Strategy Before Branding – Please!
OK, I have a problem with branding. Not to say I don’t encourage beautiful, consistent messaging. Super important. Yes.
But let’s get the horse in front of the cart. We don’t all hop into the cart, ready to head into town, without first getting the horse hooked up – or with the horse in the back. Right? So why would we do branding before strategy? Why would we refine the look and talk before we know what we’re saying or that it’s actually the best thing for us?
Do branding agencies know when the cart is in front of the horse? Maybe not. I think many of them think that it doesn’t matter because they can transform any bland, ineffectual, margin-sucking approach to the market, into competitive advantage simply by crafting a beautiful message and look.
And the client doesn’t know or care because most smaller companies don’t really understand strategy and how it’s … everything! How every business has the opportunity to carve out a special place in the market, a blue ocean, where few competitors swim and where they can grow faster with better margins.
Plus, the client is dazzled by all the pretty designs and colors; and the lofty words are intoxicating. Kind of like a beautiful sausage, if there’s such a thing, appearing magically without any sausage-making. (Not that creating strategy is ugly. It’s actually exciting and fun.)
We have to chop the wood before we can sit by the fire. We have to go to the gym before we can show off a six pack. OK enough!
Right Things Done Right
What works in life is “right things done right.” Let’s not get caught up in doing something right when we’re not doing the right thing. Let’s first have a beautiful strategy before telling the message beautifully which, I agree, we definitely want to do – when the time is right.
So what now? Simply this, before spending money on branding, have some strategy sessions, do some research, use a proven strategy framework like a strategy map. Come up with a competitive angle that sets your company apart in a specific niche where it gets more than its fair share of customers along with nice healthy margins, aka “the riches are in the niches.”
Please, just say YES to strategy before branding.