Most brand strategy frameworks you’ll find online are incomplete.
Because they aren’t really brand templates: they’re design briefs that detail the visual style and rules of a given brand. But a brand is much more than its visual guidelines.
A brand’s creative assets are the shorthand that captures what your brand does, who it’s for, and what makes you unique in your market. Good design is symbolic. It’s not just fancy line work, it’s intentional and has a clear message to deliver.
Nice design can catch your eye, but meaningful design captures attention, and plants the seed of emotional investment in your brand. To elevate your creative assets, you don’t just need a design brief, you need a complete brand template.
Introducing The 7C Brand Strategy Framework
Just because a brand aligns every element of your business, doesn’t mean the process has to be intimidating. The 7C Canvas is the ultimate one-page brand strategy framework for a comprehensive brand identity.
What are the 7C’s?
They are the 7 pillars of your brand. Define, design, and align these 7 areas of your business and you’ll not only have the foundation for creative assets consumers are drawn to, but the backbone of a brand your customers love.
And hey, the simplicity of only have 1 page means you don’t have to worry about staples, paper clips, or lost pages, and it’s a simple reference for every decision you’ll make.
It also ensure everyone on your team is on the same page… since there’s only one.
How to fill in the brand strategy framework
The 7C Canvas is an amazing brand strategy framework, but it’s not even the best part of the 7C’s. Every C is presented in order, and they represent a step-by-step process that transforms the overwhelming, intimidating mystery into an approachable method.
Just follow along each C in order, and as you progress, use your previous answers as guidance for the step you’re currently working on.
You’ll have a modern eCom brand before you can count to 8.
This is your brand’s foundation. The assumption that eCommerce shoppers are looking for the best price is badly outdated. Today, consumers are serious about partnering with brands that share their values and beliefs.
Simon Sinek sums it up beautifully: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy what you do it and what you do simply proves what you believe.”
The worldview that drives your brand (which had better be more than the desire to hoard money), is the single more important element of a modern brand’s value proposition to customers.
What to include on the 7C Brand Strategy framework:
Purpose: this is the why behind your brand. Why were you compelled to start your business? Why is it important to you? How will your brand’s success positively impact your tribe and community? This is the core belief that aligns everything you do, your “North Star” for every decision.
Brand Values: your values have to jobs. First, they define the rules or ethical guidelines for your brand. These are the values you won’t compromise even when it would be convenient. And second, values play a powerful role in your promise to customers. While they won’t specific what kind of products you sell, they do promise customers what kind of emotional experience they can expect from interacting with your brand.
Don’t worry, we have the ultimate guide to brand values you’ll find anywhere here.
Brand Essence: this is the identity of your brand distilled into 1-3 words. It’s the timeless quality of your brand that may evolve but will never change. For example, Disney’s essence is “magic,” and Harley Davidson’s essence is “freedom.” Bonus: if you’re ready to deepen your brand’s core, check out our guides to brand vision and mission, too.
Now that you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, it’s time to answer the question “who are you doing it for?” With the second C, define who your target customers are (hint: they’re the consumers who share your vision and values).
Use your core work to find your audience and build a customer persona. However, don’t stop with their demographics. Leverage your values and purpose to dig into your customer’s psychographics: what do they really care about? Why are your values important to them?
You also need to tie these insights to what you tangibly offer customers. Now that you understand the real needs, fears, and goals of your target customer, how does owning or using your product help customers become the best version of themselves?
With a compelling customer persona in place, you can now multiply your insights to create and nurture a community of your brand fans. These people are your brand’s “tribe,” the true believers in what you’re doing (and why!).
Your business will not survive today’s eCommerce landscape with one-off purchases. Customer acquisition is harder and more expensive than it’s ever been. The more customers you can retain the more profitable your brand will be.
Cultivating a community around shared values and interests will also give you a ready-made source of brand ambassadors and a hyper-accurate focus group.
In the canvas, fill in what your community will offer its members. Just like your brand needs a purpose, so does your community. Liking your brand isn’t enough of a draw, your community most provide extra value to its members.
It’s not until now, the 4th step, that you want to even think about the wider market. It’s better to get a solid footing in who you really are, so when you do evaluate the competitive landscape, you’re not going to led astray from what really matters by shiny objects or trends.
Although it’s possible to find success by defining your brand by what you’re not, in the end, positive identities are always more powerful. You must stand for something, not just against something.
The purpose of this step is to assess what your competitors offer customers, and use those insights to identify the position or value your brand offers that helps you stand out. Ideally, you want your brand’s differentiation to be wholly unique to you, an angle or benefit your competitors either can’t or won’t offer. We call this your brand’s “Soleness.”
Once again, make sure your answers are rooted in your brand’s core, and who your customers are.
One the 7C Canvas, you’ll find a Soleness statement template:
For [who is your target customer?]
Who [what need or goal is your brand helping customers fulfil?]
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Unlike [your main competitor’s name], our product [primary differentiation]. Our brand [primary emotional payoff of being your customer].
Finally, at step 5, we reach your brand’s creative assets, and the moment to break out the all-important design brief. Now that you have a strong brand identity, it’s time to transform that character into shape and color and elevate design into symbols.
The primary assets you need to design are:
- Your brand name
- Your brand’s logo
- Your brand’s color palette
- Your brand’s typography
- Your product packaging
You all know content is king, but for many of us it’s also a tedious, head-wrecking challenge to continually publish relevant content for your audience. Common content advice usually tells you to make sure it’s “compelling” as if that’s easy to do.
What makes content compelling? 2 ingredients: first, it means your content is meaningful. It’s relevant to your audience. It addresses their needs, fears, and goals. Luckily, you understand your customers and your market so well from C1 through C5 that you have a ready-made well of content ideas.
Second, you’re leveraging storytelling to structure your content. You’re not just regurgitating facts, you’re telling a story. You’re not just telling customers what your brand values, you tell stories that demonstrate your identity and bring your brand’s worldview to life and make it relatable.
Easier said than done, I know. But storytelling is not as intimidating as it seems. The core ingredient is transformation. As long as your story explores the internal (and sometimes external) transformation of your story’s hero (which should be your customer!), you’re on the right track.
Then make sure you’re posting content regularly. Stop thinking of content as another chore and adopt a new mindset. You’re not just a merchant, you’re a publisher. One whose content has a consistent and unique point of view (hello C1!). Organize yourself with an editorial calendar and execute. Bonus: it’s not just the story you tell, it’s how you tell it. Supercharge your content with a unique, recognizable brand voice. How do you do that? Start by giving your brand a personality. Check out our super in-depth guide [HERE].
When you made the decision to start an eCommerce business one of the first things you probably did was sign up for a selling platform (Amazon, Shopify, BigCommerce etc.), purchase a domain name, and setup your social profiles, right?
Well, in the brand building process your channel strategy, that is, the channels you choose to communicate with customers through, should be the last stop on the branding journey.
Why? Well how do you know what platforms your customers are using the most if you don’t know who they are? How can you create compelling social profiles without relevant content to post? How can customers identify your brand across channels if you don’t have a consistent visual style? Why will customers care about what you have to say if they don’t know why your message or purpose is important?
The fact is, no matter who your target customers are, 1 or 2 online channels are going to be a lot more important than the others. Why waste you precious time optimizing channels that aren’t going to make a big difference to your brand’s performance?
Carpet bombing the internet aimlessly is a good way to annoy the people who do notice you, and an even better way to burn through your resources. Resources that are probably finite. What if you could focus on the most powerful channels for your brand and leverage them quickly? With all you know about your brand and your audience, you can now detail the most important brand touchpoints you’ll create online.
Before you go…
The single most important part of the 7C Canvas is that you use it: every day, for every decision you make.
Every product launch.
Every website re-design.
Every Instagram post.
For brands, Aristotle’s observation that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is the cardinal rule. Brands only connect when every element is pulling in the same direction, toward the same goal, and serving the same customer.
A brand will, and should, evolve over time, but it must be the foundation of everything you do. Which is exactly what makes the one-page 7C brand strategy framework so powerful. It keeps it all at your fingertips.
If you get stuck on one of the steps, or you’ve filled out the brand strategy canvas but want to sharpen your answers, check out our free resource, The Brand Audit. It will walk you through the major components of the 7C’s, and includes a detailed grading matrix to dial in the best version of your brand.