Brand Strategists – What Are They And What Do They Do?
We live in a world that is crowded and competitive in the business market.
The ease with which people can start companies these days is incredible.
Even the notion of a ‘start-up', whether that be in tech or any other field, is distinctly modern in the loose, casual, results-oriented approach that is inherent to it.
The massively competitive business world has been good for job creation, not just because of how many businesses there are with roles that need to be filled but also because of all of the jobs that have become popular as a direct result of the massive amount of pressure placed on companies to be able to compete successfully.
One of these jobs is for brand strategists.
The internet and the age of accessible, fast-paced self-promotion has led to an industry where it is essential to master your brand.
Moreover, this isn't limited to food companies or clothing shops; it means everyone.
Branding, everything from artistic design to market research, is a complex task and one which requires the co-operation of professionals in all sorts of varied and contrasting industries.
To coordinate a company's brand strategy of attack you need an overseer, and that's where the brand strategists come into play.
It can be rough, and it can require a lot, but it's a profoundly satisfying position that allows you a flexible and varied range of tools and interactions.
So, to get down to it, here are some things which brand strategists could be required to do.
I'm being a bit facetious in proposing that a brand strategist has to do everything, but it's more to point out the fact that brand strategy is not really a job where you can train all that precisely.
At any one time, you could be required to do anything from overseeing an entire branding campaign to doing marketing research to plan for creating your branding team.
It's not really a job that has a specific degree path either: fields which could be of help to you include, but aren't limited to marketing, psychology, economics, business, finance, languages, computer science or even philosophy.
There's a general sense in which you have to be able to understand people.
This is broad advice, but it will be a good indicator if you have what it takes to direct the path a brand takes.
You're selling a company or a product to people, so knowing how people work or what appeals to them is crucial.
However, in such a broad-spectrum job, you will be required to juggle a lot of different career identities.
Understanding the market in which your brand exists is crucial to your success as a strategist.
Market research is often a technical, statistical job: but not always.
It can be as simple as watching how your product or brand performs and, in a non-statistical way, just adjusting your plan according to your perceptions.
Conversely, it can require vast data collection and analysis to see how you could be improving and to get detailed feedback on what areas of the market you are over-performing/under-performing on.
It is also part of the planning stage.
Market research, about the area your brand is looking to fall in, allows you to see what you should do differently from previous brands and what you should emulate.
Market research will typically be something you discuss and work on with a team, but it will always be your call, when all is said and done, as to what direction you chose in response to the research.
It's worth mentioning at this junction that brand strategy is, very broadly speaking, divided into two skill sections: business and art.
It's not to say that both can't be learnt at some point but, I would say, to truly ‘learn' the artistic side is probably harder.
If you have no artistic ability or creativity and you are interested in brand-related work, you might be better off working in marketing of some sort.
Branding always involves an element of creativity: a filmed advertisement, logo creation, managing company narratives, engaging with influencers and brand champions etc.
A brand strategist will often shift into the role of Art Director on projects that require it.
To be able to make that leap you have to be able to understand creative marketing and what gets your target audience going.
This is easier said than done and can require, ironically, an artistic form of market research.
However, it also requires an inherent artistic sensitivity.
If you have it, then art directing can become the highlight of your job.
Creative collaboration can be so rewarding, and, frankly, fun, affording you all sorts of opportunities you wouldn't typically receive.
It's undoubtedly one of the major draws for many people who look into the job to start with, so be aware that it's an essential and exclusive skill to have before signing up.
Social Media Management
Social media is a recently bloomed area that has inserted itself as absolutely vital for a brand strategy of almost any type, anywhere in the world.
The speed of the flow of information and the capacity for genuinely targeted marketing campaigns on any scale make it a revolutionary tool for brand strategists and understanding the ins and outs of it can be complicated but will be amazingly helpful to you moving forward.
Most brand strategists will instruct, if not directly oversee, the management of their brand's social media page, content and all of the marketing and advertising campaigns which might be run on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
Advertising via these sites is a brand strategists dream because they can use their knowledge of both their content and the audience they most want to capture to design highly specific targeted adverts and get all the success they need.
It's a new world and one which continues to involve so it will require s a new world and one which continues to engage so it will need you to monitor the world continuously and keep your fingers on the pulse of social media interactions.
People (And Talent) Management
A lot of people management goes into brand strategy.
You're mainly overseeing big-scale projects, so, naturally, you're monitoring a lot of groups of people in amongst that.
Your ability to manage expectations, to make demands but keep people on-side and to remain well-liked can have a really huge impact on the quality of your branding strategy.
It's not always obvious how to go about this and people management will always remain one of those incredibly difficult and complex areas that relies more on instinct and experience rather than any training or guide book.
Getting the best out of your team and any outsiders you hire in is vital, in any case.
In a slightly different sense, you will, often, have to manage people in a more literal, career sense.
In this instance, I'm describing managing talent.
Often, particularly on the creative side of a project, you will work with big names in pursuit of propelling your brand as far as you can.
This could mean one of many things.
It could be that you have a brand spokesperson: a public figure (anything from a reality tv star to a politician) who is willing, usually for compensation but not always, to represent your brand in some advertising campaign and promote the product using their elevated image, following or clout.
It could mean that you have to manage actors, which is different from a spokesperson.
An actor will be scripted and, even if they're playing themselves, their own identity will be a bit more disconnected from your company or campaign.
In a new wave sense, it could also refer to having to manage influencers.
Influencers are people, sometimes famous in other regards first, who use modern tools such as social media or streaming to ‘influence' the opinions and trends of their built-in following.
Influencers are so valuable to branding strategists as they offer a way to disarm an audience and make them feel like they understand your brand without necessarily finding the marketing itself annoying or difficult to consume.
Influencers might advertise in 1 out of every 10 social media posts, for example.
All of these people, in working for your overall branding strategy and vision will need to be managed carefully, and you will have a whole lot to do with that.
Make sure you're careful, as having an influencer or spokesperson turn against your brand can kill everything you've worked for in a few hours.
Brand strategy, like anything worth doing, is very hard.
Moreover, being a brand strategist can be one of the most stressful jobs in the world.
But it can also be gratifying and is a career which could allow you to gain experience in fields you might not have to know that you had any ability or interest in whatsoever.