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Creating a company image involves a lot of different moving parts, from design and copy to marketing and branding. These components work together to present the buying public with the most complete vision possible of your company’s mission and products. The world’s most recognizable companies have one thing in common: Their brand strategy always comes first. Apple, Google, Nike, and LEGO built empires on public perception. Take Apple’s identity away—that of a company providing products for creative people—and it’s simply any other computer company.

Building a brand is so much more than the sum of its parts. When creating graphics, content, marketing campaigns, and web design, you may feel you need to choose any one of these over your brand strategy, even if for a short period of time. Before you set aside your branding standards to concentrate on any other part of your company, remember this: brand strategy always comes first.

Brand Strategy Before Design

Your company logo and website may be the image you show the world, but they’re never more important than your brand strategy. These images only show the world what you look like, not who you are. Once you understand what you offer—your unique value proposition—you can then determine how to share that through design.

Imagine if Coca-Cola’s logo actually belonged to any generic soft drink company. Would the sleek design have any bearing on your perception of the company or products? The brand is recognized for being the world’s favorite non-alcoholic beverage and could have achieved this status with any other logo design. Why? Because the logo doesn’t make the brand.

Brand Strategy Before Marketing

Your marketing may be your company’s vehicle to carry your message to the world, but without a brand driving that vehicle, you can’t go anywhere. Your marketing campaigns must match your brand values. Once a campaign is over, your brand is still there, ready to drive the next campaign. When the two don’t align, your customers may change they way they perceive your business.

Part of developing a brand strategy and creating marketing campaigns is knowing your target buyer personas. Your buyers are not data in a spreadsheet; they are living, breathing people with pain points and desires. Develop your brand around these buyers, taking the psychographic dimensions into consideration, before you plan your marketing campaigns.

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One brand that clearly understands its buyer personas and the many psychographic dimensions therein is ModCloth. The products, marketing, and website all cater to a particular gender and age range, but they go far beyond simply providing fashion to women in their twenties. Other companies might offer the same products at similar prices, but they don’t reach buyers in the same way. This is because ModCloth developed a brand recognized for creating trends instead of following, and their marketing simply followed suit.

Brand Strategy Before SEO

Many companies consider how they want to be found when they should focus on why they want to be found. Before you concentrate on the content of your website, you must first establish your brand strategy. Remember, too, that Google is constantly updating quality guidelines for website content, so your content strategy could be obsolete within months. Your brand, however, will always remain.

Instead of focusing on content the search engines will find, tell stories. Brand storytelling is a great way to build not only trust with a buyer, but also a bond. Create characters that correspond with your buyer personas and reach consumers on an emotional level. Above all, use your stories to answer questions about your brand, your products, and your service. In the end, being found by a search engine won’t matter; being remembered by a customer will.

Consider Christian Dior’s latest campaign, which includes a short film in lieu of the standard one-minute commercial. Though parts of that film are used for television spots, a full story is told. That story isn’t about cologne that smells good; it’s about a brand known for luxury, sensuality, and prestige.

Have you been focusing on these things instead of putting your brand strategy first? Are you even sure what your brand identity is? If you’re struggling to develop your company’s brand identity, we can help.