Brand Strategy Examples… & Where Entrepreneurs Fail

Brand Strategy Examples… & Where Entrepreneurs Fail

Brand Strategy Examples:

Branding is everything. You can’t think about Apple without imagining the clean logo, brushed aluminum, and lots of white space. The Starbucks siren is so well-known that the company completely dropped the brand name from its logo in 2011.

Brands are what sell products and services. Just about everything else is a commodity.

Unfortunately, we entrepreneurs usually throw our brand and logo together at the last minute, calling up a nephew who went to school for graphic design after we’ve already found investors and hired staff.

This is a mistake. Your brand determines your company’s core identity, and good branding starts with good research. To ensure that your brand is sending the right message to customers, it’s important to take the time up front to determine who you are and develop your big idea in tandem with your brand.

4 Questions to Ask About Your Brand

When considering what type of brand your company is, try asking these four questions:

Who are we?

Who do our clients say we are?

What do our potential clients want us to be?

What sets us apart from our competitors?

Finding the answers to these questions means digging deep into your company’s identity. If you don’t spend time doing high-quality research, you’ll never find the right logo. Here are four steps to help you find the answers to those questions:

1. Stakeholder Interviews

brand strategy examples

Decide who the key stakeholders in your business are. Ask your partners and managers questions about their financial goals and timelines for the company. Ask what they believe is the unique selling proposition of your company.

2. Current Client Discovery

brand strategy examples

If you already have clients, take an unbiased survey. Ask them what they like about your business and what they don’t.

3. Potential Client Survey

brand strategy examples

Once you’ve identified your target customers, ask what they want from your company, where they’re hoping to engage with your services, and what they think of your competitors.

4. Competition Audit

brand strategy examples

Look at what your competitors are doing on social media and on their websites. Is their approach working? Why or why not? What do their clients like about them? What don’t they like? Where are they succeeding and failing, and why? Understand your competitors and how you fit into the market.

Once you’ve collected this information, you’ll be able to answer the four questions above and be prepared to evaluate your brand through the eyes of your customers and stakeholders. Looking at everything you do through this lens will keep your brand and business on track.

Let’s look at two well-known companies to see what the answers to these questions reveal about their branding.

Who am I?

FedEx: This mail delivery service is reliable and forward-thinking.

J.C. Penney: This is a long-standing department store struggling to update its image.

Who do my clients say I am?

FedEx: Clients see it as fast, convenient, and reliable.

J.C. Penney: Clients view this as an affordable, but not necessarily trendy, department store. After numerous brand changes, customers are confused as to what J.C. Penney stands for and are fairly untrusting. Many loyal customers were outraged when J.C. Penney stopped providing promotions and coupon savings last year.

What do my potential clients want me to be?

FedEx: Potential customers want fairly priced, on-time deliveries without problems or setbacks.

J.C. Penney: Potential customers want a modern department store with affordable prices. They want the same promotions and prices without sacrificing quality or style.

What is my competition not doing?

FedEx: UPS has not emphasized air delivery as FedEx has, choosing to focus on ground delivery instead. But because ground delivery is quickly becoming an important driver of growth (and more consumers are opting for a cheaper service), FedEx has invested in growing its ground business.

J.C. Penney: Other department stores, like Nordstrom, are making radical changes to stay relevant, such as selling cheaper clothing targeted at young women and revamping the beauty counter.

J.C. Penney’s competition currently holds a huge advantage because customers can identify the retailers’ unique identities and merchandise, whereas J.C. Penney customers are confused about the brand’s identity. J.C. Penney has made the colossal mistake of radically rebranding numerous times within three years, deterring loyal customers and destroying sales.

FedEx’s logo clearly reflects its brand’s emphasis on fast, easy-to-use service, which will serve it well even as it transitions from air to ground delivery. The white arrow points away, signifying forward movement. It’s clean and modern, just as the company claims to be.

J.C. Penney has returned to its old logo, ditching the lowercase “jcp” inside a box that coincided with its failed “fair and square everyday pricing” strategy. The company was able to show a small earnings increase of $35 million compared to a loss of $552 million in the same quarter in the previous year.

If J.C. Penney’s flip-flopping branding strategy tells us anything, it’s that your brand iswhat customers think about your company. If your branding is misguided, you could be turning them away without meaning to. By not properly researching its possible logo and rebranding efforts, J.C. Penney lost significant profits and — to a degree — much of its integrity.


Branding often doesn’t come into the picture for entrepreneurs until after we’ve invested time developing our product or services, but it’s always best to develop your brand simultaneously. If your company is already established, though, it’s never too late to take stock of your current brand image. Talk to your customers, talk to your stakeholders, and examine your competitors’ strategies. These questions will help reveal who your brand really is and what your customers want it to be.

About the Author:

Joshua Conran is a senior partner at Grand Rapids branding firm, Deksia, an agency that for the past decade has been helping companies succeed. His main focus is on business intelligence and design.


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