Your business situation must steer your brand’s next move



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A smart brand strategy is a smart business strategy. Before moving towards a plan, you must understand the business situation you face. In this article, I will outline four distinct business situations your brand could face: Fuel the momentum, Fix it, Realignment, and a Start-up. 

You are running a live business, with a need to drive sales, manage costs, and produce profits. Importantly, you should do a deep-dive business review to understand what’s going on. Moreover, you need to understand your profit situation

Business Situation Smart Strategic Thinking on Brand Strategy

Apply the right strategy and leadership to the right business situation you face

When business results are healthy, fuel your momentum by staying on course and attacking small weaknesses. If things are going well, everyone within your organization will resist a change plan. This is a keep the momentum going business situation. 

When the external results are abysmal, your management team will look for opportunities to turn around those results quickly. They will be impatient. Manage the short-term and long-term fix it plans at the same time. We’ll show how to manage a fix it business situation.

When different silos operate entirely autonomously within your organization, it causes unnecessary conflict and confusion that holds your brand back from maximizing its full potential. We call this the realignment business situation.

Build a realignment plan to get everyone moving in the same direction. Whether you are in an entrepreneurial start-up or entering into a new business from within a corporation, follow the plan for a start-up business situation.

Fuel the momentum

Many marketers are notorious for wanting to make their mark. When they come into a brand situation, they see a long list of flaws left by the previous leader. They think it is time to do things right and change the way everyone operates. However, if you put a change plan in place when everything is going well, you will face significant resistance. 

When brands have a strong market share position, steady sales growth, strong profitability, strong underlying brand health measures, and they align the team on the direction for the future, the brand leader should keep the momentum going. It is harder than you think.

Your role as the leader should be to continue to fuel the growth drivers while resisting the temptation to make wholesale changes. Importantly, use the time to learn the success factors while looking at future scenarios that could threaten the current momentum. 

You can attack what you see as smaller weaknesses and gaps that you feel will add to the overall growth rate. Use a motivational leadership style that keeps everyone inspired, aligned, and focused.

Business Situation Fuel the momentum

To illustrate, click on the situational plan to zoom in.

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Fix it

When a brand faces poor external results with a decline in sales, shrinking market share, and lower profit margins due to lower prices or rising costs, the brand leader needs to create a turnaround plan that will fix it. From my experience, you will need both a short-term and long-term fix. The quick fix helps address the hemorrhaging results that are impacting the bottom line of the company. 

However, most fix it business situations have a more in-depth cause, hidden beneath the surface level. You will need a change management leadership style that challenges everyone and everything. And, you will need a new plan, which includes a new vision filled with new ideas. Explore the need for different people to join the team. Losing can be contagious to the culture of a team. Clearly, you will need to create a new attitude.

The quick fix can buy you time with management to implement what you see as the longer-term fix it plan. Any immediate wins also give the team a much-needed boost of motivation. 

Dig deep into a full business review to understand the underlying causes happening in the market. Evaluate changing consumers needs, new competitors, changes in the retail landscape, and changes in technology. Close leaks using a brand funnel analysis. Go through every investment decision. Cut all spending that fails to drive results and reinvest in the new plan. Invest only in programs that give you an early breakthrough win and payback. Once you have the plan in place, make sure you have the right talent in place to make it happen. 

The quick fix plan

  • First, find early, and obvious potential wins to stop the hemorrhaging.
  • Then, emphasize results to fuel a performance-driven culture. 
  • Next, use all early wins to boost team motivation.
  • Celebrate every victory, big or small.  
  • Finally, eliminate wasteful spend, low margin or resource draining projects. 

The long-term fix

  • Importantly, conduct a deep-dive business review of the market, consumers, competitors, channels, and the brand. Focus on the top three issues emerging from the review.
  • Invest in a new marketing plan with a brand idea supported by a unique brand positioning. 
  • Make focused investment decisions, and take smart risks to fix the brand communication, product innovation, purchase moment, and the consumer experience. 
Business Situation Fix It

To illustrate, click on the situational plan to zoom in.

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A brand itself needs a consistent delivery of the brand promise. Issues arise when the brand promise shows up inconsistently across the advertising, in-store, new products, the overall consumer experience. It creates a confused and cluttered mess in the marketplace. You do not want the team behind the scenes of the brand moving in different directions.

When different functions operate in silos, you see the marketing and sales team each delivering their distinct brand messages, and the product development team invents products in a lab without any direction from brand or input from consumers. The consumer experience team lacks cohesion and consistency, and consumers begin to notice a confused brand.

When I consult on a situation that looks splintered, I ask various leaders to describe the brand in seven seconds. The answers I get suggest a confused team. I hear:

  • It depends on who you ask.
  • Or, It’s complicated.
  • Actually, I’ve never thought about it.
  • I can’t.

In business situations like this, bring an energetic and focused leadership style to keep the team aligned. Use a highly participative leadership style to bring everyone together, to listen to all points of view and unite the team under a shared plan. 

Get everyone aligned by building a marketing plan

Everyone on the team must move in the same direction to the same marketing plan. A high-functioning team must agree on the following: 

  • Target market. 
  • Main consumer benefit.
  • An organizing brand idea. 
  • Articulation of the brand idea map for each function.
  • Brand vision.
  • Articulating the brand purpose and values.
  • Shared goals.
  • Key issues. 
  • Strategies.
  • Execution plans and activities you will invest in.

Each functional team should then complete their plan to ensure it aligns with the overall brand plan. Clearly, the team needs clear marching orders, firm decisions, goals, budgets, and timelines. 

Business Situation Realignment

To illustrate, click on the situational plan to zoom in.

Startup Plan

Start-up business situations are either about the launch of a new brand in the market or the launch of a current brand in a new category. At this stage, you move quickly from blank slate to a new brand idea, a new brand plan, and a new team. 

The first mistake many start-ups make is believing a product alone is good enough. Even at the start-up stage, you need a brand idea to help organize everything. Consumers are more likely to buy into an idea than a product. 

The second mistake is to sell to anyone and even adjust your product or service to fit every different type of consumer who wants to buy. While you might feel desperate for revenue early on, you need to stay focused on your target and brand positioning. The goal for your brand is to build a reputation you can own. Importantly, if you try to be everything to anyone, you will end up as nothing to everyone.

Build a “blowfish” brand plan. 

A blowfish can make itself appear bigger than it is.

The idea of a blowfish brand plan is to make focused decisions and investments, so the brand appears bigger than it is, especially to those consumers or influencers who matter the most. 

For instance, when you focus and invest in a tight target market, those consumers will begin to think the brand is bigger than it is. On the other hand, resist the temptation of going after a broad target market too early, or you will stretch your dollars so thin no one will even notice you. Go after a niche consumer benefit, so your brand can eventually own a trusted reputation in narrow competitive space. 

Resist the temptation to try to be everywhere at once, as it spreads your resources so thin you will have a small presence anywhere. When you focus, your brand can start to dominate a focused distribution channel or media channel. 


Build the right team that fits the people to the strategy, not the strategy to the people. Build out the team’s capabilities by acquiring the skills, behaviors, relationships, and capacity to fit the needs of the brand plan and execution. As start-up brands are continually learning, keep in mind that it is okay to maneuver and adjust your strategies – but do not change your overall vision.  

To illustrate, click on the situational strategy to zoom in.

To illustrate, click on the situational strategy to zoom in.

Video Lesson: Key Issues

To illustrate, watch our video on how to find the key issues on your brand that you can use in your marketing plan. Importantly, it helps you find the best possible questions. Subsequently, it sets up strategic solutions to answer those questions.

Play Video about Strategic Key Issues Video

To view, use the ▶️ controls to play our brand strategy video. 

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