Brand planning – the essentials

Feb 27, 2016

Your brand is your story told by others, shared by others and perceived by others. In an increasingly competitive environment businesses need to have a keen understanding of their clients, their brand and the relationship between the two. The process of brand planning may seem confusing or overwhelming to know where to start and what the outputs should be. However an effective brand plan offers a strategic direction, tactics and guidance on how to allocate resources to drive the biggest return.

Failure to plan your brand, is a plan to fail. A brand plan should include:

  • Situation analysis – where are you now, why are we here and where do you want to be?
  • Brand equity – vision, proposition, values and differentiators
  • Key issues and strategies – how is the brand connected with your clients?
  • Tactics and execution – what do you need to do to get there?
  • Measurement – are you getting return on investment?

So does brand planning need to be as painful as first thought? No, successful plans are the result of robust and efficiently managed processes – with a strong focus on clients, growth and profitability.

Sweat the situational analysis

Whilst there is an abundance of brand planning theories and models available, quality brand plans set out a robust and detailed situation analysis. Once the brand’s current position is clear and the vision has been established, you can begin to build the path towards a brand strategy.

It is important to resist the temptation to jump ahead and form tactics. Insufficient focus on the drivers, barriers, opportunities and threats will inhibit the brand’s future potential. This close scrutiny early in the process will avoid wasted investment in the wrong tactics further down the line.

Simply, the aim of the situational analysis is to identify, in detail, what is working and what is not across all aspects of the brand including financial performance.

Leverage cross-functional capability

Should brand planning be carried out in insolation from the rest of the business? In my opinion, absolutely not. A valuable early lesson is to embrace the range and depth of available knowledge from across the business early in the process. Agree the areas that require data, knowledge and insight for the situation analysis and delegate appropriately to those parts of the business. This process of inclusion requires a commitment to build and maintain cooperative internal and external relationships.

Some examples of cross-functional capability can be leveraged during the brand planning process:

  • Finance – incorporating in the finance department in early discussions can hugely benefit the overall process and final output. Support from finance significantly improves the quality of the performance analysis data. They are often particularly good at modelling scenarios, which proves invaluable at the strategy development phase. This can help determine how robust and more importantly profitable the plans being proposed are likely to be, depending on a number of factors.
  • Sales / Business Development and Customer Service – in firms with a dedicated business development team, there can often be a rivalry with the marketing department. A blame culture can often arise between the two and in particular when plans do not always achieve the ROI that is anticipated. This is unhelpful on many levels but most importantly to the success of the business. Regular engagement with the sales department can provide insight into markets, trends, competitors and the effectiveness of marketing campaigns to drive sales. Further to this, internal customer service teams or client listening programmes are an excellent source of free and relatively easy to source information as to generic feedback from clients and consumers.
  • External agencies – many businesses invest a significant amount of their marketing budget on market research, design, digital, PR and copywriting agencies however during the brand planning process their input is not maximised. Each agency should provide their perspective to include in the brand analysis and also offer recommendations or strategies that support their findings. Agencies have a number of clients to service and as a result, they have limited time support out of scope requests. To prevent the agency preparing the bare minimum, it is strongly urged, to brief agencies in detail of the exact requirements and deliverables throughout the brand planning process as early into the process as possible. This will ensure the best use of their time and the most useful information to help in future strategy development.

Draw out the insight

Collating a huge amount of data from various sources is only the first step in knowing how to move a brand forward. Ultimately the business needs to understand the data to draw out relevant insight to enhance growth, reverse the barriers to growth, avoid the risks and take advantage of the opportunities.

The firm’s vision must remain at the centre of the strategic planning process. Strategy forces the business to make choices and allocate resources with the ultimate goal of strengthening the relationship between the target audience and the brand. A strengthened position between client and brand creates advocates, increases profitability and market share.

For more information on how to establish an effective client focused strategy contact or @jensmithmythos.

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