marketing plan

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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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