If you are getting tired of me saying “FOCUS” then you might want to stop reading. I’m not quite getting tired of saying it just yet. I’ve talked about focusing on a target, a single benefit when we went through brand positioning and creative briefs. I’ve talked about ONE big idea that the brand can stand for. I’ve talked about focused strategies when it comes time to annual brand plans and brand strategy road maps. I’ve even talked about focused media when it comes time to communication plans.
FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS!!!
So now on the execution plan, should we still focus? Of course so. You are constrained by 3 things, time: people and money.
My challenge to all brand leaders looking at an Annual Brand Plan is to pick 3 strategies and 3 tactics per strategy. That means 9 things to do really well. Sounds kind of crazy right? It gets crazier when I tell you to put 50 to 75% of your resources to the 3 most important tactics overall. If you have 7 strategies and 7 tactics per strategy, then you’re now doing 49 things compared to my 9 things. If I asked you to pick your most important 9, and we compared how good of a job we both did on executing, then I believe my 9 would kick your 9′s ass. In fact, there’s a good chance your team hasn’t gotten to 1 or 2 of your most important 9. When it comes time to execution, focus means I can do a better job, bring some passion and magic to each tactic. Focus means impact, because I am able to put enough resources against it to be noticed and that impact might be the start of me driving a return on investment.
I once had a Director working for me that kept generating so many ideas that none of them ever got executed. Every day, 5 new ideas for his team to look into. The team was in chaos and ready for revolt. So I asked to see his quarterly project list and he came in proudly showing me 81 projects they had to do in the next 12 weeks. I was dumbfounded and said “narrow it down to the top 5 most important projects”. He said “they are all important”. About an hour later I had his finance director in my office telling me that he was overspent by 20%. While I couldn’t convince him to focus, he didn’t survive the quarter.
Every day I must tell at least 5 people they need to focus more.
Beloved Brands Start with a Big Idea
The most beloved brands are based on an idea that is worth loving. It is the idea that connects the Brand with consumers. And under the Brand Idea are 5 Sources of Connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including 1) the brand promise 2) the strategic choices you make 3) the brand’s ability to tell their story 4) the freshness of the product or service and 5) the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you. Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising, the experience or through consumers. It is not just one or the other–it’s the collective connection of all these things that make a brand beloved Look at a brand like Special K who for years was offering a low fat low calorie cereal with modest success. Only when they came up the Big Idea of “empowering women to take control and maintain their healthy weight” were they able to align their brand to connect with consumers and drive success. Special K created the powerful Brand Promise that with Special K, just twice a day for 2 weeks, you can lose 6 pounds or better yet, drop a jean size. The brilliant strategy is around the usage occasion of the second meal each day. Cereal had been a category that grew +3% for years, steady only with population growth and some demographics around boomers and echo generations. But now, there was finally a reason to eat cereal twice in one day. The communication of the Brand Story become about empowering women to take control using the Two Week Challenge. With a Brand Idea bigger than just a cereal, Special K’s innovation rivalled that of Apple. It started with the launch of Berry Special K that thrust the brand into a good tasting cereal, and has since added bars, shakes and water. Most recently, they’ve now launched potato chips (only 80 calories for 20 chips) and a Breakfast Sandwich option.
What is your big idea? And how will you align your promise, strategy, story, innovation and culture around that big idea?
The 3 Step Process
When I was at the Brand Manager stage of my career I remember being frustrated when I had to take my plan to the agencies. We spent so much effort trying to get everyone on the same page, aligning the tactics behind the plan, doling out the money and then waiting to see the execution ideas coming back from the ad agency, the in-store agency, our professional agency, PR agency etc etc. We’d see each idea and we’d try to piece them all together into a cohesive plan. Then I came to the point where I had finally had it with playing traffic cop. And came up with a simple “3 Step”:
- Step 1: Briefing
- Step 2: Ideas
- Step 3: Tactical Plan.
Once you get your Brand Plan approved, you now start in on the execution Here’s the trick of how this works best.
For Stage 1, you get every agency in the room and you give them a 2 hour briefing so that everyone hears the same message. At this stage, I like to give agencies a high, medium and low-budget level, which gives me the control and flexibility to move dollars around to the best ideas. Yes, it creates some competition but that just makes my plan better.
At stage 2, we do an entire day where the agencies present their best ideas with everyone in the room at the same time. Everyone hears the best ideas and hears why I’m excited about those ideas. They might also hear what I don’t like or what I think might be missing. The agencies present big ideas hoping to get to the higher dollar figure. And we start moving money right in the room. The feedback is direct, tough and yet challenging. I love ideas that are aligned to the strategy and big idea and reject those that aren’t. Between stage 2 and 3 is usually where the magic happens. The agencies actually decide to meet and start acting like one agency. They get the feedback and start aligning their ideas together. They come up with new tactics to re-earn any lost dollars.
And by the time they come back to Stage 3, I’m now seeing a fully aligned and enhanced Tactical Plan The process did the work for me. All that frustration of me being traffic cop was replaced by the process. In year 2, this works even better. And when you put it across all your brands like we did at Johnson and Johnson, it works even better.
Filtering the Best Ideas with THE BIG EASY
For Tactics to an annual plan, you can use a very simple grid of Big vs Small and Easy vs Difficult. You can decide on criteria for Big and Easy, or you can use judgement. Create the grid and put the ideas on post it notes you can then plot. You’ll see the best of ideas rise to the BIG-EASY zone. The reason you want BIG is impact, to drive share and revenue growth. The reason you want easy is to efficiently ensure it has a good return on effort, believing effort and investment have a direct link.
If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?
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