Why channel strategy should be included in your branding

Learn how to make a ‘brand house’ instead of old school customer journey models.

Sara Budhwani
The Shadow

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Photo by William Krause on Unsplash

“Everyone is on TikTok, why aren’t we on TikTok!?”

“Everyone is talking about Clubhouse, let’s do something on Clubhouse asap!”

When you’re a brand, it’s so easy to follow what everyone else is doing and feel like you need to be there too. But there’s nothing worse than a brand trying to fit in somewhere they don’t belong.

When a brand succeeds in generating successful awareness from a social post, or campaign, it’s usually because of how all the pieces came together. The combination of being at the right place, at the right time, with the right messaging, is the recipe for success.

Every brand wants their Oreo moment, or have something go viral. But fail to realize that it takes a solid recipe to gain success. “Going viral” should not be your strategy.

A brand’s social and messaging strategies should be set right from the start — at the branding stage.

If you’re in the process of building a brand, or have built one in the past, when it’s finally ready to send it out to the world, do you push it out there, and just … pray that it works?

A lot of people finish their branding process without thinking about their strategies. If your channel strategies are led by your branding, when social media constantly changes its trends and tactics, you’ll always be clear about where you need to be and why.

For example, when Apple launched their first smartwatch they also had to be smart about their go-to-market strategies. Even though they already had an advantage with a large consumer base, that didn’t guarantee an automatic win. Their go-to-market strategies positioned the brand within the luxury fashion world, by building collaborations with luxury brands like Tesla and Hermes. By thinking on-brand for the product, they were able to capitalize on an area of the market they otherwise would have left relatively untouched.

That’s because they knew their audience, they knew where to position the brand (luxury fashion), they knew what they were good at, they developed a strong personality, and they were smart about their strategies. And it makes sense that today Apple only has an active TikTok account for music. They’ve stayed true to their brand, instead of following what everyone else is doing.

If you set up your channel strategy at the branding stage you’ll be able to make more on-brand decisions about where and how your brand lives and engages with its audience. You’ll also have a clear idea of where your brand should not be, which also helps the brand identity stay true to its core.

Before you think about the channel strategy for your brand, you have to understand 4 things first:

Know your audience

If you’re unsure about who your audience is, you’re not going to know where they live. Understanding the channels your audience uses and why is crucial for developing a channel strategy. Look at stats and figures for the user profile of platforms. How much of your age demographic uses TikTok? And what do they engage with? Google has a ‘Find your Audience’ tool that can help.

Position your brand

You’re positioning involves understanding your key players and seeing how you position yourself against them. Keep in mind your key players can be brands that sell something totally different than you, like in the Apple Watch example. Think about how your consumers are positioning these brands in their heads, because that’s what you’re really competing against.

Know what you’re good at and why

Find what makes you unique and make it simple enough for anyone to quickly understand. Then make sure you have proof to back it up. You need a strong USP (unique selling proposition) and credible RTB’s (reasons to believe) in order for consumers to feel comfortable enough to position your brand in their heads. Also, the simpler your messaging is, the better.

Develop a personality

Whether you're launching a new product line or a new brand, it needs a human component. People didn’t buy Apple’s Watch because it had better features than its competing smartwatches. It was disruptive in how people saw it benefiting their lives. All their messaging and visuals were premium, aspirational, creative, edgy, and sleek. People who related to that personality were all of a sudden drawn to something they never thought they wanted.

Once you have these 4 points clear, then you can start to develop your brand house — an exercise I’ve created to help think about channel strategies.

Build your brand house

Preview of Branding for Purpose Workshop

When thinking about your channel strategy, imagine your brand is a house. There are four rooms in the house: the kitchen, living room, dining room, and bedroom. Think of your guests as your target audience.

The kitchen is usually one of the first rooms you see when you enter a house, and where all the life happens. When people visit the kitchen, they are watching the magic, the behind-the-scenes action, it’s the place where things are made. Think about what channel(s)/platforms will be your kitchen, your center of attention.

The living room is another room where all guests access and see. This is where guests can relax and be entertained, so little opportunity for intimate interaction. What channel(s)/platforms will be your living room, the places to entertain?

The dining room is not for every guest, only those that are invited. This room is a chance to engage with your guests on a more intimate level, while everyone is sharing something similar, like a meal. When you get specific about your messaging, what channel(s)/platforms are you using to engage with the specific audience on a more intimate level?

The bedroom is a chance for the visitor to be alone and interact as they wish. This is a place for your guest to customize their own experience. This may not be relevant in your situation, but an example that would fit here would be a retail location. Think about what platforms can allow your customer to customize their experience.

Layout your house and place the right channels in the right rooms. For example, if you know your audience uses Instagram heavily for entertainment and content, then you might want to place Instagram in your living room. Include all channels you’d like to use for communicating, including website, blog, newsletters, social channels, physical locations, PR, etc.

In the end, you’ll have a clear idea of not only which platforms you’ll use, but also how and why. This is what differentiates a smart strategy-led brand, from a brand that just follows demand.

If you’re just on Instagram because “everyone is on Instagram” well, you’ll just be treated like everyone else. Don’t forget that people wouldn’t care if 74% of brands they use vanished, according to a study by Havas Group’s “Meaningful Brands” report. They also say that 60% of the content produced by companies is poor, irrelevant, or failing to deliver.

Brands' goals and objectives should not be about being everywhere. Think about making sure your brand is in the right place at the right time, whatever that entails.

User experiences have changed

Your brand house becomes your user experience. If you look at any sales funnel or user journey model, it will tell you the process is something like: awareness > consideration > purchase > retention > advocacy.

And even though that can definitely be true, this doesn’t explain much about the real customer journeys that are more realistic today. Consumers can find your brand in so many different ways. How they enter will determine their journey.

So it’s possible your target audience could enter your brand house and go straight to the bedroom. Maybe they make a purchase there, or maybe they visit all the rest of the rooms before they make a purchase. Consumers are starting to look at the full ecosystem of a brand to really determine their intentions.

A consumer can make a purchase in any room in your brand house. This explains how different people make purchases in different ways. Some people like the customized experience, some people like to be where the crowd is.

Regardless, if you start to think of your consumer experience in the form of a house, you’ll start to notice how your consumers interact with your brand differently in each room. You can then really define your different rooms and experiences, making sure each one is tailored to your objectives and the way consumers interact with your brand.

Treat your consumers like guests in your own house. The more comfortable you make them, the more they’ll stay.

This exercise and more are found in my branding for purpose workshop that can be downloaded here. Get in touch if you want to discuss more.

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Sara Budhwani
The Shadow

I’m a freelance brand & creative strategist based in Amsterdam. I enjoy writing to spark new perspectives and share insights. Let’s chat www.sarabudhwani.com