Six Steps to an Effective Brand Plan

You’ve heard about it at meetings – possibly from me. But what is a “brand plan”? It’s both an internal and external document. Internally, it describes your organization’s focus and goals, to align all employees with your mission. Externally, it provides a roadmap for marketing and promotion.

How do you create a brand plan? It can take weeks of research, discovery, analysis, and creative development. But here’s a slimmed-down version to help get you started:

Start With a Vision
Your vision statement is aspirational. It’s about the future, not the present; it’s who you want to be as a company and where you want to be in the marketplace. It’s a goal that you will try to attain for the next three, five, or 10 years. Don’t be timid! A vision statement can be grand, bold, and optimistic. It should be an ideal worth aspiring to. This step involves research and discovery from everyone in the organization, as they’ll all be asked to contribute toward the goal.

Plan the Mission
The vision is where you want to be; the mission is how you get there. How will you achieve your goals and how will you know when you’re successful? At best, a mission statement also includes a brief version of your company’s philosophy and purpose. As Entrepreneur.com says, “Your mission statement doesn’t have to be clever or catchy – just accurate.” Spend time fine-tuning every single word, since your mission statement will be your guiding principles for the life of your vision.

It’s OK to have your head in the clouds when you write your vision and mission.

SWOT It Out
A brand plan includes an analysis of your company’s place in the market, broken down into four parts: Strengths – including your expertise, uniqueness, resources, or anything else that gives your company an advantage. Weaknesses – issues that may be holding you back from your potential; what knowledge or capabilities are you missing? Opportunities – such as an emerging customer need that you can meet, a new technology that will change your market, or a reduction in regulations or costs. Threats – problems on the horizon such as a customer need, technology, or law that makes the market worse for your company.

Strategize Tactically
You now know where you want to go, how you’ll get there, and your current and future advantages and disadvantages. Now you can create a strategy that will help you get from here to there, using your strengths to take advantage of the opportunities and avoid the obstacles. This means creating a strategy, the large-scale plan for success. Within this are tactics, the individual programs, products, and initiatives that contribute to the strategy. In war, strategy involves which battles you’re going to fight; the tactics are how you fight them. Don’t get them mixed up or you can find yourself wasting resources on a tactic or overlooking the importance of a strategy.

Bring in the Numbers
Visions and missions can be “touchy-feely,” but a brand plan should include numbers. If you’re launching a new product, how many will be in your first shipment? What are your metrics for success – sales, hires, press mentions, social media responses? What’s the minimum ROI that will allow you to move on to the next step? And what’s the budget for each of your tactics? Don’t let your enthusiasm make you neglect the most important numbers – time and money!

Some brand plans are measured in months; others in hours.

3, 2, 1, Launch!
The plan is in place. Now it’s time to execute. Put that new budget to use and start designing, writing, creating, and shipping. After so much discussion and preparation, everyone will be eager for results. Help them out with a quick win, an easily achieved goal that boosts your employees’ confidence and builds momentum for the next round. Quick wins silence doubters and give you something to point to at the first few status meetings and say, “This worked.”

Your brand plan is finished. Guided by your mission statement, you’re implementing your strategy and tactics, making your vision a reality. You’ve made some quick wins, you’re analyzing the metrics, and you’re aware of both the perils and the promise of the future. You’ve put in place a solid foundation for success.

At Brandemix, we specialize in brand planning, brand architecture, brand positioning, and branding initiatives. If you’d like to learn more, contact me. I’d love to share our knowledge with you.

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