Have you ever bought a product only because you trust the brand?
With today's abundance of consumer options, there should be something else except for the great functionality or quality of service that makes your brand stand out.
And customer acquisition is only the tip of this branding iceberg. 82% of investors believe that brand strength and name recognition are getting increasingly important in making their investment decisions.
Regardless of your business goals, you need a strong branding strategy.
Branding is a practice of identifying and establishing a positioning that’s distinguishing your company from competition. It includes the development of the brand purpose, values, voice, and identity.
But apart from the brand colors, logo, and marketing channels, there’s one more important aspect to decide on. We’re talking about the right strategic approach to establishing your brand. What’s the cornerstone of your branding strategy?
Let’s find the answer together.
6 Branding Strategies
Typically, authors highlight at least eight types of branding strategies. These include:
- Personal branding
- Product branding
- Corporate branding
- Service branding
- Retail branding
- Online branding
- Offline branding
However, distinguishing online and offline branding strategies seems absurd in today’s world. Both approaches encompass any of the aforementioned strategies, and we don’t believe it’s helpful to list them as separate strategies.
Therefore, the list of branding strategies can be shortened to the major six types.
Here comes the most trending branding strategy – personal branding.
Personal branding is particularly effective for SaaS and service companies. It’s a practice of building a reputation of a thought leader in the niche in order to increase their company’s authority and, eventually, boost conversions.
For example, a demand generation agency will definitely get more clients from their VP’s personal brand than from their company account on LinkedIn.
Sam Kuehnle has built a massive following on the platform due to actionable marketing insights he’s sharing regularly with his growing network. But the strength of his personal brand isn’t defined by the number of followers (which is over 8K people) but by the engagement his posts see.
When potential clients see Sam’s posts, they don’t question the quality of Refine Labs’ services. In this case, personal branding helps the agency to reach wider audiences and warm them up, which leads to a shorter (and less expensive) sales process.
The above-mentioned example illustrates the use of personal branding and service branding combined – even though Refine Labs’ employees have strong brands, you won’t see their faces on the company landing pages. It means that the agency strategy isn’t centered around personal branding.
Still, there are examples of agencies and even products being built on their founders’ personal brands. Neil Patel successfully uses his own name to grow his SEO agency and promote tools he builds.
You can see Neil doesn’t build a separate domain for his tools so that the authority he has earned through the years is passed to the assets he sells.
To make the strategy work, you need to:
- Have strong expertise. Without it, you won’t be able to provide value and encourage people to follow you.
- Focus on one channel. Start by growing your presence on only one channel. Avoid trying to master every social platform before you’ve nailed one of them.
- Post consistently. You won’t build a personal brand in a week. The benefits of personal branding are directly proportional to the effort you put into establishing and maintaining your brand.
- Know other experts in the industry. Connecting and collaborating with people in your niche is one of the best growth strategies. By simply interacting with other experts’ content, you’ll expand your reach to new and relevant audiences effortlessly.
Of course, personal branding isn’t limited to online initiatives. It may also include co-hosting offline events, meeting your network in person, or even running outdoor ads.
The next branding strategy is product branding.
In this strategy, promotional activities are built around a product or a family of products and are not necessarily connected with the positioning of a brand producing it.
Contrary to other branding strategies on this list, the product and its features are at the center of this strategy. The approach is used by companies in various niches: retailers, B2B, health and wellness, SaaS, etc.
For instance, Salesforce provides a consistent brand image across every channel, illustrating their product in use, sharing customer stories, and delivering tutorials for any level of experience. Below is an example of a native advertising campaign by Salesforce.
The brand offers potential users to watch a series of product demonstrations to get familiar with the tool and its benefits.
Product branding for B2B and B2C
It’s worth saying that product branding for B2C is slightly different from the same strategy applied to B2B brands.
B2B branding aims at building a relationship with a customer. The success heavily depends on whether you manage to build a trustworthy image. You need to ask for testimonials, build world-class customer service, and keep improving your product in order to maintain a strong brand.
In contrast to B2B, B2C product branding is more about building a positive, catchy brand image. The path to purchase is very short, and buying decisions are guided by the product benefits and brand reputation rather than strong expertise and authority.
Building a brand for a service is more challenging than product branding, but you can make it possible with a successful strategy.
What differentiates service branding from product branding?
Here are some of the key differences:
- You don’t have a tangible product with evident benefits;
- Customer experience is probably the only asset that you can effectively market;
- In most cases, clients’ expenses are higher, and the sales cycle is longer.
Nonetheless, a strong brand is essential for a service provider willing to win the trust of their potential clients.
Jenn Zajac, a copywriter for hotels, makes her expertise transparent by sharing multiple resources for hotel marketing alongside famous clients’ logos on her site’s homepage.
Your service branding strategy should involve efforts aimed at strengthening your reputation as a reliable expert, among which the most common are:
- Personal brand
- Case studies
- Brand identity
- Proactive communication
- Friendly service
Corporate branding is a strategy where establishing brand identity is prioritized over promoting separate products and services.
The approach is aimed at increasing brand awareness and taking root in consumers’ minds. Large-scale brand awareness campaigns require consistency, and their impact can’t be measured short term. That’s why the strategy is preferred by companies with large marketing budgets.
Unlike brands that focus on demand generation strategies that deliver results here and now, companies that go for corporate branding invest in campaigns that are memorable.
Coca-Cola isn’t trying to sell you a box of Coke with their famous Christmas truck tour. They invest in emotions that are converted into a stronger brand image.
Corporate branding requires some self-reflection. You should separate your brand name from your product line and think of universal brand values instead. The following factors will form your branding strategy:
- The way you treat your employees;
- Company policies;
- How you communicate with your customers;
- Brand name, logo, colors, etc.;
- Your mission statement;
- What sets you apart from your competition;
- How your employees interact with the public.
You would recognize Nike’s slogan even if there wouldn’t be their logo in the image, right? This is what corporate branding is about.
Retail companies also need branding. You can’t beat retail giants, like Amazon, eBay, or Walmart, with an ordinary marketing strategy. But you can stand out by building a strong brand.
Instead of competing with other mass-market brands, Story has developed a completely new experience for consumers. The store changes themes every four to eight weeks completely disrupting the way retail is traditionally experienced.
Storytelling is the only powerful tool each retailer can use. You might not be able to offer competitive prices, a comfortable store location, or the widest range of goods on the market. But you can always tell a story that will make people want to return to your store.
You might choose to build their branding on their history or create a sense of luxury exclusivity – regardless of what story you’re going for, it’s essential that your retail brand creates real emotional connections.
Co-branding is a way of building and growing a new product through strategic partnerships.
What’s the difference between co-branding and co-marketing?
Co-marketing does not involve the creation of a new product, and co-branding does. When you see a podcast co-hosted by HubSpot and SEMrush, this is co-marketing. When you buy Philadelphia cream cheese with Milka chocolate, it’s co-branding.
To make co-branding work, you need to have a certain level of authority in the industry when getting started with collaboration.
What can you offer to a brand you’ll be partnering with? Is it strong expertise with the topic? Is it a positive brand image? Is it funding?
Both sides should be able to offer something to reward their partner and make a co-branding partnership successful. Depending on what each company has to offer, there is a respective type of a co-branding strategy:
- Ingredient co-branding – a component of one well-known brand is added to a product of another brand;
- Same-company co-branding – new products are produced under one company name;
- National to local co-branding – a nationally recognized brand partners with local businesses to boost awareness and create an emotional connection with audiences;
- Joint venture or composite co-branding – a completely new product is built and presented by two established brands;
- Multiple sponsor co-branding – a technology or an event is sponsored by two or more companies.
So, if you’re only entering the game of branding, you’d better go after an independent branding strategy.
How To Select The Right Branding Strategy
All things considered, how do you choose from all these branding strategies?
As a marketing expert, should you go after personal branding or service branding? And as an eCommerce seller, how do you choose between product branding and retail branding?
Consider your business model
The choice of the right strategy highly depends on your business models and goals. Often, the answer lies in the type of product or service you’re going to sell.
How do you see your company’s future? Don’t rush into following your competitors’ strategies. For instance, building a large retail brand doesn’t work for many eCommerce companies – the majority prefers to build strong brands for separate products.
Each strategy has its pros and cons. At the end of the day, it’s best to go after a combined approach. A clothing brand can’t choose a service branding strategy over the product or retail one, but they can make some of its components work for them.
Patagonia, a clothing company, has a strong retailer brand. However, their excellent customer service (backed by the mission) is what strengthens their reputation and helps them gain a loyal audience.
Below is an email one of their customers has received after sending the jacket they bought 3 years ago for repair. The post this customer shared on LinkedIn has gained thousands of reactions.
Estimate your budget
Of course, your decision highly depends on your budget. Corporate branding takes more time and bigger investments than product or service branding, but it will deliver better results in the long term.
Research the competition
Product branding is effective for markets with moderate competition levels. When the competition is high, building a corporate brand is the only way to stand out.
Start with a memorable brand identity
Whatever branding strategies you choose, you need to maintain your brand image throughout all your channels, including your own website, social media accounts, email marketing campaigns, paid advertising, etc.
To make it possible, you need a memorable brand identity. Align your name and logo with a message that you want to convey with your future brand campaigns. See what constitutes big companies’ identities, and get inspired by great examples, like the one of Airbnb:
Design your unique and memorable logo with our logo maker and build your exclusive branding strategy from there.
Adelina is a Content Marketer at Joinative, a native advertising agency and SaaS. She’s responsible for building marketing partnerships, establishing content collaborations, and developing actionable resources for advertisers.