4 expert tips for creating a killer brand strategy

Four senior creatives share their advice for crafting winning brand worlds.

Strategy is the ultimate dark art of branding. Get it right, and you'll create successful design that gets results. But get it wrong and you'll end up with a solution to the wrong problem.

"Strategy is a springboard to great, unforgettable ideas," says Pearlfisher founder Jonathan Ford. "You have to know your market. You have to lift up the rocks and see what's crawling about underneath, as well as what's basking in the sunshine."

Here, four leading creatives offer their professional tips on how to craft a winning brand strategy…

01. Understand the value you add

Mat Heinl

"The fundamental failing of most branding systems is that you've got people who know one area well and dictate into disciplines they have no experience in," says Mat Heinl, CEO of Moving Brands.

"It breaks down and the client's left with a system that doesn't work. If you feel like you've got a broad approach as a studio, then learn about that properly. If you're an expert in one area, be clear about it. Don't pretend you know about areas you don't."

02. Be honest with yourself

Natasha Jen

Pentagram partner Natasha Jen advocates approaching each branding project honestly from the very start. "Not every project is suitable to your own process, or method or taste," she reasons.

"Try and identify that as quickly as possible – and have the courage to decline things that you see as not in your area. I think that's totally ok. We don't have to be omnivores in order to be a successful branding designer, or any other type of designer."

03. Don't make gods, make worlds

Gaston Legorburu

"Take the most beloved brands, like Harley Davidson," says SapientNitro worldwide chief creative officer Gaston Legorburu. "How does the product transform you – what does it do for you? You sit on these things and you're a different person."

"It's not about having consumers adopt your values: it's about them relating to them and making connections," he continues. "Really successful brand strategies are the ones where there's a gift – a value set – and it really connects."

04. Don't straight-jacket design

Jonathan Ford

Don't straight-jacket design, advises Pearlfisher co-founder Jonathan Ford: "Packaging is different to digital, which is more experiential," he explains. "People are smart beings: take the brand thoughts that came through in the strategy and allow them to be inspired on all the different mediums in their appropriate way – retail, digital, physical, whatever. It can all come back to a common point of clear focus and thought." 

Words: Julia Sagar
Illustration: Neil Webb

For more exclusive brand strategy secrets from the world's biggest agencies, don't miss Computer Arts 235: Branding Secrets, where this article first appeared.

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