How to run a brand with the Brand Leader front and center

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

People outside of marketing tend to think marketing is rather easy.
It’s just a bunch of TV ads, sell sheets, twitter accounts, new products and spending endless money without any ROI or responsibility.  People debate the value of marketing. During a downturn, it is the first thing that gets cut. Some companies have even begun separating product from brand–what a mistake. The two have to be one, not two. Other companies are sales led, selling what they have, with marketing following what sales needs.  And there’s even recent debate going on that the CEO should drive the brand. The CEO should focus on being the CEO. Why hire talented, high-priced marketers if you’re just going to over-rule them and micro-manage the brand. Shouldn’t the CEO stick to doing their own job, driving the results for the shareholders and inspiring greatness for everyone in the company.

Instead of driving marketing down, it is time to build Brand Management back up and placing them front and centre within your organization. Everything in the company should feed off the Brand DNA.  The Brand DNA (some call it the Brand Essence) is the most succinct definition of the Brand.  For Volvo, it’s Safety, while BMW might be Performance and Mercedes is Luxury. The tool I use to determine a Brand’s DNA revolves around the Brand’s personality, the products and services the brand provides, the internal beacons that people internally rally around when thinking about the brand and consumer views of the Brand. What we normally do is brainstorm 3-4 words in each section and then looking collectively begin to frame the Brand’s DNA with a few words or a phrase to which the brand can stand behind.


The Brand DNA should help frame 1) Brand Plan that drives the business for the upcoming year or the next 5 years 2) Brand Positioning that connects to the consumer through marketing communications 3) Customer Value Proposition that links the consumer needs to the benefits of the brand 4) Go-To-Market strategy that frames the distribution and the selling process 5) Cultural Beacons that help define the brand internally through values, inspiration and challenge and finally 6) Business Results, with each brand offering a unique way that it makes money. Each of these six needs feed off the Brand DNA, look to the definition as a guideline for how to align to the brand.  

When you begin to blow this out one step further, you can start to see where the complexity comes into play with each of the six areas have their own needs that should still feed off that Brand DNA.

  • The planning area should help to frame the Brand Plan which is a combination of a one year Brand Plan and a 3-5 year strategic plan. The Vision and Mission provide the future direction, objectives align to the Business needs and Brand Funnel objectives and Strategies and Tactics help to drive towards those objectives.  Included as well should be a Calendar and Budgets. For a tutorial on how to write a Brand Plan, click on the following link:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  • From the DNA, map out a positioning statement that can help frame the Marketing Communications plan. That includes the creative big idea, the media mix, earned media (PR, Events) social media, key influencers (e.g. Doctors or Contractors or Bloggers).  As well, the positioning frames the identity which could include logo, language, look and feel and brand book. My hope is that you don’t change this very often. Looking at the complexity of the Brand Management system outlined here, it baffles me that Brands facing tough times reach for changing their logo so quickly when so many other factors could be driving the issues. For a tutorial on writing Creative Briefs, click on:  How to Write an Effective Creative Brief
  • The Go-To-Market plan should also feed off the Brand DNA and come out of the Brand Plan. The Distribution strategy and needs should match up to the needs of the brand, including decisions around Key Account focus, pricing, sku mix, promotion and the possible role of new products. In a fast-moving category like cereal or gum, or a high technology driving category like computers, phones or TVs, both share a high need for product innovation. For brands that require in store selling, you should also include the In-store experience which could be demonstration, signage or trial as well as possible selling messages for sales people on the floor of the distribution channel. These messages should feed directly from the brand messages.
  • The Customer Value Proposition outlines the relationship of the consumer needs to the Benefits offered by the Brand. First, map out the 2-3 consumer insights that epitomize the needs of your consumer target. When you list out the main features that you can offer, you’ll start to begin to match up these features into a zone where you see benefits. With each feature, put yourself in the shoes of your consumer and say “so what do I get” and push yourself until the benefits come alive.  Remember, your consumer doesn’t care what you do until you begin caring what they need.  Try to find a balance of rational (thinking) and emotional (feeling) benefits and provide those to everyone that might touch the brand. Within this area, you should track insights, target segments, use a brand review to find the changes within the consumer. The brand funnel provides a great tool for measuring brand health with Awareness, Consideration, Trial, Purchase, Repeat and Loyalty. To me, it’s like keeping track of your internal health such as Blood Pressure or Cholesterol scores.
  • The R&D plan should feed off the Brand DNA and develop products that match the brand.  Too many times, R&D is in their own world, trying to invent things that have nothing to do with where the brand sits.  They expect marketing to be able to sell their inventions.  Even in a technology driven business, Apple is driven first by the consumer.  Steve Jobs really understood that you don’t just sell what you have.
  • Brand also drives the Culture and the DNA should provide a beacon for the People to follow.  The brand story told within the company is even more important than what you might tell the market through your advertising.    Talent management means hiring the right people and providing the right training.   Too many companies are cutting back on training.   Remember that better people produce better work that drives better results.   Keep investing in your people and the business results will come.  Empower your people to get the most from their ideas.  Leverage values, inspirational touch points and processes to inspire and challenge them on achieving greatness.
  • Brand drives the Business Results.  Slide1 The more loved a brand, the more tightly the connection it has with their consumers.  This connection becomes a source of power that the brand can wield in the market to drive higher growth rate and profitability.   The Brand Leader is responsible for driving the P&L, driving sales and share, managing the forecast and costs for an efficiently run brand.  The Brand Leader must figure out the levers of the P&L it can use to drive more profits.  For a tutorial on driving profits through your brand, click on:  How to Drive Profits through Your Brand

Putting the Brand Leader front and centre will allow you to leverage the Brand DNA into each of the areas of your business, whether that’s marketing, sales, R&D, finance or human resources.  Brand should be at the centre of this hub, with each area looking to the Brand DNA as a beacon of how they can do their job most effectively in helping the brand drive long-term growth and profitability.

To read more on this subject, read the following presentation:

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

Positioning 2016.112


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