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Industry - 10 minute read

The Data-Driven Brand Strategist: Navigating the Future of Branding

By Milo Hobsbawm

The Importance and Challenges of Branding in Today's Landscape

In today's cluttered and highly competitive market, a well-defined brand is essential for businesses to stand out and connect with their target audience. A powerful brand helps companies differentiate themselves from competitors, create ownable customer experiences that develop trust and loyalty among customers, and generate a multiplier effect on growth and profitability.

As a result, brand strategist responsibilities and remit have grown and become increasingly important in helping organisations navigate complex brand development processes.

For example, developing a foundational brand strategy that aligns with business objectives and customer needs and articulates what makes the company different and relevant, positioned against competitor brands and propositions.

Then, expressing that strategy visually and verbally as a consistent brand identity across all customer touchpoints. All the while conducting research to track brand effectiveness and keeping the brand current as the market landscape and customer needs evolve.

The art and science of brand strategy and design is far from simple. It requires defining the company's vision, values and purpose, and a deep understanding of a company’s target audience/market and products/services. A brand strategist and designer must carefully work with a wide range of fixed assets such as colour palette, typography, imagery, logo, language and tone of voice, to craft a cohesive and compelling brand identity that captures the brand’s core promise to consumers and resonates with them on an emotional level.

Brand strategy also involves tasks from defining the overall brand architecture and naming the company or its products, to conducting audits and ensuring consistent application of the brand across all touchpoints and marketing materials.

Moreover, undertaking a rebranding initiative is a significant and risky endeavour for any company. A rebrand involves numerous decisions that are often based on subjective opinions and preferences, making it challenging to achieve alignment among stakeholders and clients who are wedded to familiarity. This can be time-consuming, costly, and potentially damaging to a company's reputation and sales if not executed properly.

Gap spent many millions of dollars redesigning it's brand in 2010 only to revert back to the original logo after just six days because of consumer backlash. Recent rebranding failures like Twitter becoming  X also show the result of rushing this process and not testing it properly. Amongst many other problems, it lacked a solid strategy foundation and research which are essential to mitigate these risks.

To address these challenges, brand strategists are turning to new technologies and data-driven market research approaches to bring more science and objectivity to their efforts. By leveraging analytics platforms, customer research, and A/B testing, strategists can gain insights at a deeper level into customer preferences, behaviors, and engagement with brand assets.

This allows them to make more informed decisions throughout the brand development phase, from defining the overall brand strategy and architecture to refining specific design elements. Even after an identity is completed, brand audits can reveal opportunities to strengthen the brand message and positioning further with small adjustments.

Data-driven approaches also help streamline the rebranding process by providing a common language and framework for stakeholders to align around. By setting clear metrics and KPIs upfront, such as brand awareness, brand equity, customer loyalty, or sales performance, brand strategists can more effectively communicate the value and impact of their branding efforts to clients.

This can lead to faster decision-making, greater confidence in the direction of the rebrand strategy, and ultimately better marketing outcomes for the organisation. A regular strategy session to review performance and iterate based on data insights is critical to staying agile.

The Rise of the Data-Driven Brand Strategist

As the branding and marketing landscape continues to evolve along with consumers, it is becoming increasingly clear that the role of the branding strategist and designer must also adapt.

In the future, successful brand designers will need to be comfortable working with data and leveraging insights to inform their creative decisions that win the confidence of stakeholders and clients. This shift towards a more data-driven approach is being driven by several factors, including the increasing complexity of customer journeys and the proliferation of digital marketing channels, plus a growing demand for measurable results from all marketing investments.

Brand strategists will need strong analytical skills to derive actionable insights from quantitative and qualitative data. The resulting insights will guide how designers, marketers and product managers bring the brand to life for buyer personas.

One of the key ways that brand strategists will use data in their marketing campaigns in the future is through AI-powered insights tools.

These tools can help strategists analyse vast amounts of customer data from various sources, such as social media, website analytics, market trends, and primary consumer feedback, to uncover patterns in how people perceive a brand. By understanding factors such as customer sentiment, preferences, and behaviour at a granular level, strategists can evolve from subjective to objective brand development. New ideas will power brand experiences and messaging across specific audience segments and reinforce the brand with every customer interaction.

This data-driven approach to brand development will be a key focus for the brand strategist of the future.

For a brand strategist, for example, an AI-powered insights tool might reveal that a particular colour scheme or messaging approach is more effective at engaging a certain demographic group.

Armed with this knowledge, the brand strategist can guide the creation of an identity that connects more effectively with that audience, leading to increased brand loyalty and advocacy. Similarly, data insights can help strategists identify key differentiators for a brand by highlighting unique value propositions or unmet customer needs.

This data-driven approach to brand positioning, identity and expression via the creation of relevant content will be essential for standing out in today's crowded media landscape.

However, it is important to note that data-driven insights do not replace the business understanding and creative intuition that brand strategists bring to the table. The most effective practitioners of brand design and strategy will combine quantitative and qualitative insights with their deep knowledge of the brand's story, history and target audience to create effective, impactful designs both aesthetically and in terms of revenue growth and market share.

This requires a new set of skills and competencies, such as data literacy, analytical thinking, and the ability to translate insights into actionable design recommendations to clients.

Effective brand development strategy teams will need to adopt specialist data analysis and market research tools to support this new way of working.

Another key benefit of a data-driven approach is the ability to continuously iterate and improve designs over time. By tracking key metrics and customer feedback, brand strategists and creative teams can identify areas for optimization and make data-informed decisions to refine the brand identity and content marketing strategy.

An agile, test-and-learn approach to brand management will allow brands to stay relevant and responsive to changing customer needs and preferences, while also mitigating risks – particularly those associated with large-scale rebranding initiatives. Once again, a regular strategy session to review performance data and brainstorm optimizations is critical.

Ultimately, the rise of the data-driven brand strategist represents a significant opportunity for organisations to be more impactful and effective with brand experiences. By combining strategic thinking and the art of design with the science of data analytics, brand strategists can help companies build the foundation for resilient brands that drive long-term success.

This new breed of brand leader will be at the forefront of shaping the future of marketing and customer experience in the digital age.

Loops: A Platform for Data-Driven Brand Strategy

We built Loops to help brand strategists be more effective across the end-to-end branding and design process by providing fast access to rich, robust data. Insights that used to take weeks to get hold of, Loops delivers in hours.

By leveraging AI-powered customer insights, collaborative workflows, and real-time consumer data, Loops empowers brand strategists to build more effective and measurable brand experiences. The platform is designed to support the full spectrum of brand strategy, from early brand positioning to identity development and ongoing brand management.

Here's an example of how a brand strategist might use Loops to guide a designer through a rebranding initiative:

1. Benchmark The Brand: The first step is to assess the current state of the brand and establish KPIs to measure the success of the rebranding effort. The brand manager and strategist can test current brand attributes against competitors, gaining insights into how the brand is perceived in the target market like a brand audit.

This helps inform wheather a rebrand is necessary and sets clear goals for the project.

2. Choose The Strategic Territory: Next, the strategist uses Loops to test fresh brand strategies and brand positioning statements/messaging. By gathering early feedback from the target market on the resonance and effectiveness of different strategic directions, the strategist can identify the most promising opportunities for the rebrand. In other words, based on the business objectives, where's the best space for the brand to play?

This data-driven approach helps ensure that the brand strategy is grounded in robust customer insights and aligned with business objectives. Loops' AI tool assesses consumer feedback across various strategic approaches, turning it into themes and recommendations, e.g. if the strategic KPIs to be more 'modern', 'premium' and 'welcoming' the AI can analyse 1000s of verbatim from the target audience to see which territory is delivering best against each KPI.

3. Develop The Brand Identity: Once the brand strategy has been set, the strategist and designers can then use Loops to test different potential identities versus the strategic KPIs and assess which route is performing the best, and if this is statistically significant. It's perfect combination of art and science. Teams can make a robust decision about which route to pursue and what elements to include in the final brand identity.

The iterative testing process of Loops removes risky subjective decision-making and ensures that the new identity is optimised for maximum market impact. Loops' collaborative workflows allow brand strategists, designers, art directors, and other stakeholders to work together efficiently to design and refine the identity.

4. Stakeholder Alignment: Throughout the rebranding process, Loops provides robust data and actionable insights to help the brand strategist communicate progress and results to stakeholders. By demonstrating how the brand strategy and identity are moving key metrics in the right direction, such as increased 'modernity' or conveyance of 'premium', the brand strategist builds deep alignment with stakeholders because everything is accountable and everyone is confident.

Quantifiable metrics make the complex process transparent, which in turn streamlines decision-making because there's solid proof business objectives are at the heart of the re-brand.

Conclusion

By utilizing a powerful platform like Loops, a brand strategist can bring a new level of data-driven insight and agility to brand activities. The process of benchmarking current brand perceptions, testing new strategic directions, refining brand identity options, and aligning stakeholders around a shared vision has never been quicker or easier.

Loops empowers the brand strategist to make more informed, impactful and faster decisions at every stage of brand development. The platform's comprehensive capabilities support the full lifecycle of brand strategy work, from initial research and strategy definition through identity creation, activation, and ongoing management.

In the face of new technologies and rapidly evolving consumers expectations, platforms like Loops will become increasingly essential tools to ensure that the brand strategy is delivered effectively.

By harnessing the combination of human creativity with data analytics, brand strategists can create more effective, measurable, and sustainable brand experiences that drive long-term business success.

The future is data-driven, and the brand strategists who embrace this shift will be the ones who lead the way, objectively and confidently.

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