Until a few years ago, my answer to the common question on how business strategy and branding strategy are related was that the business strategy comes first, because that is a ‘long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal or set of goals or objectives’. Making money is usually the main such goal. A business strategy is the management’s game plan for strengthening the performance of the enterprise, including creating the business model and identifying the main customer target audience. Being only a brand advisor, I simply wanted to show a lot of respect for the other parts of the business.
Over the past few years, I have changed my mind about what comes first. I now promote the idea that the brand strategy comes first, and the business strategy or plan, including goals of performance and the business model, comes second. The reason for this change is that, in my practice and experience, I have seen too many businesses fail. Not because they haven’t been able to come up with a very good business model and strategy for making money, but because they haven’t been attentive enough to customer needs and customer perception.
In other words: an enterprise must address these wider and underlying customer needs, and come up with an idea, a concept and a customer experience that leads to a high level of customer acceptance. This acceptance, enthusiasm and loyalty results in a long-term relationship between the customer and the brand of the enterprise.
This last part is what a brand means today. If you research, develop and launch a business that does all this, you are almost guaranteed a success. There is a risk that setting up a business and trying to make money with a smart business model becomes the end in itself. Technology and development follows, with a little bit of made-up customer trailing behind, as opposed to thoroughly researching the customer experience.
Instead, begin with understanding the true customer experience. Who are the customers and users? What are their deeper needs? How do you ensure your customer experience has less friction and is more enjoyable when compared with existing alternatives? And how would that be perceived as different? Only when you understand the customer experience can you consider the technology and, finally or in parallel, look at how to combine the whole thing into a business with a good, smart business model.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Thomas Gad, excerpted from his book Customer Experience Branding, with permission from Kogan Page publishing.
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