In our ever-changing world, consumers and markets are in a constant state of flux. That means being relevant and staying relevant for the long-term requires agility, adaptability, and a willingness to adjust course as surrounding environments shift. With that, however, there’s potential to lose sight of big-picture brand goals and objectives along the way. Reacting to sudden change in the present can disrupt alignment with visions for the future, and even small deviations can have a big influence on reaching ideal outcomes.
So, as we near the midway point of 2023 (which is crazy to say), now is a good time to step back and ask some strategic brand development questions to ensure you stay moving in the right direction. Here are a few, in no particular order…
Is our decision making driven by facts or hypotheses?
When approached by brands looking for strategic and tactical project support, we always start by exploring what is already known by that brand. We have an organized approach to guide this process, and after compiling the “known” details we always ask – can these “known” details be validated by facts or are they based on presumptions and educated guesses? More times than not, it is the latter.
As confident as one may be with their current understanding, there is too much risk within assumed confidence to move forward with project planning. In fact, any decisions being made based on hypotheses rather than facts will exponentially diminish success likelihood and puts the brand in danger of irreparable harm. No, this is not being overly dramatic. When one decision is made based on presumption, it weakens the foundation for every decision made after. Separating facts from hypotheses should become a regular practice to mitigate risk and strengthen your strategic foundation.
What solutions or benefits are we providing our customers?
Think beyond the specific products and services being offered to consider how those products and services add value to customers’ lives. Identify the reasons customers choose your brand over competitors and explore opportunities to build upon those differentiators. Look beyond your immediate products and services to consider customers’ lives as a whole, and explore the role your brand is playing.
This process will not only help clarify your value propositions, but it will also ensure consistency across internal departments. We often see brands unknowingly struggle through disconnected understandings of brand value propositions. If each department or team member has a different idea of how the brand impacts the lives of its customers, it becomes challenging to establish internal synergy. Even minor differences can cause organizational friction that may lead to more serious challenges. So, maintaining strong internal communication and consistency regarding the benefits being offered to customers will ensure each team member is moving in the same direction.
Does our intended brand positioning align with our actual brand positioning?
Your intended brand positioning is a matter of internal strategy and tactics. Your actual brand positioning exists within the minds of consumers and cannot be dictated, it can only be shaped.
Addressing this question of positioning alignment (intended vs actual) ultimately comes down to regularly tracking and measuring brand perception. Only the customer can tell us where our brand is actually positioned because it is their perception that determines our reality. Regularly gathering customer feedback and establishing benchmarks for understanding how your brand is viewed within the competitive landscape is how we monitor the impact of brand messaging over time.
Are we effectively leveraging the insights we already have?
Too often we see brands sitting on a treasure trove of insight without leveraging the value therein. The most common reasons for this are not trusting the insights and/or uncertainty regarding the best way to apply them. Fortunately, both roadblocks can be overcome.
The value of existing insights can reach far beyond the insights themselves. There is much to be gained by examining how and when the insights were gathered to extract best practices or lessons learned. Sometimes the difference between in-depth insights and fragmented data sets can be one minor gap; once bridged, a new series of insights emerges. As for insights application, partnering with a field expert is always a great way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your existing insights. Furthermore, simply including a 3rd party or outside perspective can unlock hidden value by way of a fresh set of eyes.
When is the last time we updated our customer personas?
As the saying goes, change is the only constant. This is particularly true when it comes to consumer preferences, behaviors, and market conditions. So, it is important to regularly lift up our heads and consider how the world around us is changing; and how that changing world impacts the people within.
Surprisingly, very few brands have a fully developed set of customer profiles. Of course, demographic details are helpful, but maintaining relevance in competitive markets requires a detailed understanding of consumer psychographics and lifestyle attributes as well. This calls for a conscious, strategic effort to maintain reliable customer personas – and only through updated, reliable customer personas are brands able to offer the unique, memorable experiences needed to stay relevant in an ever-changing world.
There’s no need to tackle all these questions at once. In fact, that is not a recommended approach because it can become too overwhelming. The focus here is on sparking internal dialogue that uncovers both areas of concern and growth opportunities that guide goal-oriented action planning. When too many topics are on the table at the same time, it can lead to a “paralysis by analysis” situation.
If any of the questions in this article got your wheels turning, we’d love to help facilitate further discussions with your team. Our half-day strategic planning workshops are an interactive and engaging way to establish internal alignment, refine your goals, and develop forward-thinking action plans.
To learn more or check workshop availability, please don’t hesitate to reach out!