Jan 6, 2011

Never Brand Without A Plan

You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. That would be insane. Could you imagine starting a building project by visiting your local Home Depot, and picking out doors to build your house around? I doubt it. That’s just not the way to tackle a major construction project.

The same goes for branding. I am always amazed by the “busy work” projects companies create that directly impact their brands. For example, I hear sentiments like, “We don’t communicate the right value proposition. We need a new website.” How are these topics even related? Sure the website might be out of date, but that’s likely a symptom of an out-of-date marketing plan. What comes first: the value proposition or the website?

Embrace the elephant in the room

Why are you starting a project? Before you start tinkering with your brand, ask your team 5 questions:

  1. Why are we doing this?
  2. Who is it for?
  3. What will we accomplish?
  4. How will we measure success?
  5. Is it the best use of our resources (time, money, personnel, etc.)?

Question 5 is probably the most important one. A new website, a new logo, a new campaign, or whatever it might be, could feel good, but is it the best use of your resources. The goal is to make every marketing project count.

Planning is a process

General Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Plans are never static. You can see it in the home building project. Obstacles and unforeseen issues pop up all the time that will require adjustments to the blueprint. You might not be able to get the products that were spec’d for the build. You might face talent shortages. Who knows? You can’t foresee everything that will impact the life of a project.

As you get into the project make sure you have a system for measurement and adjustment. I suggest creating a “balanced scorecard” to keep the project on track. Define a set of metrics, timelines or milestones that indicates the health and progress of the project. Couple these measures with regular team check-ins to keep everyone on the same page, and ensure the project is moving forward as expected. The goal of measurement is not to avoid project changes, but to anticipate them and make adjustments as required.

Don’t half-ass your brand

Once you determine the value and need of a project, make a commitment to it. As the old adage goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

A 10% upfront investment in planning can determine the entire success of a project. It’s that necessary step to get your ducks in a row, and setup your team to execute in a very focused and efficient manner. If your team isn’t willing to make this small investment for the success of a project, then why even bother with it?

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