Strategy is often misinterpreted as planning of any kind. Some consider ‘strategy’ as being any big plan that answers the question ‘how can we make more money’. But this isn’t the case, and often means that people fight battles they can’t win, simply because they haven’t considered why they’re fighting them in the first place.
Strategies are indeed plans for achieving and sustaining success. Strategy is about creating, exploiting and protecting your competitive advantages. The manner in which this is done should determine a company’s response to any external threats. It should also provide a standard against which all significant decisions are made.
On a level playing field, where the market is open to everyone on equal terms, competition will erode the returns of all players to a uniform minimum. In other words, to earn more than your competitors, you’ve got to do something they can’t.
Brand strategy is no different. Fundamentally, it is the practice of identifying core principles and values which differentiate the company from its competitors. Unlike business strategy, brand strategy doesn’t rely on economic principles of differentiation; it relies on emotional principles. Economic principles can’t answer the question ‘Why should I purchase your product?’ Only value-led, emotional principles can answer this. Your competitive advantage is the way in which you articulate the reasons you established your business and the problems your business is solving.
A force from within
The outcomes from any strategy session can look very much alike.
Google’s mission statement is “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Crafting this strapline will have taken days of workshops, multiple management meetings and lots of fun postcard exercises. But the value of their brand strategy is not in the strapline itself, it’s in the agreement it encapsulates. What has been formed is an agreement between members of senior management to uphold and protect particular central values.