Earlier this month I attended a workshop on creating a brand strategy delivered by Imogen, Brand Strategist & Designer of SisterBrand.

She explained that the following marketing concepts are usually not taught on a small business level, but can be very beneficial to think about from an early stage in your business.

Here are some of the stand-out personal insights I gathered from attending.

Headline photo credit:
Hannah Lovemore

A hierarchy of Brand Creation - Iceberg Model

Iceberg model depicting how to create a brand strategy

I was introduced to a visual of an iceberg to summarise a hierarchy of brand creation. Split into 3 sections starting from the bottom :

– Brand Substance and Position (below the surface) things that consumers don’t see but are used more for internal clarity.
– Expression (above the surface), each of these further divided into sub sections.

Key Point: Notice that ‘Visual Identity’ is the last component of Brand Expression – when businesses start out, they may typically think they need their logo, fonts and colours worked on near the beginning of their business journey, but factors below the surface are well worth considering beforehand.

Brand Substance

Key aspects: Purpose – Vision – Mission – Values

brand substance iceberg

Building a brand and takes time, preparation and thought, like building a house, it’s never really ‘finished’, it needs tweaks and updates as you grow. Creating a brand strategy will strengthen your foundation.

Difference between a business and a brand

The Business is your product and day-to-day functions that facilitate the exchange of money
A Brand is the reason why a customer buys and proclaims:

“Hell yes, I need this!”

Get clear on your vision – what do you want to be known for and what do you want it to turn into? When you’re clear what you care about, you don’t have to be pushed because your vision pushes you.

Is there something that needs changing in your industry that your audience can believe in and support you through?

The Vision is the future, The Mission is the now

The Mission is what you’re doing day in and out that enables us to become that future Vision (where you’re heading).
In other words, the audience witnesses you showing up doing what you say you are going to do and over time building trust and reputation.

girl with eyes closed on white sofa with arms stretched up

Seek internal clarity: Live, breathe and embody your brand values rather than talk about them.

You don’t need to include a list of values on your website

Values happen on a more subconscious level – people feel it from you and decide whether they want to be part of your world. These can be misused by brands, where they cherry pick values that sound good but don’t behave in a way that supports them.

“Brand values are a genuine expression of you, your core beliefs and experience. You attract others like you and your customers feel like your besties.”

Holding too many values make it difficult to become known for something. Have between 4-6 values, demonstrating the lens you look through.

Your brand is not the hero, it’s the sidekick

Humans are motivated to maximise their self interest, thus consumers are the hero and main character in their
story. Your brand is not the hero, merely the sidekick that supports the hero; as an asset to their story.
Who you’re selling to = the hero
Your brand = the sidekick

Brand Position

Key Aspects: Difference – Competitors – Audience

brand position iceberg

There are many approaches to differentiation in your business from competitors. Including:
– Pricing
– Niching down
– Be a rebel
– Storytelling
– Reinvention of an existing product
– Shock and awe
– Lighten the mood

Handy tip: Research competitors by reading their Google Reviews. The positive will indicate what they’re doing well and the negative reviews may indicate something you could offer that they haven’t delivered on.

Brand Expression

Key Aspects: Personality – Messaging – Visual Identity

The last component of the iceberg on how to create a brand - Visual Identity

Personality Archetypes

This touched on psychologist Carl Jung’s 12 Personality Types and how brands adopt the qualities of these, defined as Brand Archetypes.

Your brand can be a mix of the personality types, but ideally 70% of a primary archetype and 30% of a secondary one.

We can then use this when it comes to messaging by considering what your brand archetype would say.

“This is why you don’t know what to post on social media”

Hearing Imogen (Sisterbrand) emphasise this phrase at a later point in the workshop resonated with me as it was one of the reasons I attended the workshop. Sure, I have generated some great images and video content, but no strategy how to use them in the wisest, most optimised way, and following the workshop I felt a bit clearer and more confident in proceeding through a systematic process.

Once you’ve figured out your brand archetype mix, it can make your life easier when it comes to developing a core messaging framework, and further extend them as a base for your content pillars.

Core messaging framework

This framework is everything your brand needs to say to inspire, which needs to be repeated on all your platforms.

The aim of your brand could be to form an idea over time with repetition.

Primary core message – surface level message, who you serve, their wants/needs. Your key benefits to their challenges, the market alternatives and why you’re different. For example, imagine a first date conversation; where you gather surface level knowledge to later decide someone’s value to you and if you want to meet them again.

Secondary core message – deeper level communication with substance, from the perspective of your brand archetype. Information that may help push the customer over the line, enhance their experience, and compel them to buy from you over another.

Final thought: When potential clients approach me for brand identity and web design, knowing who they are inside out as a brand, their uniqueness, desires and challenges are key. Businesses who have taken the extra effort in creating a brand strategy are likely to work more synchronously when it’s time to invest in a brand designer to further unlock their potential, visualise, solve their issues and amplify them in their best light.


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