What makes good strategy?

As a brand consultancy, we spend a large portion of our time working with clients to develop both brand and marketing communication strategies. Whilst they are closely linked, and need to be aligned, it is important to stress that they are not the same thing.

A brand strategy is a long-term sustainable plan that allows the business to develop a successful ‘brand’ so that specific business and brand goals can be achieved. A well-defined and well executed brand strategy has a direct impact on each and every aspect of the business. It is directly connected to the needs of the target market, their emotions and need states as well as the competitive environment the business finds itself in.

A marketing communications strategy is the specific plan used by the brand to reach their target market and be relevant to their target audiences current need-state. This is a “roadmap” of the various types of communication methods and channels on offer. A sound marketing communications strategy will include the brand message, the optimal channel/media to use, the timing of the message as well as the specific target audience that we are trying to reach.

In order for a business or brand to effectively execute the strategies developed, there are a few tips that are important to understand and consider:

1) Strategy is the map

Many people confuse goals, strategies and tactics. A goal is an end-point, the “where we need to end” that offers a clear depiction of what a successful campaign will look like. A strategy is the “how” and outlines how you get there. Tactics are the “what” - they outline the activities you will make use of to execute the strategy that helps you to achieve your goals.

2) Strategy is clear

If your strategy is not clear, all you will end up doing is confusing people. For your strategy to be successful, as a business you need to be distinct and unpack what you mean and what you say. Being vague will just confuse staff as well as customers leading to them potentially choose a rival brand or product. Clarity is key.

3) A strategy is not a plan

Many people confuse strategy and implementation. The easiest example of this is the strategy is “we need to get from Johannesburg to Durban”. The implementation would give us the various ways to do so. We could drive, take a flight, ride a bicycle or even walk. All will get us to our goal eventually. To choose the best method of achieving our goal, the communication strategy would need to provide more clarity. By when do we need to get to Durban? Do we need to take anything with us? How quickly do we need to get there? What is the budget we have to get there? All of these help make an informed decision. Strategy is broader in terms of scope and provides a clear path toward achieving your goal.

4) Strategy is known by all

It’s a huge mistake for only a handful of the senior management to be aware of the brand and communication strategy. If staff are unsure what the strategy is, how are they able to make the best possible strategic decisions? In short they cannot, and may make decisions that hamper achieving the goals. Make a point of ensuring the whole team is on the same page working towards a common goal.

5) Strategies change

Just because a strategy is in place, this doesn’t mean it always will be in place. As changes in technology, the economic environment, supply and demand, product availability as well as distribution the means by which we achieve our goal may need to change too. It is important that businesses and brand review their strategies from time to time and course correct or adapt to changes where and when needed.

A clear strategy is important, and it is vital that all members of your team buy in to this strategy and are working towards a common goal. Without a clear direction it's easy to head down the wrong direction and veer of course. Focus your efforts around strategically setting the goals and objectives you are aiming to achieve for your brand as well as for your business. Remember to allow yourself the freedom to course correct and adapt when needed, all the while ensuring that actions taken are aligned with the overarching brand and communication strategies.

Crafted by Chris Midgley

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