THE 3 ROLES OF BRAND PLANNING.
There is so much confusion about brand and the practice of brand planning, and all to often, a bit of secrecy.
Because of this, many businesses are not leveraging their brands strategically. The knock-on effect of this is a shift in focus from strategic implementation of brand strategy to isolated communications strategy and tactical battling.
The root of this problem is in a lack of understanding of the three fundamental roles that brand plays:
Brand to Business
The first role of brand is to connect the abstract world in which business strategy lives, to real-world strategy, in which people live.
Brand exists as a set of associations in the mind of consumers. That is the real world. At the highest level, there needs to be an understanding of how a company’s purpose and its products (two sets of connected associations) need to be positioned in the mind of the consumer and how that positioning needs to be established, communicated, maintained, measured and kept relevant. All of these are strategic imperatives in the delivery of any business vision.
If used well, brand can become a powerful strategic tool to leverage business success. Key to this success is ensuring that strategic and commercial imperatives are not confused or conflicted. A symptom of this in action is when brand and marketing are lumped together in one function, or under a single commercial reporting line. In this world tactical need trumps strategic intent.
Brand to Organisation
The second role of brand is to connect and align the real-world strategy to the organisation. This requires an understanding of the role for brand in the organisation, as a compass for strategic decision-making, as a culture catalyst, as an agent of change, as a connector between employees and the consumer, as a mechanism for retention and employee engagement.
Key to success is in understanding that Brand to Organisation is not a communications exercise, but an exercise in building a culture to support the brand in every facet of the organisation. This requires co-operation, not compliance if the brand is to live sustainably in the organisation.
Brand to Consumer.
The third role for brand is to connect with the consumer.
This requires an understanding of the role for brand in the consumer’s mind, as consumer truths and insights, which influence customer communications strategy and customer behaviour.
Communications planning is a very specialised and strategic discipline with has a very specific trajectory and evaluation metrics. This needs to be balanced against the overall brand planning agenda i.e. does the proposition to the consumer build or detract from the higher-level set of associations you need to be known for in order to achieve your business strategy. In the case of Volvo for example, does an advertising proposition deliver on the communications brief, whilst reinforcing (and not undermining) the attributes of safety, reliability and quality.
In reality, all aspects of brand planning merge. It is not as simple as 1, 2, 3. The important thing is to get them working in concert and keep the brand grounded in the business.