As Yogi Berra once said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” The same could be said about brands, who try to execute blindly without knowing where they are going. The best-executed brands are also the best-planned brands. Strategy focuses your limited resources of investment, time and people against to narrow down the strategic choices on those with the highest payback. Make sure your brand planning process includes a deep dive business review, a look at your brand positioning, laying out the key issues and then the writing of the brand plan.
Our Beloved Brands planning process:
- Deep-dive business review
- Key issues
- Brand positioning
- Brand plan
Stage 1: Deep-dive business Review
Too many marketers are not taking the time to dig in on the analytics. There is no value in having access to data if you are not using it. The best brand leaders can tell strategic stories through analytics.
You should do a deep-dive business review at least once a year on your brand. Otherwise, you are negligent of the brand, where you are investing all your resources. Dig in on the five specific sections—marketplace, consumers, channels, competitors and the brand—to draw out conclusions to help set up your brand’s key issues, which you answer in the brand plan.
Elements of the review
- Marketplace: Start by looking at the overall category performance to gain a macro view of all significant issues. Dig in on the factors impacting category growth, including economic indicators, consumer behavior, technology changes, shopper trends, and political regulations. Also look at what is happening in related categories, which could impact your category or replicate what you may see next.
- Consumers: Analyze your consumer target to better understand the consumer’s underlying beliefs, buying habits, growth trends, and critical insights. Use the brand funnel analysis and leaky bucket analysis to uncover how they shop and how they make purchase decisions. You should understand what they think when they buy or reject your brand at every stage of the consumer’s purchase journey. Uncover consumer perceptions through tracking data, the voice of the consumer, and market research.
- Channels: Assess the performance of all potential distribution channels and the performance of every major retail customer. Then, try to understand their strategies, and how well your brand is using their available tools and programs. Your brand must align with your retail customer strategies.
- Competitors: Dissect your closest competitors by looking at their performance indicators, brand positioning, innovation pipeline, pricing strategies, distribution and the consumer’s perceptions of these brands. To go even deeper, you can map out a strategic brand plan for significant competitors to predict what they might do next. Use that knowledge within your own brand plan.
- Brand: Analyze your own brand through the lens of consumers, customers, competitors, and employees. Use brand funnel data, market research, marketing program tracking results, pricing analysis, distribution gaps, and financial analysis. You should be managing your brand’s health and wealth.
Summarizing the review
Summarize your analysis to set up the key issues to tackle in your brand plan:
- What’s driving growth? The top factors of strength, positional power, or market inertia, which have a proven link to driving your brand’s growth. And, your plan should continue to fuel these growth drivers.
- What’s inhibiting growth? The most significant factors of weakness, unaddressed gaps, or market friction you can prove to be holding back your brand’s growth. Then, make sure your plan should focus on reducing or reversing these inhibitors to growth.
- Opportunities for growth: Specific untapped areas in the market, which could fuel your brand’s future growth, based on unfulfilled consumer needs, new technologies on the horizon, potential regulation changes, new distribution channels, or the removal of trade barriers. From there, your plan should take advantage of these opportunities in the future.
- Threats to future growth: Changing circumstances, including consumer needs, new technologies, competitive activity, distribution changes, or potential barriers, which create potential risks to your brand’s growth. Build your plan to minimize the impact of these risks.
Stage 2: The 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.
A great way to find the issues is to brainstorm up to 30 things in the way of your vision. Then, narrow down your list to the top 3-5 significant themes you see. Take the themes and begin to write the top issues in a rhetorical, strategic question format to prompt a few different strategic options for how to solve each issue. Spend serious thinking time on these questions because the better the strategic question you ask, the better the strategic answer you will get.
Example of using the four strategic questions to focus the brand’s key issues
Another excellent methodology for finding key issues is to go back to the four strategic questions model I outlined in the strategic thinking chapters. This thinking ensures you take a 360-degree view of your brand. Looking at the example below, I have used the four strategic questions and come up with four specific questions that fit the Gray’s Cookies brand.
With various ways to brainstorm and find the issues I recommend for the annual brand plan, focus on the top three key issues, which set up the top three strategies. A long-range strategic roadmap can typically handle up to five key issues, then five strategies.
We believe brand leaders should spend more time on asking great strategic questions, believing that the thinking you put into those questions will help frame better strategy choices.
Stage 3: Create a winning brand positioning
There are 4 elements that make up a brand positioning statement, including who will you serve, where you play, where will you win and why consumers should believe you. These are the consumer target, category, main consumer benefit and support points:
1. Who is the consumer target?
What slice of the population is the most motivated by what your brand offers? Do not just think about who you want, but rather who wants your brand.
2. Where will you play?
What is the competitive set that defines the space in the market your brand competes in? Positioning is always relative to who you compete against. For instance, a brand is never fast, it is faster.
3. Where will you win?
What is the main promise you will make to the consumer target, that will make your brand stand out as interesting, simple, unique, motivating and own-able? Do not talk about what you do (features). Talk about what the consumer gets (functional benefits), and how the brand makes them feel (emotional benefits).
4. Why should they believe us?
Understand what support points and features are needed to back up the main promise. Moreover, these support points should close any potential doubts, questions or concerns the consumer has after hearing the main promise.
Before you just randomly write out a brand positioning statement based on your intuition, I will force you to think deeper to focus your decisions on the best possible space for your brand to win and own.
To read more on brand positioning, click on this story below:
Stage 4: Write a brand plan everyone can follow
Following our Brand Plan we recommend building your plan around the following elements of the plan:
- Situation Analysis
- Key Issues
We take all this information and put it on a Plan on a Page, outlined below:
Brand Plan 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 of achieving your vision/goals? The deep analysis highlights what’s driving and holding brand back, as well as future risks and untapped opportunities. Issues are asked in a question format 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 pinpointed 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.
To read more on brand positioning, click on this story below:
Here is our training workshop we run to help brand leaders write better Brand Plans:
These slides are from our brand management training program. With our Brand Plan training, we will show you how to come up with the vision, purpose, goals, analysis, key issues, strategies, execution plans and measurements.
To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.
With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.
You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.
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Beloved Brands: Who are we?
At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.
We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.
We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.
We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.
Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand
- Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
- Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
- Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
- Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
- Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
- Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.
To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching
To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training
If you need our help, email me at email@example.com or call me at 416 885 3911
You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.
Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.