Brand Strategy and

Marketing Plans

All you ever need to know

This piece contains real-world experiences along with theoretical concepts around Brand Strategy & Marketing. For both, B2B Branding & B2C Branding.

“You can’t win a war at the marketplace with a better weapon (product) but only with a better brand strategy.”

Before we even begin, let us first hit the most common myth of manufacturers and marketers out of the park. Your brand marketing, advertising & design will fail your quality product/service if it is not perceived as a quality product/service. And this is where everything becomes challenging and the right Marketing Consultant becomes important.

The Common Myths

Myth 1: Quality Product Vs Perceived Quality Product. The ultimate example of great Brand Marketing.

In a research, Coca Cola and Pepsi were served to blindfolded people in the US to rank the better product basis of personal taste. Obviously, they were just tasting the product without knowing the brand being served. Most people selected Pepsi as a better product and as we all know that Coke outsells Pepsi in the US. Hence, strong brand perceptions are the key.

A lot of clients tell us how and why their product/service is the best. And some even go on to say that it will sail through smoothly at the marketplace. Why not, only if that premise was true.

Great Brand Strategy and Marketing coupled with outstanding Advertising, Identity and Design creates a legacy brand with leading Brand Equity in Asset value.

Myth 2: Branding is a Communication exercise

Another perception amongst Marketers & Manufacturers is that Branding is a Communication exercise. Wherein branding as an exercise or brand development starts much before it is communicated. It is actually a series of decisions that the Marketing Chief has to take to create a robust Brand Strategy & Marketing.

Myth 3: It takes a lot of money to create a brand

Surely to create ‘Recognition’ but not for creating ‘Recall’. Only if we know the difference and which one is important, will we know that it doesn’t take a lot of money but a lot of good branding and marketing. Certainly you are not ITC, Unilevers or even Accenture (B2B Branding example). Creating a recognition involves money but not recall. And it is the ‘Recall’ that converts customers / clients into your favour and not the recognition. So be memorable first, through Creativity, Media, and Innovation, else you will not get the fuel/money to go wide and deep.

Myth 4: B2B Business is referential and B2B Branding doesn’t have much to contribute

If this was true then many established players wouldn’t be getting a run for their money because of some junior players. Sometimes even from the unorganised market. It is just that you don’t always get to know or see.

We know B2B Branding and Marketing to its best depth as we have turned around even ages old brands that weren’t even statutorily allowed to solicit. Enabling them to surpass their competition and setting new benchmarks for their industry.

Myth 5: You know it all. And that Branding Agencies are nothing but fancy jargons and good designs

Partly true, a lot of people do bluff. But those who want real results and growth, somehow find us. They find merit in what we say because we make complicated things easy. Once they themselves get convinced of a 10X return, they work with us.

This is also true because clients also believe in testing every second branding agency without reflecting much upon the need for quality work and what it takes to get that.

We have 86 Types of Winning Strategies, 343 Kinds of Winning Copy, 228 Types of Winning Art, 443 Winning Tactics and we are still counting and reinventing.

Myth 6: Prior industry experience of the agency is a must or atleast a plus

One can literally count such agencies in each industry that claim to be the industry specialists. And all of us would agree that these agencies are doing nothing but copy-pasting old work on their newfound templates i.e. clients.

To create something impactful, creativity along with strategic understanding is very important. And each brand comes with its own unique problems and circumstances, segments, pricing and other things. So, neither will a strategy that worked for X will work for Y nor will the creativity create any impact if it fails to shine the brands merit in all of its glory. And all this is done while safeguarding the brand from many unseen dangers, which only a seasoned expert can foresee.

Hence, a clean slate approach is important. Because Brand Strategy work requires detailed working by the experts.

Myth 7: Brand Strategy and Brand Marketing are important but not a priority. What if they don't work?

It was always your most important priority. Just that you never realised it enough. Something similar behavior like that of smokers, many only realise it when Cancer hits them. In this case, realisation happens when some important business or meeting or interaction goes stale.

It surely works, if you follow the right path.  The path surely takes one to success. Success of creating a strong brand that eventually translates into better business successes. And we remain with you and do not run away.

Myth 8: Experts can give definitive answers on the numbers first. Like, exactly how much money will it take and will it make?

Firstly, Brand Development is not a revenue expenditure but a Capital expenditure. Just that you never realised this important part too. Let’s straighten this up, Brand Equity is an Asset. Post the foundational work, it becomes a deferred revenue expenditure and then finally becomes a revenue expenditure. And the cycle of business and branding continues.

Myth 9: Some case studies will help me decide

Surely, it will help you in just one thing. To fail you. Because either you will never take action or if you do, you will be following someone else who had a completely different environment, both external and internal. We are regularly a part of the biggest meetings of the global brands at the top most levels. And let us confess to you the harsh fact. It does not resolve anything, it has never made anyone succeed. It is just a CYA tool (Cover Your ASS) which impedes even any common business sense.

It has killed more B2B & B2C Businesses than any external market conditions. Let your competition blend in with all the others – not you!

Or atleast just try answering the most important question, what is your Brand Differentiation / Differentiated Positioning?

If the answer is that you don’t know and you are happy with the way things are, the chances are that you don’t have much to attain in life. Just like any other non dynamic businessman (like the ones in typical trading business) whose only success story for everyday is that – I invested Rs 10 in the morning and got back Rs 10.3 by the evening. I am happy. You don’t create rich successes and legacies without being enterprising and striving for more. It is these same people who invest on speculations of the stock market that is on others businesses but never on their own business.

What is Marketing? If at all, is it any different than Branding?

Marketing is the process of branding. Marketing is building up a brand in the minds of its prospects. If your marketing can’t build a powerful brand, then all the advertising, packaging, sales promotion and PR is a waste of money & effort.

Marketing Vs Branding

While it is impossible to separate them, they certainly have a fine line of difference. Marketing as a function is responsible for defining and taking the brand to its stakeholders and then bringing back feedback for further research & developments.

Marketing is a subset of Branding. And Branding is not just a communication exercise.

You might be doing Marketing and yet not creating any brand. But if you are doing Branding then you are certainly doing Marketing.

Branding is the family picture that holds the broad range of family members (marketing activities) together.

What is the single most important goal of Marketing?

Sales. Revenue. Right?

Gone are the days when products and services were sold, now they are bought.

Branding / Brand Marketing has greatly led to this. Hence as a profession and as a function, ‘Selling’ is slowly sinking. Branding is a more efficient and effective way to sell things.

The old saying of “nothing happens until somebody sells something” has already been replaced with “nothing happens until somebody brands something”.

The ultimate brand-centred buying is happening on the Internet. Consumers are purchasing cars from websites without ever seeing the cars are going for a test drive.

There is an accelerated shift taking place in the world of business. The shift from selling to buying from stop the shift is enhanced, accelerated and caused by the rise of brands.

What is a Brand?

Brand simply put is a set of perceptions that consumers hold in their minds.

A brand’s power is determined by its ability to influence purchasing behaviour. And the brand name on the logo or packaging is not the same as the brand name in the minds of the consumer.

What is Branding / Brand Marketing?

Branding programs designed to differentiate your product from all the others. Even if all the others look pretty much alike. No, it is not just a creative /communication exercise.

What is a Brand Strategy?

A brand is more than just a name, logo or slogan — it’s the experience customers have with your brand.

A good Brand Strategy is like a Bible or a Strong Foundation, on which the journey of your business depends upon. It is the single most important thing responsible for your success, high margins, profitability etc.

Your brand strategy defines who you are, your promise and your personality. And numerous other important things. Creative elements like logo, color palette, slogan are just expressions to convey your brand.

How to create a Brand Strategy?

Start with a study of the 4 pillars – consumer, category, your brand and the competition and then figure out a point of differentiation that is important for the consumer, is true to your brand and has not been taken up by the competition.

Like & basis this, other parts of the Brand Strategy needs to be figured out. That is, Marketing Strategy, Communication Strategy, Media Strategy and Brand Identity. And then finally the Marketing plan with roll outs outline.

There are numerous other questions that we have to deal with while creating your brand strategy. You might not be the first player in your category, but can you still become the ‘first’. If we find that it is not a possibility, then we will figure out how you can beat the first player / the most important competition without the customer or even the competition realising it (OOB 170).

Types of Brand Strategy

Multi Brand Strategy/House of Brands

Where the parent brand is different from its sub-brands. Each of the products produced by the company would have a different name and identity. For example, Procter & Gamble (P&G) has Tide, Pampers, Gillette, Ace, Head & Shoulders, etc.

Product Line Extension

This refers to the inclusion of new products in the existing portfolio of your business. When the same brand name is used to enter the same product category, then it is the case of product line extension strategy.

Brand Extension

Where the existing brand name is used to carry the new or modified products.

Derived Branding Strategy

In derived branding, some suppliers of key components may wish to guarantee its own position by promoting that component as a brand in its own right. For example Intel Inside.

Private Labels

Also called own brands, or store brands, these come into play where the retailer has a strong identity of its “own brand” and is able to compete against even the brand leaders, and can outperform those strongly branded products.

Geographical Branding

This aims to measure, build, and manage the reputation of a particular geography, and can also be called place branding. Fe example: Gujarat Tourism.

Personal branding

These are the types of branding that treat individuals and organizations as the products to be branded.

Crowdsourcing

In crowdsourcing, brands are created by the people for doing business, which is opposite to the traditional method where the business creates a brand.

Brand Architecture, Brand Positioning, Brand Differentiation, Brand Equity, Brand Identity, Brand Values, Brand Loyalty, Brand Recognition, Brand Recall etc

How can a Brand Strategy & Marketing succeed?

Greatest branding programs are based on the concept of singularity. It creates a strong perception in the minds of the prospects that there is no product in the market like yours.

Can a successful brand, its branding or brand strategy appeal to everyone?

No. Broadening the base for widening the reach is a popular marketing trend that is used to increase a company’s market share but it eventually undermines the power of a brand and also the sales numbers & margins.

Business Marketing led Branding surely creates more failures. For both Business & its Brand Equity

Is doing more Business Marketing really better?

No. Think of the water / fertilizer to a plant. Their overdose will surely kill it. Isn’t it?

In 1988, American Express had a handful of cards and 27% of the market share but then it started to introduce a blizzard of new cards like for Seniors, Students, Corporates etc thereby leading its market share to drop to 18%. Levi’s Strauss is another example as the company’s market share of denim jeans fell from 31% to 19% in just 7 years. At one point Levi’s jeans were available in 27 different cuts and still Levi’s would even custom cut jeans to customers exact measurements. In a similar pattern Crest toothpaste by P&G lost its leadership to Colgate.

Marketers constantly complicate their branding programs because of their over indulgence with their own brand. Customers want brands that can be easily identified by a single word. But marketers, in an effort to distinguish from other similar products launch ridiculously overzealous brand names. Like,

  • Vaseline Intensive Care suntan lotion;

  • Neutrogena oil free acne wash;

  • Gillette clear gel antiperspirant;

  • Johnson’s clean & clear oil free foaming facial cleanser.

Marketers often confuse the power of a brand with the sales it generates. Sales are not just a function of a brand power but also a function of the strength or weakness of a brand’s competition.

How to achieve success?

Why do so few marketers want to contract their brands? And why do most marketers want to expand their brand? Because largely everyone presumes that successful companies succeed because they expand. It is one of the biggest myths and a rat race too.

Let’s take an analogy of ourselves saying that you really want to get rich. Can you become rich by following the lifestyles of the rich? Rich people indulge in expensive stuff like living in expensive houses, eating in expensive restaurants etc. They drive Rolls-Royces and wear Rolex watches.

Now if you follow them you will certainly become poor if not bankrupt.

Please remember that good things happened to them at a time when they had narrowed their focus. So follow them for what they did before getting rich. So focus on your Brand Strategy and Brand Marketing, not others.

A Brands’ Graveyard

When a Brands recognition is high but its recall is low. Which means, people recognise it but do not remember it while buying into the category. This scenario can’t be better described for a brand than being called as its ‘Graveyard’.

Do you need heavy marketing and media budgets to create a great brand and profitable business (Refer: BL292)?

No. You only need it when your child doesn’t have the merit i.e. to pay for its donation. On the contrary, we can show you how a strong profitable brand with high margin can be created by focusing on answering the right questions. Here is a list of few for you to begin with:

  1. Relook at your brand identity, value proposition and position. Is it refreshing, relevant and impactful?

  2. Find your customers’ sweet spot. For this, dive deep into their lifestyle and preferences and figure out the elements that are central to their life.

  3. Find the big idea that will drive the brand.

  4. Involve your customer beforehand with trials and experiences.

  5. Surround the customer with brand building programs.

  6. Target your segment properly without being too narrow or too broad.

  7. Break out of the clutter. Create surprising or refreshing communication that is relevant to your category and yet creates an impact in the minds and the hearts of the consumer.

  8. Link the brand building efforts to the brand.

  9. Strive for authenticity and substance.

  10.  Stretch the program by giving it legs.

Role of our Agency for Brand Strategy, Brand Marketing and as a Marketing Consultant (BSB 348)

Brand strategy needs a powerful but a single architect, someone who will implement and coordinate a cohesive brand strategy & Marketing across multiple media and markets.

Further when brand managers change at your end, our agency with its continued understanding of your brand – will by default become the keeper of your brand equity.

We also provide a strong link between strategy and execution because both functions are housed under the same roof.

Plus our exposure to numerous brands and media innovations coupled with our constant research and development keeps you and us much ahead of the curve than anyone else.