Strategy-forward (centric) means you focus first on the outcomes that will transform business performance over the longer term.
If changing the brand can’t clearly deliver the upside needed, it might be wiser to say so, and move on.
Consider these two strategic questions:
How best should we configure our brands to support our enterprise strategy?
How do you embed your purpose across the group to support your transformation?
Here are five principles to help you navigate through the fog of uncertainty:
1. Situate the brand strategy in the enterprise plan.
Brand and marketing activity is worth nothing if it is not focused on value creation. It’s all about following the money and, if pushed, how to balance effective value creation with efficiency. If your brand or marketing activity isn’t helping to deliver the commercial plan or enterprise strategy, you’re going to get your very expensive colouring pencils taken away.
2. Think long.
Brands take a significant amount of time to establish, grow, transition or turnaround. Often, brand transition can take several years to complete, which means you need to build the brand for the business tomorrow, not just today. This can be very challenging as most executive teams don’t have a detailed five-year plan, let alone a view on the next decade. Operationally, most MDs tend to be focussed on in-year performance. So, we must first lift our stakeholders eyes to the horizon.
3. If you can’t identify clear benefits, do nothing.
Brand building is eye-wateringly expensive, so it must bring significant value. Whilst symmetry is attractive, rationalising brands will cost millions for most large established businesses. That’s a lot of extra product you need to sell or margin to generate just to break even on the investment. Identifying and calculating costs is much more straightforward than being able to pinpoint the measurable financial benefits of any brand transition. If changing the brand can’t clearly deliver the upside needed, it might be wiser to say so, and move on.
4. Be very clear on the role of your brands and their strategic fit.
Are they focused on different value pools? Will combining brands reduce their impact in core markets? What of brand contagion? What is the role of the corporate and employer brand? These are challenging questions, especially if the business has grown through merger and acquisition without a formal brand strategy in mind. Working with colleagues to clarify the role each brand could play is vital in linking back to the enterprise strategy, and getting to a clear brand architecture that stimulates equity flow up, down and across the organisation.
5. Be objective and call out the truths.
Are your brands strong enough today? Will the group purpose be as dynamic and compelling with customers, as it is internally and in helping attract new talent to the business? Do we have the right capability, capacity and budget to deliver the change we need? It’s tough peeling back received corporate wisdom, and injecting some clear dispassionate thinking. Telling the board that none of the brands in our stable were currently strong enough to win in their markets was tough to say, but more so for them to hear. However, it broke the inertia, and led to the right debate: what do we need to do to win?