Branding is a balancing act

All to often companies find themselves with a brilliant strategy – on paper at least. When they try to implement the strategy, they run into obstacles such as channels, partners, technology, infrastructure, competition, or lack of resources. The reverse is also true. Companies can spend so much time executing that they lose sight of the business objective. They might end up with an awesome website, but no real results.

Effective brands, that is, brands that deliver on their promise and help companies sell more stuff, are those that find the right balance between strategy and tactics, between images and words, between effect and affect. Every brand is made up of several different components: visuals, messages, voice, and personality, for example. Each of these is integrated into specific deliverables like a company logo or tagline or photographic style. The trick is to find the right combination and then apply them consistently throughout everything you do.

It starts with strategy – how will you achieve your objectives? Depending on your brand promise some strategies are going to be more effective than others. For example, you probably won’t see Nascar investing in “environmentally-friendly” campaigns; you would expect it from Starbucks. There are lots of different ways to achieve your objectives. Make sure that your strategies align with your brand promise and that you can actually implement them. This is what I call the “duh” test. Run the strategies by a colleague, friend or spouse and see what they think. If they ask you a question and your reaction is “duh”…you might want to rethink the strategy.

Next come the tactics – what exactly will you do to implement the strategy? If your strategy was to grow your market share by expanding into new markets, a tactic might be to partner with a complementary brand in the new market to jump start your brand recognition. This might require a joint email campaign, billboards and local ads on radio and TV. The key is to align the tactics with the strategy so that everything is in support of the brand. Otherwise, you end with a lot of random activities – all of them are probably pretty cool on their own – but together they don’t deliver.

To be valuable, strategy must be practical, and tactics must be integrated. With the right balance of strategy and tactics, your brand will grow and so will your business.