Search for definitions of Brand Strategy on the internet and you would typically get these statements: “Your brand strategy defines what you stand for, a promise you make, and the personality you convey.” “A brand strategy is a formal plan used by a business to create a particular image of itself in the minds of current and potential customers.”
When people hear the word “Brand” they automatically associate it with the visuals, campaign, tagline, image, promos, etc. While it is true that this is certainly the most well-known part of it, there is so much more one needs to know, understand, and manage beyond this. People who manage and grow brands know that a BRAND is a BUSINESS. So, when you say Brand Strategy, you actually mean Business Strategy. When you look at it from this perspective, then suddenly Brand Strategy takes on a much wider and expansive scope than communication or campaign materials. That’s why Brand reviews are not just limited to Brand image scores – which is usually just 1 out of the 4 or 7 Ps Marketing.
David Aaker is one of the proponents of Brand Strategy that went beyond the visuals and campaign. He introduced these principles in the 1990s with his book “Managing Brand Equity” which eventually led to the discipline of Strategic Brand Management – wherein the company maps out the brands’ contribution to total company’s long-term competitive strength and profitability while regularly tracking and measuring its Brand Health or Brand Equity.
The following are the factors that we need to consider in building a brand:
The Role it plays in the Company
For a brand to thrive, it must know its place in the company portfolio or the company vision. What is the strategic intent of the brand? How much should it contribute to the total company revenues and profitability?
Here are some examples of the different brand roles (Aaker, 1996) in the company:
Flagship Brand – the one expected to be the main revenue contributor for a company; usually a leader or a strong player in the category it plays in . It is also usually the biggest contributor to profitability.
Flanker Brand – the one expected to address other needs or evolved needs of the category that are not properly addressed by the Flagship brand. A company can have multiple flanker brands to ensure that sales and shares remain within the company and are not shifted to competitors
Energizer Brand - a sub brand or endorsed brand that significantly enhances or energizes the main brand / mother brand because it is innovative or because it rides on a popular or up and coming trend
Silver Bullet - a sub brand or endorsed brand that is developed to strengthen the mother brand by extending it to other segments of the market (e.g., premiumizing it or massifying it) or any way that helps sustain the relevance of the mother brand.
The Brand’s Business Ambition and Goals
Given the role of the brand in the company’s portfolio, the brand manager and brand director should set the right ambition and business targets for the brand. This includes the financial goals for the brand. These goals and targets should be hinged on a thorough understanding of the company’s performance and vision, the brand’s key business strengths and weaknesses, and a good knowledge of the market and competitive landscape. These three things are crucial in setting the brand business ambition and goals.
The Role it plays in the minds and hearts of the Consumers/Customers
This is more commonly known as Brand Positioning. In developing the brand strategy, one must know the following:
The current positioning of the brand – How do customers see it? How do they feel about it? What is the role of the brand in their day-to-day life?
What positioning should the brand own for it to bring in revenues to the company?
Can the brand effectively own the positioning it aspires to own?
These questions can only be answered properly if we know the drivers and barriers to preference or purchase, which are typically mapped out in the Customer Journey.
The Market and Competitive Landscape
The understanding of the market and competitive landscape is not limited to just their shares and brand positioning – which is what we usually get from “competitive reports”. A more comprehensive approach is required if you are to develop a long-term strategy for the brand. One needs to look at the business performance of the top players and the capabilities of their companies, look at the performance of the total category and identify the drivers of growth. The insights and information that one gets from this kind of analysis leads to a better differentiated and more relevant message and activities from the brand. It also leads to setting the right ambition and goals that will ensure that the brand will thrive.
The Marketing Mix
The full marketing mix is a big part of the brand’s business plan as this mix takes care of ensuring that the brand is made available and bought by the target market.
A comprehensive mix would consider the following:
Product: How will our brand drive differentiation through its product or service? What should our assortment be? What features and services should we have?
Price: How do we drive value to our customers? What are our key pricing principles?
Promotions: What should we communicate? Where should we communicate? How should we say it? What are the crucial touchpoints?
People: How do we bring to life the brand proposition in our employees, staff, etc.? How do they become ambassadors of our brand?
Process: What are the key principles to ensure a delightful customer experience? How do we bring to life the proposition in our process?
Physical Evidence: What type of environment should we build to bring to life the brand promise?
Place: Where can customers avail themselves of the service and products? What is our location strategy?
Those are all the things that we need to consider when we manage a brand. For a Brand Strategy to be hard-working and effective, we need to start looking at a brand as a business. What good is branding if it won’t build and sustain the brand’s business? That is why it is so important to have the Brand Strategy down pat before even thinking about logo, brand identity or communicating or advertising externally – all of which entail significant resources. In other words, being sexy is not enough. To develop and sustain a successful brand, one has to look at the big picture objectively and without any biases or pre-conceived assumptions. Ask the right questions, set the right goals, analyze relevant data and, establish the strategic imperatives. That’s how you build your brand strength from within – thorough understanding that leads to a clear and sharp strategy- only then can the externals and tangibles be business building and relevantly sexy.
About the Author Chelet Tanjuatco
Chelet is the head for Marketing and Brand Strategy at Acumen Strategy Consultants. She has 20 years of marketing experience in various industries such as Beverage, Dairy, Food, and Confectionary. She started her Marketing Career in San Miguel Beer where she handled both economy and premium beer brands.
She then spent 9 years in Fonterra Brands and led the growth of different Dairy Categories such as Maternal, Family Milk, and Dairy Foods with her expertise in Brand Positioning, Innovation and Concept Development. She was part of Fonterra Regional Team (Asia Middle East) think tank for Innovation and brand architecture for brands in the Maternal, Kids, Family, and Dairy Foods categories.
Chelet’s passion for understanding the business and the consumer continues to drive her in leading various projects for Acumen such as Tanduay, Conti’s, Century Pacific, Western Union, Sky Cable, and Hershey’s, and the first cross-generational consumer understanding research of Acumen. She is also a professor at the UA&P, teaching Brand Management and Human Insight to IMC students.