22 June 2021|Latest Posts, Launching a business, Marketing, PR, Promotion
Marketing is like an iceberg. The bit you see above the water is the marketing tactics, whilst below the water is the marketing strategy and deeper still the insight and diagnosis. Quite often, businesses focus entirely on what you see above the water and almost no time on what lies beneath.
As Sun Tzu the great military strategist said: “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Without a strategy your activity and marketing spend is likely to be unfocused and inefficient.
Before you start the ‘doing’ – designing packaging, advertising, or communicating – time to engage in some thinking. Here is our guide to the thinking required to nail your marketing strategy.
Your commercial objectives articulate what you hope or expect to achieve in financial terms. Marketing objectives should describe how you will achieve them and how you want to change your consumer’s behaviour.
Understanding where to focus your attention is one of the first decisions your marketing strategy makes explicit. To make these decisions, you need to have done your diagnosis – finding out your brand awareness and image scores, how well you convert at each stage of the customer funnel, what drives consideration, preference and purchase and how you perform relative to your competitors.
Diagnosis helps you identify what you need to achieve. For example, do you need to generate greater brand awareness (top of the funnel), do you need to focus on getting those who know about you to consider you the next time they purchase (middle of the funnel) or is it about focusing conversion at the point of purchase (bottom of the funnel)?
Your decisions and priorities impact where, when and how you communicate with your target audience. A good marketing objective is one sentence and demonstrates clear decisions have been made. For example, we will get [number] of [new/existing] customers to switch from [brand x] into buying [product name] by [date].
2. Audience need
In your diagnosis, you should have identified the need that your product or service meets. Summarise the need in 2-3 words and then describe why and when the need occurs – what triggers the need and what are the motivations your potential audience has for filling the need.
Next, identify how you meet those needs and what makes your brand different. Avoid category ‘hygiene factors’ i.e., those that all products are expected to fulfil. And check that any differentiators matter to your target customers.
Make sure you have spoken to actual customers – you don’t need to do big expensive research, just find 10-15 users of your products / services or those of your competitors.
The most common mistake we see brands making is using demographics (such as age or gender) to make assumptions about the needs and triggers potential customers have rather than starting with the need and building a picture of who may share this need, where and when.
Put simply, brand positioning is the intended brand image in the mind of your target customer. The positioning statement should be simple and sums up how you meet the needs of your target audience.
For example, Coca-Cola’s positioning statement is: For individuals looking for high-quality beverages, Coca-Cola offers a wide range of the most refreshing options — each creates a positive experience for customers when they enjoy a Coca-Cola brand drink. Unlike other beverage options, Coca-Cola products inspire happiness and make a positive difference in customers’ lives.
Your positioning statement isn’t a strapline (as we can see from the Coca-Cola example), rather you are setting the ‘rule’ for what any advert or creative needs to communicate.
The positioning section of your strategy should also make clear the brand’s ‘distinctive assets’ – the main elements of your brand identity that help people recognise you. Usually, assets are visual – logos, colours, shapes, colours – but for some they include a sound or a smell. Once identified, be obsessive about using them on everything you do to create recognition and association.
4. Your four ‘Ps’ strategy
Most people associate marketing only with communications (the Promotions P of our 4 Ps). But marketing strategy also articulates the framework for Product, Price and Place (or distribution). Your strategy framework should include:
Product: the rules for your products or services such as what they always are or aren’t, how they feel distinct and recognisable as your brand.
Promotion (Communication): the framework here has 3 elements:
1. Creative: how are you going to show your brand in a distinctive way (such as brand guidelines and tone of voice)
2. Message hierarchy: 3-5 key consumer-facing messages to be communicated across all comms activity in order of importance.
3. Media channels: what types of media will best communicate your message and reach your audience in ‘trigger’ moments.
Pricing: your pricing relative to your competitors. Set upper and lower limits on price and agree how consistently the price should be maintained, for example, whether you will discount price and what you expect in return such as bulk or bundled spend.
Place (Distribution): how you will make your product or service available to your target audience. Identify the key channels which connect to your audience and their trigger points.
5. Tactical plan
Your target audience will never see your strategy, but they do need to understand what you intend in everything you do.
You should start your annual planning process with a review of what happened previously – take the time to make your own assessment and seek input from elsewhere. Once you’ve done this, you can ensure your marketing objectives are stated in relation to where you start the year.
There are lots of ways you can then develop new ideas for how you achieve your objectives, but however you do it (such as ideation sessions or briefing your agencies), evaluate and rank ideas against the following criteria:
· Is it aimed at the right audience?
· Does it achieve my objectives?
· Does it maintain the brand position / build it in the right way?
· Is it coded according to brand guidelines and key brand assets?
Set clear timeframes and KPIs for your tactical activity and ensure that you are engaging in both brand building (top of funnel) activity as well as activation (bottom of funnel activity). There’s plenty of research out there to substantiate the advice that 40% of your budget should be on brand building (with a 3 – 5 year horizon) and 60% should be on short term activation.
Your tactics may change and evolve over the year as you test and learn, but strategy should be longer term (3-5 years) and positioning should change very little over the brand’s lifetime. Ultimately this is what creates powerful brands. Having strong and consistent strategy that guides and focuses tactics is what allows the world’s most powerful brands to occupy a strong and consistent meaning in consumers’ minds.
About the Authors
Authors: Vicky Murray and Tamsin Daniel, Co-Founders & Brand Consultants at Atalante Strategic Marketing Consultants. For more brand and marketing strategy advice or tips follow us on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/atalante-marketing