Putting the brand at the heart of strategic planning

Brand Strategy /
Posted on 16th April '18


You need to know what your brand stands for if you’re to make good on its promise

As brand building specialists, our work at Strategic North centres on strategic brand insight and planning, and – given that focus – we believe customer and brand are core to the strategy process.

Often when we review strategic brand plans (which we do a lot),
we are struck by the focus of the content; what is included and what is not. They tend to be very ‘left brain’ in nature with robust and structured thinking around the competitive environment, lifecycle management and development plans, market challenges, key actions and key performance indicators. I am not saying that these elements are not important because they most de nitely are.

But in order to ensure the right focus for these elements and maximise the opportunities for a brand, there are a number of foundational pieces, which if covered in more depth or viewed with a different lens, would enable more successful planning.

These should include:

The Customer is mentioned a lot, but rarely in the context of human beings making ‘buying decisions’. A thorough understanding of who are your prime customers, what they are trying to achieve, the tools they use to achieve these goals, what triggers or choice 
cues exist which reinforce or shift behaviour, and how your brand ts with their needs, is required as a baseline for strategic planning.

The Brand itself is of course frequently referenced (brand vision, brand ambition etc.) but ironically the focus and thinking in the plan tend to
be much more on product rather than brand without an articulation of what the team desires the brand to convey to a customer and how this specific element will be achieved.

The Future: Other than
the perspective of lifecycle management and product pipelines, a true future focus is often missing. Considering drivers of change and exploring how these may potentially impact the opportunity and the challenges faced by the brand is critical.

The Environment: Strategic plans often take a ‘one size fits all’
view of the world yet countries like China, the US and Germany vary significantly in terms of cost containment measures, regulatory environment, epidemiology, health policy, diagnostic infrastructure, etc. There is
clearly a balance to be struck
but a context of existing ‘market archetypes’ provides valuable context for strategy development.

In essence, strategy comes down to answering two key questions: where will you play? And how will you win? The brand builders’ strategic planning process considers what it takes to make the answers to these two questions come true and puts in place an action plan to achieve this.

Where will you play?

Key to answering this question
is conceiving the market from
a different perspective; it is important to explore the market
by identifying what customers
are truly trying to achieve. At Strategic North we approach
this by using customer ‘jobs to
be done’ rather than the more traditional approach of segmenting markets by physician and patient types or the product class.

When you view the market in this way you are better able to understand customer motivations and as a result you are able to identify broader opportunities than those offered by the (potentially restrictive) traditional segments that your competitors are
operating within. If you conceive the market differently from your competitors they will struggle to interpret your actions through
their perception of the market.

How will you win?

Asking the question ‘How will you win?’ rather than ‘How will you compete?’ focuses understanding of the market from multiple perspectives. This thinking shift is critical; competing squanders resource and causes the organisation to lose sight of the true goal.
How many times have you seen competitor’s activities used as the benchmark for what should be done rather than utilising true customer insight and understanding to drive brand planning?

‘Taking a brand building approach builds a left
and right brain foundation to the strategic planning process’

Changing the focus of strategic planning
We believe that once you adopt
a brand builder’s mind-set, the focus of the strategic planning process shifts. You start to look
at the world through a different lens. If you conceive the market differently, understand better
what your customers are trying to achieve, understand the positives and negatives of the current market, and your focus is on how you
win, then you as an organisation become proactive rather than reactive to the market environment.

When thinking about customers, you consider the drive or belief behind behaviour changes (eg prescribe or referring differently) and the factors that will be evaluated (whether subconsciously or consciously) for or against a change in behaviour.
When assessing competitors, your comparisons take into consideration factors of differentiation from a customer perspective. How aligned is your brand to customers’ ‘jobs to be done’? How dissimilar or unique is your brand? How credible and favourable is your offering
in relation to the known and unknown needs of the customer?

When considering brand, you think about what the brand needs to stand for to be able to deliver against your priority opportunities. Understanding what resonates with customers and shaping the brand
to reinforce positive perceptions
and beliefs will help you define and deliver consistency in communication, and its timing and target, in order to build your brand through positive customer relevance.

We believe that taking a brand building approach builds a left and right brain foundation to the strategic planning process to outline strategic objectives, critical success factors, key performance indicators and action plans in a way that will greatly increase probability of success. Creating customer-centric brand experiences to meet known and latent customer need, should truly be at the heart of strategic planning.

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