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No Effective Strategy = No Effective Design

Once upon a time, in the bustling world of business, there existed a semi-fictional company lost in the wilderness of the market. Perhaps you’ve encountered such a tale before—maybe you’ve led such a venture or witnessed it from within. This is the narrative of a business attempting to grow, design its identity and craft customer experiences without the guiding light of a brand strategy.

 

By Matt Davies, Brand & culture strategy consultant. CEO advisor. Author. Public Speaker. Podcast host. Facilitator


Gen-AI in Branding & Design

In their enthusiasm for success, the leaders of this business believed that design was solely about aesthetics. They embarked on creating logos and choosing colours, assuming these visual elements alone would define them in the eyes of their audience. Little did they know that design encompassed far more than mere visuals—it extended to the entire customer experience. Every decision and initiative were, in fact, design decisions, and without a strategy to guide them, issues soon became apparent. They had got things the wrong way around. They had chosen to design without a strategy.


As the business grew, there was a glaring absence of coherence. Marketing initiatives were measured in the short term, customer experiences and touch-points were disjointed, and product and service decisions were splintered. The absence of a brand strategy left the leadership team navigating a labyrinth of politics and egos, resulting in everyone pulling in different directions. For customers, every interaction became an unpredictable venture. From the website’s layout to the packaging of their products, there was no unified narrative guiding these experiences. Customers felt adrift, unable to grasp the brand’s story, leading to a lacklustre and forgettable journey. The brand failed to stand out from the market noise.


Internal dynamics suffered as well. The employees, the heartbeat of the organisation, lacked a common idea to get behind. The Employee Experience (EX) was a wild symphony of discordant notes, with team members unaware of the brand’s mission, values, and purpose. It became a struggle to recruit talent, as candidates in the job market did not understand why they should join the company or where it was going. The internal misalignment rippled into customer interactions. The disengaged workforce struggled to deliver a consistent and positive Customer Experience (CX), leaving customers perplexed and uninspired. The brand lacked the internal harmony necessary to resonate externally.


In the vast market, the brand found itself sinking in the quicksand of competition. Without a clear brand strategy to differentiate itself, it became just another entity lost in the noise. The business lacked the strategic positioning needed to attract attention and stand out amid the myriad choices consumers faced. It also did not know where to innovate to create customer value. As competitors strategically carved their niches, this brand floundered without a compass. Market differentiation remained elusive, and the business failed to build the emotional connections that could set it apart.


Amidst the challenges and setbacks, a realisation dawned upon the leadership of this business—it was time to embrace the power of strategy. The missing piece of the puzzle, the brand strategy, emerged as the compass that could guide them out of the wilderness. They understood that only after this was in place that design decisions - in both micro and macro forms - could be effectively made. They realised that the brand was not simply a logo. The brand was, in fact, the meaning that their audience attached to them. They set about understanding what they wanted that meaning to be at a strategic level. They did this through speaking to customers, listening to their employees, and harnessing the ambition of their leaders. With newfound clarity, the business set out to define its essence, purpose, and narrative. They agreed to its principles and rallied around it. 


Armed with a robust definition of their brand strategy, the business underwent a transformation over the future months and years. The brand strategy became the narrative thread weaving through design decisions, customer experiences, and internal culture. It provided the principles needed to create a cohesive visual language, a memorable customer journey, and an aligned workforce. Design decisions became intentional and resonant, reflecting the true essence of the brand. Marketing and business development campaigns were looked at as part of a longer-term strategy to gain market share and relationships—not simply to make a quick sale. Customer experiences were crafted with purpose, leaving a lasting imprint on every interaction. New innovations were brought to market, creating value for the customers the brand wanted to attract. Internally, employees rallied around a common purpose, enhancing both EX and CX.


Leadership were more confident and aligned. Everything the business began to do made sense. Resources were channeled into growth areas that created value for customers. Employees started making decisions that aligned with the principles of the brand strategy. In the competitive landscape, the brand had found its voice. Customers started to recognise the brand, and it stood out among the competition. A well-defined brand strategy positioned the business attractively, creating a meaningful and unique identity. Attraction turned into growth as the brand became a magnet for customers who resonated with its values and offerings and trusted it.


And so, our tale concludes with a lesson etched in the annals of business folklore—a brand without a strategy is like a ship without a compass, destined to drift aimlessly. It is impossible to effectively make design decisions without strategy. But with the guiding light of a brand strategy, leaders can align, businesses can navigate the complexities of design, create meaningful customer experiences, foster internal alignment, and position themselves attractively in competitive markets, ultimately charting a course toward growth and triumph.


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