Tag Archives: vision

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.

Non-Profit Branding. Yes there is a difference.

My company has been working with several non-profits lately, and I’m constantly asked how branding in that space is different from “regular” branding. There are similarities, but also some important differences. Here’s what nonprofits need to know about branding, based on my experience and research.

We start with “free.”
We understand that non-profits don’t have the marketing budgets of corporations so we start by leveraging every existing asset. Rather than creating new social media channels, how can we enhance the channels you’re already on? How can we repurpose your photos and videos? What are some past concepts or campaigns that could be revived with a compelling new angle? My fantastic staff and I have a knack for finding creative ways around limited budgets. For example, we’ve taken a stack of photos and turned them into a beautiful, moving slide show.

Talk to both the head and the heart.
Unlike other brands, nonprofits aren’t selling a product or service; you’re selling a cause or a belief or a goal, which can sometimes be hard to define or quantify.This requires creating an emotional bond to donors, employees, and the people (or animals!) you serve. It is important to research that bond, deconstruct it, and examine it from every angle – and articulate it as your brand. As an example, see the World Wildlife Fund, which pairs its logical mission, “To conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth” with an emotional image, the giant panda.
Stay true to yourself
As Nathalie Kylander and Christopher Stone point out in their recent study, non-profits run the risk of violating their own ethics or identity when they brand to a wide audience. They give the example of Acumen, which presents photos of proud, dignified individuals instead of pitiful images of poverty “which “dehumanize the very people Acumenis trying to help. I discourage branding from vanity, or because you just want a new logo. Branding is about the heart and soul of your organization and can’tbe taken on and off like a shirt.


Tell a story
Storytelling was the #1 topic at SXSW and it works for nonprofits as well. A strong brand is supported by good stories which allow people to connect to your mission. Brandemix helps nonprofits find those stories, whether they’re about important milestones in your history, the life and deeds of your founder, or the success stories of the people you’ve helped. For example, the Sierra Club offers a blog called Explore, which features “stories of personal encounters with the natural world.” This turns large, complex issues, like hydraulic natural gasfracturing, into personal stories of triumph, wonder, and survival.
Non-profit branding is a specialty. Call Brandemix if you’re looking for a specialist. 

Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch, Part 3

2007: A year most notably known for the introduction of the iPhone, Jack Kevorkian’s release from prison, the Congressional Medal of Honor presented to the Dalai Lama and 2 Brandeblog entries entitled Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch, Part 1 and Part 2.

Edgar Schein, the MIT management professor who actually coined the phrase “culture eats strategy for lunch,” wrote that the the success of a company is determined not by its business plan but by its people.

Welcome to Part 3, as we watch with interest Goldman Sachs’ loss of more than $2 billion in market value after a searing indictment of their culture in the New York Times by one of their own people, Greg Smith in his very public letter of resignation. 

While we may think that Goldman Sachs became one of the world’s most successful investment banks because of aggressive business practices, Smith reveals that it was actually because of its employees.  “[C]ulture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’ success,” Smith writes. Culture “was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years.”

Smith reflects on his former “pride” and “belief in the organization.” This is the real-deal—the emotional connection Brandemix strives to embody in each of our branding assignments.

It’s the living illustration of the service-profit chain, a philosophy that proves engaged, empowered employees may increase company profits by as much as 22%. For an investment bank, that could mean billions of dollars.

Today, Smith rues the lack of “humility” and “integrity,” two of Goldman’s core values which also include placing clients’ interests first, commitment to excellence and innovation, and teamwork. Smith calls out Goldman’s two leaders, President Gary Cohn and CEO Lloyd Blankfein, for “the decline in the firm’s moral fiber.”

No surprise. Culture starts from the top down and, as I tell clients, senior leaders must buy in, live the values, and set an example for everyone else.

I’m not alone; Frederick E. Allen, the Leadership Editor at Forbes, responded to Smith’s letter with an article titled To Save Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein Must Go. 

If you’re ever attended a Brandemix presentation on Employer Branding, you know how important I think an organization’s values are to employee acquisition and retention. Well, here’s that idea in reverse: a lack of values is actually causing an employee of 12 years to leave a lucrative position with bonus money on the table.

Smith isn’t just saying that the new culture isn’t for him. He’s not saying that it isn’t right. He’s saying that the culture threatens the firm’s very existence. Because the culture puts profits ahead of clients, Smith makes the equation clear: “Without clients you will no longer make money. In fact, you will not exist.” 

Today’s disgruntled employees are sharing their stories to more than their friends and colleagues. It’s a world of One Brand, and they are speaking to your clients, your vendors, and your applicant pool.

Is your organization’s culture is the best it can be?  Let’s find out.