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Three ways to fix your branding mindset

Is brand strategy really just a bunch of Mad Libs*?

Mission Statement

© Tom Fishburne

*Mad Libs (a play on ad lib, from Latin ad libitum - as you wish)
is a word game where one player prompts another for a list of words
to substitute for blanks in a story.

Building a brand strategy with a trivial understanding, usually ends up in generic statements that superficially circumscribe your brand. 

Unclear words like authentic, disruptive, or original are usually a sign that you're headed down a path of obscurity. 

Brand strategy ideally needs to impact every decisions a company makes that includes: new product development, business structure, and hiring. Sometimes strategy is misunderstood as something purely tactical, helping to find the fastest way to make more money. 

The mindset with which you develop a brand is crucial. If you want to transform your business, you need to treat brand strategy like it's the most essential element of your company. Your brand and your business are two sides of the same coin. And it’s important that your team is aware of this.

Brand strategy is not just about a business making more money, it's about making more money for a longer amount of time, through a growing tribe of enthusiastic customers, employees, partners, and investors.

A brand strategy is not only about the logo, a trademark, or other visual touchpoints. It's not about a couple of cool sounding statements to promote the brand. Branding often falls into this decorative line of thinking, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. 

How do you develop a brand strategy that will transform your business, rather than collect dust in your office drawer? 

It boils down to three things: 

  1. Define your meaning with laserlike precision

  2. Commit to your meaning with religious conviction

  3. Execute with ruthless dedication

Let's look at these three statements in detail:

1: Define your meaning with laserlike precision 

How do we define meaning for a business, for a brand?

the strategic pyramid

© Level C.

As shown above, strategy is usually a combination of your purpose, your mission, your vision, and a roadmap of goals. 

  • Your purpose is the reason you exist, beyond making money. Ebays purpose statement reads: 

"To empower people and create economic opportunity for all.”

  • The mission is your master plan, the vision is what success will look like. 

Nike’s mission statement reads:

mission statement example

  • Your goals are short-term objectives that allow you to accomplish your mission, vision, and purpose.

Building upon that, comes the essence of brand strategy: a definition of what makes your business unique and how it will be positioned. How is it radically different from other brands? What is your onlyness?

Brands like Uber, Ikea, or Airbnb created a new category on the market because they were radically different from the competition. They didn’t compete, they changed the rules and created their own new category where they could become the number 1 player.

All the mentioned elements (purpose, mission, vision, onlyness) define the meaning of a brand. Each word to define that meaning is hand-picked, it takes days, weeks, sometimes months to really nail the meaning of that sentence.

Different words in a different order mean profoundly different things. And sticking to that meaning in your daily business is what will build your brand.

The funny thing is, most things that are intuitive to our understanding take a lot of work to get to that level of clarity. The clearer the meaning, the brighter your business's north star will shine.

2: Commit to your meaning with religious conviction

The clearest purpose statement, will do your company no good, if you don't really mean it.

Mean what you defined with religious zeal and conviction. For a founder, this is the reason you are alive. For employees of the business, this is the reason they feel aligned and decided to work here, for investors this is why they want to invest and contribute.

Employees, customers, partners, and investors will know whether you mean what you defined or not. 

In fact, you’ll need to continuously prove that you live by your purpose, mission, and vision for the company.

3: Execute your brand with ruthless dedication

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

Warren Buffett

This is the mindset that a brand strategy requires to be effective. Everything a company does is determined by what is defined by the strategy. Without brand strategy, you’re sailing in a wide ocean without a compass. 

There are millions of different large and small decisions businesses make every day.

  • Which employee is the right fit for your company? 

  • What is the central message of your next marketing campaign? 

  • Which of three promising ideas for a new product do you double down on? 

If you're not aligning your decisions with your brand strategy, you are not doing what you said you would do. You’ll lose integrity with your employees, it will be unclear to customers what you stand for, and the meaning you defined will not manifest. 

Define it, mean it, and execute your strategy. 

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