Strategy Video Series: Episode 02
Brand Strategy

Strategy: Episode 02 Transcript

Hi, my name is Jerry Thomas, and I’m the President/CEO of Decision Analyst. And today’s discussion is an introduction to brand strategy.

  • Elements of a Brand
    And when we talk about brands, we’re referring to some type of symbol, or name, or sign that identifies and distinguishes one product from another product, or from competitive products (and we can think of this identifies and distinguishes as the tangible function or tangible purpose of a brand), but they’re also intangible components of a brand, and we’ll talk a lot about those as we get into the series. And intangibles are other kinds of associations, or values, or linkages to that brand‒emotions, imagery, feelings, things that we can classify as intangible.

    And trademark law has an interesting concept called “secondary meaning,” and over time a brand acquires secondary meaning through advertising and through usage; and this secondary meaning is in effect a measurement of the culmination of a brand strategy. For example, pull this all together, a caterpillar refers to a, it’s not quite an insect yet, but it refers to an insect like creature that becomes an insect, and so that’s what the word “caterpillar” means, but the word “caterpillar” has also acquired secondary meaning as the identity of a brand of earth-moving equipment. And in that context caterpillar has acquired massive secondary meaning: and it stands for strength, and hardness, and progress, and construction, and diesel clatter, and the color yellow. So, Caterpillar as a brand has acquired all of this secondary meaning, and so part of brand strategy is all about building the right type of secondary meaning for your brand.

So, we talked a little bit about brand, [and] when we talk about strategy, we’re really talking about the concentration, of effort. “How do you focus effort? Focus energy? Focus communication?,” so that you break through all the noise and the clutter. And, how do you differentiate your brand? So, having a great brand strategy pays huge dividends for a product, or a brand, or a service. One, you can charge higher prices; you can enjoy greater customer loyalty: you have some protection, not complete, but you have some protection, from the economic ups and downs of business cycles; you also have a some insulation, or cushion, to protect you against adverse publicity; and it makes all of your advertising investments and marketing investments work better or be more effective, if the brand strategy is right.

And when we talk about brand strategy, it can be brand strategy for the corporation itself. For example, let’s talk about Procter and Gamble; the company owns hundreds of brands, and each one has a strategy, and a marketing plan to support it, and I’m sure there’s also a marketing plan, or a branding strategy for the umbrella corporate name “Procter and Gamble.” So the corporate is a brand too, [and] the company name is a brand. So that’s a different strategy, and each individual brand owned by that company has its own strategy.

  • Core Questions for Brand Strategy
    So, what are some of the core elements of a brand strategy? At its most basic level, it involves questions, such as; “Who do we target?” “What’s our optimal target market?” and “How do we position our brand vis-a-vis other brands?” “How do we differentiate our brand compared to other brands?” “What kind of a brand image do we want to project?” “And what kind of a personality do we want to give our brand, or have our brand portray?” If it’s potato chips, we may want it to be fun bouncy type personality; but if we’re selling caskets, it may be somber and serious. So, what kind of an image do we want to project? And what kind of a personality do we want to portray? And what’s the level of product quality? And what’s the price level? And then, all of these elements have to be woven together so that they reinforce each other, and we achieve synergy overall.

    So, how do you get to an optimal brand strategy? It’s actually quite complicated, and it takes a lot of iterations to get to an optimal brand strategy. And it’s a combination of good primary research and strategic vision. So, it’s research combined with what you in your heart of hearts want for your brand strategically. You need both of those elements to create a great strategy. And typically, we rely heavily on qualitative research techniques, from ethnography to depth interviews to focus groups, and online forums, techniques that allow us to really understand the deeper motivations and perceptions in a product category and how people feel and think about brands.

So, this type of research is essential to help us build strategy concepts, or positioning concepts; and then, it’s test and retest, and test and retest until we get to an optimal strategy. And that’s part of it. And then, the other part of it is what do we want that brand to become long-term? So, we’ve got to meld those two things together–what the research is telling us, and what your vision is telling you about the future–and those two things have to meld and harmonize.

And it’s really important to do this strategy research because if you know your strategy is right, then you can stick with it through thick and thin, you can invest money in it, knowing that it’s gonna pay off in the long-term. Many great strategies have been abandoned before they ever have time to work. So, it’s so important to know that your strategy is right, so you can commit to it and invest the advertising dollars to make it come true long-term.

And one last set of thoughts about execution of a brand strategy: The details of execution can magnify and enrich the strategy. And I’m thinking now of the wonderful example, of over a hundred years old, of Morton Salt, when they developed a salt that didn’t cake up when it was raining and developed the slogan ‘When it rains it pours.’ But the way they executed that strategy with the picture of a young girl carrying an umbrella and rain, apparently carrying home a carton of salt that’s pouring‒and all of those elements were tied together‒but the confidence and the bounce in that little girl’s step and the way she was portrayed, and the energy and the confidence that she portrayed, magnified that whole strategy and pulled it all together. So, executional details, you know, research comes back in again to help us tweak and fine-tune and test and retest, so that we can harmonize all of these executional details to magnify the overall brand strategy.

And one final thought: if the brand strategy is right, and if it’s consistently pursued, and if the advertising investments are sufficient to break through, over the long-term that brand can become extremely valuable. In many companies the value of the brand’s they own, you know, it doesn’t show on the balance sheet, but very often the value of those brands is much greater than the paper value of the corporation itself. So, there’s a great prize in the long-term if brand strategy is right.

Thank you.

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If you would like more information on Strategy Research, or if you have any questions, or about the videos, please contact Jerry W. Thomas by emailing or calling 1-817-640-6166.