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How To Become A Brand Strategist

So you want to become a strategist, huh? — Whether you’re in logo design, branding, or marketing, all roads lead back to the brand strategist.

How To Become A Strategist:

  1. What is brand strategy?
  2. What does a brand strategist do?
  3. The common career path of a brand strategist
  4. How to go from being a designer to strategist?
  5. What skills make a successful brand strategist
  6. Examples of problems a brand strategist solves
  7. How much does a strategy consultant charge?
  8. Can you offer brand strategy remotely?
  9. How do you learn brand strategy?

1. What is brand strategy?

What is brand strategy?
What is brand strategy?

Before we talk about becoming a brand strategist, let’s define what exactly brand strategy is.

“A plan for the systematic development of a brand in order to meet business objectives.“
— Marty Neumeier, Brand Gap


The goal of brand strategy is to shape the perceptions of a brand’s audience sot that ultimately we can influence them.

Therefore, the brand strategy sets out the plan for shaping those perceptions through different forms of expression both visual and verbal.

Brand strategy used to be reserved for global brands, but now more business owners start to realize the importance of building a brand and the strategy behind it.

In this article, you’ll learn how I became a brand strategist so you can navigate your career in the right direction and raise your specialist profile.

2. What does a brand strategist do?

What does a brand strategist do?
What does a brand strategist do?

So if a brand strategy is a plan for development of a brand, then brand strategist is the person who helps to plan that development.

What a brand strategist does in a nutshell:

  • Define the brand internally (brand core)
  • Position the brand in the market (brand positioning)
  • Define the brand externally (brand persona)

This is the simplest breakdown into 3 sections.

Check out my other article to see all 9 key elements of brand strategy.

However, the main role that brand strategist performs is to understand the business and its audience and then devise a perfect solution for branding that business.

With the ultimate goal to create the desirable perception of the brand in the minds of customers.

3. The common career path of a brand strategist

The common career path of a brand strategist
The common career path of a brand strategist

How do you go from being a designer to brand strategist? — designers often ask me this question.

Perhaps the best way to answer this is questions is by telling you how I became a strategist.

I studied graphic design at Academy of Fine Arts in Poland and I worked with many design agencies.

Some of which appreciated my love for conceptual thinking and some don’t, but I always loved that strategic approach.

I liked developing big concepts, and then using design to convey a clear message in the most minimalist way possible.

I always believed that if you design something beautiful, but it has no concept, then it’s useless.

Probably that’s why I didn’t like art that much in school and I used to argue with professors often.

You see, commercial graphic design is not fine art, you actually have to solve a problem or help achieve certain goal.

I came to that realization at the early stage of my career, but it wasn’t until 2014 when I started offering brand strategy to my clients.

So what happened? I’ve read a lot of books, learned from various experts and most importantly — I’ve run a lot of workshops.

So that true my tenacity to learn and try, I naturally transition from being just a designer to brand strategist.

You need make that decision — “Yes, I want to be a strategist”, and then act upon it.

Learn, experiment and then see if you like it.

4. How to go from being a designer to strategist?

How to go from being a designer to strategist?
How to go from being a designer to strategist?

At the beginning you might be a bit scared because strategy is such a big word and it can mean so many things.

I started with a questionnaire — just like most of designers do. (brand identity questionnaire).

Then I started running strategy workshops and at some point I realized how valuable the outcome is for their company.

I realized that I pivoted their company during only 3 hrs meeting and helped them organize their thoughts and ideas.

Once I started seeing tangible results, I knew that this is really important.

I noticed that strategy actually moves them in totally different direction.

This was the moment I noted how valuable strategy really can be, so I started doubling my fees.

5. What skills make a successful brand strategist

What skills make a successful brand strategist
What skills make a successful brand strategist

If turning into a brand strategist is something you look towards, there are a few simple skills you need to acquire to better prepare you for that transition.

There are many roles utilized in brand building:

  • art director
  • graphic designer
  • copywriter
  • marketer

And this is a very simple break-down, because a graphic designer may specialize in logo design, web design or even further specialize in UI or UX design and so on.

Similarly, a copywriter may specialize in brand naming or brand messaging, and a marketer may specialize in social media marketing or email marketing etc.

Then also you need some experience of an art director to is able to think conceptually and manage the project.

So as you can see, there are many different specializations that contribute to building a brand.

Each of these roles can be a precursor to becoming a strategist, but you don’t have come from that background at all.

You need to gain as much knowledge and experience about at least high level stuff involved in those disciplines.

So it’s vital to understand the skillset of many different designers, copywriters or marketers who contribute to building a brand

Understanding the tools at your disposal will help you define how a brand will communicate visually and verbally.

6. Examples of problems a brand strategist solves

Examples of problems a brand strategist solves
Examples of problems a brand strategist solves

Here are two scenarios with examples of the problems you can be asked to solve as a strategist.

Example 1 — A merger

Two companies have a merger within one month and they need a brand strategist to come in and figure out:

  • How to merge two brands and morph it into one
  • How to communicate the change to stakeholders
  • How to change naming structure

Example 2 — A new startup

There’s a new startup with 18 lines of products and only a couple of months to launch and they need a brand strategist to figure out:

  • How to launch the new brand
  • How to address the customer
  • Where to launch the brand
  • How the brand should be called
  • How to differentiate from competitors

As a brand strategist you basically set the pathway for everyone else who is going to work with the brand.

You basically come to any engagement as branding expert who understands how to build brands and run branding and rebranding projects successfully.

7. How much does a strategy consultant charge?

How much does a strategy consultant charge?

At this point I charge $5k for an in-person, or $3k for a remote brand strategy workshop.

And honestly, I’m might be totally underselling myself, but as a remote agency I have very-low overhead and can offer competitive prices.

The value to your client is tremendous and startups are used to pay dozens and hundreds of thousands of dollars for brand strategy development.

So if you like the idea of making $1,000 an hour — this might be right for you.

Once you engage you clients in strategy, then you actually become a partner or a member of the team.

But if you’re just a logo designer — they can fire you on the spot, anytime.

If you’re just a logo designer, then you don’t bring value that someone else brings to a client when they actually talk strategy.

8. Can you offer brand strategy remotely?

Can you offer brand strategy remotely?
Can you offer brand strategy remotely?

Of course you can — I work with clients from around the glob, although I’m based in NY.

Check out my youtube video where I run a brand strategy workshop remotely with my client based in Sydney, Australia.

So it doesn’t really matter where you live, as long as you have access to the internet.

Every business needs to build a brand and therefore every business needs strategy — it’s as simple as that.

They may not know it as such, but your job is to educated them, or just focus on working with clients who already value strategy.

If you want to get remote clients for brand strategy, then you need to create content for businesses and CEOs.

You need to simply create content for the people you want to work with: podcast, blog, youtube videos.

For example, you can host a podcast where you interview founders and investors in your country or in a specific niche.

You need to get out there and really be part of that community of entrepreneurs.

You have to stand out by giving them good ideas.

9. How do you learn brand strategy fast?

How do you learn brand strategy fast?
How do you learn brand strategy fast?

So what are the books and courses to learn brand strategy from?

And if you’re a student — what would you have to study?

I recommend studying communication, marketing and graphic design.

If you’re a student, you should do side gigs with real clients as soon as possible to gain real life experience.

If you fear meeting with 3-4 people and having to lead for a few hours, then strategy might not be right for you.

Or you will need to work harder to become more confident.

A key aspect of being a good strategist is having emotional intelligence.

You need to develop skills to know how to read people in the room, check their temperature and lead the meeting.

When it comes to books — Marty Neumeier is a true brand strategist.

He wrote several books on strategy and branding:

Just to name a few.

Are you wondering what kind of classes or trainings should you take to become a brand strategist?

If you prefer watching videos — see my selection of the best brand strategy courses.

And don’t forget to check out my new Brand Strategy Guide.

Download Brand Strategy Guide PDF
Brand Strategy Guide - Guide to discovery session

Looking for a brand strategist to help you define and articulate your brand? — Book a workshop here.

Conclusions

Brand strategy is such a big word that a lot of people are either scared of it, or excited.

Scared because it’s so much work, and excited because you can make so much more money.

I recommend all creatives to be more strategic with their clients.

Once you start doing that, then you can actually see if you like it and if it’s right for you.

I believe that once you see the impact, and the ROI, then it becomes very fulfilling.

And as a side-effect it will definitely help you do better work as a designer.

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