marketing plan

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“Hope is unfortunately a terrible marketing plan” is a lovely quote from Nancy Johnson, of the North Dakota Soy Bean Growers Association.  Another terrible marketing plan is “stasis” — taking out last year’s marketing plan and adjusting the line items for inflation.  A marketing plan needs to move to stay alive. Just like sharks.

Hope springs eternal, but marketing is about control. Controlling the product or service. Controlling the price. The distribution. And the promotion. If you are not monitoring and affecting all four annually, you are living in Hopesville.

I would also add to that, if you are not tracking all four Ps (product, place, price and promotion) vis a vis a brand strategy, you are skiing in untracked snow without a destination. You are skiing yes. But you are not organized in your efforts.

If you’d like to see where your brand tracks are leading, take me up on my Brand Strategy Tarot Cards offer. 




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The two fundamental components of strategic marketing are the brand plan and the marketing plan.  Most companies have a marketing plan. They also have brands. Not always to they have both. 

The marketing plan is viewed through a lens of “making money,” as it should be. Each tactic, event or channel strategy is gauged by how it contributes to topline sales and profit. The brand plan, on the other hand, is about creating value in the minds of the seller and buyer. It sets places in the minds of consumers differentiating the product and creating preference. It also creates a roadmap for brand managers and company stakeholders to deliver and create even greater value. Guideposts if you will. 

In all my years doing brand strategy I’ve never included a loci around profit or revenue. The proof array supporting a brand claim results from prioritizing care-abouts and good-ats. While profit is always the goal of the marketing plan, it is never the subject of the brand plan. This Yin and Yang, this republican and democrat balance is what make brands unique and powerful.

If every plank in a brand strategy was about profit and sales, every brand would be the same.

Profits are the motive of the marketing plan. Logical and emotional reasoning are the motives of the brand. Peace.   




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Data Analysts For All.

In a marketing plan for a huge multiuse senior care organization I included the hiring of a half- or full-time data analyst. The essence of the brand idea being “average care is poor care.”  Reading this morning about NYC public schools and their tough road to grade and graduation improvement, it was reported that some progress was underway, albeit at great financial costs.

Well, positive results are positive results. A proper and deep dive analysis of the results may work to reorient the investment more efficiently. Improvement is what social orgs want and certainly what marketers want. We just have to be able to codify, recreate and extend the improvements. And the way to do so is through data.

Every marketing team – big or small – needs a data analyst. Sadly, for all but the largest companies it’s a line item rarely in the budget. Without a data analyst the task falls to the CFO or marketing director – two titles not well equipped to read data contributory to marketing success.   Money in, money out, yes. Nuance, no. 

I once presented a comprehensive list of marketing objectives to a multibillion dollar healthcare client – one with serious data nerds in the quality control dept.  The marketing director thought the marketing metric list was too long. “How can our brand and advertising program accomplish all that?” said he.  “By measuring,” said I.



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In my lifetime and the lifetime of What’s The Idea?, I’ve probably written 50 marketing plans.  Their formats are all pretty much the same: market situation, key issues, objectives, strategies, targets and messages, tactics, budget and timeline.  To the uninitiated who might read one of these plans, once past the up-front market review and obs and strats, the tactics of one plan might look like the others. Interchangeable almost. probably containing ads, PR, direct, web, promotion and social. Simple, undifferentiated line items on an excel chart.

The fact is, it’s the brand strategy that really sets one plan apart from the next. Every dollar spent is guided by a brand claim and three proof planks – or supports.  The tactics aren’t just random copy with fill in the blank marketing claims. Every piece of external and internal communications, meant to position and sell, is scripted. Well not scripted, but guided.

Branding strategy is an organized principle for building brand value and sales, based on consumer care-abouts and brand good-ats.

Brand strategy is the secret sauce to every marketing plan.




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slack logo

Mike Troiano, CMO of Actifio, pointed to an article today about a company called Slack that just got another round of funding, this time for $160M.  Slack is an office instant messenger, Drop Box sharing, productivity app. I’m sure there is more to it, but it does sound familiar. Anyway, Slack will take this money, bank it, then go out and buy a number of Aeron chairs, a distressed oak conference table, and 6 interactive flat screen video panels. Also lots of servers and next year’s head ware. (Last year was the fedora, this year the knit cap.) What they won’t put on their shopping list is a brand strategy.

They already have nice videos and graphics. A good logo and copy, but the most fundamental strategic document they can own, won’t even be on their radar: a brand strategy. Business plan – check. Mission statement –check. Founder’s vision – check. Cultural manifesto – check. But unless one of the founders has a brand planner as a friend, there will be no check next to brand strategy. Their VCs should know better but they don’t.

This is not meant to pick on Slack. I worked at a start-up ( that Robert Scoble and TechCrunch loved. We failed and had a brand plan. This is not me as a furniture salesman saying every company needs new furniture. This is me as a house builder saying every house needs a design and a plan.

Good luck Slack. Get yourself a brand strategy, approve it, and stick to it. (BTW, it’s not a marketing plan.) Peace.

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Plan It Up!

I’m reading about Apple’s amazing 47% rise in profit and realize I’m part of the story. My son went off to college this August and he talked me into buy him a MacBook.  Somewhat against it, being a price shopper and netbook fan, I gave in after lots of “beat down.”

The whole thing got me thinking about the back-to-school timeframe, a short period during which lots of laptops are purchased, especially by entering freshmen. Knowing when someone is going to purchase lets you create a thoughtful game plan. At what points does a marketer want to connect with a 17-18 year olds when it’s known they’ll be buying a laptop in August? Using what media? And with what methods of persuasion? That’s planning. That’s what’s up.

For expensive products like a MacBook, you can’t just send out a free-standing-insert (FSI) with a low price point in late July, though most everyone does. You need to begin the persuasion six months in advance — building to D-Day (the purchase period). Knowing the target intimately, knowing the media they use, the tools they employ, their rites of passage and their rituals – knowing all these things will help build an effective, targeted, and lower cost plan. Plan it up! Peace!

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