10 Principles for Building Up Your Brand Strategy

Taking everything into consideration, how do you differentiate your brand?


The must-dos: Your brand’s ability to generate value relies on 10 principles.

“Business is changing, but the principles of strong brands still hold true.”

Interbrand is a 36-year-old branding company that manages the brands of some of the biggest companies in the world. They’ve been kind enough to publish online what their guiding principles are for good branding, and they make a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, the methodology they describe, as interesting and valuable as it is, is a bit like reading an MBA textbook. So here’s the Coles Notes version – a grassroots rendition, if you will – for their 10 principles of brand strength.

1.     Commitment

First and foremost, you and your employees need to be committed to the company brand. Are you willing to risk your brand by looking for shortcuts? Are you willing to jeopardize your brand to make a quick buck? Don’t.

On earning consumer respect: “As consumers we’re getting used to being disappointed. But what if you’re brand could be the one that delivers more? You’d stick out like a sore thumb. You’d be a rock star.”

2.     Protection

If you’re committed to your brand, you’ll want to protect it. Whether it’s the design of the logo or the domain for a site, you need to secure your brand. So take the legal precautions and own the “proprietary ingredients” to guarantee what you have defined as yours stays yours. 

3.     Clarity

Be clear. Plain and simple. Be clear about your values and your positioning, and make sure they are clearly defined and understood across the board by every member in your organization.

4.     Responsiveness

Yes, you need to be committed to your brand, and yes, your brand needs to be crystal clear to everyone involved in your organization, but that doesn’t mean it should never evolve. Take Roots for example. As I’ve touched on before, the retailer brought in Canadian artist and author Douglas Coupland to re-invent their long-running-Canadiana-kitsch brand story in a brilliant marketing marriage.

5.     Authenticity

Authenticity comes down to trust. After the recent economic turmoil consumers are looking for brands with substance. They want real stories with real history behind their brands. And they want the truth. So what’s your story? 

6.     Relevance

It’s no good creating a company profile on Facebook if the majority of the demographic you’re looking to target isn’t even on the web. Evolving and responding to change is essential to maintaining a compelling brand, but you have to make sure that your brand is not only meeting customers’ needs, but that you’re reaching them using the appropriate tools.

7.     Understanding

To give your company the benefit of the doubt if something does go awry, your customers need to truly understand your brand. Who is the face (or faces) behind the name? What can they relate to? Apple, by way of example, is a brand that is immediately understood to be innovative, creative and distinct in its visual cues.

8.     Consistency

Brands need to adapt to different markets, but what about your brand remains consistent the world over? At anytime of any day in any country, what can you always promise your customers?  Whatever it is, it needs to everywhere.

9.     Presence

Who’s talking about you? Where are they talking about you? And what are they saying? With the rise of social media, brands have new opportunities to elevate their presence. But this presence can be both a blessing and a curse. When it comes to online, customers are just as ready to criticize as they are to praise. And regardless of which it is, they expect online responses to be quick and authentic.

10. Differentiation

What makes your brand different? Of course, it comes down to carving a distinct position in the market, but it’s also a culmination of these brand principles.

It’s time to step up and be more interesting, more complete and more human with our brands. These 10 steps are a good guide for your own brand conversations, brainstorms and blue-sky sessions.