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I still remember that evening when I had found an injured puppy in our backyard. It was whimpering in pain. I sheltered it, medicated it and very soon it became my pet pup. A few days later, over the family dinner I told my parents that when I grew up, I would take up Zoology as my subject of study. My elder brother who was then pursuing his doctorate in Economics said mockingly, ‘And then what, are you going to open a zoo?’
While I still remember his tart comment, I let it slip from my mind as the years passed by. One fine day, my pet pup disappeared all of a sudden and my fixation on Zoology went down the dumps. Rather, I saw my life revolving around entertaining advertisements, tons of good and bad copy, long, gruesome hours of pitch presentations and gut-wrenching, heart-rending arguments between myself and account holders, art directors and CBOs.
Then again, a very simple question would sometimes pop up, as people outside the media realm would not understand what I or my team did. (Besides making paper balls and playing darts). ‘What exactly is a copywriter?’ They would ask. And I would get into this long-lost conversation that would lead to nowhere. Very recently, someone asked me, ‘What does a brand strategy consultant do?’ Someone sitting next to me addressed the question on my behalf, ‘Well they give some corny names to the brand, perhaps a tagline and then they come up with weird ideas so that customers get hooked to a particular product.’
I couldn’t help smirking! A teeny-tiny bit of it was true. But this entire scene reminded me of that conversation about Zoology that happened at the dining table. Most people (as how my brother generalized zoology with zoo), tend to narrow down your profession by associating certain job descriptions. And that’s sort of unfair! Because as a brand strategist one does so much more! While this conversation was taking place, I did not feel like pressing on it any further (to the listener or the speaker). But I felt I should pen down my thoughts, anyway!
Common then, put on your thinking caps! It’s time to unlearn orthodox presumptions about the role of a brand strategist or, know about it in the first place- a little extra knowledge never hurt anyone. It’s time to see beyond what they do the obvious and how they contribute from the time you launch a product to a phase where a buyer becomes your loyal customer.
Let's sneak a peek into how the rebranding of Etihad Airways paid off. Established in 2003, Etihad Airways, based out of Abu Dhabi was on a quest to differentiate itself from its other big Middle Eastern Competitors including Emirates. When Landor was tasked with its rebranding, their brand strategist took an altogether solitary approach. Interestingly, he did not take aviation as a source of inspiration. He did not think on those lines at all. His chalkboard idea was to go for something more earthen and sublime - the windswept sand dunes of Abu Dhabi. And hence the windswept patterns on the golden desert sand enveloping the Moresque architecture of the city became the canvas for the brand's design.
The brand strategist took efforts to make a clear differentiation from Etihad's previous branding for such a transformation that needed to happen to form a successful brand strategy. This design came up with a longer shelf life for Etihad. Landor and their team were successful to develop a perception for the airline as a hospitality brand providing magical experiences, giving it a legendary stature.
The remit of a brand strategist is very broad and involves many responsibilities. While he or she may be a regular 9 to 5 at the office, or you might hardly see them in the Monday morning meetings, they still remain inevitable to brand building. Perhaps in the brand building pyramid, brand consultants form the very base. They scratch their heads and help you make decisions as to how to take your company forward.
She is not an extra member, but a responsible part of the team who handholds your company form pitch presentations for rebranding. A brand strategy consultant becomes a tailor who stitches together all the parts, and through streams and strategies, they take your brand identity a notch higher.
A brand strategist remotely works with your company's marketing team and helps to form a marketing strategy, a value proposition or similar. This could involve a brand makeover, the announcement of a new product line or decoding your company's internal research and insights. Sometimes, there are strategic consultants specializing in a group of consumers (e.g. millennials) or a particular market (e.g. e-commerce). In such scenarios, this strategist becomes your "go-to" person for a question regarding the market, consumer mindset, and purchase patterns.
I remember back then, as a copywriter, we were asked to conduct a dip-stick survey before we came up with our content strategy routes. My creative director would not let me write a single word, before a dip-stick survey on consumers. This included categorizing the buyers based on age, socio-economic backgrounds, their buying patterns and their inclination towards technology. A brand strategist does this dip-stick survey at a much deeper level. To come up with ideas that make you go whoopee, the strategist will study your brand, learn what your idea is and what you are offering in terms of value to your customers. As part of the job, strategists will also keep an eagle's eye on the competitors. They will track competition, study brands similar to yours, look at their communication and perhaps the strategic approaches to position your brand to become THE BRAND.
Let's blush and learn from Lush! Lush is unlike any other makeup brand (yes not even Sephora or Etsy). When done thorough consumer research, the strategists found that the brand's advocates are committed to ethical buying. They are obsessed with the purity that a handmade item promises. Today the company's biggest success is research: Gaining this insight that its core buyers value social and corporate responsibility over an expensive and out-of-reach image.
Lush's branding strategy is simple and genuine, precisely why the company has a huge brand following. Now, what helped? It all started by understanding the consumers. The brand succeeded to appeal to those girls who have had enough and a belief in what the brand created.
The insights that a brand strategist collects and gives you is commendable. That is what they are paid for - for presenting some interesting consumer insights, then disappear for dust. In a way, your brand strategy is literally your business strategy, therefore a strategist will help you make sure you have a clearly defined audience. Also, you have reasons for your target audience to believe that what you offer will solve their issues. A strategy consultant will also provide you an efficient way to reach out to your consumers, and innovative pipeline on equity with your brand and last but not least will help you churn out a healthy financial structure.
It won't take much time for your strategist to come up with a BCG matrix to tell you if you are amidst the STARS or the DOGS in the marketplace. A strategist will tell you if your product is crap or the service you offer in reality nobody wants (hopefully, without jargon like BCG matrix). They will be able to tell you how well you are placed in the market and whether you are delivering the value you proposed to your customers or not.
A brand strategy consultant will take a look at your current reputation in the market, understand your need for where you want it to be versus where you are. Based on that, you will be given recommendations on what steps to take to bridge that gap.
Let's compare 'Go Compare' for that matter. The brand is the UK's biggest insurance comparing company for cars, homes and even pets. Go Compare's advertising strategy included an irritating opera singer, who up until 2012, used to prance around the television screens singing the words 'Go Compare' over and over again. The company realized that this is harming its reputation in the market and finally thought that the repelling of customers was due to the singer and she was better let go. So what did their strategist suggest? It was propounded that the brand kills the singer in the advertisements. They tried to blow him up in adverts and even defaced their billboards in an attempt to let Britain know, they were 'saving the nation' from this terrible singer. Many thanks to the strategist to save the sinking ship!
Are you overwhelmed with this whole lot of information on what all a brand strategist can do for you? Well to boil it down for you, let me summarise this whole thing as below:
• In their head, a strategist imagines, designs and builds the future of your business by studying the market, comparing you with competitors and then coming up with ideas that can result in brand success.
• The strategist helps position your brand so that it doesn't get lost in the sea of saturation and always stays on the top of its counter-brands.
• It enables your organization to unlock new growth and flourish in the economy by generating and testing user-focused concepts which are then built and scaled into full-fledged businesses
• Like Go Compare, they will break things that need to be broken. Saying so, they will constantly re-think strategies and value propositions to keep your brand relevant. (Especially now since conventional approaches to "growth and innovation" are turning incumbents into laggards).
• Brand strategists will sometimes start from scratch. They will help make your large organization act like a start-up and then bring innovations to ignite growth. Taking a step back gives a better perspective.
Strategy by definition is the art of planning and better directing of operations to get the results aimed. But it is also a science of taking into consideration the plan B's for optimum success. Slangbusters studio is a perfect blend of such artists and scientists who constantly experiment to give you the innovation you deserve. Contact us now for a chat about the possibilities.
— by Tasneem Baldiwala, Freelance Content Writer, Slangbusters Studio