Your strategy statement in your brand plan answer, “How can we get there?” Each strategy statement 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.”
The brand plan is a great tool to force you to make tough decisions, as you 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.
However, brand leaders must use the brand plan process to limit their choices down to those that move your brand along the pathway towards your stated brand vision. Choose the strategic options that provide the highest return on effort (ROE) or the highest return on investment (ROI).
To show you how to write your strategy statements, we’ll use our five elements of strategy that includes laying out a vision, investing limited resources into strategic programs, bringing a focus on an identified opportunity, making a market impact, and realizing the performance result that makes your brand stronger and wealthier.
Strategic thinkers see questions before they see solutions
Ever hear someone say, “That’s a good question.” It usually means someone has just asked an interruptive question, designed to slow everyone’s thinking, so they reflect and plan before they act. The strategic thinking side of marketing is logical and has to map out a range of decision trees that intersect, by imagining how events will play out in the future. The risk of being only strategic is that, if you think too long, you may spiral around, unable to decide. Moreover, you may miss an opportunity window.
Everyone says they are a strategic thinker, yet few are. To learn strategic thinking, we need to slow down and organize our thoughts.
Here are the five elements that make up smart strategic thinking:
- Set a vision of what you want for your brand. A vision sets aspirational stretch goals for the future, linked to a clear result or purpose. Write a vision statement in a way that scares you a little and excites you a lot. It should steer everyone who works on the brand to focus on finding ways to create a bond with your consumers that will lead to power and profit beyond what the product alone could achieve.
- Invest resources in a strategic program. Think through the options of where you should invest in moving your brand into a more powerful and profitable position. The programs you choose should solidify the brand’s core strength, build a brand idea that tightens the consumer bond, battle competitors on positioning, or address the situational challenges and opportunities.
- Focus on an identified opportunity. Focus your limited resources on a distinct opportunity you have identified based on a potential change in the market, including changes to consumers, competitive situation, technology, or sales channels.
- Leverage the breakthrough market impact. A smart strategy turns an early breakthrough win into a shift in momentum, positional power, or tipping point where you begin to achieve more in the marketplace than the resources you put in.
- Performance result that pays back. The shift in positional power in the marketplace moves your brand toward your vision and creates a future pathway to building a consumer bond, brand power, and brand profitability.
How to turn thinking into strategic objective statements
Let’s now look at how to turn your smart strategic thinking into writing a strategic objective statement that can provide specific marching orders to everyone who works on the brand. Below is the classic way to lay out a brand vision, key issue question and the strategic objective statement.
The process covers all five elements of smart strategic thinking. You can see the brand vision, and key issue statement covers the first strategic element. However, you need the strategic objective statement to cover off the remaining four other strategic elements, including the program investment, focused opportunity, market impact, and the performance result.
Here’s how that strategic objective statement breaks down:
A: Program investment: The statement calls out the investment in a strategic program, with crystal clear marching orders to the team, leaving no room for doubt, confusion, or hesitation. In this example, the strategic program is to “Create an elevated VIP consumer experience.”
B: Focused opportunity: The breakthrough point where the brand will exert pressure to create a market impact. In this example, the focused opportunity is to “Reward our most loyal consumers.”
C: Market impact: Achieves a specific desired market impact with a stakeholder you will attempt to move, whether it is consumers, sales channels, competitors, or influencers. In this example, the desired impact is to “Turn the consumer’s regular usage into a higher frequency ritual.”
D: Performance result: Drive a specific performance result linked to the market impact, either making the brand more powerful or more profitable. In this example, “Tightening their bond with our brand.”
This unique strategic model will force you to pick answers to build a strategy statement with marching orders for those who follow your plan. As you build your brand plan, I recommend you use these four elements of smart strategic objective statements to ensure you structure the thinking.
Examples of strategic objective statements using Special K
- Advertise Special K’s brand idea of “empowering women” (a) focused on women who are frustrated by “lose and gain” diet fads (b), to move new consumers from awareness to trial (c) and gain share (d).
- Build a low-calorie innovation plan across the entire grocery store (a) focused on our most loyal Special K lovers (b), to drive trial of new items (c) and successfully enter new markets (d).
Taking that into the Special K brand plan
If you took the strategic thinking model and began to outline a brand plan for Special K, these would be the core elements:
- Vision: Be the delicious and healthy choice food brand across every tempting category of the grocery store.
- Goals: Increase share in the cereal category. Successfully enter one new grocery category per year. Drive net promoter score and strengthen usage frequency and loyalty scores.
- Key Issues: 1) How do we build an overall brand story to connect and develop a core base of brand lovers? 2) How do we take the “empowering women” brand idea into new food categories?
- Strategies: 1) Advertise Special K’s brand idea of “empowering women,” focused on women who are frustrated by “lose and gain” diet fads, to move new consumers from awareness to trial and gain share. 2) Build a low-calorie innovation plan across the entire grocery store focused on our most loyal Special K lovers, to drive trial of new items and successfully enter new markets.
- Tactics: New master brand advertising to project brand idea. Continue to improve shakes and potato chips product lines. Launch into breakfast snacks. Explore product innovation into pitas and pizzas.
Examples of competitive strategic objective statements using the Apple brand
- Apple will launch a full communications assault (a) to challenge the PC/Microsoft Windows dominant position (b) by finding flaws in the PC to contrast with Mac computers’ simplicity (c) to steal significant market share by enticing frustrated consumers to buy a Mac (d).
- Apple will launch a full assault against the entire music industry (a) with a disruptive innovator stance (b) to show how iTunes provides higher quality digital music on your iPod, much cheaper, faster and smarter than CDs (c) to gain an entry point into the music industry (d).
Building those strategy statements into the Apple Brand Plan
If you took the strategic thinking model and began to outline a brand plan for the Apple brand, these would be the core elements:Vision: Apple wants everyone in the world to be part of the future.
- Goals: Continue aggressive sales growth, geographic expansion into China, launch new consumer-friendly technology each year.
- Key issues: 1) How do we convey Mac’s superior user experience versus the traditional PC? 2) How do we enter the music industry and increase the availability of online music to support our iPod?
- Strategies: 1) Apple will launch a full communications assault to challenge the PC/Microsoft Windows dominant position by finding flaws in the PC to contrast with Mac computers’ simplicity to steal significant market share by enticing frustrated PC consumers to buy a Mac. 2) Apple will launch a full assault against the entire music industry with a disruptive innovator stance to show how iTunes provides higher quality digital music on your iPod much cheaper, faster and smarter than CDs to gain an entry point into the music industry.
- Tactics: TV advertising to highlight new features and challenge competitors. Launch innovation each year including phones, tablets, online music, watches, and personal computers. Launch specific products for China. Increase retail space around the world. Build out the e-commerce program.
Here’s how it can all come together into building out your brand plan:
To read how to write a brand plan:
To keep you going on your thinking on your own brand, here’s some examples of a few different options for strategy statements, with a focus on different types of strategy such as your brand’s core strength, consumer strategy, competitive strategy, and situational strategy.
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.
- We include slides for vision, purpose, analysis, key issues, strategies, brand positioning statement, and execution plans.
- You will get the one-page brand plan and brand strategy roadmap.
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