Building Brands in Reality: Avoid Pomp & Pageantry

June 26, 2024
Jeremy Wells

Brand strategy” or “brand building” can often conjure images of high-energy brainstorming sessions, dynamic presentations, and a certain aura of creative “magic”. The reality of crafting an effective brand strategy is often far less glamorous—but arguably more impactful.

At Longitude, we strive to maintain a straightforward process, no-frills, and deliver high impact for our clients. Our primary focus is on enhancing our clients’ communication, developing an engaging brand identity, and guiding them toward making decisions that align closely with their brand’s core values.

What Brand Strategy IS…

At its core, brand strategy is the roadmap that defines what a brand stands for, its core values, and how it communicates its persona and promise to its audience. It’s not just about logos, taglines, or colors; it’s about creating a coherent identity that resonates deeply with consumers, influencing not only their perceptions but also their behaviors.

What Brand Strategy is NOT…

There’s a common misconception that brand strategy sessions must be led by hyper-creative teams, complete with dazzling presentations, and led by charismatic leaders. You might picture high-priced, “ultra-creative” agencies in Los Angeles, where hipsters whip up avant-garde ideas, or a “Mad Men”-esque New York advertising firm where an arrogant Don Draper-type disrupts your business. These firms might sweep into your office, perform a circus act, and then vanish, often leaving you with more questions than answers.

Though these flashy elements can add excitement to the process, they aren’t necessary for a successful outcome. In reality, some of the most effective brand strategies are developed in settings that might seem surprisingly simple and unassuming.

Flashiness of presentations takes a backseat to substantive dialogue

Be Humble. Collaborate.

Imagine a room, filled not overtaken with applause and dramatic reveals, but with engaged stakeholders from various levels of an organization. They come together not to be wowed by high-flying creative ideas but to engage in earnest, problem-solving discussions. These participants don’t necessarily bring a creative flair to the table; instead, they bring a willingness to ask tough questions and the humility to listen.

In these settings, the flashiness of presentations takes a backseat to substantive dialogue. Stakeholders dissect and debate real issues, from customer engagement strategies to product positioning and market dynamics. The focus is squarely on how the brand can serve its purpose and embody its values across all customer touchpoints.

Ask Difficult Questions.

A pivotal element of these discussions is the courage to confront uncomfortable truths about the brand. This might involve questioning the brand’s direction, the effectiveness of its messaging, or even the values it purports to uphold. Teams that excel in brand strategy are those that are not afraid to challenge the status quo and are prepared to pivot if necessary.

This approach requires a blend of creativity to envision possibilities, the courage to make tough decisions, and the determination to follow through despite uncertainties. Effective brand strategy isn’t about having all the answers upfront but about making informed decisions that guide the brand toward its long-term vision.

Brand strategy is not a one-time effort but a continuous process that evolves

Be Flexible.

One of the most daunting aspects of brand strategy is the inherent uncertainty involved in decision-making. Market conditions can change, consumer behaviors can shift unexpectedly, and competitors can alter their tactics. A robust brand strategy must be flexible enough to accommodate these uncertainties, allowing the brand to adapt while staying true to its core identity.

The teams that manage this balance well understand that brand strategy is not a one-time effort but a continuous process that evolves. They are equipped not just to launch a brand, but to nurture it, responding to changes in the environment and within the company itself.

Have Some Grit.

The true test of any brand strategy lies in its implementation. This phase is less about creativity and more about grit—the relentless pursuit of the brand’s strategic goals across all functions of the company. It’s about aligning every department, from marketing and sales to customer service and product development, with the brand’s values and strategic objectives.

This alignment is crucial because it ensures that every aspect of the customer experience reflects the brand’s identity and promise. It’s not enough to have a compelling brand story; the organization must live and breathe this narrative in its day-to-day operations.

The heart of brand strategy is problem-solving and alignment

A Call for Balanced Brand Strategy

Dispelling the myths surrounding brand strategy starts with recognizing the value of simplicity, collaboration, and humility. While pomp and performance may have some value, the heart of brand strategy is problem-solving and alignment. Brands should embrace this balanced approach to develop strategies that are not only inspirational but also deeply grounded in the realities of their market and organizational capabilities.

Effective brand strategy is as much about the mundane as it is about the magical. It’s not confined to the creative departments or reliant on charismatic leadership. Instead, it thrives on collaboration, rigorous questioning, and a commitment to continuous improvement. By focusing on these foundational elements, any organization can craft a brand strategy that is not only clear and compelling but also resilient and responsive to change.

Jeremy Wells

Partner at Longitude°

Jeremy is the author of Future Hospitality and Brand Strategist at Longitude°. As a member of the Education Committee for The Boutique & Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA) and a content contributor to Cornell University’s Hospitality Vision and Concept Design graduate program, he is a committed thought leader in hotel branding, concepting, and experience strategy.