The Brand Strength Finder
There are four options for what core strength your brand can win on: product, brand story, experience or price. Many brand leaders have their marketing strategy wrong, when it comes to aligning everything behind the right strength. Here’s a simple little game that we play with executive teams. We provide them with 4 chips against the 4 choices of product innovation, brand story, experience or price. They have to put one at the highest competitive importance, two at the mid level and then force one to be at the low level. Try it and you will be surprised that your team struggles to agree. You may also find that you are at one strength now and figure it is time to shift your brand marketing to become focused on something else.
Product led Brands
With product as your core strength, the strategy should focus on being better, building around continuous innovation and a rational selling approach. Ensure promise and experience built around product. Establish your reputation as the superior brand in the category, defending against any challengers to your position. Continue to invest in Innovation to stay ahead of competitors, being the leader in technology, claims, and new formats. You should be leveraging product-focused mass communication, directly calling attention to the superiority and differences in your product versus the competitors. Use product reviews and key influencers to support your brand. Build the “how you do it” into your brand story, to re-enforce point of difference. Use rational selling to move consumers along the buying system. As the brand matures and moves towards being more loved, challenge the brand to drive an emotional connection to help evolve and grow.
Brand Story led Brands
With the brand story as your core strength, the strategy should focus on being different, building around being different, supported by emotional brand communication, that connects motivated consumers with the concept on a deeper emotional level. Focus on building a big idea that connects quickly with a core group of motivated consumers, and then everything (story, product, experience) can be lined up under it. Invest in emotional brand communication that connects with a motivated audience. Build a community of core “brand lovers” to influence others in their network. A soft-sell approach, based on tapping into emotions that helps to influence the potential consumer. Know the impact of price, as to when it matters and when it does not. Do not bring price to the forefront, as it can take away from the idea.
Consumer Experience led Brands
With the consumer experience as your core strength, the strategy and organization should focus on linking culture very closely to your brand. After all, your people are your product. As you go to market, invest in influencers and social media to support and spread the word of your experience. Use the brand purpose (“Why you do what you do”) and values to inspire and guide the team leadership and service behaviors. Focus on building a culture and organization with the right people, who can deliver incredible experiences. Invest in training the face of the brand. In terms of Marketing Communications, you will need to be patient as the consumer needs to experience what it feels like before they are willing to speak on its behalf. Effective tools include word of mouth, earned media, social media, on-line reviews, use of key influencers and testimonials. Too much marketing emphasis on price can diminish the perceived consumer experience.
Price led Brands
With price as your core strength, the strategy focus on efficiency and drive lowest possible cost into the products you sell. Fast moving items means high turns and high volume. You have to be better at the fundamentals around production and sourcing. Price brands own the low price positioning, attacking any challengers. Need good solid products. Consumers are willing to accept lower experience.The focus should be on business efficiency built around low-cost, fast-moving, high-volume items. Invest in production and sourcing, using power to win negotiations. Use call-to-action style marketing communication, to drive purchase. Hard to maintain “low price” while fighting off perception that you are “cheap”. Many price brands struggle to drive an emotional connection to the brand.
Key Learnings from the Strength Finder
Surprisingly, many brands do not know their core strength and some wish their core strength was something else, so they deny it. Many Brand Leaders try to have two strengths, which means you end up trying to implement two completely different strategies at the same time. As you can see, the investment and strategic focus changes for each core strength. Product led brands need to be better and invest in innovation, while Brand Story led brands need to be different and invest in communication. Price led brands need to be cheaper and manage efficiencies, while consumer experience brands need to invest in people, culture and organization who are the backbone in delivering that experience.
Turning Strategic Thinking into Strategic Statements
The ideal one-year Brand Plan should have 3 main strategies and the 5-year Strategic Plan can have up to 5 strategies. A well-written brand strategy has four elements in the statement:
- Specific strategic program
- Market impact
- Performance impact
In the spirit of focus, if you have too many strategies, all you are doing is spreading your limited resources over too many strategies. This puts your most important strategies at risk of not having enough resources to realize the fun potential of the strategy. As you move to your strategies, the reality is that you will have a combination of strategies from your core strength, competitive, consumer and situational. Let’s look at how to write strategy statements that support your brand’s core strength
a. Focus: Focus on enhancing your brand’s core strength. The choices are one of product, brand story, experience or price.
b. Strategic Program: Deploy resources against the Strategic Program. The choices are Brand Communications, Innovation, People and Culture or Distribution
c. Market Impact: Impacting the market with key message that should match up to your core strength. You could say that your product is better, tell the story behind your big idea, demonstrate how your people are what makes the difference or explain the story behind how you turn efficiency into lower prices.
d. Performance Impact: Align organization and everything you do around strength. It should help to either harness your brand’s power through one of the 8 sources of power or it should drive profit through one of 8 brand wealth drivers
Here are two examples of what Starbucks core strength strategies might look like:
- Re-build the Starbucks coffee experience (a) by training all the Starbucks baristas (b) to emphasize how our people make the difference (c) to get current brand lovers to use Starbucks more often (d)
- Enhance the Starbucks experience at lunch (a) with innovative sandwiches and snacks (b), to re-enforce the quality difference at Starbucks (c) to enter the new lunch time market (d).
To read more on Strategic Thinking, here is the workshop we take brand leaders through to help make them smarter.
Beloved Brands: Who are we?
At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. 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 use workshop sessions to help your team create a winning brand positioning that separates your brand in the market, write focused brand plans that everyone can follow and we help you find advertising that drives growth for your brand. We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. Our Beloved Brands training center offers 10 training workshops to get your team of brand leaders ready for success in brand management–including strategic and analytical thinking, writing brand plans, positioning statements and creative brief, making decisions on creative advertising and media plans.
To contact us, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.