeing people commenting on your Instagram posts and sharing your stories that you don’t have community,” says Heyward. But social media doesn’t make sense for every brand. Think about the brands you love that you don’t necessarily follow online. “The way that we think about community is: How do you tap into people’s values and what they care about? And from that create a connection among your audience that might not be seen but it’s certainly felt,” says Heyward.

4. Focus, focus, focus. “You really do need to get comfortable leaving sets of consumers behind in order to tell a more focused and compelling story,” says Heyward. That means don’t try to be all things to all people. Find your niche and grow affinity over time, *then* you can start to look at branching out into more products and services.

5. Redefine expectations. “Once you’ve gotten past the problem that you’re solving for people, think about how am I going to surpass people’s expectations?” says Heyward. “Think about an amazing experience in a restaurant or in a hotel. It’s not even about the food. It’s those little moments like when they give you a free bag of cookies that get you wanting to come back and experience more, because it’s those moments when you’re not expecting it that someone can really surprise you.”

You’ve got your idea, you’ve got your business model, now it’s all about building a brand and Office Depot OfficeMax is all about helping your business shine. From signs, posters & banners to get your business noticed, to marketing materials to keep your customers informed, Office Depot OfficeMax offer a full suite of business services & solutions to help you bring your brand vision to life.

Head to Office Depot’s Selfmade page to check out even more amazing business resources (and discounts!) to help you accomplish more on your entrepreneurial journey. These offers are available for a limited time only, so be sure to take advantage of all this goodness while supplies last.

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