Before we dig into what a brand strategist is, it’s important to understand what we’re not:
A Brand Strategist is NOT the expert in your brand – YOU are.
It’s a common misconception that brand strategists have all the answers, when in fact, just the opposite is true: we have all the questions. I can’t speak for any psychic-ability-toting strategists out there, but I assure you, I am far from all-knowing. Here’s what I am, though…
>> A personal sounding board for your ideas, goals, and dreams…
>> Your right-hand woman and project manager…
>> A master researcher and info organizer…
>> The bridge connecting you to a place where your team has the tools to create on behalf of your brand …
AND your mirror, mirror on the wall… (except instead of telling you exactly what you want to hear, I’ll actually help you get there!)
What Does a Brand Strategist Do, Anyway?
Essentially, as a brand strategist, it’s my job to get to know YOU: your goals, your style, your voice, your ideal audience, and your natural gifts. Then, it’s all about bringing these things together with the kind of swagger and style that resonates with your audience and has them lining up around the block for your product or service. After all, your brand is the culmination of the beliefs, feelings, and experiences that people share with your business.
To reach your brand goals, you’ll need to project your personality and values in a palpable way.
I’ll give you an example. I recently had the pleasure of working with The Cosmos In You podcast host and coach extraordinaire, Suzannah Scully, on a full rebrand. You can find a very thorough comprehensive breakdown of her rebrand in one of my most recent blogs. But, suffice it to say, a complete rebrand is no joke! There are a lot of moving parts and decisions to be made, and while it’s different for everyone, the end goal is always the same: reflect what’s inside on the outside.
Psst… I’ll let you in on a little secret.
Before you know HOW, you’ll need to know WHAT and WHY.
What I mean is, before you take action by mapping out a new color palette or changing your logo, it’s crucial to understand *what* you want to convey to your audience and *why.* Think of your brand’s message as the foundation of the house. You can’t start building until that’s settled, can you? Once we’ve uncovered your brand’s values and messaging, it’s alllllll structural. (And I’ve got one heck of a blueprint to go by!)
10 Questions Your Brand Strategist Should Ask You
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1. Brand Character: What emotions does your brand evoke?
This is one of the first things I want to understand when I’m working with a new client. Does their brand make clients feel inexplicably happy or does it invoke a sense of rebellion? Does it make people want to go change the world, or does it hit closer to home and make someone want to improve something in their own lives? Love, anger, yearning for knowledge – all these emotions belong in business. It’s my job to help a client connect those emotions with strong messages that strengthen their brand.
2. Brand Weaknesses: What shouldn’t your brand do?
Not everything works for everyone. That’s a no brainer, right? But the reality is that many people don’t connect that statement to their brand. They may see a tear-jerker commercial go viral and think – THAT’s the key – that’s what I need to do next to be successful. A brand that is bold and goes against the grain won’t connect with a soft, sentimental message. Their ideal clients would connect to a high-adrenaline spot like skydiving or racing down a highway. When I work with my clients, it’s SO important for us to identify what messages they should not portray to their audience.
3. Brand Opportunities: If someone new stepped in to run your business, what would they change?
This an example of the more difficult questions a brand strategist should be asking. It’s hard to turn the tables and look at your brand from the outside, and it’s essential. When you turn off your personal bias, you start to see ways to be more effective in your brand. ie: I’ve always done it that way, or that took me 6 months to develop. You may realize that you perform a small task every day that takes too much time and that you should automate or cut it. Or, you may decide a core product isn’t selling and align your brand strategy towards launching something new. Whether the change is big or small, the shift in point of view is crucial.
4. Brand Opportunities: What would you stop doing if you weren’t following popular advice?
I love asking my clients to step outside of what’s “expected” and instead do what they believe and value. My own personal example is social media. A lot of strategists will tell their clients to have a presence on every social media outlet. I do NOT agree. You have to believe in the medium you are utilizing. I know there are certain platforms that I have proven success of attracting my ideal clients. So that’s where I’m active. Simple as that.
5. Brand Future: What specific events would make you feel successful? (Being featured in a certain magazine, speaking on a specific stage, etc.)
Future goals inspire current success. Do you want to write a book? Or speak at TedX? Make sure you have big dreams. That’s what fuels progress. And it’s what you can daydream about when you’re only at 500 words on a blog post that you were hoping to get to 2,000. ????
6. Ideal Clients: Who or what does your ideal client aspire to be?
And when you understand that answer – how can you help them get there? To form a true emotional connection with your ideal clients, you have to understand what drives them. What are their goals? Motivations? Hopes? Dreams? Understanding your client’s aspirations will fuel your messaging and inspire new products or services.
7. Brand Communication: If you bought a 30-second Super Bowl commercial, what would you say?
This is a new question for me. I came up with it a couple days before posting this blog. I’m very excited to start using it for all my clients. When you first read the question – it seems fun and silly. Because… it’s writing a Super Bowl Ad. But when you actually start to think about the question – you realize it’s true meaning. Ask yourself: What is the strongest brand message you can portray in 30 seconds that millions of people will remember you for? Then, the question turns thought-provoking and much more serious.
8. Brand Stories: Why did you start your business?
I’m a huge proponent of telling stories to further develop your brand. People like hearing stories. We’re hard-wired to remember them! They want to hear about your struggles, your fears, and how you got to where you are today. For brand development, I love this question because it relates back to a core message of your brand. Did you start your brand because you wanted to help others achieve their goals? Or because you wanted freedom from a 9-5 corporate job? Both of those examples are strong messages that your ideal clients will relate to.
9. Brand Promise: What is the experience your clients/customers have when they buy from you?
Your client’s experience shapes their perception of you for life. It shapes what they say about you to their friends, what they share about you on social media, and what they’ll buy from you down the road. You need to understand and develop that perception to fit in with your brand message.
10. Brand Context: What “unfair advantages” do you have? (Past experience, network, location, access, time, work ethic, or talent?)
This is my own twist on a somewhat monotonous question. A lot of brand strategists may ask “what are your strengths?’ and stop there. I love this question because it forces my clients to think about their strengths in a new way. YOU have many unfair advantages compared to your competition. It’s my job to help you realize what those unfair advantages are. And then turn them into brand messages, values, and stories to connect with more of your ideal clients.
With a brand strategist at your side, you’ll learn how to communicate *meaning*, stand out against the competition, and use your most cherished values and talents to turn your clients or customers into total brand fanatics – WITHOUT sacrificing that beautiful soul of yours.
Collaborating with a brand strategist is much more than a series of Q&A, though; it’s a concerted effort to stay accountable and true to yourself. Best of all, the perspective and guidance you’ll get from a strategist will help you develop and strengthen your brand as a whole – which results in increased demand, from the RIGHT clients and customers. You know, the ones who are PERFECT for you. Brand strategists help them find you!
From your brand colors, graphic styles, and fonts to your language, tone of voice, and tagline – a brand strategist works with you to find the answers you need to build – and scale – the strongest, most genuine version of your company… One that reflects your individuality and skills, makes decision-making a breeze, and allows you to work exclusively with clients who just get you. And let’s face it – there are about a million questions swimming around that brain of yours. We’re here to ask the right ones and turn your answers into actions.
A Brand Strategist Helps You be More YOU
Sometimes, it’s difficult to find our own truths. We’re too enveloped in our own minds, too full of uncertainty, and too dependent on emulating others to allow our inner-brand flourish. I get it! You see other brands you like, aesthetics that appeal to you, language that pulls you in, strategies that seem to work for others… and it’s hard not to mimic the brands we’ve grown to love. We think, “If it’s working for them, maybe it’ll work for me, too!” But the bottom line is, your brand is inherently unique because it’s yours. And you, my friend, are not them. Besides, that brand is taken. Wouldn’t you rather build a brand that suits YOU perfectly?
Even if you aren’t doing something outlandishly different with your business model, you can still set yourself apart with the right positioning. A perfect example comes from the TV show Mad Men. After scoring the Lucky Cigarettes account, they built the brand around the way the cigarettes were made – “it’s toasted.” The funny thing is, all of the competitor brands also toasted their cigarettes, but no one else was saying it.
Attracting an audience isn’t about reinventing the wheel; it’s about selling it.
Brand strategists exist to guide your thought process and help you achieve your goals. Think of us as your brand’s very own personal trainer. You set the goals, we simply help you reach them using tried-and-true methods and strategies. With this highly-targeted information in tow, brand strategists prepare your very own personalized Brand Book. Brand Books are an all-encompassing overview of both what your brand IS and what it ISN’T. From your go-to language style and phrasing to the types of imagery you use, your brand book will aid every future brand decision you make – big or small.
So, I’ve got to ask…
What does “on-brand” mean to you?
If you aren’t sure… it’s time to find out!