4 Essential Elements of a Brand Strategy Framework (and the Power of Socialization)
There are core components to a brand strategy framework that are foundational. No matter how unique your company or brand, these should not be overlooked.
Here is my guide for brand strategy framework best practices, including:
- What is a brand strategy, and why is it important?
- What should a brand strategy framework include?
- The power of socialization
But I recognize that every company is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will guarantee success. Companies generally employ custom strategies for their products and brands. While some strategies work for certain companies, the same can fall short for others. It’s not just a matter of defining what needs to happen, but execution and timing play a significant role in the outcome as well.
What Is a Brand Strategy Framework?
A brand strategy is typically a three-to-five-year plan that outlines what needs to happen to achieve measurable brand and financial objectives in a given time frame (e.g., improve “health” related brand perception and achieve 20% growth in five years).
Once a brand strategy is established, companies review it periodically to make sure they are hitting milestones and adjusting strategies as needed. They consider what is working/not working and/or any major market changes that require a pivot.
Building a robust and well-defined brand strategy framework typically takes significant time commitment from a cross-functional team and should not be taken lightly. It is essentially a high-level roadmap that impacts all brand-related activities and should be informed by consumer insights, market trends and company dynamics.
What Should a Brand Strategy Framework Include?
While brand strategies may differ, there are four core elements that should be part of any brand strategy framework discussion and documentation.
The four essential elements to include in a brand strategy framework are:
1. Frame of Reference and Target Consumers
Frame of reference refers to the competitive context in which your brand plays. For example, Pepsi plays in carbonated soft drinks, while Gatorade competes against hydration sport drinks. These are two very different consumer needs in the overall beverage category.
Clearly identifying the consumer space your brand plays in can open up new, relevant opportunities to stretch your brand and better reach target consumers.
2. Brand Positioning Relevant to Target Consumer
Brand positioning is the space you plan to own within your competitive landscape. This will form the basis for how you talk about your brand across media and technology platforms and the benefits you choose to highlight to drive distinction. A brand positioning should be:
- credible for your brand
- differentiated against competition
- resonate with your target consumer
Note: a positioning is not a full-blown marketing campaign. Rather, it’s an internal statement that brings together target audience, frame of reference, point of difference and reasons to believe.
Here is helpful brand positioning framework:
- To target [specific audience],
- For [defined] frame of reference,
- Brand X is the [functional/emotional] point of differentiation
- Because [attributes] reasons to believe
3. Brand Architecture & Expansion
This refers to the role the brand plays within a company portfolio Brand architecture is the organizational structure of your product portfolio and corresponding brand assets. Thinking of brand architecture (e.g., how to organize your brand) upfront will:
- Reduce the risk of cannibalizing other parts of the business
- Allow you to take a thoughtful approach to building the right equity bridges to achieve long-term goals.
4. Brand Guardrails
Lastly, areas that have caused significant confusion or conversation around what the brand will and will not stand for should be documented. This can include guardrails around packaging or product development that are in-line with the brand vision and long-term goals. Documenting these areas will ensure teams have the clarity they need as they move into the execution phase.
The Power of Socialization
Now, having a well-defined brand strategy that contains the four core components is just the start. In order to be successful, a lot hinges on execution and timing. According to Crocs CEO Andrew Rees, in order to succeed:
“You can never (over) communicate, especially when it comes to strategy… Focus on consistent, reliable execution and have a clearly understood plan.”
Overcommunication and socialization is key. The team that creates the brand strategy needs to secure the appropriate executive support and resources needed to achieve the objectives.
Communication, however, cannot stop at the top. The team must socialize relentlessly, so everyone in the organization understands the plan, can ask clarifying questions, and knows their role in helping achieve financial and brand objectives. The power of internal socialization cannot be underestimated – if the people working on the brand do not believe in the strategy, then it is destined to fail in execution.
The most successful teams work hard to ensure alignment on brand strategy framework fundamentals and plan ahead to outpace the competition, maintain brand relevance and drive continual brand growth.