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July 4, 2024

The Brand Strategy Deck You Need to Drive Social Media Results + 5 Examples

The Brand Strategy Deck You Need to Drive Social Media Results + 5 Examples

Table of contents

As Alexander Isley says, “A brand is the promise of an experience.” 

For an experience to remain consistently psychologically motivating across all touchpoints, there needs to be a set of guidelines, a set of non-negotiables for your brand—a “brand bible.”

Because if you think about it, a brand is as much as the stuff it doesn’t do as the stuff it does do.

And this information about how your brand should “behave” visually and verbally is best compiled in a brand strategy deck

Whether people look at your website, browse through your Instagram feed, or even pop in an email to get a query resolved, how your brand behaves is how it will be perceived. 

In the virtual world, perception is everything—and I know this well as a small business owner, professional writer, and Brand Manager.

So I’m going to walk you through the bones of an underutilised brand-building tool: the brand strategy deck. 

Some might even call this the ultimate guide to building one.

What is a Brand Strategy Deck?

A brand strategy deck, or branding deck, is the visual representation of your brand’s values, design elements, positioning statement, and communication framework.

In other words, it’s a brand-building tool that visually outlines the WHO, WHAT, WHY, and HOW of your brand

Who are you?

What services do you provide?

Why do you exist? (Why do you do what you do?)

How do you do this?

Source: Brand Master Academy

This deck is your shareable brand bible—a comprehensive, visual story of the past, present, and future of your brand. It shows where you’ve come from, puts a pin in where you are right now, and solidifies where you want to go.

Think of it as a scrapbook that you can share across your team (and even modify to make into a pitch deck for investors) so that everyone from content creation to web design to customer service has a unified answer to two important questions

What does our brand look like?

What does our brand feel like?

Why Do I Need a Branding Deck?

1. It Boosts Internal Team Alignment and Creativity

When a team is internally aligned with the brand they're building, it's more collaborative for two reasons: First, it creates a sense of unity and purpose because everyone is working towards the same goal. Second, a confident team will focus more on innovation and creativity than on the nuts and bolts of branding.For instance, for my own small business on Instagram, I’ve clearly defined:

  • The brand colours—mauve, mustard, and persimmon; 
  • A distinct tone of voice—enterprising and welcoming, but never condescending; 
  • A customisable template for dealing with unhappy customers—”Hey, what seems to be the problem? Can you tell me more?”; and
  • The kind of emojis I *wouldn’t* use—no praying hands, no thumbs up. 

I split the responsibilities of the thrift shop with my mother, and so when she takes over while I’m away, there’s no ambiguity on how we present ourselves. The questions are then, always forward-looking: What do we do for weekend sales? How do we want to celebrate our third anniversary?

2. It Brings the Value Proposition into Focus

I think of all the storybooks I remember with remarkable clarity from my childhood, and most of them had pictures. And this isn’t surprising. A visual storytelling technique is effective for memory retention 80% of the time, compared to reading text-only which stands at a measly 10%. 

When you translate this statistic to brand storytelling, a communicative brand message in visuals is much more likely to repeatedly remind you and your team of why you exist in the first place. In essence, it arranges the tiles of the four questions of what, who, when, and how neatly into a value proposition for your marketing efforts, customers, stakeholders, and potential investors.

3. Increased and Easier Accessibility to Materials

For my small business, I’ve mainly relied on InDesign and Canva to consolidate the brand logo, colour palette, examples of brand copy, and other dos and don’ts. 

But in my capacity as Brand Manager for C-suite executives, we depend on Excel Sheets and Google Slides to create a collaborative, easily editable, and “living” branding deck.

 The choice of software and modality depends on how quickly accessible and downloadable the information will be. For example, when it comes to the thrift shop, it’s only my mother and I handling the internal operations, so I chose a software that satisfies my creative instincts. (Plus, I had all the time in the world to fuss over margins and layout pages.)

However, working as a Brand Manager with an organization means that not only does the branding deck have to be creatively sound; but its efficacy equally depends on the speed at which it is communicated and comprehended by myself, my team, and the client.

Examples of World Class Branding Decks

Here are 5 of my favorite branding juggernauts and their decks with guidelines for visual identities, dos and don’ts, and a clear brand story daisy-chained through their marketing narratives.

1. Apple

Apple is unfussy in its design: clean, sleek, and modern. You’ll see that one of their “don’ts” is never placing product photographs on a blurry, multicoloured background. And if you visit their website or social media channels, the visual branding is a feast of silver, black, and white with crisp microcopy in sans serif fonts. 

Source: Apple Identity Guidelines

2. Vans

Vans does a branding deck brilliantly, clearly signposting what to follow and what to avoid. In line with their marketing efforts, the color scheme is consistently red, white, and black/gray with their tone of voice explicitly defined as “light-hearted” and “relaxed.”

Source: Vans Brand Book

3. Skype

Skype’s branding deck is unequivocally my top choice for reference. Everything from the speech bubbles to the whimsical font to the youthful colours is commensurate with what the company offers—a hyper-connected communication experience from any part of the world. 

Skype Brand Book

4. Slack

As a collaborative communication ecosystem, Slack outlines the *words* it uses and why it uses them. If you look at the company’s brand framework from its stop-motion logo to its colours; they’re intentional, thoughtful, and most of all, they try to do the impossible—inject a little fun into work communication. This makes a lot more sense if you consider that Slack was born out of a gaming company in Vancouver. 

Slack Brand Book

5. Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola doesn’t just have consumers, it has “super fans”—it’s what’s called a heritage brand. The company has been around for over 130 years and even when it’s reinvented itself, it’s stayed the same—that’s what’s remarkable. The Coca-Cola red is universally recognizable and respected, and has been for tens of decades. Many branding enthusiasts like myself would be remiss not to include this goliath in a piece about what it means to create a branding strategy that lasts through the ages.

Coca-Cola Brand Book

The 6 Elements of a Killer Brand Strategy Deck + Examples

This section is your checklist for a powerful brand-building tool. Go ahead and start ticking them off.

1. Brand Purpose

A brand purpose is your brand’s WHY that goes beyond simply money-making. Outside of profit, what is your brand trying to solve? Think of your brand’s purpose as building emotional blocks of relationships with the people it connects to, including making a meaningful impact on society. 

This is where you’ll define your brand values and mission—your raison d’étre

When I think about purpose, the first brand name that comes to mind is Patagonia. Founder Yvon Chouinard made global headlines (in the best way possible) when he announced that he would give away his US$3 billion company to a specially designed trust and non-profit organisation. A portion of the company's profits will go towards tackling global warming and protecting undeveloped lands.

Yvon said this in an interview with the New York Times: “Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people. We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet.”

2. Brand Story

How did you come to be? What made you invest time, money, and effort into your brand? Make a character or a consumer the “hero” of your journey; redefine a traditional experience; or embrace the underdog narrative. 

The Tom’s Story is an especially good example that conflates purpose and story with a tangible social impact. According to their website, founder Blake Mycoskie “witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes” in 2006 while traveling across Argentina. The site further says, “Wanting to help, he created Toms Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need.”

3. Brand Positioning

A brand positioning statement should do three things—and do them well: differentiate your brand’s services from the competitors, capture your consumers’ attention, and define how you want to be perceived. 

This isn’t the same as a mission statement or a tagline that is for the public’s benefit; think Nike’s “Just Do It’—a positioning statement is strictly for internal communications for team alignment. 

Here’s Starbucks’ positioning statement: “Authentic coffee, great experience, and quick delivery.”

What makes it effective? 

There are three distinct positive adjectives, a clear promise of quality products and services, and above all, the statement “positions” the customer front and centre.

4. Personality

If your brand were human, who would it be? What adjectives would you use to describe it? How would it dress to go to work? How many sugars would it take in its coffee? 

The purpose is to evoke a positive emotional response from your consumers so that they connect with your brand beyond your products and services. 

A great example is Harley Davidson: listen to its rugged tone of voice and gritty language. Have you noticed how they speak to you like you’re a member of their biker gang? 

5. Verbal identity

This follows closely from brand personality—a tightly corseted verbal etiquette will serve you well for communicating your brand message across different channels. While AI may not be able to help you create a uniquely compelling voice, you can have a conversation with software like Wordtune until you nail the verbal identity. 

The words you choose will define your brand’s personality, its attitude, its tone of voice, and the adjectives your consumers will come to associate with you. 

I find it helpful to establish three “voice pillars”—for example, Glossier is breezy, warm, and laidback.

In an interview with WIRED, the company’s executive editor, Annie Kreighbaum, says she trains new copywriters by telling them, “...pretend you're writing to your best friend.”

Image Source

Pro tip: Make a “word bank” of the words and phrases you’d definitely use, and the ones you’d never use. 

6. Visual identity

While a lot of brands focus their marketing efforts on milquetoast copywriting and a predictable CTA, there are some that you actively search out just to gawk at their Instagram grid.

They’ve nailed their aesthetics, colour combinations, illustrations, and typography. 

Personally, I love browsing through Nutella’s Instagram feed. 

Image Source

Start Refining Your Branding Deck Here

Whether you already have a branding deck and are looking to tweak, refresh, or edit it; or just starting, here are a few rules of thumb I follow:

  1. Create visually compelling slides aligned with your brand’s identity. Aim for no more than 10-15 slides. The goal is to capture your brand’s identity and purpose without making it an information dump. 
  1. Whichever industry you’re in, and whomever you’re building a brand for, whether an enterprise or an individual, a failsafe measure is to juice emotional branding. The power of a good story can carry entire marketing campaigns, sway investors, and ultimately, differentiate a good brand from a great one. 
  1. The branding deck you make now may not hold the same value proposition in five years or even in a year, so treat your deck like a living, breathing document. Carry out an audit periodically based on social media performance and sales to gauge where you’re going right and where you might be missing the mark. 

Final Remarks

A branding strategy deck is an exercise in world-building for your brand. 

You’re introducing the “hero” of your story, what drives you, what you stand for, and how you plan to achieve your purpose all in one visually compelling storybook.

This may take some time to compile, but once you start, you’ll be surprised at the easter eggs you find everywhere from your team’s emails to your website copy.