What Is Brand Strategy in the Digital Age?

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Before we start a strategy process, many questions come to us. The more our clients ask, the smoother the process to come to a (new) brand strategy.

We also come across many of the same questions. In this blog, we answer a few common questions about brand strategy in the digital age.

Is a digital-only strategy enough?

No. As a company, you don’t want a strategy for both digital and IT and finance and HR. You want to incorporate all components of your brand in one brand strategy, which serves as the foundation for the various components. Moreover, if you optimize one part, you pull too much on one side of your business. The chance that you end up in a maze of different strategies is only very big. And the consequence is that your audience but also your employee won’t understand your brand anymore.

You cannot develop a strategy for the digital part of your brand or company and leave the rest alone. Your website, webshop or social media channels are tools to make your strategy executable.

So how do you tackle digital?

By first thinking about all the fundamental assumptions and choices, you’ve made about your unique offering, your ideal customer, your values, your market and the customer’s needs. And those are precisely the points where brand strategy is all about. From here follows a translation of those choices to your digital assets.

Is brand strategy only about the long term?

There is no term for strategy. For some companies (often in very specific markets) the competition or customer value remains unchanged for years. In these sectors, companies successfully stick to an original strategy.

Strategic changes occur in practice when existing models are challenged, i.e. in difficult times. And then you have to concretize these changes very quickly. Living examples abound last year. Are you in these difficult times far away from the needs of your target market, market information or your unique offering? Then you’re going to have a hard time.

Brand strategy is not about now or later, the short or long term, but about the fundamentals of how and why your company works:

  • the added value for your customers, your competitive advantage
  • your motives, ambitions and dreams
  • the motivation of your target group to buy your products

How to develop a brand strategy?

Don’t lay out your brand strategy along a timeline, but dig deep. Brand strategy is about what you’re going to do now to seize the advantage tomorrow. Every day. And to know what you’re going to do tomorrow, make sure you have that dot on the horizon. Based on that dot, you make your choices.

Does the competitive advantage still exist?

Yes, it does! Despite the fact that the competitive advantage of Amazon, Apple and Google is huge, governments are introducing laws and regulations to limit the power of these tech giants. But market forces don’t touch them; in fact, they dictate market forces. But even though these tech giants are almost impossible to beat, you can still gain your market share.

So how do you still gain a competitive advantage?

Competitive advantage is achieved when you are able to understand what your customers really want, and when you continue to accelerate with a stable team so that you can continue to amaze your customers. You achieve a competitive advantage by investing in knowledge and bringing talent together. Today’s most successful companies understand that differentiation is no longer expressed in product, price, place and promotion, or Customer solution, Communication, Convenience and Cost-to-the-customer.

There is no holy grail, it is an interplay of many factors, which in turn must be placed in the right context. The first-mover advantage, for example, has helped many start-ups but also caused them a great deal of suffering. However, a number of points always emerge clearly:

  • Build a strong identity, in which behavior and attitude are clear.
  • Ensure a high degree of agility in the business model.
  • Dare to choose.
  • Focus on your customer, on people-oriented business.
  • Ensure a technological advantage, especially in knowledge.

Do major disruptors constantly change their strategies?

It seems so. Because it seems that giants such as Amazon, Apple and Google change strategy every year. They throw money around to accelerate. But don’t confuse these innovations with a change in the strategic direction of these tech giants. In the case of Amazon, for example, most new products fit into 1consistent strategy: ‘give away (almost then, in the case of Prime) and add users’. This strategy has been around for over 50 years.

Surely I want to deliver a product that everyone likes?

No. We often find that the target group is too generic, and that choices are not sharp enough. ‘So no one thinks that packaging is ugly’ or ‘everyone has to like it to read this’ are frequently heard terms among our people.

So how do I make these choices?

In today’s market, there are many providers, both online and offline. Also in your market and your target audience buys all over the world. Make sure you make an emotional connection with your audience, and you can only do that with a small part of the total audience. As before: deepen your target audience, start small and create that oil slick within the same target audience that values the same standards or values.

Do I really need a strategy? A little common sense, right?

Farmer’s sense is very good if you work alone. Start-ups don’t seem to follow any plan and are very careful about spending. What you see a start-up doing is acting at high speed, keeping a fast pace and reacting very quickly to the market.

This agility is not a strategy. It is an incredibly useful skill that follows from making the right choices. This does not mean that these start-ups do not have a strategy. A strategy is not a plan; it is a framework and the basic principles for decision making. Successful start-ups think a lot about these basics, they ask questions and test basic assumptions. Start-ups must have these skills because their resources are scarce. Farmer’s sense often resides with the entrepreneur. If you don’t express this farmer’s sense in a strategy, you can never make broad-based decisions, find support for decision making, and find employee self-efficacy.

Defining a brand identity and your brand strategy gives your brand and staff something to hold on to, without always having to wait for the farmer’s wisdom of the entrepreneur. This gives your organization the right direction and the agility to respond quickly to changes in the market. Deepen this strategy, and especially carry it out in attitude and behavior.

Especially now, when staff shortages are everywhere. The new generation of workers wants to be meaningful, more than opting for a higher salary. This meaning should be embedded in your brand strategy.