How to build a smart brand plan everyone can follow

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

A smart brand plan gets everyone in your organization on the same page. Everyone drives against the same vision, key issues, strategies, and tactics. I will show you all the brand plan definitions, brand plan examples and brand plan templates. Many will call it a marketing plan. I see them as the same. 

A smart brand plan makes choices on how to allocate your brand’s limited resources to drive the biggest return. The plan gains approval from senior management around spending, strategies, tactics, goals, and projects. Moreover, your plan aligns, steers and inspires all functional areas of the organization. The plan aligns marketing, sales, finance, supply chain, product development, human resources and any outside agencies. Lastly, the brand plan even helps the Brand Manager who wrote it. Stay focused on delivering on what they said they would deliver.

Working through the flow of your plan

An effective Brand Plan answers where are we, why are we here, where could we be, how can we get there and what do we need to do. Once you answer these 5 strategic questions, you will see that you have your analysis, key issues, vision, goals strategies, execution, and measurement. 

Brand Vision

A well-written brand vision should be the ultimate end-in-mind achievement, which answers, “Where could we be?” Think about significant accomplishments that would make you feel completely fulfilled. Put a stake in the ground to describe an ideal state for your future. Every smart brand plan must start with a brand vision statement. When I see brand teams who struggle, they usually lack a brand vision. 

Some organizations get so fixated on achieving short-term goals; they chase every tactic in front of them just to make their numbers. Your vision should steer your entire brand plan. Choose the language and phrases within your vision that will inspire, lead, and steer your team.


A good vision should scare you a little, but excite you a lot.

Use these statements to inspire you as you write your own vision statement. Maybe you will see something that feels familiar to what is in your mind or at least a structure for how you would write your own vision statement.

Once you establish your vision, it sets up the key issues of your plan, including obstacles in the way of achieving your vision, which then sets up the strategies for how to reach the vision. As mentioned earlier, a brand plan has to flow like an orchestra, with each element directly related to the others.

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. 

Use our Strategic ThinkBox to ask 4 questions:

  1. What is your your brand’s core strength? Make a decision on whether your brand will be product-led, story-led, experience-led or price led. 
  2. How tight is the bond with consumers? Using our brand love curve, where does your brand sit? Is your brand at the indifferent, like it, love it or beloved stage? 
  3. What is your competitve situation? Is your brand a power player, challenger, disruptor or craft type brand?
  4. What is the current business situation your brand faces? Use your analysis to figure out if your brand needs to keep the momentum going, fix it, re-align or are you at the startup stage. 

These 4 questions will give you a good start on your core strength, consumer, competitive, and situational issues.

Creating key issue questions

As we wrote our key issues in question format, then the strategy becomes the answer. Look how they match up. This brand plan example uses Gray’s Cookies, and this type of brand plan format can make a great brand plan template for you to lay out your strategies.


The strategies in the brand plan answer, “How can we get there?” Each strategy 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). 

Start with strategic objective statements


Start off by writing your strategic objective statement using the four components of our a + b + c + d model that we use for strategic thinking:


A: Calls out the investment in a strategic program, with crystal clear marching orders to the team, leaving no room for doubt, confusion, or hesitation. 

B: Provides a focused opportunity, which is the breakthrough point where the brand will exert pressure to create a market impact. 

C: Achieves a specific desired market impact with a stakeholder you will attempt to move, whether it is consumers, sales channels, competitors, or influencers.

D: Drives a specific performance result, linking the market impact to a specific result, either making the brand more powerful or more profitable.

Writing the plan with the power of threes

I believe in “the power of threes.” As I said earlier, your brand plan should help you make decisions on where to focus and allocate your limited resources. As a guideline, for an annual plan, I recommend you focus on the top three strategies, then focus on the top three tactics for each strategy. 

That means nine significant projects for your brand to focus your limited resources against during the year. Compare the subtle difference with what happens when you try to do five strategies with five tactics: the plan quickly explodes into 25 projects, and seven by seven leads to 49 projects. That would cripple your brand’s limited resources. What if you never get to the forty-ninth project, but it was the most important project? With fewer projects, you will be able to execute everything with full passion and brilliance.

I see too many marketers with a long list of things they need to do. They are so busy; they have no time to think about what matters to their brand. They have very little passion for any one particular project; they are trying to get everything done. This thinking is not the ideal behavior a brand needs to become a beloved brand.

How to lay out each strategy

Once you have decided on your top three strategies, you can lay out a specific slide to explain each strategy within your presentation. 


  • Include the strategic objective statement. 
  • The goals measure the ideal result of this strategy.
  • Then list three tactical programs, where you will invest your resources. 
  • I also insert a “watch out statement” to show I am proactively addressing any issue I feel could derail my presentation.

Execution Plans

“What do we need to do to get there” matches up marketing execution activity to the brand strategy, looking at communicating the brand story, managing the consumer towards the purchase moment, launching new product innovation and delivering the brand experience. We use our Big Idea to drive each of these key areas of the brand.  

Creating execution plans

For each execution investment, write a separate execution plan as an organizing tool to ensure everyone has specific marching orders on the particular strategy related to their function, leaving no room for misinterpretation. Every strategic investment you make deserves an execution plan, that might include a communications, retail, or innovation plan.

A brand communications plan answers seven questions. 

These questions steer and inspire the creation of the brand story work, so the brand communications work will establish your brand positioning, and motivate consumers to see, think, feel, do, or influence. The plan must answer the following questions: 

  1. What do we need our advertising to do? (Brand strategic objective statement)
  2. Who is in our desired consumer target? (Most motivated people to buy what we do)
  3. What are we selling? (Our main consumer benefit we stand behind) 
  4. Why should they believe us? (Support points to back up the main benefit) 
  5. What is our organizing brand idea? (Brand soul, essence or DNA for the brand)
  6. What do we want people to see, think, feel, do, or influence? (Desired consumer response)
  7. Where will our consumer be most receptive to see and act upon our message? (Media plan)

Bring everything together into a Brand Plan on a page

I first came up with this “brand plan-on a page” format when I led a team with 15 brands. It helped me see the big picture quickly, rather than having to hunt through a big thick binder. Also, the sales team appreciated the ability to see the entire plan on one page quickly. Most salespeople also had 15 brands to manage with each of their customers. Everyone who works on the brand should receive the one-page plan and keep it close by to steer their day-to-day decisions.

We have divided the plan into three sections

  • Analysis: The analysis section lays out the summary from the deep-dive business review with an overview of the top three points, which envelop what is driving your brand’s growth, what is inhibiting your brand’s growth, which threats could hurt your brand and what opportunities your brand faces.  
  • Key issues and strategies: The key issues and strategies section focuses on the top three issues getting in the way of achieving your vision, which you should put in question format. Moreover, the strategic solutions are the answers that match up to each of those questions. Set goals to measure your brand’s performance against each strategy. 
  • Execution section: The execution section maps out the specific plans for each of the chosen execution areas that aligns with the most essential consumer touchpoints.  

Get our ideal brand plan format in a downloadable PowerPoint file.

Get our ideal Brand Plan downloadable PowerPoint file that includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own brand plan.


  • Include slides for vision, purpose, analysis, key issues, strategies, brand positioning statement, and execution plans.
  • You will get access to our one-page brand plan and our one-page Brand Strategy Roadmap.
  • We have separate pages for a sales forecast, financials, and an activity calendar.


Brand training

Beyond the MBA is the virtual brand management training designed for the real world

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Our playbooks will show you new ways for how to think, define, plan, execute and analyze your brand

  1. You will find new strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  2. To define the brand, I provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We show a step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. 
  3. For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the marketing communications plan, innovation process, and sales plan. 
  4. To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution with chapters on how to write a creative brief, how to make decisions on creative advertising and how to lead the media choices. 
  5. When it comes time for analyzing the performance of your brand, I provide all the analytical tools you need to lead a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand.  

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your brand and be successful in your marketing career.

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