Creating a Branding Strategy on a Budget: Tips from a Communications Expert

Creating a Branding Strategy on a Budget: Tips from a Communications Expert
Image courtesy of Ursula Winzel

My name is Ursula Winzel, and I am a marketing and branding specialist. From an early stage in my career, I always dreamed of running my own agency. When the financial crisis hit Dubai, I was working at a communications company that witnessed clients slashing marketing budgets left and right. It was at this time when I made the decision to start my own company called balcony8 Communication Architects.

I remember a few of my peers thinking that I was barking mad to start a business in such an adverse economic climate, but I vehemently believed I was onto something and I was confident in the experience and network that I had built up. The business model for my company was founded on the idea that clients wanted to access whip-smart global talent to handle their brands but at a fraction of “big agency” budgets, and that is what I set out to do.

Today, I would like to share some insights on how your company can take its branding strategy to the next level.

What is an effective brand strategy?

Simply put, an effective brand strategy should empower decision-makers to deliver on their business plans and commercial goals.

Unfortunately, many communications agencies have a tendency to complicate this more than strictly necessary, and it ends up confusing their clients. Business owners should know that a comprehensive brand strategy ultimately creates a unique market position for the company that helps differentiate itself from the competition.

If we delve into it a bit deeper, the strategy should also be relevant to the target audience but still stay true to the company’s assets, resources, and capabilities. At its core, the strategy must be demonstrable in terms of business relevance and have a tangible impact on company culture, systems, and processes.

The essential communications toolkit

There is no general ‘magic’ formula because communication depends on so many factors, internal and external.

First, be clear on who you are and why you’re different, because only then do you know who your audience is. Your medium and content of communications should also be clear, yet flexible and open to change. Companies have to keep one finger firmly on the pulse of the market, society, and economy to enable them to be dynamic and plot a course to their true north.

However, you also need to be realistic about your business and recognize where it is in its business cycle. Pouring all your financial resources into expensive channels can be futile and ultimately do more harm than good not only to your brand but also to your company itself.

Branding Issues

When a company struggles with its branding, the problem can be found in the disconnect between the brand and communicating that brand. A brand is more than just a visually appealing logo and design. Companies must focus on brand positioning in all of its communication efforts to ensure a consistent, efficient, and brand-true customer experience.

At the core of this is the ability to communicate as one of the people as opposed to the “company”.

Embracing lifestyle-speak rather than buzzwords, and creating a dialogue as opposed to force-feeding information in a one-sided way are things that brands have to address so they can cut through the clutter. Build your tribe and communicate with them on the same level.

Branding on a budget

Companies without the name recognition or huge marketing budgets can be successful by using a targeted approach with maximum impact and lower cost channels. It is crucial to really dig deep into the target audience and investigate which channels they use and why. Find them where they already exist and then you can start building formidable dialogue and relationships with them.

Communications strategy for my own company

When it comes to applying the branding know-how to our own company, we follow the same rigorous approach that we take our clients through in order to ensure objectivity. We don’t take anything for granted either. Balcony8 has evolved through the years and we just went through this very process internally to make sure we remain relevant to our clients and ahead of our competition. It was both a challenging and exciting process because of the sheer passion and vision from all involved.

The key was to balance our desire to create a holistic brand and agency culture while empowering each department with the flexibility to remain true to their own dynamics.

We have a robust team of ‘Eighters’ that live and breathe this brand and it humbles me every day when I see them in action.

Advice for entrepreneurs and business leaders

In relation to growing one’s own business, I definitely fly the flag for organic growth. We’re a hybrid agency made up of many disciplines. I am constantly monitoring our bottom line in tandem with what the agency needs by way of resources. I am very appreciative of the strong leaders I have built around me. I listen to what everyone has to say before making final decisions because their dedication and core competencies merit my attention.

I am also proud to say that as of yet, balcony8 has been built without investment other than my own. There is a certain freedom that comes with that because I don’t owe anybody anything. It makes me even more focused as I put enormous pressure on myself to continue pushing forward, pushing harder.

Finally, be human. I treat every single employee as an asset and a member of my own family. The result is an enviably strong bond at the agency and a true sense of balance between work and life for everyone; we work and play together and have as much fun doing both. This harmony that we have between our four walls translates directly to an incredible magic for both our clients and our rocking little agency.