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Business Strategy or Brand Strategy. Who Is Leading Who?

By Ray Baird

In a perfect world, the answer is both obvious and simple. Of course business strategy should always drive brand strategy, destination, promise and corporate actions. But in today’s fast-moving, fluid marketplace full of under-resourced executive strategic capabilities, often the brand strategy is being leveraged to play a much more significant roll: that of the business driver — underlining the internal purpose and motivation of the business, the vision behind the business and the ultimate business destination or goal.

Over the past 20 years of developing brand strategies for many companies, we’ve seen some crazy and amazing business ideas come out of our brand-development process. Many times we enter the brand strategy phase only to learn from companies that they don’t need a new brand strategy, but what they really need is a different business strategy or model before moving forward.

Recently, we took a well-established, industry-leading brand through our brand discovery process. The insights were staggering and revealed a total lack of brand preference. Our client was stunned to learn that their positioning and reputation was regarded as undifferentiated and declining on intent to purchase. The brand research did reveal some good news — there was an under-served position they could build an entire business strategy around (business strategy or brand strategy?). The client is now building their merger and acquisition strategy around this opportunity, aligning products and services around the space, and revised a new internal purpose, vision, mission and brand promise based on the customer/competitive research and brand insights. You get my point.

Let’s face it, business and brand strategy processes have many curious intersections. Most strategic planning processes in B2B don’t take into consideration a thorough brand-market evaluation benchmark and brand analysis to ensure that the business planning is well informed from a customer/market POV. Making sure your business planning process incorporates best brand practices and brand planning/metrics can really make a difference and unite both strategic processes.

Here are a few things you should expect from your brand research to inform business strategy:

1.       Current customer satisfaction (NET Promoter score): based on brand experience
2.       Yearly market brand preference rating (based on intent to buy). Includes existing customers and prospects
3.       Competitive brand positioning/mapping to continually monitor positioning changes — including competition
4.       Competitive positioning audit/evaluation
5.       Interactive/social metrics/Experience touch-point mapping

Bottom line: Business and brand strategy should work side by side supporting each other in every internal/external touch point. Separating the processes and working in silos can lead to disaster. Cross-functional business and brand strategy are best working together in a well-informed planning process. If you bring the type of brand insights and metrics we are suggesting, you’re more likely to have a profound effect on the business strategy, not to mention the brand.