Integrated Brand Stategy for Decision Makers

The Ultimate Brand Strategy Process

In this post, I share an infographic that represents our Integrated Brand Strategy Process, the ultimate brand strategy process for decision-makers, who must consider more than just marketing, design and creative aspects of the business.

We take an in-depth look at what an integrated brand strategy should look like and the process that’s required to ensure that it’s fully fit for purpose and delivers on everything I have outlined in the last post, about why brand strategy should be integrated and aligned with your business’s operational objectives and actions.

 

From Porter’s 5 forces, SWOT and PEST to Perceptual Maps and Value Chains, there are a number of tools that can help us build a foundation for brand strategy work.

1) Decoding your Business Environment with Strategic Tools

The first step in building a brand strategy is to recognise that it is in fact a building process.

You need a foundation, damp proof membrane, steels, and utilities thought out, worked out and integrated throughout from the outset. But also, you must know that you need to build a house, not a school but you may not know if you want a house on three floors or a sprawling bungalow.

To establish your goals and ultimate business objectives, you need to fully understand the terrain within which you operate. Then you can take a clear and long term view of what the brand you are building should be and for example, the type and size of plumbing (capability) you will need.

 

You must carve out what we call the ‘Brand Imperatives’ at Iconify, discussed in the last post; the P2Ps as we we call them – Purpose, Principles, Perception, Personality, Position, Proposition. Promotion, Promise. These are important both internally and externally but we must never define them without reference to what is going on in the external environment. Brand strategies are created to help businesses win which invariably requires taking stock, knowing and fully understanding your strengths and weaknesses, your threats and opportunities. With regard to your environment specifically, you should be abreast of challenges and gaps in the market as well as obstacles – your basic SWOT/PEST data but used as a basis for building your purpose and differentiators, as well as your positioning decisions.

 

This market and competitor information is critical for deciding how to pitch your company. You get many good ideas too of where the ‘potentialities’ of your organisation for differentiation and even extension may come from, which is part of what makes this integrated approach, the ultimate brand strategy process.

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2) Inside-out Brand Strategy – Define your Brand Imperatives

You start outside, scope out the terrain, start to define what your structure should be, where you should site it and what its edifice might be but starting outside and understanding your environment means you are sure where there is water, soil or rock. You are ready to start considering your business and brand in concert to define your Brand Imperatives – purpose, principles, perception, personality, position, proposition, promotion, promise – in detail, with the correct stakeholders.

 

Simon Sinek advocates starting with the ‘Why’, and we agree, so we start with purpose but the preceding exercise will have informed and reinforced that/those ‘why(s) as you start to define your business purpose, your principles and ideals you want to embed in the organisation to start winning the attention and custom of the clients you will target. Brand Imperatives are built from informed hopes and dreams.

What is the current perception of your business in the market and does that differ from the perception you hope to project? What positional opportunities are there and should you continue with the position you occupy if you do not lead in it? How close are your offerings to what people really want and are willing to pay for?

 

What will it cost to get you to the ideal or is there a pivot that is more profitable? How well is your company keeping its promise to its clients, meeting customer expectations and what adjustments are required to get there? How are you promoting your business now? Are your methods relevant and effective or is a review in order? This and more as some of the questions this part of the process will help you get the answers to.

3) Define Brand Aspirations

At the start, you’ll consider where you are going and decide where you should go as you define brand imperatives, but this is also the time to think about what you want the brand to be known for, desired as – which psychographic requirements will it meet, for example. As you define your purpose, it should be linked to aspirations for the brand. It’s no use having a limiting purpose if you have big ambitions for the brand. But these need to be defined clearly in terms of market segmentation, position and even down to how you would like to be described by current and prospective customers in the next 2 years when they speak about why they pay 50% more for your offering than for that of your closest rivals.

 

This will help determine the gap between where you are and where you want to be and of course the size, scale and extent of the effort required to begin to fill the gap in the market most lucratively.

4) Determine Interdisciplinary Objectives

That last step is critical in building clarity on what each function of your business need to do to achieve those aspirations and clarify how the operations need to change. It will help to build a business case and outline the necessary transformations across the organisation, why they need to happen and by when. In an integrated brand strategy, all things must work and dovetail well together with dependencies clear, anticipated and well managed to deliver the resonance that is the goal of an integrated brand strategy.

Consider operations, functions (including marketing of course), people and technology – what do we need to be able to do with and within these to build the business and the brand that will get us that market share and establish our brand as the first choice? What should be prioritised, and at what rate to get us there?

5) Review organisational capability

Operations, functions, people and technology – how well are we placed to meet the objectives established in the last step as what the business should be capable of doing to arrive at the desired endpoint of strategic initiatives.

From brand design to business transformation to reputation management, the next step is to determine where the organisation is now versus where it wants and needs to be if it is to meet its aspirations along a capability maturity spectrum that will be built upon as the strands of the integrated brand strategy are executed.

As an example, if an objective is that the business wants to engage more frequently and meaningfully with a segment of their target audience they currently feel cut off from, the questions would be:

  • Is there a solid and multifaceted digital marketing strategy that will make this happen and
  • are the necessary tools and capability available to achieve this?

Common challenges are IT related and many businesses are constrained by digital transformations that they are yet to make, many of which are relatively simple. However, in the absence of a complete brand strategy incorporating the digital transformation element, the roadmap to achieving these capabilities can appear very vague.

 

One thing we see a lot is that innovation is a fond dream of many business owners which they consider is of the pipe variety. Another is to increase diversity and inclusion. Without a clear plan to identify and remedy any deficits in your business, if they exist, it’s difficult to make the turnaround. Even when these exist, if the program of change isn’t linked to the brand strategy, especially with regard to brand imperatives and how organisations are committed to operating, it is all too common to fall at the first hurdles.

 

Ultimately, your ability to build the brand you dream of and be the first choice of the target segment you are aiming for in the position you decide on is fully dependent on operationalising all the areas that will deliver the objectives of the business case in uplifting capability and capacity across the board.

6) Define Change Program and Develop Strategy

Operations, functions, people and technology – what will actually be delivered, by who, how and when?

 

The parameters of the business’s transformation from the brand to the people level are taking shape strongly by this point in the process, and remain only to be documented, planned and resourced as a program of change with buy-in from decision-makers and stakeholders who should already have been on this journey from the outset and can clearly see that the costs indicated are a warranted and worthy investment.

Change practitioners and project managers will manage this part of the process but the brand strategy should dictate a key set of considerations for the business and technical architecture as well as how people should be organised and capability built on a cross functional basis. If new branding collateral is required, this should of course govern that process of discovery and design.

7) Strategy Execution

What have we done so far? We have built an integrated brand strategy that has considered the lockstep improvement, perhaps even overhaul of interdependent parts of your businesses that will benefit from economies of scope through the transformations that are made to all parts of the business that build, transmit, translate and deliver value. Yes, we have built a Transformation Engine! That’s what makes this the ultimate brand strategy process.

 

For the first time, perhaps you have been enabled to see your company as a holistic entity. It’s no longer seen as a business where it’s desirable to have functions, tools and processes they use, hived off in silos with communication about key and integral things, minimal or non-existent. Now we can plan for an organisations where people across all functions enjoy a sense of shared identity based on purpose and direction as well as a role-based responsibility.

 

Clearly, this organisation will serve customers better, now united by a shared vision and enabled and empowered by better capabilities to do the jobs they are asked to? Surely the people that work here are more engaged and enriched?

Strictly, execution is separate from strategy, however, it is extremely instructive to define and link how and where delivery workstreams that will work on the benefits of the strategy are related, how they’ll be met and should be a critical part of the project governance, risks and benefits management.

 

What will the comms and messaging look like? What is being transformed for brand, the business and IT and how will they all impact Customer Experience? How will they be delivered, how will this be governed and who will be responsible for ensuring that the Brand Strategy objectives are not lost through the compromises that often have to be made in change programs? Lots of exciting questions, the answers to which could be transformative to your business.

 

The unique thing about the brand strategy I have described is that it is an integrated brand strategy and in that integration is its power. The wonderful thing about it is that it generates sufficient detail not just to build a powerful strategy but also facilitates the establishment of tactics and processes to make the strategy stand while remaining responsive, flexible and focused on the Customer Experience.

Below is the summary of our Integrated Brand Strategy Process.

The Ultimate Brand Strategy - the number one best brand strategy for decision makers is an Integrated Brand Strategy Process

The idea is simple: To help decision-makers adopt a brand mindset that extends beyond the creative and design elements of a brand, and takes you from the visual to the heart, soul and the parts that actually do the heavy lifting. It helps owners, leaders and directors realise that changes to strategy should be aligned to the brand marketing work and ensure that brand messaging is reflected through the business operations and translated to how customers experience your business.

This strategy will to help strategists create roadmaps and gain clarity on your most entrenched challenges. Its complexity will be defined by the complexity of your organisation, but as a rule of thumb, the more complex your operations, the more you need a brand strategy that isn’t skating on top of disembodied marketing activities but is at the heart of your strategy for achieving your revenue and brand-driven goals.

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