Mike Williams, Managing Director of MiraVeta Consulting, on how to review a brand plan in four easy steps.
Reviewing a brand plan can mean different things depending on who you are and why you’re reviewing it. At a very high level, leaders may just want the summary Life Cycle strategy, the key financials and the ability to compare with other brands so that they can make a portfolio resourcing decision over the next five to 10 years. A global marketing team might be reviewing the brand plan for a specific country to either check alignment to a central strategy or to learn insights that can feed into global decision-making.
For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on the basics of reviewing a plan to construct a checklist which you might use as a member of a cross functional brand team, or where you are new to the marketing function.
Before you start you should give yourself some time in your diary, make sure you have the brand plan in whatever format works best for you (digital or paper ready for scrawled notes) and find a quiet place to focus. Make sure you have a separate place to take notes as we’re going to be going forwards and backwards through the plan. On your notepaper you need to mark out the key elements of the planning process as titles so that you can pull out the relevant information for each section. Most companies have a defined planning process which you can use as a guide, but we’re going to keep it really basic here and use the generic titles ‘Situation’, ‘Strategy’, ‘Tactics’ and ‘Measures’.
“How will we know if we need a new plan or if we need to improve execution of the current one?”
Step 1: Is the situation specific and accurate?
The first section of any planning process should include a description of the market situation including the key drivers of customer/consumer behaviour. In our industry, you should expect to see a patient flow describing how the end-users move through the healthcare system and where your product and associated diagnostic tests fit. You should also see a competitor analysis which includes any upcoming launches. You can see the first part of our checklist is already here to make sure all the elements are captured, but there are two specific factors.
First, make sure everything is quantified, including the patient flow. If you see the words ‘lots’, ‘many’, ‘few’, ‘often’ then mark them out and make sure you get a specific number for each. We need to decide on our strategy from this data so a simple statement such as ‘The majority of customers complete diagnostic test A’ could mean 51% to 99% of customers. The specific answer may change your strategy or tactic investment.
Secondly, try to look at the market through the eyes of your customers, not your company. It can be easy for the excitement for a brand to override reality. For example, you might see in a SWOT analysis that ‘Efficacy’ comes up under ‘Strengths’, however if your customers do not perceive any difference between you and your competitors, then this is not a strength. It can be rephrased as ‘Parity efficacy perception’ and you might well choose to improve the efficacy perception of your brand.
Step 2: Objective, Strategy, CSFs and positioning
This is a big section to cover in one go and with more space we would break this down into individual components, but for the purposes of this checklist we first need to spot that the ‘Objective’ is defined, the ‘Strategy’ is clear and shows that a choice has been made; that the ‘Critical Success Factors’ (CSFs) match the market situation/drivers and finally that the positioning statement can only apply to your brand. If your statement could apply to any other product, then you’re probably not differentiated enough.
This part of the plan should be specific to your company/product/market so it’s almost impossible to give you a way of assessing if it’s the right way to go, however, a good plan should have made some choices on where to focus. To test this, I would recommend you write a ‘What we’re not going to do list’ and write down which opportunities the plan will not chase, which customer segments they will not follow, which brand attributes they will not promote etc. This simple test can help to ensure that choices and prioritisation have been made in the planning process. Keep hold of this list to make sure there is no drift back towards these areas in the tactics.
Step 3: Are your Tactics aligned?
If I asked you to write a tactical plan without telling you the product, the therapy area or even if it was launched, you might say this is impossible, but you could probably assume that you’ll use sales representatives, interact with key external experts/key opinion leaders, have some sort of medical education programme etc. Write down a rough generic set of tactics. Now look at the tactical section of the brand plan and if the lists of tactics are identical then you need to prompt for a more differentiated approach. Look at your ‘What not to do list’ and see if any activities have been added in that do not follow the strategy. Finally, go back to the notes you made on the first part of the plan, review and see if the tactics are scaled large enough to really impact the key drivers in the market. If the budget is spread too evenly, cut some tactics, and focus on a core set which you can invest in at scale.
Step 4: Are these the right Measures?
Marketers are very good at measuring ‘Stuff’ and our industry has more information available than many others, which can often result in a set of 100 metrics being used to measure the performance of a brand or portfolio. My personal view is that more data points mean more opportunities to spot trends and associations, but if you want to manage a brand you need to identify the most important lead/lag indicators.
To review the core measures, ask yourself ‘How will we know if we need a new plan or if we need to improve execution of the current one?’. This should prompt you to consider, what lead indicators show that the plan is working and what would indicate a reason to change. If you can’t see these clearly in the measures, then recommend that a subset is created. Remember, one of the first indicators that you have changed behaviour might be as simple as certain words or phrases appearing in Google searches.
Reduce risk, improve performance
Hopefully, this article will give you more confidence to review a brand plan as a member of the cross functional team. While this approach may appear simple, your feedback can help reduce business risk and improve performance so make sure it’s heard.
Mike Williams is Managing Director of MiraVeta Consulting. Go to www.miraveta.com