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Four Strategic questions

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Strategic thinkers see questions before they see answers. Train yourself to ask the best questions and the answers will come easier.

As you’re looking at your brand strategy, you need to look at the brand from all sides. Here are four questions to be asking that force you to choose four possible solutions to each.

1. What is your current share position in the market?
2. What is the core strength that your brand can win on?
3. How tightly connected is your consumer to your brand?
4. What is the current business situation that your brand faces?

Published in: Marketing

Four Strategic questions

  1. 1. Four questions to challenge your thinking and focus your brand strategy We make brands better. We make brand leaders better.™ At Beloved Brands, we offer Brand Coaching, where we promise to make your Brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your Brand’s full potential. Where we best help our clients: 1) Create a winning Brand Positioning 2) Write Brand Plans everyone can follow 3) Find Advertising that drives Growth. For our Brand Leader Training, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and analytical reports to being a better advertising leader whether it’s about making advertising decisions or leading an agency
  2. 2. Strategic thinkers see questions before they see answers. Train yourself to ask the best questions and the answers will come easier. As you’re looking at your brand strategy, you need to look at the brand from all sides. Here are four questions to be asking that force you to choose four possible solutions to each. 1. What is your current share position in the market? 2. What is the core strength that your brand can win on? 3. How tightly connected is your consumer to your brand? 4. What is the current business situation that your brand faces? We believe the more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be
  3. 3. Q1: What is your current share position in the market? Where you rank is a great indicator of how much power you can command in the market. You have four choices using Marketing Warfare (Trout and Ries) you are the Leader, Challenger, Niche or a Guerilla. 1. Leader (defensive): Leader of category or sub-category defending their territory by attacking itself or even attacking back at an aggressive competitor. The leader, not only the market share leader but also the perceived leader in the consumers’ mind, should pursue defensive strategies. Attacking yourself is the best defense. Identify and close leaks in service, experience or products. Introduce new products superior to your current. Challenge the culture to step it up to continually get better and stay ahead of the competitors. Can’t be complacent or you’ll die. Leader blocks all Offensive moves. Keep an eye on your competitor’s moves—and adjust your own brand to ensure you defend against their attacks. Attack back with an even greater force than the one attacking you. Demonstrate your brand power. Leverage all the brand power you’ve mustered to maintain your positional power. Great Leaders own what they are best at, as well as where they are parity with competitors 2. Challenger (offensive): Challenger’s attack on the leader to exploit a weakness or build on your own strength. The best offensive attack is to actually find weakness within the Leader’s strengths. Turning a perceived strength around is very powerful. Attacking a weakness might be insufficient. Be careful of the Leader’s Defensive moves. Anticipate a response with full force—possibly even greater than yours. Avoid wars that drain resources and hold same share after the war. Attack on as narrow of a front as possible to ensure your resources are put to that area—which might be more force than the leader puts to that one area. Narrow attacks are effective when the leader tries to be all things to all people—enabling you to slice off a part of their business before they can defend it. Leapfrog Strategy, where technology and business models are game-changers in the category. 3. Niche: An attack in an open area where the Leader is not that well established. Flanker Strategies go to uncontested areas, in the safety where the leader is not competing. Make sure you are the first in this area. Speed and surprise can help win the uncontested area before the Leaders take notice. Make your move quickly and stealth fully. Follow Through Matters, to defend the area you’ve won. Others may follow—whether it’s the leader trying to use their might or copycats looking for an early win. You can win with new targets, price points (premium or value), distribution channels, format or positioning. Flanking, while lower risk of attack from the leader, is a higher risk with consumers because innovation is always riskier because consumers might not like the concept. 4. Guerilla: Going into an area where it’s too small for the Leaders to take notice or are unable to attack back. Pick a segment small enough that it won’t be noticed and you’ll be able to defend it. Be aggressive. Put all your resources against this small area, so that you’ll have the relative force of a major player. Be flexible and nimble. You’ll need to enter quickly to seize an opportunity that others aren’t noticing, but also be ready to exit if need be—whether the consumers change their minds or competitors see an opportunity to enter. Explore non-traditional marketing techniques to get your brand message out and your brand into the market quickly. Because you’re playing in a non-traditional market, you’ll be given leeway on the tools you use. For Guerrilla brands, it is better to be loved by the few, than liked or tolerated by the many. Guerrilla Warfare is best when no one even notices or cares. When engaged in marketing warfare, you have to realize that speed of attack matters. Surprise attacks, but sustained speed in the market is a competitive advantage. Be organized and efficient in your management. To operate at a higher degree of speed, ensure that surprise attacks work without flaw, be mobile enough. Focus all your resources to appear bigger and stronger than you are. Focus on the target most likely to quickly act, focus on the messaging most likely to motivate and focus on areas you can win. Drawn out dogfights slow down brand growth. Never fight two wars at once. Use early wins to keep momentum going and gain quick positional power you can maintain and defend counter-attacks. Execution matters. Quick breakthrough requires creativity in your approach and quality in execution. Expect the unexpected. Think it through thoroughly. Map out potential responses by competitors. We believe the more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be
  4. 4. Q2: What is the core strength of your brand? Most brands win on one of four possible answers: product, idea, experience or price. 1. Product Brands: your strategy should focus on superiority to ensure that you invest in Innovation to stay ahead of competitors, and likely focus on rational advertising that makes sure you leave consumers knowing you are the best. In a crowded market, it has become increasingly difficult to win on product alone. Thirty years ago, P&G pushed this at every opportunity, but technology gaps have closed. And even P&G has successful switched to focusing more on being different and less on being better. That leads us to choose more of the idea brand below. 2. Concept/Idea Brands: your strategy should focus on being different. To tell that story, you need to invest in brand communication. You want to connect consumers emotionally to your brand idea. Apple builds everything on their brand around the idea that “apple makes it so simple that everyone can be part of the future”, whether that’s the easy-to- use products, concept focused advertising or the stores that help them execute the idea. Are the products great? Yes, but not likely better. Just different. We believe the more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be
  5. 5. 3. Experience Brands: your strategy and organization should focus on linking culture very closely to your brand. After all, your people are your product. You want to build values and align the culture to those values. And as you go to market, invest in influencer and social media that can help support and spread the word of your experience. 4. Price Brands: your strategy has to focus on efficiency and drive low-cost into the products you sell and high turns and high volume. You have to be better at the fundamentals around production and sourcing. Use call-to-action type advertising to help keep the turns very high. McDonald’s of the 1970s perfected this model, but we’ve since seen Wal- Mart take it to the next level. You might not like all that Wal-Mart does from an ethical point of view, but it’s on strategy and helps you get toilet paper cheaper. What consumers don’t notice at Wal-Mart is their obsession with retail turns. On average Wal-Mart sells through their stock within 28 days, compared to other retailers who might average 100 days. You rarely see slow-moving items and rarely see clearance items. Q3: How tightly connected is your brand to the consumer? Consumers move along a “Brand Love Curve”, as they become more connected to Brands, their feelings and behavior changes as they move from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally to the Beloved stage. We believe the more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be
  6. 6. 1. Indifferent: At this stage, consumers are either not aware, confused or not interested in your product. You treat your brand like a commodity, and your consumer treats you the same way, sticking with their current brand. Promotional pricing becomes your only weapon. As brands only have 4 real choices in survival– better, different, cheaper or not around for very long–I would not bet on these surviving long-term. 2. Like It: At this stage, brands satisfy the consumers’ basic needs. They use it; see it as a very functional, rational choice. To survive without emotion, you must have a better product or service offering. Your lack of connection means no relative power and you risk substitution as you battle for every penny earned. If you are leapfrogged with something better, your brand dies a quick death. 3. Love It: Here we start to see brands building loyalty with consumers. There is an emotional connection and you become the consumers’ favorite brand, possible building into their routines. We see power shift to the brand, as it can use this emotional connection to charge premium prices, enter new categories and build added volume through heavier usage. 4. Beloved: At this stage, consumers become fans of the brand. Here consumers are un-relenting in their conviction, they are possessive and outspoken, seeing the brand as a personal choice. It goes beyond routine and becomes a ritual, not just a favorite brand but also a favorite part of the day. These brands do everything right, align their brand promise, strategy, story, innovation and experience behind the big idea they stand for. Q4: What is the current situation your brand faces? As your plans are designed to move your brand, you need to understand where they are before you can decide where you want to move them. Here are the four possible answers. 1. Continued Momentum: Sales growth and profitability in good shape, team is aligned on direction for the future. Underlying brand metrics and relationships beyond organization are strong. Keep business going strong. Fuel growth drivers, while resisting temptation for wholesale change 2. Turnaround: Continuing decline in sales, being attacked by competitors or category shrinking. Margin squeeze, either due to price/cost or the shrinking sales line. Downward momentum over 2-3 years. Lack of alignment, internally or externally, on the solutions for the future. Need to get business back on track. Change the direction: new people, new plan, new ideas, and new attitude. 3. Re-Focus: Circumstances on business have changed, driven through either external market forces or internal dynamics to the point where there is now a lack of alignment on the direction or next steps for the brand. Alignment around Brand (positioning, plan) and Culture (values, behaviors) 4. Start Up: Getting a new brand into he market, or launching a current brand into new categories of innovation. Organization needs setting up (team, culture, structure, values, behaviors) Need for focused strategic Investment choices to get brand going. Moving from blank slate to big idea, plan and team. Focus Focus Focus! Use these 4 strategic questions provide context to where you should focus your strategy We believe the more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be

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