Elizabeth Searcy, Bluestock Advisors Consultant and Brand Strategy Expert
In the ever-evolving home industry, developing an effective brand strategy can make all the difference. To shed light on the art of a brand strategy and its significance, we sat down with Elizabeth Searcy, our very own B2B Branding Expert here at Bluestock Advisors. With a rich background in creating value through strategic branding consultancy, Elizabeth shared valuable insights and perspectives gained from her extensive experience guiding retail and consumer packaged goods clients.
Q: Hi Elizabeth, can you tell me a bit more about yourself and your background in strategy and brand strategy, as well as experience working with various clients?
A: I gained experience in Brand Strategy working at Zyman Group, a brand and marketing strategy consulting firm founded by Sergio Zyman, the former CMO of The Coca-Cola Company and a bestselling author of several marketing books. While at Zyman, I worked on both business-to-business and direct-to-consumer brands, identifying their growth opportunities in the market they serve, value proposition (or positioning), marketing strategy, and execution guidelines. From this invaluable experience, it taught me the importance of discipline in developing a brand; using data, and understanding where to insert the art. I have been fortunate to have the VP of Global Marketing at several companies where I developed several brands and their growth strategies. Most recently, I have been growing my consumer brand, KickIt Pajamas.
Q: What does brand strategy mean in the context of a business, and why is it crucial for companies, especially for those looking to grow?
A: A brand is the lifeblood of the company. It’s what the salespeople talk about, it’s the unique space that occupies the consumer’s mind enabling the company to sell their product efficiently and effectively; it’s everything that a company does every day. The more successful companies, like Coca-Cola, invest in their brand and are crystal clear about who their target audience is, their personas, their identity, the problem they are solving for the consumer what they stand for in the marketplace, and activities that align with their value proposition. Every encounter a consumer or customer has should resonate with the very soul of the brand. It’s important in DTC and B2B, and it is why people buy the things they do; they are expecting the benefits of what is promised.
For those looking to grow, you must put hard work into developing your brand strategy. Be clear about how you are making your consumer’s life better, who will benefit from your company’s unique strengths and capabilities, where products or services are not meeting the needs of the market, i.e., where competitive brands are missing the mark and/or where consumers aren’t being served or are being let down. That is what enables a company to grow. Evaluating opportunities takes analytical and creative thinking, using rigor and analytical prowess.
Two things that are crucial:
Insights: Insights drive everything. My favorite example is Swiffer – realizing that a mop is heavy, difficult to store, and cleaning floors with a dirty mop water just doesn’t get the job done - that is the kind of consumer behavior insight that becomes the catalyst for a brand and product. Further, developing insights through data allows a brand to have a point-of-view about a market problem, which leads to advertising that resonates and is compelling.
Defining Your Business: Define the business you are in and put guardrails on the market you want to serve. This allows you the freedom to grow through innovation, messaging, and more. An example that is often used is – is [fill in the blank car company] in the car or transportation business? With this thinking, you can start to imagine how the company defines their competition and the problems they are solving – it stirs more creativity. Every business and brand should ask themselves, “what business are we in?”
Q: Can you outline the typical steps or process involved in creating or revitalizing a brand?
A: Conducting a Voice of the Customer (VOC) study to understand crucial insights in the category is the first step. Then, translate these insights into a brand and marketing strategy that can be consistently executed in the market. At Bluestock Advisors, we have a process that takes our customers through the development of creating a compelling, relevant, and enduring brand strategy that propels a company to the next level of growth.
Q: How important is it to understand the target audience when developing a brand strategy?
A: Understanding the target audience is paramount when developing a brand strategy. It's about identifying what the audience needs and where other brands are missing the mark. Most companies stop at demographics, but you need to “live the life” of the consumer to understand what they need that can make their lives better.
Q: How can storytelling be used as a branding tool?
A: If you have an insights-driven brand strategy, storytelling will come naturally. It comes back to principles of insight and business definition. Brand storytelling is important because it gets to the emotion and soul of a brand, allowing people to identify themselves with it and to start the flywheel of peer-to-peer recommendations. People remember stories, not facts; it's how our brains are wired. A story with logic and emotion is a winning combination. Peer-to-peer recommendations is a tried-and-true way consumers learn about brands, but you can't have a story without a strong insight.
Q: When is the right time for a company to consider reevaluating a brand strategy, and what are the key considerations in this reevaluation?
A: Companies should have a customer program in place to ensure they are continuously getting a pulse of the consumer. A company should always keep tabs on whether they continue to be relevant to their intended audience; however, a time to consider doing a more in-depth reevaluation of your brand strategy is when there is a new competitor or a new category that has been developed in the market that’s eating your market share, leading to a decline in sales, NPS, etc. The examples to analyze these days are endless – from taxi cabs and Uber, radio stations and music streaming, restaurants to delivery services. Once you understand the insights related to consumer behavior and your audience’s unmet needs, your brand strategy should endure, but how you execute it can adjust.
Q: In today's digital age, how important is a company's online presence in branding, and what are some best practices?
A: We can do another interview just on this topic. It’s no secret that a brand should have a strong online presence – it’s where consumers live. The key is being authentic and social media platforms can be a powerful tool for storytelling. With the ability to be even more present, lifestyle brands can bring different dimensions of their personality to life – from serious product demonstrations to funny messages and videos.
Brand Strategy Consulting
We hope Elizabeth’s insights have helped to shed light on the intricate art of brand strategy and why it’s essential for companies aiming to thrive and grow. As a Brand Strategy Expert at Bluestock Advisors, her wealth of experience and expertise guide businesses in crafting compelling brand strategies that resonate with customers.
Ready to take your brand to the next level? Reach out to Bluestock Advisors today for your brand needs!