Have you ever wondered how some companies build passionate fanbases around their products or services? Brand stewardship is the key. “Stewardship” is another word for taking care of something, in this case, your brand. It’s all about ensuring you maintain a positive reputation with customers and communicate in a way that aligns with your business’s values.
How do you get started building a brand stewardship strategy? This beginner-friendly guide covers the main steps, key research areas, important terminology and more.
What is Brand Stewardship?
Brand stewardship is the process of managing the well-being of your brand. It involves monitoring and caring for your reputation, relationship with customers, product quality, culture, communication and more. Stewarding your brand is an ongoing process that requires involvement from your business’s leadership, marketing team, customer service representatives and brand manager.
Brand stewardship can take many forms. For instance, it can involve studying and responding to customers’ reviews of your products or services. You might also maintain a strong presence on social media or a brand blog.
Traits like your brand voice, company culture and mission statement are core parts of your stewardship strategy. So, you must consider stewardship in everything from marketing to communications. It is vital for building a relationship with your customers and maintaining a positive reputation.
How to Build a Brand Stewardship Strategy
So, how do you build a brand stewardship strategy for your business? There are a few basic steps to get started. However, it’s important to remember that brand stewardship is a continuous process. So, keep your strategy flexible and don’t be afraid to update it if you need to adjust course.
1. Brand Identity Analysis
You must have a thorough, well-rounded understanding of your brand to take good care of it. So, get started with an in-depth brand analysis.
A brand analysis involves researching the current state of your brand’s reputation, identity, mission, goals, marketing, competitors and customer relationships. Studying all of this information will give you a comprehensive view of how your brand is perceived internally and externally.
Completing a brand analysis improves branding efficiency, marketing effectiveness and communication with customers. It will also expand your understanding of how your brand compares with competitors and where you stand in the market.
2. Define Your Mission Statement and Values
Your brand analysis might reveal that people don’t perceive your business the way you thought. That’s okay! The next stage of your brand stewardship strategy is all about analyzing where your brand is now and where you want it to go in the future.
This stage requires collaboration with your business’s leaders. Work together to develop or revise your mission statement. Hone in on the core of what you want to stand for as a brand. For example, if you make school supplies, your brand could be about promoting education for all.
After defining your mission statement, decide what your core values are. Most brands only have a few. They should encapsulate the moral pillars of your brand and how your business operates. For example, a school supplies company’s core values might include promoting equal access to education.
Your mission statement and values will be the foundation of your brand stewardship strategy, so take your time to get them right.
3. Study Your Customers
The goal of brand stewardship is to ensure your brand’s identity aligns with your business’s and customers’ values. So, it is crucial to understand your customers well. There are many ways to research your current reputation with customers, such as reading reviews, analyzing social media conversations and sending out surveys. (Consider offering customers a discount code in exchange for completing an anonymous survey.)
Customer research might reveal that you have a positive reputation or that your customers perceive you as a market leader. This isn’t always the case, though. If your customers have a negative perception of your brand, try not to take it personally. You may simply be trying to appeal to the wrong demographic or using the wrong language.
Work with your business’s leadership to determine what demographic is looking for products or services like those you have to offer. You may find there is an untapped community out there that’s a perfect match for your brand! Study your target demographic, focusing on the type of language they prefer, the humor they connect with and the values they share.
Does your brand embody those values? How does your brand voice compare to the language your target customers use? Ask plenty of questions like this during the customer research stage.
4. Develop Your Brand Personality
Your brand personality or identity is the voice and tone your business uses in external communications. If your business was a person, what would it be like?
For example, a research consulting firm would want a professional, authoritative brand personality. A school supplies company would want an enthusiastic, upbeat personality. Many features go into your brand’s identity, such as the tone of your communications, the type of content you share, the style of your marketing content and even the humor your brand uses.
Your brand “voice” may sound abstract, but it essentially boils down to the tone your business uses in its communications. For example, a school supplies company would want to have a positive, family-friendly tone in all of its brand content.
To figure out your ideal brand voice, consider who you want to appeal to and what kind of language those customers would connect with. This is where all of your target demographic research comes into play. Your brand personality should be the link that connects your mission statement and your target demographic’s values.
For example, a school supplies company’s target demographic is teachers and parents. Suppose their mission statement is to “promote education for all.” In this case, their brand personality should focus on enthusiastic, positive content about how their products can help parents and teachers support their children and students’ schooling.
5. Create a Brand Stewardship Guide
By this point, you should have a clear idea of what your brand stands for, what your customers value and how you want to communicate. Everyone in your business is involved in brand stewardship, though.
So, it’s helpful to create a “style guide” for your brand explaining what kind of language employees should use in marketing materials and customer-facing communication. This guide acts as a filter for your branded content to ensure everything you share aligns with your values and mission.
Additionally, brand stewardship requires continuously monitoring your brand’s reputation and fostering positive customer relationships. Respond to customer reviews, both positive and negative. Interact with customers on social media. You can even support non-profits and charities that fit with your brand identity.
Community: The Secret Ingredient to Successful Brand Stewardship
Your customers are the key to successful brand stewardship, so get them involved in the process. Brands with an overwhelmingly positive reputation often have passionate communities who love their products or services. You can take steps to support the growth of a community for your brand.
Influencers are an excellent place to start. These are people who have earned the trust of communities online. They are a great source of information and can also be fantastic brand advocates. Every customer demographic has at least a few popular influencers. Do a little research to find the people your customers tend to follow and identify a few influencers who align with your brand identity.
Remember, building trust with influencers doesn’t happen overnight. You have to take time to communicate, build rapport and determine if you could have a good professional relationship. Once you find the right influencer to work with, they can be invaluable for building a community around your brand.
Creating and Caring for Your Brand Identity
Brand stewardship essentially comes down to caring for your business’s identity. What do you stand for as a brand? What do you value? Stewarding your brand identity requires understanding your customers and ensuring you communicate with them in a way that fosters positive interactions.
After completing your brand stewardship strategy, remember to continue analyzing your business’s identity and reputation. Most importantly, show your customers you care by listening to their feedback and sticking to your brand’s core values.