The business is so fixed on the future that when it looks back it sees a ragtag group of brands that are part of group, but all feel standalone. It's confusing mishmash of brands, products and messaging.
Acquiring as a growth strategy can have unintended consequences for other aspects of the business — including the customer experience central to the company’s value proposition.
I’m sure that when businesses are on acquisition trails, the ‘brand’ part of any discussion is non-existent, and I appreciate it can seem out of place to even put the words together in the same sentence. But, from our perspective, there does seem to be a bit missing. Buying a load of other businesses, throwing them together and hoping that the customer (and staff) can separate the signal from the noise seems short sighted.
In our experience, a business doesn’t prioritise this as an issue until it’s recognised as a problem that’s costing them money. But the challenge here is that it’s difficult to measure that loss, otherwise it’d be fixed immediately. So, it tends to fester, living in a blind spot which isn’t owned by any one department.
Do a search for brand strategy and you find no shortage of articles telling you how important it is to have a coherent vision, mission, and a set of values. And that’s right. These are the foundations that your brand is built on. They’re crucial, and they help guide all sorts of decisions a brand has to make in its marketing comms: from advertising and PR through to internal and social activity. They are all things that live neatly in the marketing and comms departments.
But brand strategy needs to go much further. After all it’s a corporate strategy…and these two words are inevitably linked to a plan for business success. Mostly that will be about plans for growth. And mostly that comes down to whether the growth will be organic or through acquisition. In our experience, THIS is where the brand strategy really earns its corn.
A fully considered brand strategy should become the blueprint for the coherent organisation of products, services, brands or sub brands, that are optimised for the customer, making their decision to purchase easier. It’s quite simple. A well thought out brand strategy should be focused on helping the customer buy. At Good we have a saying that “Brand Strategy is Business Strategy” and for us, the two go hand in hand.
It seems so obvious but to be clear: a well-rounded, considered brand strategy that is in step with a business's growth plans will save time and money in the long term. Without it your brand strategy is stuck in reverse. You’ll spend months or years untangling the overlapping mess of businesses, names, brands, and products and creating some order and structure for how the wider business can move forward.
Developing your brand strategy does ask some interesting and challenging questions of the organisation and how it sees its growth coming. What’s the correct brand architecture structure to optimise and facilitate that growth? Is it as one single brand, or will there be multiple brands? How does this play into product development and naming conventions? What happens when another company is bought which makes and sells the same things? Change it? Leave it? Endorse it? Which company do the workers work for?
In our experience, the people who seek answers to these problems live outside of the marketing department. They can be salespeople who are unable to present a coherent picture to their customers, they can be Finance Directors who want to know why there’s so much duplication of spend, or they can be HR managers who tell us the employees are struggling to understand who they work for. It’s fascinating that these challenges can come from the deepest, darkest corners of huge businesses, but the solution in some part tracks back to a poorly defined brand strategy.
A serious brand strategy is about so much more than logos and brand guidelines. Exploring, understanding and agreeing the brand strategy in relation to growth will make that growth easier to manage, saving time and money.
So, here’s my definition of what a good brand strategy should do for your business:
A good brand strategy manages the inter relationships between products, services and the corporate entity, organising them in such a way as to minimise confusion for customers on their way to purchase.
Imagine how much pain could be avoided by creating a forward-looking brand strategy before the growth and acquisitions begin? How much money could be saved from bleeding away to other competitors? It’s a business no brainer, isn’t it?