Just as I did for the product sprint, in this post I’m going to summarize my top four takeaways from Section 4’s Brand Sprint.
In this article, you’ll find 4 key takeaways from my course notes, which will help you learn more about how to create a clear and compelling brand strategy.
First up, let me explain a little about Section 4. If you read my previous post, you can skip this part, but it’s important to have some background on the course and what it’s all about.
What is Section 4?
Section 4 is an online learning platform. They provide high-level business education for reasonable prices. The brand strategy sprint, for example, was a three-week cohort-based course costing $875.
All the courses are led by professors from top universities and they explore fresh, relevant topics for modern business.
The founding professor of Section 4 is Scott Galloway, also known as “Prof G.” He’s a Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern who’s also founded several companies and written best-selling books such as “The Four” and “Algebra of Happiness”
Why the Brand Strategy Sprint?
Professor Scott Galloway has decades of experience researching, building, and working with some of the world’s biggest brands. So of course I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to learn from one of the best in the business as I create my own brands. Throughout the course, you learn all about brand strategy, how to identify your value proposition and communicate your value to customers. You also learn how to identify the strengths and opportunities of your brand, different frameworks and models for brand strategy, and even how to optimize your own personal brand.
My Top 4 Takeaways from the Brand Strategy Sprint
I learned so much from this course so I couldn’t possibly include it all in a single blog post. Instead, I’ve chosen four of the most impactful lessons and concepts that I’ll be applying to my own work and summarized them here. These are models and frameworks that you will find helpful as you design your own brand strategy.
1. The Clock Model
The Clock Model is a framework you can use to evaluate all the interactions between your brand and customers over time. You divide branding it into three segments and imagine each one as part of a traditional clock face.
The hours from 12-4 represent pre-purchase branding, 4-8 is purchase branding, and 8-12 is post-purchase branding.
Pre-purchase branding includes advertising, events, sponsorships, social media activity and PR. It’s all the aspects of branding that aim to attract new customers and raise awareness.
We usually focus most heavily on this type of branding, which can also be the most costly.
Purchase branding is about the customer experience while they are making a purchase. It includes things like distribution, packaging, store design, user reviews, user-generated content, financing.
Here you’ll be thinking about the kind of experience you want customers to have as they purchase and receive your product, and how you can make that as smooth and positive as possible.
Post-purchase branding is often neglected, but how you present yourself to customers after they’ve spent their money is important. This will include customer service and support, loyalty programs, warranties, and more.
Consider what the clock looks like for your company and your industry.
To leverage the clock model, Prof G recommends finding opportunities for purchase and post-purchase branding.
Look at your competitors - how do they cultivate a brand image in these three stages, and what can you do better?
2. The Hurdles Framework
When it comes to brand strategy, you must consider sustainability, relevance, and differentiation.
The Hurdles Framework is a method of differentiating your brand from your competitors that I learned from the sprint. To effectively differentiate, you need barriers between you and the competition to ensure that you have the upper hand.
By building hurdles, or “moats,” you seal off your brand and defend it from competitors. These can be legal barriers, like patents, copyrights, trademarks, or one-of-a-kind assets such as locations, talent, trade secrets, intellectual property, and brand names.
You have to balance differentiation with relevance to the customer and sustain competitive differences by maintaining your moats.
3. Brand Identity Model
Brand identity has three levels and we can it as a circle made up of three layers.
The innermost layer is your brand essence. Around that sits your core identity, and the outer layer is your extended identity. What does each of those layers mean in terms of your brand?
Brand essence defines what you stand for. It should be simple, visceral, and aspirational. This needs to be inspiring and appeal to that psychological need that your product answers.
Your core identity is more substantial, timeless, and classic. Finally, extended identity is where you can elaborate and create related experiences and aspects that bring your brand to life.
It may help to imagine your brand as a person, a product, and finally an organization. Think about the characteristics of that person, the strengths of the product and the qualities of the organization.
To leverage brand identity, you must double down on positives and address or downplay any negatives. Everyone and everything should reinforce your brand identity, all the time.
4. Thermometer Model
Though we often consider brand identity as something static, during the sprint we examined how brands change depending on different factors, most notably, location.
We might assume that, for example, McDonald's is the same all over the world. In fact, the menu and ingredients vary widely from region to region.
I experienced this in India. After two weeks of spicy food, I was craving a Big Mac and fries. However, the McDonalds only served chicken or veggie burgers, and even the “non-spicy” chicken sandwich was still too spicy for me!
On the other hand, many Americans are shocked when they arrive in Europe and discover that over here you can order a beer with your Big Mac!
The brand sprint got me thinking about how brands can be extended and adapted beyond their basic form.
The Thermometer Model asks you to imagine all aspects of your brand sitting on a thermometer. Your name, logo, product, distribution, price and communication.
Your name and logo always stay below freezing point and will never change. McDonald’s golden arches are instantly recognisable worldwide.
The product sits on the borderline - it can change, but not too much. There has to be some consistency. McDonald's in India still serves burgers, fries, and soft drinks.
However, you can localize pricing and communication. Your value proposition can be different. In America and the UK, McDonald's is a low-budget fast food restaurant. But in Turkey, McDonald's is expensive and perceived as something almost luxurious due to its association with the USA and Westernisation.
Final Thoughts on the Section 4 Brand Strategy Sprint
I enjoyed the brand sprint and found a lot of value in what I learned. I hope I’ve shared some of that valuable insight with you, but there’s so much more to this course that I couldn’t get into here.
The sprint is a valuable course for founders and CEOs who want to learn the tools to create a successful brand. Strategists, marketers, designers and other creative professionals would also find lots of useful content here.
Another good thing is that it’s designed for full-time professionals, so even with a busy schedule, you should be able to complete the course within three weeks.