brand strategy and storyline series 5  ·  September 30, 2022

The Three S’s of Branding

A simple and effective way to evaluate your brand’s strength.

“Everyone has skills and talent, but not everyone has a strategy,” -Johnathan Alter

Many of my clients are experts in their chosen fields but are less experienced in branding and marketing. This forces me to share my insights in plain language, and as Albert Einstein pointed out, “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

This often happens in a specific discipline where you work with others who are also passionate experts. You end up creating your own language, which may not translate as effectively as it should. This can be exacerbated in branding because the process is both an art and a science.

Here’s a simple but effective way to assess a brand’s long-term strength. A successful brand, one that can stand the test of time, is driven by equal parts strategy, story, and service. Now when I mentioned this to my sister, she pointed out how hard it would be for me to say three S’s in a row. So, childhood speech impediment aside, here are those three S’s.

STRATEGY: Your brand strategy establishes the long-term framework for your business. It answers how you stand out versus the competition.

  • How does your brand attract, convert, and retain your customers?
  • How does it enable your business goals now, and even three or five years from now?
  • Can people in your organization explain the strategy and how it impacts your customers?

A great example of a brand that does this is Trader Joe's. They offer a small, neighborhood store, staffed by people who love it as much as you do. They delight me as a foodie who loves grocery shopping, as well as my incredibly fit and busy friend who seeks easy and healthy food. That’s because we both can trust that each item in their store delivers, or it won’t last. Also, where else can a Wisconsin boy get fresh Kringle?

Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like.

–Tamara McCleary

brand strategy and storyline series 5  ·  September 30, 2022

STORY: Story is everything because, as human beings, we are hard-wired to hear, remember, and connect through stories. Brands are the most efficient and compelling stories that create connection, trust, and loyalty. In just a few sentences, can you tell your story? Can you describe the hero, challenge, dream, and happy ending that makes up your brand’s story?

Gold Belly is a company that succeeds through its stories, which curates the best, rare, or unique types of food from small shops, chefs, and restaurants. They’re the Zillow of food. I discovered them in my search for my favorite ice cream flavor, Spumoni. They believe in the emotional power of food, the memories, and the connection they create. It’s impressive because we buy based on the item’s story, not a taste or smell, just a picture and a story.

SERVICE: Perhaps the most crucial thing is that the best brands are designed to be of assistance in many ways, including:

  • Empowering and engaging your organization and employees
  • Achieving your company’s greater purpose and mission
  • Elevating your impact on the greater community

So, let’s finish our food theme with one final example: Shake Shack. The first time I noticed them was on a trip to Manhattan, with a 2-block line to get in. I mean, how good can the burger be? (For the record, it’s pretty darn delicious.) What started as a hot-dog cart is now a global business. Their values drive their success and the soul of their brand: Stand for Something Good. We Hold Ourselves Accountable. We Enrich Our Neighborhoods. People-First Culture.

If you’d like to learn more about branding and strategy, check out our free e-book— Brand Strategy, How to build a brand that grows your business for years to come. Just go to the Resources section on our website.

Oh, and for those of you that are interested. Here is the most brutal tongue twister I had to master. Give it a try; it’s a killer. 'The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick.’ Good luck with that.

And remember, Branding Changes Everything.™

If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.

–Howard Schultz