Brand Strategy Canvas for Start-ups

Download the Brand Strategy
Canvas for free

The well-known Business Model Canvas is used with enthusiasm all over the world. It is used because it is easy to apply and directs the focus to a successful business. But what about building a brand and what do you need to focus on? For this reason, we have developed the Brand Strategy Canvas for startups. This canvas is the result of our self-developed Brand Strategy Sprint as well as what we learned from Marty Neumeier (The Brand Gap, Zag, The Brand Flip) and other brand experts over the last years. It also ties directly into the Business Model Canvas.

You can download our Brand Strategy Canvas for free in English or German. Print it out on A1 or larger for your next joint brand workshop, so you have a basis for developing a brand in a relevant way. This canvas is about what is really important in a brand to create a long-term brand strategy that leads to success. That's why you won't find columns for logo or design in this Canvas. However, the Brand Strategy Canvas is the perfect working basis for designers who will later be responsible for the design or logo development, as well as marketing consultants.

The right questions needed for a successful brand

In the Brand Strategy Canvas you will find three categories: Matching Identities, Experience and Competition. They represent the three pillars for a successful brand strategy. Brand strategy means defining how you as a brand want to be perceived by your target group. In other words, making sure that in the future they see, feel and tell others about your brand in the way you want them to. This brand strategy is long-term and the foundation for successful branding and marketing.

World-renowned brand expert Marty Neumeier sums it up in his simple and well-known quote, "Your brand isn't what you say it is. It's what they say it is." Your customers say and decide what your brand means to them and whether it is relevant to them. People today buy brands because of status or because a brand reflects their own identity. We ask ourselves which other people buy the brand and which group of people we want to belong to. Because as Marty Neumeier says, the strongest brands today are the ones with the strongest community.

That's why in the Matching Identities category, you see how the Customer and Start-up columns face each other. It's about bringing both identities together to create a community behind your brand. This is supported by the Experience category, which is about what the most important touchpoints are for your brand and how your employees can create a special experience. Your customers say what your brand is, not you, so this is one of the keys to successful brand building.

The last category Competition is about your competitors and how you can strategize against them to use this as part of your future brand communication.

How the Brand Strategy Canvas works

You have now learned above what the three categories Matching Identities, Experience and Competition mean in the Brand Strategy Canvas. It is important to us to use the same approach as in our Brand Strategy Sprint when we develop a brand strategy. This means that columns A to X build on each other to make the columns easier to work out. Therefore, we advise that you follow the alphabetical order with your team and work on each column as closely as possible. If you have already worked out a business model canvas, some columns will be easier for you to answer, because your brand strategy is always a piece of business strategy. You will now learn in detail what the individual columns are about.

A // Collaboration

Who will be involved in the development of your brand? Put together a team that can contribute as diverse expertise as possible. Therefore, don't just build your team from founders and marketers, but also include people you may not have initially envisioned. Strong brands are different and bold, so you need a team that takes in different perspectives.

B // An agile brand

A brand today is never finished and needs to be continuously developed. This column defines how many internal brand workshops should take place per year to keep your brand relevant and evolving.

C // Goals

What goals do you want to achieve with your brand in one, five and ten years? These goals will help you maintain focus as you work through the Brand Strategy Canvas.

D // What are they doing?

In the first category, Competition, there are the Competitor and Start-up columns that face each other. In "What do they do?" describe who your direct and indirect competitors are and how they position themselves in the market. What their product / service and what features they have?

E // How can we disrupt it?

Now ask yourself how you can do it differently in contrast to your competitors. Ask yourself how you can differentiate your product from theirs. Check to see if there are any clichés in your industry that your competitors exemplify that you want to disrupt.

F // What are their weaknesses?

Is there a big problem with your competitors or even within the industry? Is there something your target audience is complaining about or missing?

G // Can they be repositioned?

Can you use your startup to reposition your competitors in the customer's mind? Is there a way to include their weaknesses in your future communication so that your target group will view your competitors differently in the future? This is not about naming your competitors, but pointing out known problems and how you do it better. (See for example Apple's campaign "I'm a PC, I'm a Mac)

H // What is our vision?

What do you want to achieve in ten or twenty years? What does your startup want to change in the world?

I // The mission we live every day

With the vision defined, you can now more easily answer the question about the common mission. What do we do every day to realize our vision?

J // Why do we exist?

The purpose is now easier to grasp through your vision and mission. Why do we exist and why is our start-up important? Why did you found your company?

K // What do we believe in?

What values do you represent with your start-up and what do you believe in? Write down a few keywords that describe these and then formulate them in simple sentences.

L // Personality, tonality

How do you want to sound as a brand? How should your target group perceive you? Luxurious or more playful?

M // Who are we for?

Who is your startup for and who is it not for? Do you have a high-priced product and appeal to people you are interesting for? Who should buy your brand and who is your brand wrong for?

N // Who are they?

Who exactly are these people your brand is for? What is their lifestyle like?

O // What do they lack?

What are their problems and needs? What are they looking for?

P // What is important to them?

What values do they have, what do they believe in and what do they value?

Q // Where do they want to belong?

To which group of people do they want to belong? Do they see themselves in a luxury community? In a group that follows Apple's call to "Think different"?

R // Who do we represent as a group?

What brand archetypes do we embody with our community? Are we the rebels or the heroes fighting a big problem? You can find an overview of the 12 brand archetypes HERE. The archetypes form the foundation of your later communication.

S // Digital touchpoints

Now we have arrived at the third category Experience, where you start by listing all digital touchpoints. This can be the website, an app, an ad campaign, social media, etc. But which of these are the most important touchpoints? What should you focus on next to give your target audience a special brand experience?

T // Physical touchpoints

In this column, you and your team repeat the previous column only with the non-digital touchpoints. This could be packaging, or if your product allows it, your own retail store. Again, prioritize what you focus on first.

U // What do they expect?

What does the target audience expect at the prioritized touchpoints? What customer service do they expect from your branch? What are their expectations when they discover your brand?

V // How can we do it differently?

How can your employees provide a completely different experience than your target audience expects? What can your target group experience and get to know that they don't know from your industry or your competitors? How can your start-up with your employees inspire them?

W // What are we the only ones in?

What is your product or service and what makes it unique? What problem does it solve?

X // Explain our brand positioning

Describe in one sentence who you want to be as a brand, who your make is for, and what problem you solve for people with your brand.

More tips for elaboration

When you see and work with the Brand Strategy Canvas for the first time, it can seem quite challenging. However, it will be easier for you if you have already worked on the Business Model Canvas, as you will be able to take some of the answers from it into the Brand Strategy Canvas. Try to work with your team from column to column and don't get too lost in details at the beginning. When you are done with the Brand Strategy Canvas, start again. With each round, you will find it easier to answer each column more easily and accurately.

With this Brand Strategy Canvas, you and your team will be able to create a long-term brand strategy that connects you with your target audience and provides a plan for communicating your story and visuals.

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