Brand Building As A System (Shelley Röstlund)

Shelley Röstlund


This piece was originally published at ShelleyRostlund.com.


Every brand strategist will work slightly differently in how they develop a brand strategy. I come from a strong operational background with a high interest in business modeling and shaping value propositions.

My approach is to be structured and streamline decision-making as much as possible, in order to be more efficient and powerful in the future. The way I tackle pulling a brand strategy together is by looking at it as a system.

With systems thinking you concentrate on building your brand strategy using a framework which consists of four parts:

  1. The purpose (which the system is built for)

  2. The elements within the system

  3. The interrelationships between the elements

  4. The flows (what flows into the system, and what flows out of the system)

Building your brand system

Firstly, let me show you, visually, what we will be working through. Have a look at the diagram below.

There is the driving purpose of the system (the copper circle at the top of the diagram), plus three sub-systems which all work together towards achieving the purpose.

Stay with me while I walk you through these.

Brand (system) purpose

From the diagram, you can see that your brand’s purpose does what it says on the tin. It is the driving force that gives your whole system meaning—the direction you look to when measuring your progress towards your vision.

Part of the exercise of working on your purpose is to articulate your vision. Your version of utopia. By getting this down in black and white, you are able to better engage people to help to achieve the vision.

The three sub-systems:

Brand personality

While personality is an element in your brand strategy, it is really a sub-system in its own right, because are there a few elements to crafting and nailing down your brand’s personality.

If you are a personal brand, this is fairly straight forward. As a company/business brand, it takes a little more work to get right.

Your brand personality will be derived from a mix of three things:

  • Brand archetype: A great framework to help you to build your personality traits and characteristics

  • Tone of voice: Helps to channel the way in which you say and do things

  • Personality traits: These are the handful of traits which you want your personality to come across as

Brand positioning

You’ve guessed it: positioning is a sub-system too. And man, it is such an important one and demands a good level of time, thought and attention. Your purpose will highly influence WHAT it is that you DO.

Gaining clarity on your positioning means that you can differentiate your brand with meaning and context, to express your value FAST. This work will also help you to make future decisions on product development, breaking into new markets or even going after a new ideal client.

When approaching positioning work, you will look at:

  • Value proposition statements: This is a “posh” way of saying that you will develop a raft of sentences and paragraphs that help to spell out: what you do, how you do it and who you do it for—in a short, clear way.

  • Your brand principles: These are also called your “point of view statements.” They are really some of the non-negotiables that you build into your work, which makes your “way” the best and only way to go.

  • Value ladder and proprietary method: To truly STAND out from your competitors and be taken seriously by your dream clients, you will have to SHOW them why you are the best, and the only choice for them.

Not only will you have to be able to communicate your proposition, you will need to match this with clear and understandable products/services—with discernible differences in pricing and offer. If you can name and document a proprietary model/method as the backbone to your successful delivery of what you do, even better.

Brand presence

This sub-system is the “stuff” that everyone relates to your brand—its every touchpoint on the customer journey (the seen and unseen) and helps your dream customers to “experience” you as you want them to.

It is vitally important to take the time to fully document how you want your brand to be experienced and this work should include three major deliverables:

  • Brand Experience Map: A documented journey of everything that your dream client comes into contact with before, during and after working with you. This will be driven by your identified Experience Traits—the things you want your customers to feel when coming into contact with you, or even when working with you. (This may be online, offline, printed, emotional, tangible, intangible, etc)

  • Visual styling guide: A documented way of demonstrating (physically) what you like and don’t like, what your brand identity is, how it can be used…even down to what to use in social media graphics, animations in videos, stock image likes or dislikes, etc.

  • Editorial styling guide: Another document which literally lays out how you want to be expressed as a brand in verbal terms. This covers tone of voice, topics you will talk about (and won’t), grammar preferences, emoji preferences, and more.

This can be a fun one to work on. However, many business owners neglect making these micro decisions which affect much of your delegation to remote team members.

Get this sub-system right and it will serve the bigger system brilliantly. Get it wrong, and it will fail in its responsibility to your other elements.


So, you can see there is more to a brand strategy than just looking pretty and finding the right words. It is a hybrid of all of that—but so much more.

The best thing about a Brand Strategy System is that you can keep refreshing and evolving your elements over time. As long as the PURPOSE of the system doesn’t change. If your purpose needs revisiting—then you need to pause on everything else, restate your purpose—then check that your sub-systems sill make sense (especially the positioning system).


Shelley Röstlund
Systems-led Brand Strategist, working with Subject Matter Experts | Host: Brand Compass™ Podcast Show | Founder: Compass Method ™️ | Lead: Brand Compass™ Programme | Specialism: Value Ladders for Micro-businesses


Tell Us Below:

Have you gone through these steps with your own branding journey? Are any of these ideas new to you?