Resetting Your Brand and Marketing Foundations for 2021

Stuart Thursby
6 min readJan 5, 2021


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It’s January 5, 2021, and the world has been through a lot over the last 12 months.

As business owners, marketers, and human beings, the focus over the last year was understandably on resilience, adaptation, pivoting, and safety. While the COVID pandemic is still going to be part of our world for the foreseeable future, the new year offers us all a new opportunity (psychologically, at least) to take stock, move out of panic mode, and start building the future we want to see.

If 2020 was all about adapting to seismic changes, 2021 is about evaluating and strengthening your foundations with the future in mind. From a marketing perspective, here are the 5 key areas to take stock of in your business in Q1.

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1. Customer Profiles

Getting an accurate sense of your customers and audience is the single most important thing you can do for your business’ marketing. It’s the cornerstone piece of any positioning or marketing exercise, and taking the time to create or update an accurate, detailed audience persona document will pay off in spades by making every other decision in marketing easier.

It’s one of the two main “magic ingredients” of strategy that tie together your products and services with your marketing, website, advertising, and sales strategies and tactics.


  • Do you already have customer profiles or audience personas created?
  • Has your target market changed in 2020?
  • Have you started offering new services or products in 2020?


2. Positioning

Positioning sounds simple, but its impact is profound. It’s simply how your company positions itself in the minds of your customers and prospects. It translates “what you do” into “why we’re different”, and it’s the exercise and output that combines your customers’ needs and wants and what you make and sell into something unique and different in the marketplace.

It’s is the second of the two main “magic ingredients” of strategy that tie together your products and services with your marketing, website, advertising, and sales strategies and tactics.


  • Do you already have a positioning statement and proof points created?
  • Have you started offering new services or products?
  • Has your target market changed in 2020?
  • How does your direct competition (those with a comparable offering for the same audience) position their company, products, or services?


3. Brand Identity

A brand identity is not just the logo and graphic design elements of your company. A complete identity should consider messaging, copy and tone of voice, and a mix of guidelines, templates, and toolkits for design and brand elements across digital, print, physical, and motion.

Chances are you already have an identity and some form of guidelines. But if it’s been over 5 years since you last evaluated it, chances are it could use an update, even if the core elements don’t require changing.


  • Have you started offering new products or services since the brand was last refreshed?
  • Have you started selling to new audiences since the brand was last refreshed?
  • Has your company structurally changed (i.e. new lines of business, mergers and acquisitions) since the brand was last refreshed?
  • Have you started marketing in new channels — video, out of home, etc — since the brand was last refreshed?
  • Does your brand instinctively feel “not correct” for what you make or who you sell to?


4. Your Website

A website is a key, evolving piece of your marketing and sales puzzle. and this is especially the case if your company actively sells online (e-commerce, etc).

Like a good brand identity, a well-built website should have a shelf life of at least 5 years — but unlike brand identities, there are many more ongoing changes to website technologies and best practices. A good website is never finished, but it evolves as your company, customers, and marketing tactics change.


  • Is your current website still accurate and true to your brand strategy?
  • Have you started offering new products, services, or ways to buy that are not currently reflected in your website?
  • Does your website offer clear calls-to-action for visitors to buy from you or get in touch?
  • Have you recently done any audits on page load speed, SEO, or accessibility?
  • Is your website integrated with your CRM, email marketing, or other APIs and authentications?


5. Your Marketing Strategy

We put this last, not because it’s the least important — but because it’s best to have a rock-solid foundation across your website design, brand identity, and positioning and messaging before you put added effort into bringing more people to your platforms.

It’s crucial to note one thing: a marketing strategy is not a collection of tactics, and it’s also not defined by any media. There’s pretty much an unlimited number of tactics, channels, and audience combinations you could try, which is what makes the previous steps so important in giving you that clarity before you start investing in content, ads, calendars, and consultants or staff time and effort.


  • Where is your audience? (In both digital and non-digital contexts)
  • What are the overall goals of your marketing? (e.g. More broad awareness, higher volume of targeted sales leads, growing your site traffic, etc)
  • What channels do we have to play with? (Email, Social, Search, Direct Mail, Pre-Roll/Video, Content, Television, Radio, Out of Home, Events)
  • What budget — in terms of time and money — do you have to play with in Q1?
  • What metrics will you use to measure success?
  • What smaller “tests” could you run to validate messaging, audiences, or channels, before investing more of my valuable budget?


Next Steps

Depending on where you’re at in your evolution as a company, and how much your business changed in 2020, not all of the above topics may apply to your particular situation. At the very least, we encourage you to consider each area, even if you feel like it’s in a solid place, as you may find some low-hanging fruit you can take care of alongside the larger tasks.

Here are the next steps we recommend to evaluate your overall marketing and digital presence as we head into 2021:

  1. Evaluate the topics and links above
  2. Establish a shortlist of no more than 3 key activities for Q1
  3. Create a longlist or bucket of other things you could bring into play later
  4. Act upon those 3 key activities, aiming to complete 1 per month
  5. Repeat until your foundation is set and you’re ready to make more of an effort in marketing tactics and activities throughout the year

Good luck — and happy new year!



Stuart Thursby

Founder & Creative Director, Stack Creative in Toronto. Find us online at