How do you develop your brand strategy and vision? Do you just take last year’s document and revise it? Do you build your plan based upon the sales and profit increases imposed by management? Or do you start from your target customers’ perspective?
You know me well enough to have guessed that as a customer centric champion, I am going to say that the third answer is the correct one. Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take neither last year’s plan nor management’s targets into account. Rather I’m suggesting that as you are selling to your customers, they should be top of mind.
If you believe that your own brand planning process could do with an update, then read on; I have gathered together some of the latest ideas and best practices to inspire you to make a few improvements.
One of my favourite quotes on planning comes from Alan Lakein, an American businessman and author:
“Failing to plan is planning to fail” (>>Tweet this<<)
Another from A. A. Milne the English author and playwright says:
“Planning is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up” (>>Tweet this<<)
So let’s start planning so we don’t mess things up!
Where you are – the situation analysis
The first step of the process is to run a situation analysis. This phase can include, but not be limited to, a review of market shares and trends, your current customer persona, your brand’s current image and changes, as well as the full details about your offer – price, packaging etc. Here we’re not speaking about the industry definitions, but the consumers’ perspective, or course. You will also need to do the same for your major competitors, but more about that below.
Who are your customers?
This should be a no-brainer and yet I am constantly surprised just how many clients are unable to answer this question in detail. They may succeed in being relatively specific on demographics, as the above example mentioned, but not much more.
A recent post on this topic will definitely help you get better and more precise at describing to whom you are selling your product or service, so do check it out.
Only be completing a detailed profile, or persona as many like to call it these days, will ensure you are starting from the best possible position.
What is your current image?
A brand image and equity review is essential for both new and existing brands. What category are you in? Is that an industry definition or a customer one? I remember working with a client who thought they were competing in the carbonated soft drinks market. In discussing with consumers we found they were competing in a mush wider arena including carbonated soft drinks AND fruit juices, because their drink contained real fruit juice.
The segment in which you compete is vital to understand, as you will then review how your image compares to those of your major competitors. If you don’t know in which segment(s) you are competing, the latter are going to be difficult to identify. (>>Tweet this<<) And you may miss a major one through your limited view, as did my client mentioned above.
You might also have to check your corporate image if it is mentioned on the pack. Make sure its image is adding to and not negatively impacting your brand’s image. (>>Tweet this<<)
Another client of mine wanted to sell a new service for young people but its corporate image was one associated with older businessmen. It would have been a huge struggle for them to change this image, so I suggested removing the company name from their packaging. Would you believe it? The brand took off immediately because it could then position itself as a product for their precise target group and adapt communications to them. It worked – big time!
Why you got here – your key issues & opportunities
Based upon your brand audit and situation analysis, you should be able to review your current positioning and see whether you are still aligned with the vision you set. You will also have a good understanding of your major competitors as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing where you are and why, you can now start to identify what gaps exist and the reasons for them. The actions that you plan to take could be a change to your communications to emphasise a different strength of your brand; or maybe you decide to expand distribution to better cover your weaker regions; or maybe it’s time to launch a line extension or even a completely new brand. See why the situation analysis is a vital step to conduct before getting into strategic action planning?
Where could you go – your vision
I mentioned earlier about management’s targets that may have been set for your brand. Often these have been developed with a view to the total business needs and then attributed to each brand or category in which the company is active. It is your job to review what is possible, not just what is demanded.
Whether the targets are too high or too low, you need to review both the budget and actions needed to meet these targets and inform management early if they are not aligned.
I know that this won’t make you popular, but at least it gives management the chance to adjust their own plans based on such input and they may be able to adjust them across their full portfolio.
How can you get there – your strategies & tactics
Now your targets have been reviewed and agreed with management, they need to be translated into strategic initiatives you will plan for the year. At this stage keep them high level. Review how you are going to meet them, remembering that there are basically only three ways to grow a business:
- get more people to buy
- get people to buy more
- get people to spend more
Decide on which one (or more) methods you will concentrate on and then you can identify the actions needed.
If you are working with a declining brand, then you can still review these three methods but you will use them to defend your share. For this you will need to understand which of them is the major cause of the decline and then identify tactics to reduce these losses.
What you need to do – your actions & limitations
Planning your activities need to be done with careful thought and thoroughness. You need to take into account many internal as well as external factors. For instance:
- How does your plan fit with those of the other company initiatives? The salesforce won’t be able to work on every brand at the same time.
- Is your brand seasonal or impacted by outside conditions? Weather, local celebrations, holidays or cultural habits can all impact demand for certain categories and brands.
- Do your competitors have an identifiable planning that you can either interrupt or avoid?
- What personality does your brand have? Your activities need to fit with your brand’s personality, which you will have checked during the review of its image.
- What budget do you have? Better to concentrate on a few touch-points than to cover all of them so thinly your efforts have almost zero impact.
- How do your communication plans fit across all the media you will use. They don’t have to be identical but together they should build a complete story.
Those of you that are regulars here know my love of threes. Therefore another useful way to work in a simple but not simplistic way, is to plan three strategies and have three tactics for each. Nine actions are more than enough for any brand.
When presenting your plan, don’t get hung up on the numbers. Tell a story about your vision; where you are today and how you plan to get to where you are going. Use numbers to support your ideas not to blind or drown the audience.
The same goes for your wording. Be precise and succinct, not long-winded in order to just fill the plan template – I think every company has one, no? Organisations oblige managers to use standard templates, but treat them as guides and not as a bible. I have never heard of a plan being criticised for being too short, although I have of course heard them being criticised for lack of relevant content, which has nothing to do with its length.
What are your best tips for a successful brand strategy? I’d love to hear your own recommendations, especially if you are using a different process.
If you would like our support in developing your brand strategy, vision and plans, then please contact us here; we are sure we can help.
C³Centricity used an image from Kozzi in this post.