A Comprehensive Guide to Brand Strategy Framework

John Sirrine
If you’re a freelancer, you need to focus on excellent brand strategy on two levels: 1) helping your clients with their strategic branding, 2) and creating your own creative brand strategy. Both are extremely valuable skills that will set you apart from your competition in a massive way. Let’s dive into the who, what, and how of outstanding brand planning.

What Are The Advantages Of Strategic Branding?

Not everyone understands what strategic branding is and why it’s important. In general, the larger the business, the more they understand and value branding, while smaller companies often don’t have the in-house expertise to create a powerful and consistent brand strategy (that's where you come to the rescue!) 

If you can take some simple steps to think more like a big brand, you’ll be able to grow your own business, and you’ll be a weapon for your clients.

Advantage #1: People are influenced by stories, not numbers

People care about more than the product and the price, particularly in 2022 and beyond. 

Options are nearly limitless. There are always a thousand other products or services that compete with any offering, and plenty of those are priced lower. In this age of “option overload”, people need more and more to rely on their personal values in order to differentiate products and make a purchase.

This is why you see so many companies today making millions (or billions) off of selling very expensive products that are:

  • Sustainably made
  • Giving to charity
  • Vegan / animal free
  • Etc

Storytelling is the ultimate persuasion tool. 

Stories inspire and motivate people, they unite people, and they are “sticky” in people’s minds. Think about it: do you remember any historical dates from your high school history classes? Probably not many. More likely, however, you can remember a few stories - the ones that really impacted you. 

Good branding is good storytelling, and it’s like your business’s fingerprint - it uniquely identifies the company and leaves an impression on people’s minds.

Consumers will pay more for products that are in alignment with their values.

Vrity Research recently found in a study that 82% of consumers would choose a more expensive brand purely based on the brand values. That’s incredible.

Master the art of powerful storytelling through visuals, words, and feelings, and you’ll directly increase the value that a business can offer to customers.

Advantage #2: Differentiation

A brand that tells a highly specific and targeted story will automatically stand out from their competitors.

An easy example from personal experience is Ran Segall’s series of courses for freelance designers (I’ve bought them all). There are almost certainly thousands of online courses on the same topic (and I’ve purchased several of those, too). 

Ran Segall’s courses instantly stand out, just from his specific personality and story. From watching just one of his videos, you immediately get the vibe that his courses will not only be articulate and informative, but inspiring and fun, and no other online course on web design will be the same.

Again, good branding is like a fingerprint. Just as every human being has a fingerprint that’s unique to them, strategic branding makes a company entirely unique, even if their product or service seems similar thousands of other companies. Yes, this means that the business can’t appeal to every consumer, but the customers that do identify with your brand’s values will be true fans and customers for life.

Advantage #3: Building trust and raving fans

Here’s the key takeaway: Customers can build relationships with brands in a similar way they build relationships with other people, and that is through the sharing of values.

Think about the difference between the following two relationships:

  1. An acquaintance that you enjoy seeing at the office 
  2. A good friend with whom you have a deep connection and loyalty

An acquaintance is someone with whom you share unimportant small talk and focus on logistical, practical details (i.e. coworkers). 

A deep friendship is a relationship where logistics take a back seat. The focus is on sharing values and experiencing emotions together - fun, empathy, etc.

A business that focuses on logistics (pricing, product, etc) is like an acquaintance. You may never notice them in a crowded market, and if you do buy, you may later forget that you were ever a customer.

A business that focuses on values (branding) is like a deep friend. Their customers will pay more and stay longer.

Advantage #4: Committed employees

For companies with a team (maybe these are companies you are serving), having a strong brand strategy is crucial for company culture.

A modern-classic showcase of this is Elon Musk’s company SpaceX. Do a little reading, and you’ll see it’s widely understood that SpaceX engineers put in far more hours and commitment than what they could get paid for at other companies.

Why do they work for SpaceX, then? Because they are inspired by the grandiose vision of putting human civilization on Mars. Not every employee would value that, but the ones that do will come, they’ll stay, they’ll work more effectively, and they’ll contribute to a positive and inspiring team culture.

Steps To Develop Brand Strategy Framework:

What is brand planning? Let’s discuss the who, what/how framework for a creative brand strategy that will increase the effectiveness of any business’s marketing efforts.

Build a Brand Audience

In order to build a powerful brand, you have to know precisely who you are talking to, and the smaller the business, the smaller the niche should be (i.e. your target audience shouldn’t be as large as Apple’s target audience. And even Apple knowingly ticks off half the population and refuses to make something that would appease them).

It’s critical to define who your audience is, and who they are not. If your brand thinks that “everyone” could be part of your audience, that’s a clear sign you lack values. Values draw a line in the sand.

What would it take to find one raving fan? Who would that fan be? The process of building an audience begins there… and then is repeated over and over again.

Brand Purpose

So your brand has a specific audience through defining values… but why does the brand have those values? This is the essence of Brand Purpose.

I came across a web design agency that specializes in shipping websites in record time. Undoubtedly, their prices are low, and the websites are not as custom and premium as someone who offers a service that would take three months to produce a website.

It’s an interesting model - not my approach, but it works well for them. Listening to the founder’s story of how his first client needed a website put up in a single day tells the story of their Brand Purpose. 

They are committed to making a new website ultra-accessible: cheap and fast. And there are plenty of customers that share those values! Their clear Brand Purpose attracts some clients, and it repels others. A business who has deeper pockets and can wait a couple of months for a spectacular and unique website will never even get on a sales call with this rapid-launch agency… but that's okay!

Competitor Analysis

How are the industry competitors branding themselves? Key insights can be gleaned from this analysis, as well as the knowledge of how to differentiate your brand.

This is what the founder of the rapid website agency mentioned above did. After he had that client that needed a website within a day, he took a hard look at his industry and noticed that no other company seemed to be offering this benefit. That’s how he differentiated himself from the competition.

While your brand should always be unique from every competitor in some important way, you can also learn a lot from other brands that share many of your values. Competitor analysis can help you learn what’s working in the industry.

Brand Voice

If you’ve properly identified your Brand Audience, should be able to define exactly how to talk to them.

Imagine how differently you would communicate in the following two scenarios:

  1. Pitching an idea to a room full of business executives in suites
  2. Pitching an idea to a room full of high-school students

For starters, the content of the idea that you are pitching would clearly have to be different, since business executives and high-school students don’t value the same things, but beyond that, you’d have to use different words and tonality in order to connect with them.

Brand Messaging

Think of Brand Messaging as Standard Operating Procedures or Best Practices for how your brand will share its values with the world. Here are some tips to help create a Brand Messaging strategy:

Know your value proposition

Every piece of communication should reinforce the company’s overall value proposition. This is a critical filter. If a message doesn’t support or fit into the brand’s value proposition, then it needs to be modified or left unsaid.

Define your Brand Voice (terms & tonality)

What tone will your messaging take? Some examples:

  • Intellectual
  • Technical
  • Laid back / full slang
  • Emoji attack
  • Imaginary World Building (I recently came across a brand that referred to everything in stereotypical Pirate language)
  • Etc

What words will your messaging use? Define your lingo. Use the same words to create a strong brand identity.

As an example, how will you refer to your customers?

  • Customers
  • Loyal customers
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Tribe
  • Users
  • Etc.

For more depth on creating a strong brand identity, check out this article.


The great thing about a comprehensive brand strategy framework is that it really doesn’t have to be complicated for small businesses. Skeptical? Check out this awesome video showing a nearly complete brand strategy from start to finish in 20 minutes!

Branding is so much more than having a logo and colors. It’s about having a purpose, values, and a compelling story.

If you can create powerful and strategic branding, your business will instantly stand out. You’ll attract the right people and gain not only customers, but committed fans.

Ready to become a Brand Design master?

Hopefully you can see areas to improve on for your own branding as a freelancer, and beyond that, if you can offer strategic brand-building as a service to your clients, you will be an extremely rare and valuable freelancer.

Last week, I got this message from a client:

Why was the client so happy? Because I provided her value that she never expected to receive from a designer: strategy.

If you want to charge higher prices and provide more value to your clients, you should absolutely consider Ran Segall’s course called Brand Design Mastery.

This course teaches you step-by-step how to offer a unique, full-stack solution and sell with confidence. Don’t just stumble through projects like an ameteur - become a master!

Best of luck on your journey to becoming a brand ninja. Thanks for reading :) Happy freelancing!

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