What comes first: business strategy or brand strategy?
Mohamad Badr is the chief strategy officer and head of growth at Dubai-based Brand Lounge. He outlines his belief here that a company’s business strategy must follow its brand strategy, not the other way around.
As brand strategists, we are always seen as intruders on the business side of the equation. Business strategy, after all, concerns the things a company can control and easily measure; it usually draws a long-term game plan towards achieving a specific set of goals. It is driven by market research, guides all resources allocation, sets the business model and way of working, and establishes the metrics by which a business measures its success. So, in short, it is what a business does, how it does it, and where it does it.
The Brand, or the brand strategy precisely, is on another hand perceived as the game plan that ends up drawing the public image of the business, which minimizes the role and the value of key internal and external initiatives that have direct impact on the business dimension.
Lately, I’ve come to see it differently and I know it can be considered an unpopular opinion but here you go: I believe a company’s business strategy must follow its brand strategy and not the other way around.
As a consultant working with clients from different backgrounds and within different industries, I came to this conclusion after witnessing firsthand how many businesses struggle or fail because they run the business with a high focus on the internal operation and financial performance of the business while disregarding the value a brand can bring to them in terms of growth, culture building, innovation, and image.
If you only focus on the business side (even if you have the most innovative products, services, or solutions) you will fail to connect with the right audience and control your perception in the way you desire.
Any solid brand strategy will first answer the golden purpose question of “Why do you exist?”, and why is it important for your customers and stakeholders? Meanwhile the business strategy will ask questions about how that purpose and the overarching goal or ambition might be achieved.
Brand strategy (and the way we approach it at Brand Lounge) is a multidimensional framework that does not stop with the insights from the market conditions and how to react to them. It’s a total experience that attracts new customers, creates loyalty, and enhances a company’s reputation in the eyes, minds, and hearts of all stakeholders.
A strong, well-crafted brand strategy drives demand and ensures higher customer retention while maximizing the value of the business overall.
But let’s consider the other scenario, what if you are starting a new business? Or you are launching a new product, or service or you have a breakthrough idea? The implications of what I am stating are radical in my opinion.
If you simply begin by developing a solid business model, investing in whatever technology and capabilities that you think you need to make a unique contribution to the market, you can attract the attention of a customer or two. But I can guarantee that you will struggle to connect and grab the attention of a wide, demanding audience that judges businesses emotionally and functionally.
However, if you start by uncovering your true purpose as a business, identifying the real reason behind why you exist beyond making money, the reason why customers need to buy into your brand, and into your story and offerings, your chances of building a successful business and business strategy will multiply.
Before you spend hours and days developing your business plan, ask yourself these questions that influence your customer experience:
- Whom are you targeting?
- Why should they care?
- What do they really need from you now?
- And how can you serve their needs better than the competition?
Answering those questions truthfully and transparently should be your first priority. When you really know why you exist as a brand and a business, and you’ve decided how you’ll serve your true customers better than anyone else, you will be ready to draft a business plan that makes your projections – and your customers’ dreams – a reality.