Hints to Keep your Brand Moving Forward in 2017
Do you have headlines, copy, banner ads or other tactical elements that seem to be bouncing back and forth between you and your advertising agency? Are you frustrated that your communication blends into the marketplace and doesn’t allow your organization to stand apart in a meaningful way? Do internal stakeholders seem nonchalant over your new “branding” campaign or communication initiative?
If you answered “yes” to any or all of the above, it might be time to rethink your strategy versus yet another redo to an existing concept or strategy that is either off course or has run that way. Too often, agencies and clients go round and round on creative executions and can’t quite pinpoint what it is that isn’t working. Worse, yet, is the old “I’ll know it when I see it” conversation, that agencies seem to be hearing more and more these days.
Keep this in mind: If at three it’s not in sync, it’s time to rethink. After a third revision, it’s not the execution that’s bad, it’s the thinking – on both sides of the desk – that isn’t in sync and should be reexamined.
As 2017 approaches, you should be rethinking your strategy anyway to make sure it is still relevant, competitively differentiating, and reflects the interests and desires of your consumers.
As the New Year kicks off, here are some other helpful hints to keep you moving forward instead of in circles, as you look to effectively brand your organization.
- Always start with a strategic creative brief. Even if the overarching strategy has been in place for a while, each creative project should have some direction. There’s no such thing as “it’s just another version of last year’s ad.” Every requested idea should be accompanied by a creative brief outlining, at minimum, the challenge, goal, target audience, promise, and support of the message. This should not be a five page document, it should be as succinct as possible. And even a “brief” brief is better than nothing and will guide creative thinking in the right direction. Key here: gain agreement on the brief from both the agency and client. This becomes the contract for your creative work.
- Update your competitive intelligence at least twice a year. Even the best ideas can be killed instantly, if they are too similar to that of a competitor. Most times this happens unintentionally, but when it does, it reflects poorly on all involved. Every six months, refresh your competitive file (both physical and online) and review what your competition is saying in the marketplace and how they are positioning their organizations.
- Use research to validate your thinking. As above with competitive intelligence, at least once a year, you should be conducting consumer research to determine whether your thinking is still on target and your strategy is relevant to your key consumers, including internal stakeholders. Online surveys, focus groups, community studies, and/or other research methodologies should be implemented every year. The goal is not to determine if consumers “like” or “dislike” your messaging but rather to validate that your strategy is still aligned with their wants and needs. We call this “Heartbeat Branding,” as the strategy intersects with the desires and interests of your consumers and is culturally relevant.
- Assess your results. The best way to determine if your strategy is still engaging is to track your results on a regular basis. In the digital world, monthly analytics serve this purpose, and in packaged goods, sales reports provide daily measures. For other products and services, results can be tracked in a variety of ways. The key here is to determine upfront what your measurable goals are so you can go back to determine effectiveness.
The “hit or miss” of a creative concept or branding program can be avoided if all parties regularly evaluate the strategy and confirm that it is still unique and relevant. Agencies will still “miss,” and have to go back to the drawing board, but it won’t be over disagreement on what the message should be. Rather, it will be on how it’s executed. Clients will be forced to keep in touch with their marketplace and really think hard about how the brand promise is being delivered upon.
When it comes to creative concepts, three times is not a charm. Remember, “if at three you’re not in sync, it’s time to rethink.”