How to write a smart Brand Plan that everyone can follow

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A Brand Plan gets everyone on the same page.

Have you ever notice that those people who say “we need to get everyone on the same page” rarely have ONE page? People who use the term “few bigger bets” always seem to be fans of those small little projects that deplete resources. And, the person who says they are “good at decision-making” usually struggle when facing a decision and then try to justify both options.

A well-written Brand Plan makes choices in how to allocate your brand’s limited resources to drive the biggest return. The plan gains approval from senior management around spending, strategies, tactics, goals and projects. The plan aligns, steers and inspires all functional areas of the organization including marketing, sales, finance, supply chain, product development, human resources and any outside agencies. And lastly, the Brand Plan even helps the Brand Manager who wrote it, to stay focused on delivering on what they said they would deliver.

An effective Brand Plan answers where are we, why are we here, where could we be, how can we get there and what do we need to do. Once you answer these 5 strategic questions, you will see that you have your analysis, key issues, vision, goals strategies, execution and measurement.


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While there is a lot of work with our planning process, you will end up with a Brand Plan on ONE PAGE.


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Before you start in on working on the Brand Plan, we recommend that you write 2-3 bullet points for each of the 5 strategic questions. This provides an outline to ensure the overall flow of the plan. Below is our recommended strategic worksheet:


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Elements of the Brand Plan

Following our Brand Plan we recommend building your plan around the following elements of the plan:

  • Situation Analysis
  • Key Issues
  • Vision/Purpose/Goals
  • Strategies
  • Execute
  • Measure


Situational Analysis

Start the planning process with a deep-dive business review that answers “where are we”, by looking at everything connected to the business including the category, consumer, competitors, channels and the brand. Here’s a link to our story on How to lead a deep-dive business review:

How to lead a deep-dive Business Review

From the deep-dive business review, summarize what is driving the business, what’s holding it back and then lay out the risks and untapped opportunities. Try to focus on the top 3-4 points for each box below:


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The simplicity of this analysis sets up a starting point of the Key Issues as the issues as you will want to continue/enhance the growth drivers, minimize or reverse the inhibitors, avoid the risks and take advantage of the opportunities.


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Brand Vision

When I see brand teams struggling, they usually lack a vision. As Yogi Berra once said “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there”. The vision answers “where could we be” and becomes a beacon for everyone working on the brand. It is the one that defines your success. If you achieved it, everyone would feel proud.

We like to ask brand leaders: “if you woke up ten years from now and you were in a great mood because of what was happening on your business, what are the 2-3 things you would have achieved”. This gives you a straw dog vision, framed as a very large goal. We then provide some examples of the best-in-class vision statements to see if sparks some creativity in writing a final vision statement.


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A good vision should scare you a little, but excite you a lot. It should be motivating and enticing to stretch your mind, while getting everyone focused. Ideally it is Qualitative (yet grounded in something) and quantitative (measurable). It is perfectly fine to embed a financial ($x) or share position (#1) element into it as long as it is important for framing the vision. The vision should easy for everyone to understand and rally around. It should stand at least 5-10 years or more. It should be a balance of aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement)

A brand vision is not a positioning statement or strategic statement. These both come later in the plan. Try to be single-minded in the statement. You do not need to include everything. Make sure you haven’t achieved it already.


Key Issues

One tool we recommend with finding the key issues is to ask 4 questions that determine “why are you here”:

  1. What is your current COMPETITIVE position?
  2. What is the CORE STRENGTH your brand can win on?
  3. How tightly CONNECTED is your consumer to your brand?
  4. What is the current business SITUATION your brand faces?

Combine the deep dive analysis with the answers to these 4 questions and you will have a good start on your competitive, brand, consumer and situational issues.


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Take the vision statement and ask “what are all the things getting in the way of achieving the vision?” Brainstorm every possible answer and then narrow down the list to the top 3-5 key issues. Once you have your top issues, write the key issues as questions, that sets up options for the strategy as the possible answers.


Strategy is always about the “how to get there”. At the strategic level, you have to make choices. When Marketers come to a decision point that requires focus, too many try to justify a way to do both. You have to decide. The best strategic marketers never divide and conquer. They make the choices that help to focus and conquer. Marketers always face limited resources in terms of dollars, time, people and partnerships. They have to apply those limited resources against unlimited choices in target market, brand positioning, strategic options and activities. The best Marketers are able to limit the options through decision-making helps to match up to the limited resources.

The Brand Love Curve guides your strategy. We have created a hypothetical “Brand Love Curve” to assess how tightly connected brands are with their consumers. Brands move along the curve from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved with consumers becoming outspoken fans, where demand becomes desire, needs become cravings and thinking is replaced with feelings. Brands use their connection with consumers to become more powerful against the very consumers who love them, against the channels who carry them and against the competitors trying to beat them. With that added power, brands gain more profit through price, cost, share and market size.


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Where you sit on the Brand Love Curve influences your next major strategic move. For a brand at the Indifferent stage, where consumers have no opinion of your brand, focus on establishing your brand in the consumers mind. You have to create an opinion. At the Like It stage, where consumers see you as a rational choice, there needs to be strategic work to separate your brand from the pack to generate a following. At the Love It stage, the focus should be on tugging at the heart-strings of your consumers to drive a deeper connection with those who love you. At the Beloved stage, the strategy has to continue the magic of the brand and get your loyalists to speak on the brand’s behalf. Mobilize the brand fans as advocates.

Use the Brand Love Curve to focus your strategy. While you will come up with your own unique strategies, we have used the Brand Love Curve to map out 16 core brand strategies to begin playing with.


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The biggest strategic flaw of most brand plans is trying to drive penetration and usage frequency at the same time. This is a classic case of trying to get away with doing two things instead of picking just one. Look at how different these two options really are and you will see the drain on the resources you will experience by trying to do both. A penetration strategy gets someone with very little experience with your brand to likely consider dropping their current brand to try you once and see if they like it. A usage frequency strategy gets someone who knows your brand to change their behavior in relationship to your brand, either changing their current life routine or substituting your brand into a higher share of the occasions. By doing both, you will be targeting two types of consumers at the same time, you will have two main messages and you will divide your resources against two groups of activities that have very little synergy. If you are really strategic, pick one, not two.

As we wrote our key issues in question format, then the strategy becomes the answer. Look how they match up.


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Tactics and Marketing Execution

“What do we need to do to get there” matches up marketing execution activity to the brand strategy, looking at communicating the brand story, managing the consumer towards the purchase moment, launching new product innovation and delivering the brand experience. We use our Big Idea to drive each of these key areas of the brand. To read more, click on this link:

How to use a Big Idea to capture the consumer’s mind and heart

Marketing Execution has to make your brand stronger. It has to create a bond with consumers who connect with the soul of the brand, it establishes your brand’s reputation based on a distinct positioning and it influences consumers to alter their behavior to think, feel or act, making the brand more powerfully connected, eventually leading to higher sales, share and profit.

Start with a Consumer Buying System that can match your brand’s Marketing execution to where your consumer stands with your brand.


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Focus your marketing activities by prioritizing on return on investment and effort (ROI and ROE). For each strategy, you want to find the “Big Easy”. Start by putting all your ideas on to post it notes, then map each idea onto the grid as to whether they will have a BIG versus SMALL impact on the business, and whether they are EASY versus DIFFICULT. The top ideas will be in the BIG EASY top right corner. The goal of this activity is to narrow your focus to the best 3 activities.


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A good marketing execution plan should have:

  • Brand budget
  • Goals
  • Calendar of activity
  • Project work plans

A plan is not complete without project plans that include the project owner, project budget, goals, milestones and hurdles.


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Bringing the Plan together

The power of 3’s: As we said earlier, the plan is about making decisions. We recommend that you narrow your effort down to 3 strategies and then 3 tactics for each strategy. That means 9 core projects for each brand to focus their resources on during the year. Compare the subtle difference that 5 strategies with 5 tactics for each strategy explodes into 25 projects that might cripple your brand’s resources. By doing less number, you will be focusing your limited resources on making each project has a big impact. When your team lacks time to do everything with full passion, they run the risk of turning out OK work that fails to connect with your consumers.


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Full Brand Plan

While we love the Plan on a Page, we have also created a 20-page brand plan format that lays out everything a plan should include.


Key Terms

  • Vision: What do you want your brand to be in the next 5-10 years? Vision gives everyone on the brand a clear direction, it should be measurable (quantitative) and motivating (qualitative). It should push you so much that it scares you a little, but excites you a lot.
  • Goals: What do you need to achieve? Specific measures of brand health and wealth, related to consumer/customer behavioral changes, metrics of key programs, performance targets or milestones on the pathway to the vision. It’s the brand scoreboard.
  • Key Issues: What is getting the way from achieving your vision/goals? Deep analysis highlights what’s driving and holding brand back, as well as future risks and untapped opportunities. Issues are asked as a question to provide the problem to which strategies become the solution.
  • Strategies: How can we get there? Strategies are the “How” you will win the market. Choices based on market opportunities, using consumers, competitors or situational. Strategies should have a pin-pointed focus providing a breakthrough on the pathway to the brand vision.
  • Tactics: What do we need to do to execute the strategy? Framed completely by strategy, tactical choices deploy your limited resources against brand projects, the most efficient way to drive a high ROI.


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To read more on How to Write a Brand Plan, read the presentation below:


Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

To contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.



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143 thoughts on “How to write a smart Brand Plan that everyone can follow

  1. This is great stuff wish more marketing professionals will use this as a check list in deveoping branding plans and base their plans on detailed analysis and mapping as you suggest. There is great learning value i this Graham. The only sensible stuff I ahve seen on the marketing communication group

  2. Graham:

    You have constructed a substantial tutorial on writing and executing a brand plan. The slides are clear and easy to follow. Thank you for wrapping it up in such a nice package. The gift is appreciated.


  3. Brilliant! The kind of branding advice marketing gurus like Al Ries & Jack Trout endorse. This article is a must read for the C-suite and marketeers. Thanks for sharing your branding wisdom.

  4. Great article, Graham! There are lots of people making mistakes about what branding management means, and this is a simple (not simplistic) way to wake them up for the real deal. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Good stuff Graham. As FMCG marketers we take this process as a given, but there are MANY other industries that could use the discipline. Even small business owners should be thinking in these terms… all too often they take their businesses where the wind takes them (sometimes into rough waters that could have been avoided!) as opposed to steering the ship.
    I’ve passed your post on to a number of people who I think could use it!

  6. Well done. That’s a great body of work, especially like the arrowed bit in the middle to stimulate thinking and clarify where the business is headed.

  7. I think this really outlines the basic fundamentals for brand planning. The only aspect that I would like to add is the sales function. Where is the placement planned, what is the competition, and how are they promoted? Too many times the sales function is not brought into the initial planning, and nothing gets done until it gets on the shelf.

    1. Hi Chuck, Thanks for contributing. I’m certainly in favour of involving the sales team at every stage of the planning process so that the distribution strategy is a big component of the plan. In my process, it would be one of the key strategies and likely have a specific execution of the plan. One of the things that many sales teams have liked about this process is having a plan on a page which still feels unique to many. Keep making your contributions. I do think the challenge you bring forward adds value to this discussion.

  8. Really a gre8 work done, in a very simple way with a lot of insight. But to add some points, will more appreciate, if some insight will be added- on how to creat confidence internally (employees, supply chain, channel partner) on brand value, before launching in the market.

  9. This is great stuff. I like how you’ve tweaked the chestnut of SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) into Drivers, Inhibitors, etc. More forward thinking.

    Have a question though: What are you considering “Gross Margin?” Is that the fee/and or markup for the ad agency or “contingencies?”

  10. Awesome content – very well developed, visually interesting, strong. I am a university marketing and branding professor (as well as a brand marketer as my day job), and have found this to be one of the very best sites and plan templates I have ever seen. Great job! Signed up for the email newsletter – look forward to hearing more from you!

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