Opinion – Stefan Liute says brand strategy is a reference point for business
However fast the world seems to be changing, some things don’t, actually. Stefan Liute discusses how brand strategy acts as a point of reference among this maelstrom of change and keeps businesses on a steady path
We live in a time in which it is ok to do zero planning and replace that with quick iterations. Stop procrastinating and go do something tangible right now. Do a lot, fail a little less and go forward. Improve on the way. Pundits and gurus deride thinkers who take their time and praise compulsive doers.
Why, then, bother with brand strategy? Why use a complex tool that requires many hours to build, even more to implement, and not so few to measure and adjust? Why do brand strategy, if things around us change so fast? Why bother trying to tie a lot of loose ends, if new ones appear overnight to make your ties and bowties obsolete?*
Well, here’s why. Because brands are infinitely complex beasts leading complicated lives. Giving up on strategy to drive them forward would be like trying to drive a spaceship to Mars using an abacus, some inspiration and mucho gusto instead of a computer and a lot of care. Good luck with that; good luck with getting there in one piece on your first try!
Because developing and using a brand strategy changes the way you think, it changes your thinking and your actions for the better. If you’re worth your salt, you already know that having a strategy does not mean missing out on opportunities or showing complete rigidity in your tactics.
Because the strongest businesses out there all wield brands like ninja swords, and they do it like true masters. Effortlessly, it appears. They act so natural, so genuine, you’d think they don’t even have one. They move mountains by simply blowing softly on them, to the awe of the consumer crowd, and to their competitors’ eternal envy.
Because the world does not change as fast and as deeply as you would believe. People’s minds do not change that easily, although they sometimes seem to. It takes serious amounts of time to effect significant change in markets and mindsets (think of how hard it is to give up a bad habit, from smoking to fast-food). And when it comes to long periods of time, strategy is always a handier tool to rely on than on-the-spot inspiration.
Because you cannot afford to fail at (re)branding. It is extremely costly and often lethal. If not for you, then for the brand you mistreated, and likely for your employment status. Many brands today live in unforgiving markets, where everything out there that’s not you wants to hurt you. You ain’t got no second life, no unlimited ammo and no free health packs.
And last but not least, because strong strategy brings real value to the table. It makes branding consultants useful, and keeps them many levels above the cheap, undifferentiated global workforce that churns out logos and slogans 24/7. If properly deployed, it makes the marketing director or CMO useful to the almighty CEO and CFO, giving them a reason to stand in the board of directors and not outside it.
And that should be reason enough.
Stefan Liute is co-founder and strategy director of Storience.
*Yes, that was a nod to the late Wally Olins, a man that did much to turn branding and brand strategy into valuable business management tools. I translated two of his books, met him several times, and I will always remember him joyfully.