How to write a smart brand plan that gets everyone on the same page

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

A smart brand plan gets everyone on the same page. So, we have a one-page brand plan to help. That way, everyone drives against the same vision, key issues, strategies, and tactics. Throughout this article, I will show you all the brand plan definitions, with examples and templates.  

Your brand plan makes choices on how to allocate your brand’s limited resources to drive the biggest return. Most importantly, the plan gains approval from senior management around spending, strategies, tactics, goals, and projects. Moreover, your plan aligns, steers and inspires all functional areas of the organization. 
Your brand plan aligns marketing, sales, finance, supply chain, product development, human resources and any outside agencies. Lastly, the brand plan even helps the Brand Manager who wrote it to stay focused on delivering on what you said you would deliver.

Working through the flow of your strategic plan

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. These 5 strategic questions gives you the analysis, key issues, vision, goals strategies, execution, and measurement. 

Brand Vision

A well-written brand vision should be the ultimate end-in-mind achievement, which answers, “Where could we be?” Think about significant accomplishments that would make you feel completely fulfilled. So, put a stake in the ground to describe an ideal state for your future. Every smart brand plan must start with a brand vision statement. When I see brand teams struggle, they usually lack a brand vision. 

Some organizations get so fixated on achieving short-term goals; they chase every tactic in front of them just to make their numbers. Your vision should steer your entire brand plan. In addition, choose language and phrases to inspire, lead, and steer your team.

A good vision should scare you a little, but excite you a lot

Use these statements to inspire you as you write your own vision statement. Maybe you will see something that feels familiar to what is in your mind or at least a structure for how you would write your own vision statement.

Once you establish your vision, it sets up the key issues of your plan, including obstacles in the way of achieving your vision, which then sets up the strategies for how to reach the vision. Above all, a brand plan has to flow like an orchestra, with each element directly related to the others.

Key Issues

Lay out the key issues that answer, “Why are we here?” by taking the summary findings of the deep-dive analysis and drawing out the significant issues in the way of achieving your stated brand vision. 

Use our Strategic ThinkBox to ask 4 questions:

  1. Start, by asking what is your your brand’s core strength. As a result, make a decision on whether your brand will be product-led, story-led, experience-led or price led. 
  2. Next, ask how tight the bond is with consumers. Using our brand love curve, where does your brand sit? Is your brand at the indifferent, like it, love it or beloved stage? 
  3. Then, ask what is your competitve situation? That is to say, is your brand a power player, challenger, disruptor or craft type brand?
  4. Finally, assess the current business situation your brand faces. So, use your analysis to figure out if your brand needs to keep the momentum going, fix it, re-align or are you at the startup stage. 

These 4 questions will give you a good start on your core strength, consumer, competitive, and situational issues.

Creating key issue questions

As we wrote our key issues in question format, then the strategy becomes the answer. Look how they match up. As an example, we use Gray’s Cookies to show you how to lay out your strategies.

Brand Strategy

The strategies in the brand plan answer, “How can we get there?” Each strategy must provide a clear, definitive answer to each of your key issues. When I was in business school, I had a marketing professor who would say 15 times per class, “It is all about choices. It is all about choices.” 

Think of your brand plan as a tool to force you to make tough decisions. Most importantly, you have to apply your brand’s limited resources of dollars, time, people, and partnerships against an unlimited number of choices. It is easy to get distracted by more and more options. 

Use your brand plan process to limit their choices down to those that move your brand along the pathway towards your stated brand vision. In addition, choose the strategic options that provide the highest return on effort (ROE) or the highest return on investment (ROI). 

Start with strategic objective statements

 

Start by writing your strategic objective statement using the four components of our a + b + c + d model that we use for strategic thinking:

 

A: First, call out the investment in a strategic program, with crystal clear marching orders to the team, leaving no room for doubt, confusion, or hesitation. 

B: Second, provide a focused opportunity, which is the breakthrough point where the brand will exert pressure to create a market impact. 

C: Third, achieve a specific desired market impact with a stakeholder you will attempt to move, whether it is consumers, sales channels, competitors, or influencers.

D: Finally, drive a specific performance result, linking the market impact to a specific result, either making the brand more powerful or more profitable.

Writing the plan with the power of threes

I believe in “the power of threes.” Your brand plan should help you make decisions on where to focus and allocate your limited resources. As a guideline, for an annual plan, I recommend you focus on the top three strategies, then focus on the top three tactics for each strategy. 


That means nine significant projects for your brand to focus your limited resources against during the year. Compare the subtle difference with what happens when you try to do five strategies with five tactics: the plan quickly explodes into 25 projects, and seven by seven leads to 49 projects. That would cripple your brand’s limited resources. What if you never get to the forty-ninth project, but it was the most important project? So, with fewer projects, you will be able to execute everything with full passion and brilliance.

I see too many marketers with a long list of things they need to do. They are so busy; they have no time to think about what matters to their brand. You will have very little passion for any one particular project, trying to get everything done. In short, this thinking is not the ideal behavior a brand needs to become a beloved brand.

How to lay out each brand strategy

Once you have decided on your top three strategies, you can lay out a specific slide to explain each strategy within your presentation. First, include the strategic objective statement. Second, you should have stated goals that measure the ideal result of this strategy. Third, you should list three tactical programs, where you will invest your resources. Finally, insert a “watch out statement” to show I am proactively addressing any issue that could derail my presentation. For example, we have laid out one of our strategy pages for Gray’s Cookies below. 

Execution Plans

“What do we need to do to get there” matches up marketing execution activity to the brand strategy. To start, look at communicating the brand story, managing the consumer towards the purchase moment, launching new product innovation and delivering the brand experience. Certainly, you should use your brand idea to drive each of these key areas of the brand.  

Creating execution plans

For each execution investment, write a separate execution plan as an organizing tool to ensure everyone has specific marching orders on the particular strategy related to their function, leaving no room for misinterpretation. Most importantly, every strategic investment you make deserves an execution plan, that might include a communications, retail, or innovation plan.

A brand communications plan answers seven questions. 

These questions steer and inspire the creation of the brand story work, so the brand communications work will establish your brand positioning, and motivate consumers to see, think, feel, do, or influence. The plan must answer the following questions: 

  1. What do we need our advertising to do? (Brand strategic objective statement)
  2. Who is in our desired consumer target? (Most motivated people to buy what we do)
  3. What are we selling? (Our main consumer benefit we stand behind) 
  4. Why should they believe us? (Support points to back up the main benefit) 
  5. What is our organizing brand idea? (Brand soul, essence or DNA for the brand)
  6. What do we want people to see, think, feel, do, or influence? (Desired consumer response)
  7. Where will our consumer be most receptive to see and act upon our message? (Media plan)

Bring everything together into a Brand Plan on a page

I first came up with this “brand plan-on a page” format when I led a team with 15 brands. It helped me see the big picture quickly, rather than having to hunt through a big thick binder. Above all, the sales team appreciated the ability to see the entire plan on one page quickly. Most salespeople also had 15 brands to manage with each of their customers. In addition, everyone who works on the brand should receive the one-page plan and keep it close by to steer their day-to-day decisions.

We have divided the plan into three sections

  • Analysis: The analysis section lays out the summary from the deep-dive business review. First, start with an overview of the top three points for what is driving your brand’s growth. Second, list what is inhibiting your brand’s growth. Next, list out any threats that could hurt your brand. Finally, focus on the opportunities your brand sees.  
  • Key issues and strategies: The key issues and strategies section focuses on the top three issues getting in the way of achieving your vision. Remember, put in question format. The strategic solutions are the answers that match up to each of those questions. So, make sure you set goals to measure your brand’s performance against each strategy. 
  • Execution section: The execution section maps out the specific plans for each of the chosen execution areas. As a reminder, these ideas should align with the most essential consumer touchpoints.  

click to expand

Now, you can get our ideal brand plan format

  • Get our ideal Brand Plan in a downloadable PowerPoint file that includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own brand plan.
  • Included are slides for vision, purpose, analysis, key issues, strategies, brand positioning statement, and execution plans.
  • In addition, you will get our one-page brand plan and brand strategy roadmap.

You can find Beloved Brands and B2B Brands on Amazon, Rakuten Kobo or Apple Books

To purchase Beloved Brands or B2B Brands, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Beyond the MBA is our virtual brand management training program designed for the real world

You will learn how to think strategically, figure out brand positioning, write brand plans,make decisions on marketing execution and analytical skills.

This is your opportunity to gain access to world-class brand management training

marketing training
Play Video

Click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our brand management training program