What Thought Leadership Is and How To Incorporate It Into Your Branding

Hummingbird CreativeBusiness Strategy, Thought Leadership

We designed our 2021 study to explore how professionals think about the value of a strong brand and what characteristics they associate with strong brands.

All of the respondents rated the four aspects of branding — strategy, identity, awareness and loyalty — as very important. And all agreed on the top element of a strong brand: position of expertise or thought leadership. In fact, when rating the importance of thought leadership on a scale of one to six (with six being “extremely important”), their ranking placed it at nearly five and a half.

If you’ll recall, our study brought to light three attitudinal segments — Brand Believers, Metrics Masters, and Disengaged Doubters. And even the Disengaged Doubters appeared to align with the others on the importance of this element for a strong brand.

Let’s take a closer look at what thought leadership is (and isn’t), what it has to do with your organization’s branding, and which key elements you should incorporate into your organization’s thought leadership strategy.

Defining Thought Leadership

The term “thought leadership” has become a marketing buzzword in recent years, so it’s important to establish a clear understanding of what it is… and isn’t.

Let’s start with what it isn’t. It isn’t creating content — white papers, blogs, articles, studies, and more — just to create it. It isn’t repeating what everyone else in your industry is saying and stuffing the content with keywords so it stands out to search engines.

On the other hand, it is… creating content — white papers, blogs, articles, studies, and more — in your company’s unique voice from your unique position in the marketplace. It is being transparent about your organization’s values and sharing those with your audience. It is communicating your expertise to your audience, revealing what sets you apart from your competitors and building trust in your organization, your products, and your services.

Thought leadership is the delivery of authentic and genuine content that uses the expertise, insight, and experience of the author, with the goal of sharing that wisdom with others.Thought leadership is all about you creating value, building knowledge, and taking a stand.


The Connection Between Thought Leadership and Branding

Thought leadership can be a sweet spot for B2B companies. It’s where they can really differentiate their brands.

Companies that use thought leadership content like the pieces we’ve already mentioned (white papers, blogs, articles, studies, and more) are revealing that they’re investing in knowledge. They’re also showing their hand on a topic of interest to their audience, revealing the stand they’re taking.This is a way for companies to be transparent about what they know and demonstrate leadership in their space.

Think about your own company. As you create thought leadership content that reveals more and more of your industry knowledge, you can begin to stand out from the competition, differentiating your brand and solidifying its position in the marketplace.

Key Elements of Thought Leadership

Whether your organization is already including thought leadership in your branding and marketing strategy or it’s something new you’d like to start doing in 2023, remember to focus on these key elements:

  1. Establishing Credibility: Your brand’s credibility has to do with whether customers can trust that your company will do what you say it will. Thought leadership helps you establish this credibility by providing a platform your company can use to share your industry knowledge and share with your audience what you can do for them. Transparency in knowledge sharing demonstrates consistent expertise and experience in the field. Over time, the brand that’s sharing consistently becomes a trusted source of information and advice.
  1. Connecting with Your Ideal Audience: Thought leadership involves not only providing information but also engaging with your ideal audience. Thought leaders must be able to effectively communicate their unique ideas and insights in order to inspire and inform the audience. Sharing the company’s story, values, and industry knowledge will help you connect with your ideal audience and begin building the trust that’s so essential in building a strong brand.
  1. Crafting Innovative Ideas: The most effective thought leaders are known for their ability to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to challenging problems. They develop new ideas, strategies, and approaches to address complex issues. Sharing the out-of-the-box solutions your company contributes to your industry can strengthen your brand, resulting in greater influence in the market.

Although knowledge and experience are essential to successful thought leadership, it requires more than just those things. It also involves dedication and creativity. Thought leaders must be committed to establishing credibility, connecting with audiences, and crafting innovative ideas in order to build a strong brand that sets itself apart.

Tips for Reviewing Your Thought Leadership Content

Businesses today stand to gain so much from incorporating thought leadership into their B2B digital strategy. Companies that elevate their individual brand to the level of thought leadership can accrue much more than notoriety: They can become a trusted source of information in the minds of their clients and prospects.

Diana Castellanos in Forbes

In all the noise of the digital marketplace where it seems everyone is creating content of some kind, you may still be wondering if your company’s content is, in fact, thought leadership or if it’s content for the sake of content.

Remember that effective thought leadership taps into your organization’s unique knowledge and strengths. It’s about sharing your company’s industry experience, making your position known, and influencing others as a result.

Content Marketing Institute provides some questions you can ask if you’re not sure where your content falls on the thought leadership spectrum:

  • Are we contributing thoughts that are novel?
  • Are we speaking about topics already well covered by others?
  • Are we taking ownership of our thoughts or relying on outsourced production?
  • Are we developing the content and distributing it to meet our desired audience’s expectations?

For thought leadership to be effective, it must speak from your company’s unique perspective and your unique position in the marketplace — your differentiator.

When done well, thought leadership further differentiates your organization, reinforcing the perceptions you’re building in the minds of customers and potential customers, and strengthening your company’s reputation and brand.