How to build a smart brand plan everyone can follow

Credit from book Beloved Brand


A smart brand plan gets everyone in your organization on the same page. Everyone drives against the same vision, key issues, strategies, and tactics. In this article, I will show you all the brand plan definitions and provide brand plan examples and brand plan templates.


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. The plan aligns, steers and inspires all functional areas of the organization including marketing, sales, finance, supply chain, product development, human resources and any outside agencies. And lastly, the Brand Plan even helps the Brand Manager who wrote it, to stay focused on delivering on what they said they would deliver.


Five questions to set up your rough draft of your Brand 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.


While there is a lot of work with our planning process, you will end up with a Brand Plan on ONE PAGE. Here is a brand plan example.


Start with a rough draft outline


Before you start in on working on the brand plan, I recommend that you write 2-3 bullet points for each of the five strategic questions. This provides an outline to ensure the overall flow of the plan. Below is our recommended strategic worksheet with a brand plan example using Gray’s Cookies to help:


The elements of the brand plan

Following our Brand Plan we recommend building your plan around the following elements of the plan:

  1. Situation Analysis

  2. Key IssuesVision/Purpose/Goals

  3. Strategies

  4. Execute

  5. Measure

Situational Analysis


Start the planning process with a deep-dive business review that answers “where are we”, by looking at everything connected to the business including the category, consumer, competitors, channels and the brand.


From the deep-dive business review, summarize what is driving the business, what’s holding it back and then lay out the risks and untapped opportunities. Try to focus on the top 3-4 points for each box below:


Brand Vision


When I see brand teams struggling, they usually lack a vision. As Yogi Berra once said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there”. The vision answers “where could we be” and becomes a beacon for everyone working on the brand. It is the one that defines your success. If you achieved it, everyone would feel proud.


We like to ask brand leaders: “if you woke up ten years from now and you were in a great mood because of what was happening on your business, what are the 2-3 things you would have achieved”. This gives you a straw dog vision, framed as a very large goal. We then provide some examples of the best-in-class vision statements to see if sparks some creativity in writing a final vision statement.


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


It should be motivating and enticing to stretch your mind while getting everyone focused. Ideally, it is Qualitative (yet grounded in something) and quantitative (measurable). It is perfectly fine to embed a financial ($x) or share position (#1) element into it as long as it is important for framing the vision. The vision should easy for everyone to understand and rally around. It should stand at least 5-10 years or more. It should be a balance of aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement)

A brand vision is not a positioning statement or a strategic statement. These both come later in the plan. Try to be single-minded in the statement. You do not need to include everything. Make sure you haven’t achieved it already.


Key Issues


One tool we recommend with finding the key issues is to ask 4 questions that determine “why are you here”:


  1. What is your current COMPETITIVE position?

  2. What is the CORE STRENGTH your brand can win on?

  3. How tightly CONNECTED is your consumer to your brand?

  4. What is the current business SITUATION your brand faces?


Combine the deep dive analysis with the answers to these 4 questions and you will have a good start on your competitive, brand, consumer and situational issues.


Strategies


The strategy is always about “how to get there”. At the strategic level, you have to make choices. When Marketers come to a decision point that requires focus, too many try to justify a way to do both. You have to decide. The best strategic marketers never divide and conquer. They make choices that help to focus and conquer. Marketers always face limited resources in terms of dollars, time, people and partnerships. They have to apply those limited resources against unlimited choices in a target market, brand positioning, strategic options, and activities. The best Marketers are able to limit the options through decision-making helps to match up to the limited resources.


The Brand Love Curve can help pick your strategy


The Brand Love Curve guides your strategy. We have created a hypothetical “Brand Love Curve” to assess how tightly connected brands are with their consumers. Brands move along the curve from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved with consumers becoming outspoken fans, where demand becomes desire, needs become cravings and thinking is replaced with feelings. Brands use their connection with consumers to become more powerful against the very consumers who love them, against the channels who carry them and against the competitors trying to beat them. With that added power, brands gain more profit through price, cost, share and market size.



Where you sit on the Brand Love Curve influences your next major strategic move.


At the Indifferent stage, focus on establishing your brand in the consumer’s mind. You have to create an opinion. At the Like It stage, consumers see you as a rational choice. There needs to be strategic work to separate your brand from the pack to generate a following. For the Love It stage, the focus should be on tugging at the heart-strings of your consumers to drive a deeper connection with those who love you. And, at the Beloved stage, the strategy has to continue the magic of the brand and get your loyalists to speak on the brand’s behalf. Mobilize brand fans as advocates.


Use the Brand Love Curve to focus your activies. While you will come up with your own unique strategies, we have used the Brand Love Curve to map out 20 core activities to begin playing with.


Don’t try to do two things at once


The biggest strategic flaw of most brand plans is trying to drive penetration and usage frequency at the same time. This is a classic case of trying to get away with doing two things instead of picking just one. Look at how different these two options really are and you will see the drain on the resources you will experience by trying to do both.


A penetration strategy gets someone with very little experience with your brand to likely consider dropping their current brand to try you once and see if they like it. A usage frequency strategy gets someone who knows your brand to change their behavior in relation to your brand, either changing their current life routine or substituting your brand into a higher share of the occasions. By doing both, you will be targeting two types of consumers at the same time, you will have two main messages and you will divide your resources against two groups of activities that have very little synergy. If you are really strategic, pick one, not two.


As we wrote our key issues in question format, then the strategy