Brand Strategy: Engaging the Head and the Heart

I’ve often been asked, “Doesn’t my brand strategy have to do with my logo?”

The answer is no!

Brand strategy has nothing to do with your corporate IP, your logo, or your mark, but it has everything to do with building your brand on a single-minded point of difference.

Rational and Emotive

Brand strategy engages both the head and the heart. For instance, if I cut the brain of brand strategy in half, what would I find? I’d find two quotients – the rational and the emotive.

So much of today’s marketing is just head knowledge. It’s almost as if these brands have just lifted a sentence out of their brochure (or anyone else’s for that matter) because there is zero distinction. This information tells and informs, but it fails to engage or compel. It doesn’t draw you in and it’s not particularly relevant.

The key lies in building your brand on a rational truth aligned emotively to the aspirations of your target audience. Your brand promise should provide a seamless transition from head to heart coming from that unique, singular statement which reflects your point of difference.

Let’s look at a few core components that brand strategy represents:

Brand essence

The key here is to identify your DNA in three words. You’ll be an emotion, a value, and a product.

This consists of the genetic makeup of your brand. It’s a core code that you represent. A brand essence, as the name suggests, is never a headline. It exists to permeate your internal and external communication so that your brand person is consistently represented.

Think of this as little guardrails reflecting three core attributes about your brand.

But the flip side is it must equally inspire your target audience. It must ultimately present a brand benefit that you will represent to your donors.

Let’s take Nike’s brand essence for example. The temptation is to talk to apparel, to runners, or even to tennis rackets. But that’s not it!

Nike’s brand essence is authentic, it’s athletic, and it’s performance.

So the end benefit that they represent is all about performance. And you can see the correlation between that and their tagline, “Just Do It.” ¬†This popular phrase is honoring the genetic makeup of Nike.

The authenticity, rigor, and intentionality of this brand strategy promises a winning performance.

You never view Nike. You feel it.

Brand positioning

This core component refers to the territory you want to occupy in the mind of your donor. You’ve got your stake in the ground, your flag flying, and this time, unlike with brand essence, you want the world to know it.

This often consists of one word. For example, Volvo’s brand positioning is safety. Headlines change, as does messaging. But the core kernel of their marketing positions them as safety. And that’s the territory you want to occupy in the mind of your target audience.

Brand proposition

Here we have your unique differentiator, the core artery, the voice you are going to take to the market. And it’s that singular statement that’s going to comprise of two things: the rational truth and an emotional element. It needs to differentiate, resonate, and have a point of difference.

Then comes your tagline.

The tagline is simply a crystallization of the brand proposition that is designed to be succinct, memorable, and emotionally appealing. It acts as a shortcut of your brand proposition and sits in premium real estate with your logo. It’s simply underscoring the space that you now own.

The end result? Everyone knows the true north. There’s cohesion and visibility. You don’t have brand products that are starting to flail and compete with the parent brand. Everything is disciplined and aligned and validates your core brand promise.

For more practical help including a real-life case study on effective branding, check out our Dunham Institute course Brand Strategy Effectiveness by Elizabeth West.


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Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters. Contact Bethany Cranfield at 469-454-0100 to get more information.