Whilst brand strategy planning (BSP) is a necessary exercise for all brands and business, it can be a very time consuming and resource draining exercise. It is very important to be accurate, smart, open and professional in approaching BSP, but this doesn’t need to take months for your team to complete. I have covered this process many times with many clients and I believe that with great organisation and team willingness it is possible to complete your BSP in 4 weeks should you wish to. Here I will map out how you can achieve it.

One other aside which I’ve found interesting anecdotally, apart from the real results this shortened process produces in the form of its action plans, it also has a great ‘team building’ effect as everyone pulls together to get this done!

Let’s get on with it. There are many BSP processes/templates etc and I have pulled together my experience of the ones I’ve used over the years to produce what I believe to be a great set of actions.  Here is the BSP process that you will follow:

The Brand Planning Process

So what’s the ‘Starter Pack’ referred to here? This is a free pack that you can download to help get you kicked off here: STARTER TOOLKIT

Putting the detail in, your plan looks like this:

Brand Planning in Detail

We’ve got a lot to do! Can we achieve all of this in 4 weeks? Of course we can!

Well, you need to be focussed and need to plan well in advance; plus,

 you need to engage the team and select leaders to help drive the process through. I will detail the work by week but first is the ‘Pre-work’, the gathering together of what’s required to set you up for success.

Pre-Work

This is pretty much work gathered together from the rest of the business; the board, sales teams, category, Operations, R&D manufacturing, finance etc, dependent of course as to how you are set up as an organisation.

All these disciplines will have objectives for the coming 18 months to 3 years and all of these should be considered as part of the work you’re about to undergo. However, you must be concentrating on the top-level business objectives as the guideline to everything else. Collect these from the CEO/MD/Board and you will have the levers you need to aim at with your BSP.

You should, of course include yourselves here as well and have to hand your own brand objectives as set out previously and any positioning statements, comms strategy etc, as may be relevant.

Further to the business objectives you should pull together all the relevant insights/data which have been collected over the previous 12 months – analytics, consumer, customer, category, brand trackers, comms, ROI etc. Someone in your team will have the responsibility for collating all the insights you may have for your team to utilise.

Lastly in this stage you should organise your team/s into groups dependent on the plans you are aiming to achieve and engage the team early to get their engagement.

Here is a prompt to help with the pre-work:

Brand Planning Pre-work

So, you have all the information you can possibly need to produce well informed situation analyses and you’re ready to crack on into the BSP.

Week 1 – Situation Analysis

The time is now for you and/or your teams (in their allocated groups) to do some thinking and analysing. You should have all the information you need at your fingertips and so its now the time to consider everything that has happened or could happen with your brand/s and to get it down on ‘paper’ to form an assessment of the situation you are in.

At this stage you are reviewing everything you think you know about your brands. Don’t be surprised if this throws up items/issues you didn’t think you had.

It’s important during this stage that you don’t have a closed mind, or you have pre-judged the status of your market and the competition.

BE HONEST; NOTE EVERYTHING; BE OPEN TO NEW IDEAS!

  • Use the evidence you have from data and research
  • Anecdotal evidence is fine if accepted by everyone (look to see if any evidence exists on-line)
  • If you can conduct research to prove/ learn, then this is the stage to do it, before you finish the plans
  • Be detailed; cross check with your team; don’t miss anything as it is easy to take away these points if not priority, at a later stage.

The sort of questions you will be asking

  • Did the brand deliver last year’s brand plans? – Why or why not!
  • What did we do differently? (Ad spend, promotions, in-store support, Trade investment etc) What impact did these have?
  • What have consumers, shoppers and the trade been doing differently; within the category? with competitors? with our brand?
  • Consider the customer journey are there any learnings/actions that have influenced performance? Or that of our competitors?
  • Are there any new trends that are impacting the category – positively or negatively? Or influencing current and potential consumers?

You need to get all this thinking down. In the ‘Starter Pack’ mentioned previously we provide some templates to help you at this stage to get your thoughts down in a format that will help you collate everything you have and make sense of it (you may have an awful lot to go through!). Here is the format for the template:

Situation Analysis Template

You will need a separate page here for all the market sectors that affect your organisation, which is dependent on how your business is set up, but likely will be: Market Context, Brand/Company, Customer, Consumer, Category, Competition, channels etc

You have to give yourselves time to do this (and you have day jobs) and you may run over the week to get it done, but that should be fine if you have organised a day in week 2 for you to spend just on your BSP.

Week 2 – SWOT and Action Plan (to include a day together)

It’s time to pause and reflect where you are:

  1. You’ve collected all the business indicators and targets in one place to understand the company’s goals
  2. You’ve pulled together all the research and insights on your brand and used them to help gain a better understanding of where your brand sits in its market
  3. You’ve collated all of this together into templates to help you see what really matters for your brands – the ‘So What’.
  4. You have highlighted each of these as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

FANTASTIC. This has already been a worthwhile exercise and you can use this as a springboard for your business; but we want to push on further!

NOW WE CAN PULL IT ALL TOGETHER INTO A CONCENTRATED SWOT ANALYSIS AND PLAN SOME MEANINGFUL ACTIONS

NB: I suggest you have a day put aside at the end of week 2 in order to finalise your SWOT and Action Plans; by doing so your whole team can analyse together and agree the way forward.

SWOT Analysis Template

I guess everyone has seen one of these before. It has stood the test of time and will be the bedrock of your plan.

Get everything you collected in your situation analysis down into the SWOT using the right hand column where you have indicated whether items are strengths, weaknesses etc. You may have many items in each segment, no problem, initially

Once it’s all there you will need to refine it and prioritise.

You want a short, focussed SWOT…where the aim is to have a maximum of 4 items in each segment:

  • Make each item pack a punch, make it very clear what you want to say
  • Remove lines which repeat or are pretty much identical to others
  • Combine items which are similar into one sentence (one item)

If you still have too many then you may need to be brutal. Prioritise those items which are more important than others.

Right, now you’re really getting somewhere

It’s time to put the situations you’ve identified into actions

You need your final SWOT and from this you will build sentences that will become your action plans based on all the information you gathered in the previous stages

Follow the examples coming up to create your Action Plan:

Action Plan 1
Action Plan 2

And you will have 4 key actions as a result:

It’s the end of Week 2 and week 3 is where you consolidate

(FYI, you’re at the end of the ‘starter’ part of the process. Remember you can download a free pack to help you out with this: STARTER TOOLKIT)

Week 3 – The Activity Plan

Ok, we’re motoring; all the hardest work is out of the way. You’re ready to look to the future and then get it analysed for success!

My suggestion for week 3 is again that you put aside a day with the team to run through where you are and your final plan.

The Activity Plan stage is the consideration of the behaviours and attitudes you’re aiming to change and are aligned to the what, where, when, how. You should consider this template:

Behaviours and Attitudes Prompt

You have all the information and you have your action statements. It makes sense to put this into what I call a ‘plan on a page’, but you can assemble this however you choose. This is an example, which shows where you should have been at the end of week 2 going into week 3:

Each of your actions identified in week 2 should be able to feedback into at least one of the business objectives defined by the CEO at the start. That’s your headline for presenting this back in the future!

You will now look at the activity that is required to mitigate/build/grow each action. The right-hand column describes how you intend to measure against each activity and what insights/data you have based your assumptions on.

At the end of week 3 you will have your Brand Strategy Plan, but this needs to be analysed with your finance team to ascertain its feasibility – I appreciate that this may be the end of the process for some of you, but I am assuming that in the majority you can check the numbers to help build the business.

Week 4 – Finalisation

A Final Plan?

You’ve come to the stage by where you can present the plan, but it is very important that you test this amongst your team. This last week is important for going back over the plans, making sure you’ve covered everything and that your theories are correct.

If your finance team has been primed during the pre-work stage they should be able to ‘run the numbers’ to give your plan some backed-up authority.

That’s it, your plan is in shape!

Footnotes

A note on timings!

I know I’ve headlined this about getting your BSP completed in 4 weeks and I firmly believe it is possible for many businesses. But I also appreciate that this just isn’t feasible in many organisations and to be honest it may not be desirable to go so quick. I simply point out the possibilities, but in fact 6-8 weeks may be a much more comfortable timeline for your BSP. This is fine, and it of course does depend mostly on resource.

Very best of luck and I hope you enjoy getting the very best Brand Strategy Plans for your business.

Free Starter Pack and Toolkit

We have compiled a toolkit to get you started with your BSP. Please click here should you like a copy: STARTER TOOLKIT.

Any Questions

Very happy to answer any comments or queries you have. Simply go to ‘Contact Us’ and we will reply to you as soon as we can. Thanks

Nic Jones is a brand & Comms Leader, who supplies brand owners and agencies with strategic planning , facilitation, contracting and training

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