Emily Vernon

Difference Between Creative and Brand Strategy

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It’s getting confusing these days with the many types of strategy required for creative projects. However, the two that overlap often are brand and creative strategy. This is because they work together to ensure the end consumer understands, interacts with and responds to the brand. Let’s look at the differences and crossover of the two disciplines to see where they can add value to your process.

Brand vs creative strategy

Brand strategy is a long-term vision that clarifies and establishes overarching brand attributes, from mission to personality. This serves as the foundation for all actions and executions the brand takes. Essentially, everything needs to align with and answer the brand strategy. It is the anchor for numerous departments to use and reference as they create content, products or experiences. The process of creating a brand strategy feels like a cross between business reality and soul searching. As it is usually run by upper management and involves the C-suite, it is viewed as imperative for positioning the brand in the marketplace.

Creative strategy translates brand strategy into consumer experiences for the short to medium term. This can then be used by design teams to execute campaigns, environments, advertisements or interactions. Many times creative strategy works with both the protectors of brand strategy and the design teams. You might think, ‘Why can’t designers just translate the brand strategy themselves?’ Good question. In smaller brands or agencies this is can be the case, and I would say many designers are capable of doing so. Brand strategies can sometimes be lofty or abstract and require another step to bring them to a visually translatable level. By introducing creative strategy into the process, you ensure key stakeholders agree on how the brand strategy is translated for the consumer.

Why they overlap

Both brand and creative strategy need to work together to translate brand positioning into consumer experience. It sounds simple, but that is a long journey from concept to execution. Both brand strategist and creative strategists should be aware of how their work will be used by others. For example, brand strategy cannot be too abstract or intangible, or it will lead to unintended executions or interpretations. Brand strategists need to have a little creative strategy in them, and the same with creative strategists. Creative strategists need to understand the underlying intentions of the brand strategy and what to focus on. It is finding the focus that can hinder an executional project.

As a creative strategist, there were times I had to do brand strategy. This happened as clients would not know what to focus on from their brand strategy, especially long-established brands with many stories to tell. In order to move a project forward, it was necessary to do some brand strategy work in the beginning and repeat its results throughout the process to keep teams on track. I realised having a brand strategy doesn’t mean people know how to us it. Or even what it means. That’s where creative strategists come in to remind teams of their own brand strategy and how it can be applied.

Let’s wrap this up

Brand strategy and creative strategy create cohesion and consistency. It helps to align teams during the long process of decision-making and execution. They both have separate roles, yet overlap especially when creative strategy is starting to set the direction for consumer experiences. This means brand and creative strategists share commonalities and are able to do part of the others work. Whether a long-established or new brand, having both helps with moving your brand into the future.