No. 1 priority 2021: Your brand strategy

Is your brand strategy woke

Developing your brand strategy based on an authentic purpose is more important than ever. Brands are struggling to find a relevant place and purpose in constantly changing cultural, political, financial, and environmental contexts. How is your brand relevant in terms of the environment and the Sustainable Development Goals? Should your brand make statements on social injustice? And how do you respond to the current wave of the epidemic? You want to be current but you can’t get involved in everything, right?

The turmoil shows that if you don’t have an internal brand compass to help you navigate there are plenty of possibilities to change course and try to answer to new agendas rising day by day. However, the brands that seem to thrive and perform best are those that have a clear direction and a defined territory of meaning to navigate in. Strict boundaries for what sort of problems and agendas to participate in makes everyday tasks and decisions more effective. What’s more; developing your corporate strategy as well as the brand strategy becomes a lot easier when you know what agendas your brand are concerned with and which it is not.

CMOs name brand strategy as top priority

In the Annual CMO Spend Survey Research from Gartner, thirty-three percent of Chief Marketing Officers from the US, Canada, UK, France, and Germany cite “brand strategy” as their most vital strategic capability, surpassing analytics in importance. Based on inputs from 432 marketing leaders, brand strategy has leap-frogged to the top of marketing capabilities, from its lowly position near the bottom of the list in 2019 with one-third of CMOs now placing it in their top three.

“Gartner research suggested then that successful brands take action that is authentically connected to their brand strategy and value proposition. No doubt ongoing societal unrest will only amplify this imperative.”


A recent Danish survey among CMO’s places “brand, positioning, and value proposition” as the number one priority with 68 percent of the participants naming that as their most important area of focus in 2021.

If you had doubts about how to develop your brand strategy and whether your brand is operating in the right way, the rising focus on brand strategy across countries and sectors tells us that you are not alone.

Avoid Woke-Washing

In their attempt to be relevant, some brands run the risk of “statement fatigue”. Especially those brands that haven’t really found a relevant and actionable way of helping their audience through the COVID crisis or a way of engaging in the #metoo transformation risk being seen as exploiting a difficult time to market themselves. If an organization only has statements about these issues but doesn’t show any practical examples within the organization or in the services provided for customers the statements will seem shallow. The same goes for insensitive and unauthentic brand messages on important cultural movements like Black Lives Matter which can lead to distrust rather than being seen as purposeful when the brand doesn’t really have the leadership, belief-system, and actions to speak with any weight. Companies such as Whole Foods, Pinterest, and Adidas have all received complaints from employees that corporate social activism statements didn’t fit internal inequities. Empty company statements can seem to say that Black Lives only matter when there is a profit to be made.

Instead of hunting the latest agenda to chip into, you have to consider how your brand uses its core assets and competencies to deliver meaning, compassion, and hope in ways that connect your product or services to your audience in a relevant way. Because taking a stand on issues that matter is one of the most effective ways of building your brand in 2021. It just has to take its departure from within the organization so that the management and employees can set the agenda in an authentic way.

From function to lifestyle to brand activism

Brands such as Oatley and Patagonia are good examples of the development in the world of brands and the rising success of companies that purposefully position themselves not only based on functional product properties or a popular lifestyle, but rather on an activistic approach. They succeed in interlinking the company, leadership, values, product, processes, and politics in a way that can be clearly expressed to connect with the values of their audience.

A strategy of opposition

Founded in Sweden, Oatley began as a company and brand concerned with lactose intolerance and the rise of a more health-concerned audience in the nineties and 2000s. The brand quickly developed to reflect a popular lifestyle and further into a manifest voice in opposition to the traditional food industry and politics regarding health and sustainability. A similar development has unfolded since the 1970s in the California-based outdoor company Patagonia which has been a leading example of a deep-felt culturally based brand strategy taking natural preservation and sustainability as the starting point of their brand strategy.

Let your people and your audience inspire

There are many ways of defining your corporate strategy and that of your brand. By definition, the purpose of a company has to serve something outside of the organization – being the local community, the wellbeing of people, the environment, or something else. That’s why lots of purpose-driven brands have particular areas of interest and causes that focus their strategy, drive their motivation, and sets a direction for what they do, how they measure success, and how they communicate. The inspiration might come from a particular audience or from the people who know and understand the core competencies of the company the best; the employees. If you haven’t revisited your corporate strategy or your brand strategy with the perspective of purpose recently, maybe 2021 is the right time to consider it.

Let’s talk about your brand

Learn more about creating a meaningful purpose brand. Read our cases, subscribe to our newsletter or meet us for a cup of coffee and discuss the possibilities for transforming your purpose brand. Give us a call or write an email to Nikolaj Stagis.