- Vanessa Rowley-Matthew
The Difference Between a Business Strategy, Brand Strategy, and Content Strategy
It seems so common that the first day of school in New York City is always a chilly one. It certainly was brisk on my first day of middle school. I remember walking up two flights of stone steps onto a concrete path. The path felt long, but eventually, led to two double doors with wide metal handles that felt like they had soaked up all the cold air. Pushing past a second set of heavy metal doors painted in burgundy, my eyes looked up to see a quote above the security desk that stated, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
This quote is the words of Benjamin Franklin. Many of my high school teachers often mentioned this quote before the start of class and even made the students reluctantly repeat it. It is no wonder why the words still stick with me today. When creating strategies for your brand, you should also take this quote to heart. Entrepreneurship is a journey. Without a plan, like that of a business, brand, or content strategy, your chances of business failure simply increase.
According to Wikipedia, a strategy “involves setting goals and priorities, determining actions to achieve your goals, and mobilizing resources to execute actions.” For your brand, you will need multiple strategies to move it forward in the right direction. Below are three strategies that all growing brands should have:
Your Business Strategy
A business strategy is part of a business plan, informed by your business model. According to the Houston Chronicle, a business model is a “business’s rationale and plan for making a profit.” The business model answers the question, how do you plan to make money? A few example business models include the following truncated list from Nerd Wallet and Inc Magazine:
Freemium model with upgrades
BOGO (buy one get or give one) model
Services operating model
Product pricing model
Tiered pricing model
Percent of transaction model
You’ll want to compliment the model you’ve selected with information on two of the five P’s of marketing—product and price. What are you offering, and for how much money?
Now that you know how you will make money, you need to create a plan that supports how you will make money with the business model you’ve selected. It is one thing to say you will make money selling subscriptions, but how? Your business plan outlines what you will do to make this business model work for you. More specifically, a business plan is a document that details 1-3 big SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound) goals for your business.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’m not trying to make a long business plan that will just be a file on my computer that I’ll forget about. But what if I told you that your thoughts about the need for a business plan may be all wrong? What if I told you that it should be the basis for your brand and marketing? Well, that is exactly what it is for when done properly.
Just like your brand and marketing strategy, brand and market research are needed to determine if you have a viable business idea. Conducting research will also help you determine if you are targeting a big enough market to meet your financial goals and the consumer(s) who would most benefit from your services.
Here is a real-world example of the thought process for goals, objectives, strategy, and tactics that can be applied to developing goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics for your business.
What do I ultimately want to achieve?
Goal: Lose 30 pounds (You can track against this as a key performance indicator.)
To reach this goal, I will need to...
Objective: Cut calories by 20% daily (You can track against this as a key performance indicator.)
To do this, I will need to...
Strategy: Buy a food scale
What will you do with it?
Tactics: I will track my calories against my resting calories daily to ensure a 20% deficit. (You can track this as a key performance indicator.)
Whose’s going to do this?
Who: Me! Who else?
Expense: $20—$10 for the scale and $10 for Cronometer to track my calories
You can also work backward from your tasklist, usually just tactics. For example:
Who is doing to do this work that needs to be done?
Who: My VA and me
What will this person do?
Tactic: Create 50 Instagram posts weekly. (You can track against this as a key performance indicator.)
What type of activity is this?
Strategy: Social media marketing
Why am I using it?
Objective: I want to increase my fan base by 10% by the end of the year. (You can track against this as a key performance indicator.)
Why am I doing this?
Goal: To sell $100,000 in services. (You can track against this as a key performance indicator.)
Expense: $20—$10 for the scale and $10 for Cronometer to track my calories
As a paragraph, you would say for this last example:
My big goal is to sell $100,000 in services by increasing my fan base by 10% by the end of the year using social media marketing. For this strategy to work for me, one of the things I will do is delegate the creation of 50 social media posts weekly to my VA.
The above statement gives you the other three parts of the 5Ps of marketing—promotion, place, and people. Together, the 5Ps are product, price, promotion, place, and people.
Note: Although a business strategy implies one strategy, you should have 3-5 business strategies that make up your business strategy.
In essence, Your business model and plan illustrate a clear set of plans for how your business will contend in your market against competitors with your products or services. You’ve likely seen other sources for this information say that a business model, plan, and strategy are all part of a business strategy, but this is the appropriate breakdown.
Also part of your business plan and strategy are statements that need upfront clarification. Your business plan should also include a mission and vision statement. However, these are not the same as the ones you often see on websites for brands. These are internal mission and vision statements. An internal vision statement focuses strictly on the vision for the growth of your business. The complementary internal mission statement states how you plan to achieve this internal vision statement.
On the other hand, an external vision statement considers your target market and the lofty future you want to create for them, and the external mission statement states how you plan to achieve your external vision statement.
Lastly, whose is your target audience(s)? You need to be clear about this. It can’t be everybody, ever. You don’t get along with everyone in the world, so how could your brand? Your focus should be on determining who you are trying to serve and understanding who they are on a very personal level. You need in-depth information on your target audience(s) for messaging, branding, and marketing.
Your Brand Strategy
A brand strategy is a plan for building your brand before introducing it to your core target audience. It consists of a customer persona, brand personality, verbal identity, and visual identity. This strategy gives rise to your brand personality, colors, typography, voice, and more. The brand strategy also supports your business strategy and informs your marketing strategies, including your content marketing strategy.
A customer persona details your primary customer’s demographics, demographics, psychographics, attitudes, and behaviors. You want to be able to articulate clearly who your brand exists for.
A brand's verbal identity consists of a brand's purpose statement, vision statement, mission statement, value statements, value proposition, and brand mantra. It also consists of your brand’s brand promise, positioning statement, slogan, tagline, messaging pillars, brand benefits, elevator pitch, and boilerplate text.
A brand’s visual identity, including your logo, is informed by your brand positioning statement and brand personality. This means that your logo should not be created until you are clear about both your position and personality. Here’s the thing. You don’t want your target audience to feel like you have multiple personalities. If we’ve learned anything from Marvel’s Moon Knight, having multiple personalities is not a desired trait. It is a mental health illness. Don’t give your brand a mental health illness.
Although all parts of a brand’s verbal identity are important, I must also stress the importance of having values. Values are also important to nail down within your brand strategy, as people will connect your values to their values. Highly underrated, values influence thoughts, and thoughts influence behaviors.
Try this exercise. Write down your top 10 values. Of those top 10, what are your top 3-5? Those 3-5 are your core values. However, as easy as it is to select words off a list and call it a day, please look up the words you’ve selected. You’d be surprised to learn that some words don’t mean what you think they mean—something I often tell marketing students. With this said, your values list should be instrumental to how you do business. It should also impact hiring decisions when you are looking for assistance with the needs of your business.
Lastly, for the aspects of brand strategy that may be giving you the most pause, a brand personality is a brand archetype, and there are 12 brand archetypes. The brand archetypes can also give you insight into the values your brand should communicate. They are as follows:
Black Brand Archetypes (of the African Diaspora)
People Who Want to: Leave a Legacy | Be Remembered
The Outlaw - think Missy Elliot, Lil Naz X, or Stacey Abrams. As an Outlaw brand, you desire liberation. Also known as the activist, gambler, maverick, or reformer.
Values: Liberation, change, righteousness, independence.
The Magician - think Disney Imagineer, Lanny Smoot, Dasia Taylor, or Arlyne Simon. As a Magician brand, you also provide transformations. Also known as the alchemist, engineer, innovator, or scientist.
Values: transformation, oneness, curiosity, manifesting, magical moments, self-preservation
The Hero - think Mohammad Ali, John Lewis, or Nanisca of the Women King. As a Hero brand, you inspire others to feel empowered and to succeed, rising to one's ambitions. Also known as the athlete, liberator, rescuer, or warrior.
Values: mastery, courage, strength, stamina, goodness, redemption, transformation
People Who Want to: Provide Structure
The Caregiver - think Iyana Vanzant, Supernanny Jo Frost, or JoMarie Payton. As a Caregiver brand, you help those in need in a motherly way. Also known as the angel, guardian, healer, or samaritan.
Values: compassion, empathy, gratitude, service, support, helping others, self-care
The Creator - think Daymond John, Dr. Dre, or Maya Angelou. As a Creator brand, you provide the tools for others to express themselves in a creative way. Also known as the artist, entrepreneur, storyteller, or visionary.
Values: self-expression, imagination, out-of-box thinking, originality, creation
The Ruler - think Beyonce, Ketanji Brown Jackson, or James Avery. As a Ruler brand, you lead with authority and give others a sense of power as well. Also known as the ambassador, judge, patriarch, or sovereign.
Values: rank, tradition, stability, nobility, benevolence, power, prosperity, status, success
People Who Want to: Explore Spirituality | Seek Paradise | Obtain True Freedom
The Innocent - think Halle Bailey, Skai Jackson, or Dominique Thorne (Ironheart). As an Innocent brand, you are linked to safety, positivity, and happiness, lacking ill-will towards others. Also known as the child, dreamer, idealist, or muse.
Values: purity, wholesomeness, honesty, optimism, simplicity, positivity, happiness
The Sage - think Erykah Badu, Morgan Freeman, or Cornel West. As a Sage brand, you provide knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Also known as the detective, mentor, shaman, or translator.
Values: wisdom, intelligence, truth, clarity, expertise, information, cognitive fulfillment
The Explorer - think Will Smith, Jennifer Lewis, or Oprah Winfrey. As a Ruler brand, you challenge the confines of modern life to explore the depths of one's soul or the outdoors. Also known as the adventurer, generalist, pioneer, or seeker.
Values: adventure, exploration, self-discovery, discovery, independence, freedom, bravery
People Who Want to: Pursue Connection
The Lover - think Rihanna, Toni Braxton, or Tank. As the Lover brand, you appeal to the desire for sensual pleasure, closeness, love, and affection. Also known as the hedonist, companion, matchmaker, or romantic.
Values: love, affection, indulgence, sensuality, appreciation, beauty, closeness, intimacy
The Everyman - think Charlamagne tha God, Samuel L. Jackson, or Roxane Gay. As the Everyman brand, you create a welcoming atmosphere, driven by equality and inclusion. Also known as the citizen, networker, servant, or advocate.
Values: faithfulness, support, equality, inclusion, fellowship, togetherness, respect, fairness
The Jokester - think Janelle James, Kevin Hart, or Niecy Nash. As a Jokester brand, you promote good times, ready to bring levity to life. Also known as the clown, entertainer, provocateur, or shapeshifter.
Values: humor, fun, laughter, togetherness, originality, freedom of expression, play
Your goal should be to identify a brand personality that most resonates with you personally because you desire to work with people like you or select an archetype that most of your target audience aligns with.
Again, remember to choose 1 (70% of your personality) or 2 (30% of your personality) brand archetypes or one of their sub-brand archetypes (i.e., the provocateur or advocate). Just like you aren’t running around saying it’s your zodiac season (Capricorn season is the best season!) for your moon sign, you wouldn’t do it for your secondary brand archetype.
Your Content Strategy
With your verbal identity and visual identity, you can plan the delivery of your content with a content strategy. A content strategy is not content marketing, content writing, or content marketing strategy. Rather, a content strategy is a document that defines the game plan for the content your audience would want to engage with. A successful strategy should answer the following questions:
How will you craft your content and amplify it publicly?
Who will be responsible?
How will you measure the marketing of your content?
These questions must be answered as part of a content strategy. They are tied to the stages of your customer’s journey and the messaging pillars from your verbal identity. These messaging pillars will act as your content pillars.
Content pillars are key topics or themes around which you can structure your content. This approach ensures that your content strategy and messaging strategy are interconnected and linked to your one core value proposition. You will also need to document the following:
How you will interact with influencers based on your content pillars
How you will engage your target audience
What your call to action (CTA) should be
Where should your CTA be placed
What will your content formats be
Where will your content be shared
As part of your content strategy, you should also develop an editorial calendar. The last step in your content strategy is planning and measurement, which involves the creation of an editorial calendar. Your calendar should note the following:
The key message the content supports
Locations for publishing
Any other information you feel is important to track
Review your content strategy monthly or quarterly. Your editorial calendar is an aid to help measure your content marketing efforts and can assist you in determining where your content strategy may need a few tweaks.
A well-documented content strategy not only statistically leads to better content marketing results, but also creates a more robust and streamlined content consumption experience for your target audience. A great streamlined experience has a greater chance of sparking a deeper interest in your brand while making content marketing less stressful for you.
Putting It All Together
As you can see, to create synergy within your company, you must have strategies in place for your business that flow with each other, informing each other. When you skip steps, you take chances with the success of your brand when you really want to succeed. It is a form of self-sabotage. Instead, do best by you and your business by investing in the development of strategies, plans, and processes that will level your business up to the big brands you love most.
Essentially, all three strategies dictate where your brand is going, how it will show up, and how it will reach people with its presence. It’s like getting ready for a networking party. First, you need to know where you are going. Then, depending on the party, you will decide what to wear that gives the best impression of your personality. Lastly, you want to have a game plan for who you want to speak to at the event when you get there, and a way for them hit you up if they want to continue to build a relationship with you.
Learn more about brand strategy today: