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With all of the possible approaches to building brand strategy, how do you know where to start? This article shows how using the Brand Life-Cycle Assessment can quickly focus your efforts on the most important challenges. It's an effective system for quickly profiling a brand and narrowing the discovery and research options to what should most immediately and positively affect your business.

Like living things, brands and businesses pass through life cycles. Marketing approaches that worked well when a company was in its growth phase may not be appropriate later in its life. And sometimes, mature companies need a fresh start to regain competitiveness.

Brands go through four stages—new, growth, mature, and revival—that quickly isolate their key business challenges. These stages, in turn, dictate their unique marketing needs. Each brand stage has different definitions of success and should be treated differently.

1. New Brands (Create)

Launching a brand is a key milestone. Months of planning, strategizing, and investing will have transformed a series of usually well-worn PowerPoint slides into a tangible entity that will exist in the real world.

In the early stages of brand launch, the question that you continually hear is simply, "What is it?" This question isn't asked just by customers but also by potential investors, partners, and vendors. How effectively this question is answered dictates whether a brand grows.

Primary Challenge: Differentiation and Targeted Awareness

The answer to the question "What is it?" must clearly differentiate a brand from competitors' offerings. That is the part that everyone knows (or ought to know). Equally as important, the answer should be relevant, specifically to early adopters. After all, if a brand isn't differentiated in an appealing way to those interested in trying something new, it won't find a market entry point, no matter how unique it is.

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Dave Matli is principal of Hollywood, CA-based Matli Group, which brings a strategic brand rationale to every licensed deliverable by efficiently integrating licensing, branding, and design. He may be reached via dave@matligroup.com.