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Brand Strategy

3 Phase Brand Development Strategy

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3 Phase Brand Development Strategy

Strong, enduring brands are built upon a rigorous understanding of themselves, their customers and the competitive marketing context. The following brand development strategy is one that I’ve used across different categories and industries with great success. It offers a process for going deep into each of these three areas. In this process you progress through three distinct phases of understanding to get your team to a more refined level of inspiration, collaboration and action that can lead to new marketplace traction.

Phase I – Internal Brand Discovery

1. Review and explore the category context for development potential.
2. Review existing business and marketing plans and any relevant past research.
3. Review target consumer profiles and segmentation schemes.
4. Conduct in-depth interviews with key business leaders about their view of the brand, its value proposition, meaning, identity and positioning goals.
5. Conduct a panel discussion with front line leaders regarding brand identity, positioning goals, business needs and any other brand assessments.
6. Analyze and synthesize the findings coming out of steps 1 – 5 into business and brand development insights. In this report the companies marketing, budgeting and strategies can be compared with category leaders and also with unrealized category development potential. The alignment of internal brand identity perceptions and positioning goals is also an area of great interest in completing the brand discovery insights report.

Phase II – Consumer Discovery

Conduct Depth Workshops. The workshops consist of small groups of carefully recruited consumers. If there are several key segments critical to your future success you can set up a sample structure that will let you compare and contrast findings to a wide range of hypotheses and stimulus that you sense may have some bearing on consumer brand perceptions and product choices in your category. A script to explore the consumers own language, imagery, perceptions, beliefs, values, relationships and motives related to brands in your category is developed. Depth workshops go beyond ordinary focus groups in many ways. If you’ve never participated in one getting some guidance is advised. The skills required to run one well go beyond a text based to do list. Brand strengths, weaknesses, impairment issues and development opportunities fall out of these workshops. Additionally the insights from your internal brand discovery phase surrounding what key people on the inside of your company believe about your brand identity and positioning are compared with what people on the outside actually perceive and believe. Usually there are big gaps between these perspectives. Mapping these gaps is a critical first step in closing them.

Conduct a Quantitative Survey. For large companies that are national or international in scope key language, imagery, perceptions and questions that emerge from the depth workshop can be codified into a large scale segmentation study to get an accurate read on the size of 4-7 consumer segments based upon brand attitudes and usage, the product and brand benefits sought most, media habits and other drivers of brand awareness, interest, trial, overall value perceptions and loyalty. The quantitative survey instrument usually goes through several stages of refinement to make sure the key topics of management interest are covered and that consumers can get through the survey successfully.

Phase III – Brand Gap Analysis & Brand Initiatives Development

In this phase the internal brand team works will all the findings and insights discovered in Phases (I) and (II) to turn insight into inspiration and inspiration into actions. The Brand Gap Phase creates the strategic foundation for making marketing investments that are qualified and quantified by research and which are targeted in favorably altering marketplace behaviors in favor of your brand. I’ve discovered from experience that while every company culture is different there is one general truth about brand development work that applies universally and it’s that “people tend to support what they help to create.” The process presented here therefore is designed in a collaborative fashion. First we get internal opinions and perspectives on the brand. Then we get external perspectives. And we use quantitative research to understand the absolute size of target consumer segments and segment behavioral drivers. If a company were to skip all these steps and just construct a survey that asks people ‘why they buy’ certain brands the insights coming back would only be top of mind and logical in nature. While some value can be derived from this kind of work the insights are not very deep. They don’t penetrate to the subconscious level and from experience will have a very limited power to affect the kinds of lasting and defensible brand strategies that could be developed through the use of the right research tools and strategic brand planning process.

With these considerations in mind we now recommend a series of internal meetings to get the most from this deeper strategic brand planning process.

Meeting (1) Brand Guardians Panel Discussion. The first meeting focuses on brand exploration and innovation using all the insights learned to date. The internal VP Brand or Brand Director can kick this meeting off with a ‘State of the Brand’ presentation which paints a picture of the current situation. With everyone on the same page in regards to the State of the Brand, then this group can be led in participation in brand innovation exercises. This is new concept generation work. The end result is a short list of Brand Initiatives. To get 3 – 5 brand initiatives that everyone agrees have the most power and potential the brand guardians group might first generate 100 – 200 seed concepts in the span of 2 – 3 hours time. Then this list is discussed and the biggest and brightest ideas are sorted, clustered and selected based upon knowledge of the brand gap.

Meeting (2) Brand Initiative Point People + Functional Experts. Each brand initiative is assigned a point person or project lead. This leader then calls together all the functional experts they need to advise them on how to fully develop the initiative, how long this will take and what it will cost. This could be a single meeting or several meetings. The goal here is to define the project for budget approval. This requires a project brief that senior management can review and sign off on.

Meeting (3) Presentation of the Brand Initiatives Project Portfolio. This meeting calls all the Brand Guardians back together, including the top financial officer. The purpose of this meeting is for all brand guardians to receive complete project briefings of all current Brand Initiatives under consideration. This is the final review and approval before execution.

This three phase brand development strategy has propelled some of the world’s most iconic brands. It has been proven to help brands thrive in B2C business categories. To bring this process and the expertise behind it to your brand development initiatives contact Derrick Daye at The Blake Project.

For more insight into the role of Brand Guardians and other aspects of brand development leadership such as Brand Field Exploration Exercises and Brand Strength Monitoring get Soulful Branding.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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