Rule # 4 for Global Brand Leaders: They make brand strategy the business strategy (and vice versa)

I posed the question, What is Brand Strategy?, in my May 2, 2013 post. It’s a question I usually ask executives at the start of a Global Brand Leaders training session.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 8.15.08 PM

Many attendees think the term brand strategy means branding, that is to say, choices regarding primary branding elements like brand name, logo, and visual identity. Or, they link brand strategy to choices of marketing communications such as advertising, publicity, social media, or to the company’s website. A few mention the important role that other aspects of the marketing mix—products, place, price, and people—frequently play due to their “branding effects.”

I have chosen to refine my answer to that question here to once again illuminate the distinction between brand strategy and branding and to strengthen the argument that brands win in the marketplace when they conceive of a competitive strategy (be it referred to as brand strategy OR business strategy) for creating a unique and valuable position in the minds of customers.

Brand strategy is NOT branding

Branding seeks to achieve two important goals:

  • To help customers identify your company and its products and services
  • To shape customers perceptions about your company, and its products and services in a way that is meaningful to them so they perceive compelling functional and emotional benefits from their interactions and experiences with the brand

While it’s obvious that branding is a crucial part of a company’s brand strategy, it represents only a part of the story because branding decisions occur during the execution phase of a company’s brand strategy. And before you can execute on a brand strategy you must first conceive of that brand strategy.

Brand strategy is more than branding. It is a well-conceived competitive strategy that can foster the right branding and customer experiences for a company, and its products and services, to win in the marketplace.

A well-conceived brand strategy is a powerful business strategy (and vice versa)

A winning brand strategy is synonymous with a winning business strategy. It takes a well-conceived and executed business strategy to build a strong brand and business. It takes a well-conceived and executed brand strategy to build a strong brand and business. It’s the same thing.

Whether you call it business strategy or brand strategy, it is about focusing your business on winning with the customers you choose to serve by creating, delivering, and communicating a compelling value for them. This imperative to win with customers by providing them with compelling value is what defines brand strategy, or business strategy, if you prefer.

Every brand strategy must answer two key questions: Where to play? and How to win?[1] The answers to these two questions define the competitive strategy for a brand and business.

Where to play? requires decisions about the product-markets in which the brand and business will compete (the segment(s) of customers it will choose to serve based on knowledge of their unfulfilled or unrealized functional and emotional needs—and equally important, those customers it will not) and the level of investment that it must make to be successful.

How to win? requires decisions regarding the value proposition that a brand and business seeks to deliver to its customers if it is to satisfy their unfulfilled or unrealized needs, the assets and competencies required for this purpose, and the functional strategies and programs to be employed in order to deliver on the chosen strategy.  (Branding choices take place once decisions have been made on Where to play? and on what Value Proposition needs to be delivered to the customers that will be served.)

It is the answers to these two questions that define the essence of business strategy. It is the answers to these two questions that define the essence of brand strategy. Again, it’s the same thing.

brand strategy is business strategy

The real battleground for every brand is in the customer’s mind. Brands win on this battleground when they create a unique and valuable position in the minds of customers. This occurs when brands prove themselves capable of creating, delivering, and communicating a compelling value for the customers they are choosing to serve.

This then is the true meaning of brand strategy!

If you enjoyed this post then you should also read the posts below which have received acclaim from readers of this blog.

Rule # 1  for Global Brand Leaders: Brands exist to improve lives

Marketing strategy is business strategy

How to talk about your “branding” so your audience gets it?

How do you talk about “your brand” so that everyone gets it?


[1] My commentary is intended to build on the frameworks advanced by David Aaker in Strategic Market Management, 10th Edition (2013) and earlier editions, and A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin in Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works (2013)

About ashleykonson

STRATEGY CONSULTING | EXECUTIVE COACHING | CORPORATE TRAINING | KEYNOTE SPEAKING | Ashley Konson is the Managing Partner of Global Brand Leaders Inc., a new kind of brand consulting company dedicated to making brands and their teams leaders across the globe. He is a Brand Leader, Business Consultant and Award-Winning Educator, and a recognized thought leader and fervent advocate of the premise that strong brands and businesses achieve and sustain their market positions because they are strong Inside out™.
This entry was posted in Brand Strategy, Strong On The Inside, What Global Brand Leaders Do! and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Rule # 4 for Global Brand Leaders: They make brand strategy the business strategy (and vice versa)

  1. Donna Hall says:

    Ashley – this is absolutely on. What were Rules #1 through #3. Cheers………

    • ashleykonson says:

      Hello Donna, my thanks for taking the time to read my post and for your kind comment.

      Rule # 1 for Global Brand Leaders: Brands exist to improve lives. It was my previous post on my blog. Please do let me know what you think.

      Still to come Rule #2 and #3. I will be posting those in the next 2 weeks. Thanks.

  2. Chris Wirthwein says:

    Well said. Couldn’t agree more with your comments, Ashley. I write in depth about similar concdpts in my new book “The People Powered Brand – a blueprint for B2B brand and culture transformation.” In the book, my co-author Joe Bannon and I emphasize how important it is for companies to integrate corporate (long term) strategy, operational strategy and brand strategy. The key for B2B brands is building a brand/company around the customer and then aligning its people to the brand.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s