Brand First Ebook

July 07 2023

by Tim Peacock


The VSSL Brand-First Methodology

How SaaS Organizations Can Accelerate Customer Growth and Generate Long-Term Value

Branding has always been a key component of successful B2C companies, but for many B2B organizations, branding is often overlooked and underutilized. With a Brand-First approach, B2B companies can gain significant benefits by making consistent, strategic, and deliberate brand decisions, improving how clients interact with you at every stage of the marketing funnel, and generating both new customers and long-term value.

At VSSL, we are strong proponents of a Brand-First methodology. With our approach, companies can:

  • Stand out in their market with a distinct, ownable position
  • Attract the right customers by aligning messaging and positioning to their specific needs
  • Gain maximum value by integrating brand strategy across your marketing funnel
  • Deliver personalized creative and bold digital marketing experiences for their audiences
  • Capture continuous, sustained growth for long-term success

Studies have shown that businesses who put their brand first can capture five times more volume, command a 13% price premium, and are four times more likely to grow value share compared to other brands. They also outperform the S&P 500.

Best of all, the momentum you gain as a result of adopting a Brand-First approach continually builds on itself, reducing friction for future marketing efforts and dramatically accelerating growth.

This blog is an abbreviated version of our full Brand-First Methodology. Want to dig deeper with rich examples and more insights? Download the full report today!

What is a brand-first approach?

A brand-first approach refers to a strategy where the brand is prioritized above other aspects of your product or service. This approach focuses on creating a strong, consistent brand image and experience for customers, which is seen as the foundation for building a successful business. In this approach, all business decisions, marketing efforts, and customer interactions are guided by the brand’s values, messaging, and goals.

When strategic business decisions are made with the brand in mind, it continues to strengthen and generate momentum. Companies can grow and evolve, gaining brand power and value without losing their identity.

This brand-first approach aims to build a strong, recognizable brand that customers trust and prefer over competitors. Just as important, it helps marketing teams make faster, more effective decisions and delivers continuous, sustainable growth for long-term success.

Advantages of a Brand-First Approach

1. Stand out in the market with a distinct, ownable position

One significant benefit of a Brand-First approach is that it helps B2B companies stand out from their competitors. Let’s face it — most B2B startups are a dime a dozen. They’re constantly popping up and tend to focus solely on product development and sales. But the ones who are succeeding have a strong brand to help them differentiate themselves and chart a path for exponential growth. Brands like Zendesk, Slack, Square, Drift, and OpenAI each clearly prioritize their branding, and brand-focused startups like Stripe, Canva, and Klarna are classified as unicorns due to their explosive growth.

By creating an identity that’s based on your company’s brand purpose, marketers can also build trust with their audience. A strong brand helps customers recognize the company and become loyal followers. And as customers continue to come back, they will be more likely to purchase additional services or products.

Brand Purpose
Your brand purpose is the reason you went into business, why your product or service was created in the first place. If this isn’t already articulated in your company’s elevator pitch, there’s usually a strong purpose behind the product or service that can be refined, broadened, and recrafted into a mission statement, which speaks to who your company is and why it exists (beyond profit).

Knowing your purpose is the key to everything else. It’s foundational to your brand, and it ensures that every other brand touchpoint you create links back to — and builds off of — your brand.

A well-defined brand purpose with ownable beliefs and differentiators will give people a reason to believe in your brand over your competitors. And it’s that belief that will allow your company to continuously generate new customers and generate long-term value.

Once you have a thorough understanding of your brand purpose, you can start to develop other elements of your messaging platform, like defining your vision, brand pillars, core beliefs, and brand archetypes. All of these have a huge impact on every aspect of how you express your brand — from your logo and copy style to how you scale the business with future product developments or hiring practices. With a focused, authentic, relevant, and differentiated brand positioning in place, you can start to develop how your brand looks.

2. Attract the right customers by aligning brand messaging and positioning to their specific needs

When you know who you’re targeting and understand their needs and emotional motivators, you can ensure your brand messaging is tailored to where they are in their journey. Your messaging is made up of the primary themes you’ll use to communicate with your audience, but to be successful, you’ll need to identify your audience, have a clear value proposition, and define your tone of voice.

Identify Your Audience with ICPs (Ideal Customer Profiles)
We strongly recommend conducting interviews with existing or prospective customers as early as possible in your brand development process so you can understand as much as possible about the challenges they face, how they purchase, what they value, and how they might use your product or service. It’s surprising how insightful those conversations can be if you ask the right questions. All of the information that gets collected in those conversations will be used to create buyer personas, and these insights can have an outsized impact across everything: your positioning, your product UI/UX, campaign creative, and more. Having a clear understanding of your ICPs is one of the most powerful ways to ensure your brand engages with your audience in a relevant and effective way.

Define a Clear Value Proposition
Your value proposition is the distillation of what your company does — what it is you bring to the market, and how you make your customers’ lives better. For example, many B2B companies have a value prop based on the innovation of their software solution. To be effective, they will aim to reinforce this in every touchpoint they have with customers or the broader market.

Having a clear understanding of your value proposition underpins your brand messaging. It unlocks the tone of voice and specific vocabulary you can use when communicating.

Specify Your Tone of Voice
You can take this a step further by leaning on your brand purpose and brand pillars to develop a unique tone of voice. For example, at VSSL, we wanted our brand to feel authentic to who we are and what we do: a small, scrappy group of marketers passionate about creating killer work.

We looked at what made us different from other agencies. We are located right on the water and influenced by the sailors and fishermen on the docks and in our building. We were founded to bring passion to our work, not just follow in the footsteps of other agencies. We never settle for the obvious solution and are always looking for ways to do unexpected things for our clients. We are who we are, and we don’t want to fit into the box of a “creative agency.” This gives us a very different brand voice that reflects our disruptive spirit, allows us to operate differently than other agencies, and gives us the opportunity to be super creative with our design. We are not just another agency, nor do we want to be.

Authentic messaging that treats your prospects as real people and is anchored deeply to your brand is a critical component of our Brand-First methodology. It not only delivers leads, it earns customers for life.

3. Gain maximum value by integrating brand strategy across your marketing funnel

With a Brand-First approach, your team has an innate understanding of your brand, since every marketing activity considers brand strategy first, as part of its execution. Over time, this allows your team to be more nimble, efficient, and consistent.

At the top of the funnel, when your audience is just becoming aware they have a problem, you’ll want to make sure your content speaks to their current needs. In the middle of the funnel, when they’re in the consideration stage, you’ll want to be more explicit about how your product or service works best and provides the most value. At the bottom of the funnel, when they’re in the decision stage, testimonials and case studies can be effective in convincing your audience to select your solution.

Ensure that every touchpoint in every stage of the funnel is aligned with your brand strategy. Leverage your ICPs, messaging, and unique visual identity to be consistent and focused, and to amplify your message to drive maximum value.

  • Amplification
    Speak with a single voice internally and externally across all constituencies. When your branding is aligned, each new effort builds on and supports previous initiatives, reinforcing your message and making each new effort more efficient. Align all marketing channels with a consistent message so it will come through loud and clear.
  • Consistency
    In order to grow your brand with prospects and customers, you need to establish brand recognition, which takes time and consistency. This requires being deliberate with every brand touchpoint so that customers understand who you are.On average, it takes 5-7 consistent impressions for people to remember your brand. Make sure you’re speaking with a singular, repeatable voice to make your brand more memorable. Studies have shown that there is a 33% increase in revenue for brands that are presented consistently. If you aren’t generating the amount or quality of leads that you’d like, it’s probably because your audience doesn’t understand your brand.

    When your branding is thoughtfully developed and not overly prescriptive, future creative endeavors practically write themselves, while the execution never gets stale.

  • Perfect Timing
    With your intrinsic understanding of your brand, every engagement gets easier. Your organization can quickly capitalize on partner initiatives as they arise, or you can gain brand awareness by piggybacking on trending topics via newsjacking, a media strategy where a brand markets itself through a viral news story.Newsjacking requires expert timing. You need to create something quick to capitalize on the publicity of a relevant news story. When you know your brand and what you stand for, you can easily jump on opportunities as they arise without having to rethink your brand or contort your messaging.

4. Deliver personalized creative and bold digital marketing experiences for your audiences

Prospects crave experiences that capture their attention and connect to who they are and where they are in their buying journey. Leverage your brand to break out of the B2B mold and offer them an impactful experience that could only come from your singular brand voice. This is one of the best ways to build brand affinity and gain conversions.

At VSSL, we wanted to provide our clients with a unique gift as a thank-you for their business. We developed custom artwork for a high-end water bottle that looked amazing. Though the colors and design were “on brand”, that alone was just a small part of the overall brand experience.

The experience started when our clients received a brown craft tube with our logo stamped on the side. Inside the package were the water bottle and a card with a secret message. Using the clues inside the water bottle, our clients were encouraged to decode the secret message. This message took them to a secret page on, where they were rewarded for solving the mystery with a complimentary antique brass bottle opener.

Only VSSL could have pulled off this specific experience because only VSSL had the deeper understanding of the brand’s ‘why’ and persona to be able to tie together the various pieces, navigation references, and puzzles. Without this brand understanding, it’s hard to create a truly memorable experience and build brand loyalty.

5. Capture continuous, sustained growth for long-term success

A Brand-First approach is the best — some might say only — way for the marketing department to build long-term value for the company. And done right, this approach doesn’t preclude the more time-sensitive needs of the marketing team. They can continue to execute on those short-term initiatives without sacrificing the long-term gains that come from a consistent and thoughtfully considered brand framework.

By working to create a more valuable brand, companies can unlock a whole host of financial benefits:

  • Charge a 13% Premium
    One study shows that meaningfully differentiated brands capture five times more volume, command a 13% price premium, and are four times more likely to grow value share during the next 12 months, compared to other brands.
  • Lower Acquisition Costs
    According to Forbes, it can cost five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain a current one. With brand-aligned messaging that addresses the specific needs of your ideal customer profiles, you can reduce wasted spend and lower your overall acquisition costs.
  • Build Long-Term Revenue Potential
    Brands that are able to elicit an emotional response in their customers outperform the S&P 500, according to a study by MBLM. They are the most valuable thing that companies own, accounting for more than 30% of the stock market value of companies in the S&P index.

Growing Customers and Building Value

Your brand is the most valuable thing your company owns. Though a Brand-First approach requires more discipline at the outset, over time, it makes your marketing efforts easier. It enables marketers to make faster, more effective decisions on their marketing strategies, helps your company build stronger relationships with your audience, increases loyalty and sales, and delivers continuous, sustained growth for long-term success.

Ready to Dive into Your Brand?
The VSSL crew can help! We’ve helped companies of all sizes establish and enforce a consistent, strategic brand narrative that carves differentiation and fosters brand loyalty. Reach out today if you want to learn more about our services and process.

This blog is an abbreviated version of our full Brand-First Methodology. Want to dig deeper with rich examples and more insights? Download the full report today!