The art of strategic planning is a never-ending process that defines (and often redefines) a brand's objectives; while balancing conceptual strategies against stakeholder needs and consumer desires.
The strategic planning process starts before the research stage and continues long after the project is complete.
It's the strategist's job to work in tandem with the account (product) teams and other stakeholders to clearly define the client's marketing and advertising objectives. Once these are finalized, a strategist can start collecting and analyzing their research to uncover insights into the market and consumer landscape.
This ultimately leads to a blueprint for what’s most important to your brand, and more importantly the customer.
A good branding strategy highlights your brand's purpose and tells your consumer WHY YOU DO WHAT YOU DO, not just WHAT YOU DO.
Determine Where You Are
It's not about where you are on a geographic map, it's about where you are in the mind of the consumer. For brands, perception is reality. The fallacy that many strategists fall into is trying to position a brand according to how they perceive it — and not how the market and consumer perceive the brand. It's imperative to conduct internal audits and weigh them against competitor analyses and consumer research to gain a holistic understanding of your brand's positioning status.
Identify What’s Important
Focus on where you want your brand to be in the future. Clearly define your brand's markets, customers, and offerings — both now and as your brand expands. This will help you prioritize your objectives and develop a more efficient roadmap to accomplish your brand's goals.
Know Your Consumer
Think about your customer. Demographic and psychographic metrics are a great way to get started; but never stop there. Data without context is crap, always. Go talk to your consumer and understand their mindset.
Who is this person? What is the single feature that they need your service to perform? How does your product fit into their life? How do they interact with competitor products?
Craft A Unique Voice
What matters more: A) what you say, or B) how you say it? Honestly, it's both. Thousands of brands craft strategies that encourage messaging that capitalizes on terms like "superior customer service" or "best value." These service offerings are important, but they shouldn't be the focal point for your strategy.
Dig deeper and understand how you’ll fulfill your brand’s promise. If you promise 'fast service', for example, what does that word (fast) mean internally? And how will you make sure your service stays speedy? Along the way, you’re laying the foundation for how your brand is expected to interact with it's customers. If done right, you'll have a template you can use for future campaigns and marketing efforts.
Review. Review. Review.
It’s not over. It’s never over. To ensure the strategy performs as expected, it's important to set performance expectations and estimated conversion metrics to track your product's success. While it might be an unpopular opinion to pull back and revise a strategy after it has already entered the market, sometimes is a necessary step.
It's important to hold regular reviews of the strategy's performance against market and stakeholder predictions to evaluate your product's success.
Make Them Believe
It's possible to create the best products imaginable and still fail. It's even possible to have the best service offerings in the marketplace and still have no one care. This is the fault of the brand strategy. But it can also be the fault of the people behind the strategy.
Advertising and marketing are about getting a consumer to hone in on your specific offering, while simultaneously getting your consumer to ignore the cluttered landscape around them. When done right the consumer believes, almost without question, that your product is the right catalyst to help accomplish their goals and aspirations.
To make this happen, you need the team that's crafting your strategy to believe in what you're selling too. The passion of surrounding your team is just as important as your consumer's passion. A team can't deliver on a brand strategy — a brand promise — if they don't believe in it.
Keep It Simple, Stupid
These insights are all true:
- If you're resume requires staples, it's too long.
- If your creative brief needs a table of content, it's not a 'brief'.
- If your brand strategy fills an entire page, you wrote way too damn much.
Great ideas can be expressed simply. No exceptions.