Brand Strategy is Business Strategy

At Good, we’re of the view that if clients want to spend money on brand, then they should have a right to know what it’s likely to do for them.

Now, that might be quite difficult to measure, and it may not happen for quite a while, but we should at least try to join the whole thing up, otherwise what’s the point? It becomes a subjective exercise in execution.

This goes hand in hand with us wanting to see any money spent on brand not as an expense, something on a balance sheet to be written off, but as an investment that provides a return, tangibly growing a business.

This is where any proposed brand activity must tie in with overall strategy for the business. Sounds obvious? Yes, but it's always surprising to see how often we get proposals for what's considered brand activation but, upon some digging, it isn't. That means that you've got two parts of the business fighting against each other rather pulling in same direction - creating friction and inefficiency.

So, where do you start? There must be a clear direction set for the business. Without that, you're doomed regardless. So, let's assume that there is a business strategy in place and let's look at two examples of outcomes, but with different brand tasks.

Some outcomes are easy to measure. For example, we’re well versed in working in the drinks industry, and an example of a business goal may be to premiumise a whisky brand so it can increase margin. One element of the brand strategy to contribute to that business goal could be changes to packaging, making it feel more expensive. And from a measurement point of view, this creates an explicit marker. Sales data from before the change can easily be compared to data after the change and the work can be declared a success or failure. In theory, it’s a simple exercise with clean start and end points and is generally more about execution & design than anything else.

Now compare that to something much more delicate. Your business has recognised that they need to make their offering simpler for customers. The brand strategy response could be to evolve the brand architecture and naming conventions to create a blueprint from which to lean on the mother brand, reduce consumer confusion and present a coherent brand structure. This doesn’t have explicit start and stop points. It takes months (if not years) to seed in and take root, but over time it should lead to more efficiencies, fewer lost sales and better margins.

The whisky lends itself much more easily to a measurement impact; the brand architecture one is more challenging, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. If we think about the challenge the right way, there is no reason why we can’t come up with three or four assumptive outcomes that we’re aiming for before we start work. It could be that there are savings due to the reduction in the number of brands you have to support, or that the sales cycle dramatically reduces because there is less customer confusion around the products.

The outcomes for both cases don't need to be massively explicit in their articulation and the chances are that they’re likely to part contribute to a broader business objective. But it’s keeping an eye on that objective that helps keep the activity on track and guides the decision making. They don’t necessarily need to be about making money either - saving money is just as important. In fact, they don’t need to be about money at all. They could be about how people feel, their behaviour or their willingness to recommend to a friend. Just as long as they’ve been thought about, written down and appreciated as a contribution to the wider business. This is the part that’s usually quite nebulous, or badly defined in the brief.

Brand strategy, tying into business goals that produce a tangible business improvement in the outcome.

This is what we're aiming for. 

We work with clients to help define these outcomes before a brief is formalised. We see it as part of our job to dig away at the brief to find out what lies beneath the surface and how it ties back to something measurable.

The digging around can take us to many places. It can be taking time to define and ground a brand in differentiated values; understanding customers and their journeys; creating a brand and content strategy that reinforces the brand’s salience and ultimately results in purchase. Whatever goes into a brief will have a solid grounding in measurability: from research and analytics through to purchase.

The challenge around the sense of ‘measurement’ is that it seems to have been weaponised by the big tech companies, and everything to do with results is so short term. Lead generation, programmatic and performance marketing are the obvious and tangible examples which can turn up results quickly. But successful brands are always built over time, and that means everyone needs to be open to some longer term, more nuanced measurable outcomes that allow us to course correct on the way to success.

We're built on making sure that brand activity has a business outcome. We've seen some businesses spend money in the brand space that has been completely hived off from the main commercial entity and is simply seen as a cost, rather than an investment. The prevailing mindset is “there’s an approval to spend this budget” and the reality is that it just doesn’t matter how that money is spent, because so little is expected of it. That’s a poor place to be and we’ve all got to work harder to link to the spend to outcomes. Fight for your right for outcomes and use brand to build a better business.

We talked about defining brand and business strategy together in our podcast. Have a listen.