“We can’t afford a brand strategist”… “No, what you can’t afford is for your competition to hire me.”
July 17, 2018
How much revenue do you think you need to generate before you can afford to develop a strategy for your brand?
Historically brand strategy was for the big retail corporations: cars, breakfast cereals, soft drinks, cigarettes. The Mad Men in pricey office towers in St Kilda Road billed their clients millions of dollars a year to create awareness and differentiate their brands.
But the era of the Mad Men world, when it took companies decades to grow into giants, when technological innovation was incremental rather than suddenly disruptive, and where geographic boundaries offered protection from outside competition is no more.
Today a company on the other side of the globe can be your greatest competitor.
Technology changes from year to year and can come from anywhere, from a defense contractor to a suburban garage.
The biggest company in the world ten years from now might not even exist today, while some of today’s biggest companies will almost certainly be out of business.
So the answer to how much revenue you need to generate isn’t $500,000 or even $100,000.
That’s right. $0.00.
Ideally you need a brand strategy before you start your business. And if you can’t find a budget for a full brand audit, hire a consultant to do a brand model. If you can’t afford even that, read as much as you can on the subject and do it yourself.
But do it you must. Because you can assume your competitors are doing it. You can’t compete if you don’t know your competitive advantage. You can’t know your competitive advantage if you don’t know your points of differentiation. And you can’t leverage your points of differentiation if you don’t know your value proposition.
And underlying all these concepts, in addition to others like mission and vision statement, essence, and values, is brand strategy.
Startups often get this right. Their small teams usually include a marketing person. They have to understand their brand in order to pitch to investors. Unlike traditional companies, they raise money before they’ve proven their business model or even hired their first employee. They don’t follow the old school method of writing up a detailed business plan with financial details to get a traditional bank loan but use a 10 to 15 slide pitch deck to raise equity from VCs.
Google and Facebook raised millions before they even knew how they were going make money. But they understood their points of differentiation and had visionary brand strategies that won investors.
If you have a chance to go to an incubator pitch day or even watch the entrepreneurs on Shark Tank sell their brands to a skeptical panel you will see the articulation of brand strategies that are more developed than what most established businesses have.
Creating a brand strategy may seem like a lot of work. And it should be continual, not something you do once at the beginning and then forget about it. But the clarity you gain from a good brand strategy will save you time over the long term, almost certainly enable you to make more money, and will help assure that you are still in business ten years from now.
So get on it! Your competitors surely are.