Are you starting out trying to build a brand – or are you trying to get your company beyond the plateau? “Brand Strategy: Build a Business that Lasts” is a Skillshare Original course that aims to give you the tools to create a brand strategy for a business or even for your own personal brand. The aim is to provide a way to simplify and focus your strategy in order to understand your values, determine your target audience, uncover your unique offering, and ultimately clearly define your brand. In this review, we’ll have a look to see if it delivers on its promise.
Table of Contents
Who is Mike Pollard?
Mike Pollard is a strategist, an alum of advertising giant Leo Burnett, and the author of “Strategy is Your Words.” According to his website, “helping people think” is his life’s work. While the marketing company he attributes himself to, Mighty Jungle, seems to now be closed, the lessons he provides in this course remain relevant.
What does the course teach?
The 3-Brand Model
The first lesson is an introduction to what a brand is: essentially, what the company stands for. Pollard then talks about the differences between branding and brand strategy and its main pitfalls. He then lays down the groundwork for the 3-Brand Model, the components of which he later goes into much further detail. This first section is a good warm-up for thinking about what it means to create a brand and this cohesive, ready-to-implement model.
Model 1: Product-Centric
The Product-Centric Model gets you to put yourself in the customer’s shoes when thinking about the product. This is done using a couple of tools, namely the Pyramid of Advantage and the Benefit Ladder. The Pyramid of Advantage is a model that asks to list the features of your product that are Must Have’s, Nice to Have’s, and Love to Have’s. As he does throughout the course, Pollard applies real-world examples; in this case, he uses the New York Knicks and manages to throw shade at the basketball club while somehow still making it relevant to the lesson. The takeaway from this model ultimately is to zero in on what features people would Love To Have and then use the Benefit Ladder to identify how these features would benefit them. This exercise helps to address ideas around the product and features that are critical to the business even before going into the brand building. This lesson alone already helps its students focus their strategy.
Model 2: Customer-Centric
The second model that is explored is the Customer-Centric Model. Pollard shares that “people are more drawn to brands that are relatable and empathetic” and that “we tend to share content that reveals something new about us or the world around us.”
This is a lesson on understanding personas and how to name them and list their behaviors and pain points. In turn, this allows for the development of the ideal customer for the business.
By understanding these personas, the model starts to reveal itself in terms of the customer’s experience and what Pollard refers to as “Human Truth.” He says that brand insight is revealed when Human Truth collides with the Product Truth (from the earlier model).
Model 3: Vision-Centric
In the final model, it is the company’s vision that is front and center. Pollard helpfully simplifies this usually mystical concept by asking the viewer to complete the sentence: “A world in which…” Meanwhile, the company’s mission he defines as “how you bring the vision to life.”
To delve into this model, he goes into five questions:
- What are you doing when you come alive?
- What does the world ask of you?
- What do you know that your customers don’t that would change their lives?
- What can you do that others can’t?
- What do you do that others don’t?
You are meant to answer in a sprint and then go for a walk to allow the answers to ruminate. These specific action-oriented tasks are excellent tools that can be implemented by anyone and provide valuable insight.
Finally, Brand-on-a-page is an exercise to put it all together in order to simplify what your company is about. By bringing together the concepts from the earlier models, you are able to hone in on the company’s promise and the problem that it is looking to solve. Pollard brings back an example he uses throughout, a retail store called Plaid Pantry, and sums up the brand as “where you shop when you’re up to no good.” Using this example, he illustrates how a brand can quickly focus on the personas you’re selling to and what and how you’re selling to them. Through these exercises, he makes it clear that “building a lasting brand requires a deep understanding of yourself and your customer,” and with this final lesson, he provides a tool to do just that.
The last section is a 30-minute AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) that includes a follow-up on the Plaid Pantry example as well as other questions regarding strategy.
Each of the hand-drawn models is easy to understand and implement. Pollard does a good job of contextualizing the use case for each and their benefits. In addition, as a self-proclaimed strategist, he talks about operating using First Principles in order to simplify all processes. He expounds that the step one to strategizing is always to ask a more specific question in order to get to action, whether it be for brand-building or otherwise.
How much does the course cost?
Courses on Skillshare can not be bought individually – they can only be accessed by signing up for a Skillshare membership. The good news? Skillshare offers e-student.org learners a full month free trial if you use our link (if not using our link, there is normally only a 7-day free trial). As virtually all Skillshare courses will take you less than a month to complete, you can in effect take this or any other Skillshare course for free – or any number of courses that you can finish in a month.
Once your free trial is over, the cost of Skillshare is $165 per year, which averages out to $13.75 per month. This gives you full access to all 34,000+ Skillshare courses. But if you're not happy to continue, you can easily cancel any time before your free trial ends – just go to your payment settings in your account.
If you have no need for a free trial, you can instead get %30 discount on your first year by using this special link instead. With this link, your first year will be just $115.50, averaging out to $9.63 per month. Note that this offer is only valid for new accounts, so it can't be combined with the 30-day free trial.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday offer 2023: Note that Skillshare is running an even better offer for the holidays, with a 50% discount on your membership (expires 30 November 2023).
Conclusion and Recommendation
Mike Pollard does an excellent job in 45 minutes to clearly explain the process from product to brand. There is a great distillation of broad concepts into specific, actionable steps as well as tools that can be used immediately. His style of speaking may be a bit slow for some, so playback at 1.5x may be useful. Overall, the course is an exercise in simplification and would be recommended not just for company brands but would be useful in personal vision and mission planning as well.