Building a Strong Strategic Foundation for a Better-for-You Brand

Your marketing team has deployed a super-creative social campaign that’s generating lots of likes. Your brand has been the recipient of some positive media coverage over the past year. Maybe you’ve invested in a packaging refresh.

And yet, these communication efforts aren’t translating into the sales boost your leadership is expecting.

If you feel like your company is capable of executing a solid marketing plan but not seeing the business results, it’s time to look at what lies beneath that plan.

A Strong Foundation for Marketing

In his book Beloved & Dominant BrandsDavid dives deep into the seven platforms of what we call the Brand Ecosystem. It’s a road map for strategic marketing communication that includes these channels:

Social media
Direct marketing
Website
In-store
Advertising
PR
… all built upon an effective consumer education program

The Brand Ecosystem encompasses all the various marketing touchpoints at which consumers learn about, choose, interact with, and talk about your brand and products. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Below the waterline is a fully formed brand strategy that underpins and transcends all other business activity, including marketing.

We call these two components — the seven platforms of the Brand Ecosystem built on a three-part strategic foundation — the Brand Quadramid.

Why Brand Strategy Matters

The Brand Ecosystem can’t hold together or drive success if you don’t have the foundation; in fact, nearly all of our clients come to us without it. Many leadership teams, particularly in the better-for-you space, operate from the fire-ready-aim mentality and haven’t done the hard work of establishing a lasting brand strategy. They’re moving too quickly in pursuit of opportunity and haven’t taken the time to develop a deeper reason for being, or they simply discount the importance of strategy to the brand’s long-term success.

Without a strong foundation, brands inevitably fall from category leader to commodity.

So let’s look at the three bedrocks of the Brand Quadramid:

BODY
This represents the world external to the brand: competitors, cultural zeitgeist, retail environment. Just as your body is affected by the environment surrounding you, brands are as well — and there’s a lot of stuff out there you can’t control. Building a healthy body requires looking outside, around, and forward. A competitive audit — the most important step we take when working with brands — takes an impartial, data-driven view of the brand’s world.

SOUL
Mission, promise, pillars, archetypes: this is the soft, squishy stuff that marketers don’t learn in business school. Yet a brand’s soul is its essence. If you don’t know what your mission is, you’ll fail. If you don’t articulate your promise to consumers and keep it in consistent ways, you’ll lose their trust. If you don’t establish pillars to guide the brand’s actions, you’ll drive off the road.

MIND
This is the psychology of the organization — culture, leadership, the ways that every single employee lives and breathes the brand’s mission. Just as our own beliefs and attitudes affect our behavior, the company’s mindset influences its effectiveness. They say that business is 20% mechanics and 80% psychology, and that’s certainly true of BFY brands. If your organization is not of sound mind, you’ll always make decisions that compromise your brand promise. Cultural assessment and gap analysis can reveal organizational roadblocks, differences between the brand’s internal and external behavior, and the team’s appetite for change.

Marketing leaders are more likely to have a handle on the brand’s body than on the other two components. Or, they believe that they do. Because they have easy access to consumer research, they assume they know their audience. (Worse, because they use the product, they think the audience is exactly like them.) But historical data without smart analysis can’t tell you who your future customer will be.

A brand’s biggest challenges lie in the mind. BFY brand leaders assume people who join the company have already embraced the mission and don’t spend any time building a powerful culture. And organizations headed by visionary founders can be slow to evolve. It’s easy to settle into a “we’ve always done it this way” mentality; the founder, convinced by the early success of her own ideas, can be the biggest obstacle to growth and innovation.

Signs of a Weak Strategic Brand Foundation 

Symptoms of an ailing body, soul, and mind can be acute or chronic. You might be experiencing one or several of these pain points:

  • Your latest marketing campaign, creative as it is, isn’t generating the kind of traction you expected
  • A competitor with a similar offering that’s a little more purpose-driven is stealing shelf space or forcing you to lower your price
  • You’re working all the platforms of the Brand Ecosystem but you’re losing share
  • Your employees are missing key opportunities or dragging their feet on implementing new products or plans
  • You’re hoping your competitors make a big enough mistake so that your mistakes don’t look so glaring

As a marketing leader, you’re probably tired of chasing results your plans can’t possibly deliver. But the problem isn’t your marketing plan. It’s deeper than that. The good news is that it’s fixable. It takes effort. And we can help you do it.

Ready to rebuild your brand’s foundation? Let’s connect.