At BrandMatters, when asked how we work, we often explain that we operate at the intersection of business, brand and marketing. Each of these areas is a critical function that requires an individual, well thought-out strategy. But what roles do business strategy, brand strategy and marketing strategy each play? And how do they interrelate? In this blog post, we explore the relationship between them.
A business or organisational strategy details a firm’s vision, mission and long-term objectives. The organisational objectives form the heart of the strategy. However, a complete strategy also prioritises those objectives and describes specifically how the firm plans to achieve them - while competing successfully in the market and optimising financial performance. The strategy should also cover the resources that will be needed to deliver it.
Business strategy considers many things, including market structure and competitors, entry and exit barriers, market segmentation, market trends, organisational scale, spread and structure, organisational agility, organisational culture, product/service portfolio, branding and differentiation, IP, business model, distribution channels, supply and demand, sources of revenue, cost structure, cash flow, technology, strategic partnerships and the keys to success.
The strategies proposed should reflect the organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as its competitors and the market.
The brand strategy and brand exists to enable, express and bring to life the business strategy. Therefore, branding is the expression of the essence of an organisation, product, or service - its reason for being. Branding communicates the characteristics, values and attributes that the organisation or product stands for, how it is positioned differently to competitors, and why a customer would buy it.
A brand strategy clearly outlines a brand's unique characteristics, values and attributes. It is comprised of the brand positioning - the unique, relevant, credible and sustainable position in the market that it owns - along with the brand story, values, personality and brand tone of voice. It should also include the employee value proposition (EVP), which is closely linked to your brand. If there are multiple brands, it may include a brand architecture framework and brand portfolio strategy. And if there are multiple brand audiences, the brand strategy may also include customer value propositions (CVPs).
Once an organisation has signed off its brand strategy, it will need to create a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. Marketing strategy is shaped both by business strategy and brand strategy.
Whereas branding is strategic, marketing is more tactical. Marketing is actively promoting and selling a product or service. It's about putting the right product/service in the right place, at the right price, at the right time. It unearths and activates buyers. Marketing is a push tactic. All marketing initiatives and campaigns should reinforce and support the brand essence.
A marketing strategy typically answers the following questions for a product or service:
- Who are its customers?
- Who are its competitors?
- What makes it stand out in the market?
- Which market trends can be taken advantage of?
- What are its strengths and weaknesses and what are the opportunities and threats?
- What initiatives and programs can be used to promote it and take advantage of its strengths and the available opportunities, mitigate its weaknesses and minimise the threats?
The intersection of business, brand and marketing
As you can see, there are several points of intersection between business strategy, brand strategy and marketing strategy. Here are a few examples:
- Mission, vision and values are closely related to brand positioning.
- Organisational culture also aligns strongly to brand.
- The competitive environment, market structure, market segments and target customers are fundamentally important to all of these strategies.
- Competitive strategy links business strategy to brand strategy.
- Business model strategy, brand strategy and marketing strategy must all consider pricing strategy.
- All three strategies must consider market trends to be viable in the long run.
- Branding precedes and underlies marketing efforts. It's a pull tactic - brand creates customers predisposed to buying a product or service and supports marketing.
- All marketing initiatives and campaigns should reinforce and support the brand positioning.
How do we ensure these three strategies integrate and align?
To create effective integration between business, brand and marketing strategy, consider:
- The sequencing of these strategic plans. Business strategy comes first, closely followed by brand strategy, and then marketing strategy.
Business strategy → brand strategy → marketing strategy and plan
- Brand can be used to rally an organisation around its high-level strategies, so it can be helpful for brand positioning and strategy work to closely follow the creation of the business strategy.
- Brand strategy should be created at a senior level within the organisation, so that it is created by those who understand the business, business model and competitive strategy and the rationale behind them very well.
- Ensure the marketing team has the following qualities: strategic thinking, creativity, analytical ability and strong program management/execution discipline. These qualities are all important for creating a marketing strategy that links to business and brand strategy, for implementing marketing strategy, and for ongoing brand management.
At BrandMatters we consider these connection points and associated conundrums as part of our daily fare. If you’d like a point of view on how to resolve or reconcile any of the above we’d love to hear from you - please contact us.