Inside-Out vs. Outside-In

Here are two different approaches to building a brand strategy.


You pick your own brand direction. You take a stand, confidently go out to the world and declare, “This is what we stand for and the way we are going.” A combination of gut instincts and sheer courage is enough to create the conviction that your brand strategy will resonate with your target audience. You believe with all your heart that by sticking to your guns, you’ll win a loyal following.

Financial brands are most commonly built from the inside-out. Why? In some cases, an organization simply has supreme confidence in their vision, or they are comfortable moving forward without research. Often in these instances, they feel like they know their industry or market so well that they don’t need any research because it would only confirm what they already know.

Reality Check: The trouble with the inside-out approach is that it all to often leads to undifferentiated brand strategies – e.g., themes like “superior service” or “great value” because that’s all the internal team can come up with. Furthermore, there are those in management who won’t get behind ideas that aren’t substantiated with research.


With this approach, you first identify a focused audience segment. Then, using research and market intelligence, you clearly identify the brand drivers for that audience, building your strategy around those thing.

Key Insight: With outside-in brands, your audience tells you what the brand should stands for. With inside-out brands, you’re telling the audience.

Arguably, outside-in brands are the way to go. Done right, this process yields a brand strategy that resonates with your target audience, clearly aligning with their wants and needs.

Reality Check: Research is expensive, and not always conclusive. What do you do when no clear brand direction emerges from the research? What do you do when the audience wants something you can’t deliver?

Bottom Line: You need to be able to deliver on a promise that really resonates with people…and it should be something your competitors suck at.

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