Recently, Noetic facilitated a brand positioning workshop with a client group of 20 leaders and “next generation” leaders. We divided the group into five tables of four to answer these key brand-building questions:
- WHO do you serve?
- WHAT do they want or need?
- HOW can you – above all of your competitors – satisfy that want or need?
The result: The group had five different points of view on their brand positioning.
Most brand marketers would have been uncomfortable with that result. However, we were happy to see this in the room! The differences sparked a candid and passionate conversation about the brand and the value it creates for clients. Moreover, ideas and “a-ha” moments filled the room. In the end, the group agreed on a brand positioning that connected to its vision and mission.
The story continues
A few months later, our client rang us. The brand positioning exercise sparked deep internal conversations about their business strategy – specifically, their mission and vision. At the workshop, they were committed to their existing mission and vision statements but now wanted to revisit both.
Hearing this was music to our ears because although we all landed on a strong brand positioning, we know that a brand strategy not only connects to a business strategy but also emanates from it.
The Noetic Brand-Building Framework
Business Strategy and Brand Strategy are stages of the Noetic Brand-Building Framework. We use the framework to help brands see where they are in their lifecycle and within their broader business context.
Each stage of the framework has a specific purpose and a set of hard-working questions to ask about your brand. Ask the questions at any point in your brand’s lifecycle to understand where it is, where it needs to go next, and what it needs to do to get there.
1. Business Strategy
Purpose: To clarify your “north star” by asking questions like:
- What is our vision for the company?
- What is our mission?
- Do we have a strong growth strategy?
2. Brand Strategy
Purpose: To identify your brand distinction, we ask questions like:
- Who is our core target audience?
- Who are our main competitors?
- What is our unique offering (vs. that of our competition)?
3. Brand Activation
Purpose: To bring your brand to life internally and externally by asking questions like:
- How do we educate, inspire and empower our internal teams to grow themselves and our business?
- How do we prioritize messages and media spend?
- What campaign metrics should we track?
4. Brand Optimization
Purpose: To improve your brand’s performance by asking questions like:
- What are the right benchmarks for us to track against?
- How will we adjust to optimize our brand?
- How do we optimize our culture for growth?
A strong brand marketer embraces two things about the Noetic Brand-Building Framework.
- The Noetic Brand-Building Framework is cyclical. Your brand is a living, breathing entity that needs to be cared for continually. Last summer, I planted sunflowers in my garden. They grew over six feet tall, wilted, and went away. I decided not to plant new ones this year. To my surprise, little sprouts popped up in the soil a couple of months ago. Last year’s sunflowers dropped seeds that turned into new sunflowers this year. Similarly, a brand will root, grow, and produce the information needed to help develop or evolve into a new brand. Continually nurturing it will help it survive and, more importantly, thrive.
- Brand Activation and Brand Optimization are just as critical to a brand’s success as Business Strategy and Brand Strategy. We’ve seen brands come out swinging with a Business Strategy and Brand Strategy they love and wonder – a year later – why it seems no one is “living” their brand. The lack of traction is usually due to an ineffective Brand Activation or Brand Optimization, the two stages in which most brands do not spend enough time.
When a brand does not gain the traction marketers hoped for, we will conduct a brand audit to help uncover what may have gone wrong.
The review usually reveals one or more of the following about the brand and its efforts:
- A Business Strategy does not exist or has not been adequately communicated.
- The Brand Strategy was developed in isolation without the contribution or – more importantly, the buy-in – of key stakeholders outside of marketing. (Read more about the perils of this approach in this article adapted by Fast Company).
- Internal Brand Activation was limited to making a brand guide available to employees who were expected to read and execute rather than understand and embrace. Limiting internal communication negatively impacts marketers’ ability to create brand experiences externally effectively.
- Brand Optimization elements were not put in place to ensure continued learning, innovative thinking, and progress measurement (i.e., learning programs, KPIs, etc.).
What do you do next?
In conclusion, we hope you use the Noetic Brand-Building Framework to look at your brands – and the business strategies from which they emanated – with fresh eyes and objectivity. If you feel you would benefit from help with this, we hope you reach out to Noetic Consultants. We are committed to strengthening brands and the people who build them. Guiding your brand through the lifecycle – in whole or in part – is a big part of that. We welcome the opportunity to explore with you.