SaaS Brand Strategy...Know It When You See It

Brand strategy is the X factor in demand generation, conversion, customer loyalty, product development, employee recruitment and retention, and ultimately valuation. That’s DRMG’s thesis. We’ll explore examples in an attempt to illustrate where the brand strategy X factor appears and what we can learn from those who have incorporated it, both successfully and maybe not so much. So you know it when you see it.

By
DRMG
|
February 19, 2023

In hindsight, maybe naming our category/specialty after two of the more obscure and misunderstood terms in business (and especially B2B) was a bad idea.

Brand and Strategy.

Similar to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's characterization of pornography as "I know it when I see it," Brand and Strategy suffer from subjective perspectives and lets call it an elasticity of meaning. But it’s partially our fault (our = brand strategists).

The Experts use Brand in multiple contexts. There’s branding (ie, the mark/logo, colors, etc), the brand as reputation, and even brand as a stand-in for the business writ large. The permutations are endless: brand metrics, brand guidelines, brand framework…

Strategy gets conflated with a plan or planning, tactics, and/or goals/objectives. For a primer on the difference…watch this.  

So let’s be clear on what we mean by brand strategy:

  • Brand - The single, novel concept you own in the prospect’s mind.
  • Strategy - A choice of direction made as a result of a process in which you discover, define, and activate that concept as a business asset.

In overly simplistic terms, Brand is born from a combination and distillation of some or all of the following, depending on the stage of the company:

  • The Myth - Origin story. Born of/from noble intentions, because the founders had…
  • A vision/belief/meaning - How the world will change In service to a cause/customer when the company succeeds,
  • A clearly identified problem to be solved, aka the enemy.
  • A promise to the market

Strategy is born from the answers to:

  • Where are you, currently?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • What’s stopping you from getting there?
  • What is your strategy to achieve that?

When combined, Brand Strategy means the development and application of your brand as a business asset and competitive advantage to achieve dominance in the market of your choice.

And at the core of both Brand and Strategy are what make B2B seemingly so allergic to either/or both exercises (when in fact they should be a natural fit): they are instinct, assumptions, and imagination.

While much of the brand and the strategy work is anchored in research and diagnosis on the customer, the market, the culture, and the competition, the majority of brand strategy outputs are, as Roger Martin says, “... a creative endeavor aimed at shaping a future that does not now exist.” Or as Mark Pollard defines strategy, “An educated opinion about how to win.”

A lot like start-ups.

But in an industry that navigates in the now and feeds off of data and dashboards, process, and precision, this unknown and obscure feels different than what everyone else is doing or what they have done in the past. different is scary, and scary is bad.

This becomes more acute as conventional wisdom points to impending economic distress, and B2B businesses try to keep their dollars as far down the funnel and close to the purchase as possible.

But, as Sun Zsu noted, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

This is why we position our work as ‘Brand Strategy for a Product Marketing World”. Brand lives upstream of the more tactical executions. It is the source or headwaters if you will and from which all else flows: product, positioning, messaging, marketing, sales, HR…fundraising.

For both early and later-stage B2B SaaS companies, brand strategy brings clarity, consistency, and conviction to the story you and your customers will tell and sell. It’s a stable foundation from which to grow your idea, not something you have to revisit every six months as product positioning experts advise.

Brand strategy is the X factor in demand generation, conversion, customer loyalty, product development, employee recruitment and retention, and ultimately valuation.

That’s DRMG’s thesis.

We’ll explore examples in an attempt to illustrate where the brand strategy X factor appears and what we can learn from those who have incorporated it, both successfully and maybe not so much.

So you know it when you see it.

Stay tuned.

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