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HOW LEADING BRANDS WRITE THE FUTURE

Brand marketing departments are constantly challenged to move the needle. Every season there are obstacles impeding success. Your budget has strings attached requiring you prove the effectiveness of marketing. And spurring consumer behavior has never been harder thanks to the rapid pace of technology and social media. Conventional wisdom is to set out looking for the Big Idea.

Here’s an insight many in marketing underestimate: you can’t bank on finding an epic idea every season. Understand that making an impact is about being relevant. Your mission for the upcoming season may be to sell your product through at retail. The real challenge is how to become a top brand, how to build a connected relationship with your consumer, and have your brand stand for something so that you can consistently sell through at retail year after year. So instead of starting with what to do for the upcoming season, start where the best brands operate: in the future. Where does your brand want to be in 3, 4, 5 years? Plant a flag on territory you want to claim, and make your marketing efforts about marching toward your goal. Reshaping the playing field in this way is how small companies can outmaneuver larger rivals, and how large organizations can get a plethora of departments and regions on the same page.

YOU CAN’T SELL EVERYTHING

A planning session is where you chart the course toward the future. The purpose is to take the time to prioritize what’s important to your business and your audience. When you understand the top assets you’re working with, it is easier to define the story you’re going to tell–both internally and externally.

What does your planning session look like? Block out at least a day. Lock yourself in room full of comfortable furniture, sandwiches and dry erase boards. Bring your best strategic brains and get contributions from all marketing resources, a creative lead, and a project manager who can organize the details. Make sure you have someone representing product (now and future) in the planning session. Not only does it ensure you are telling the right product stories, it also strengthens ties between product and marketing, and starts the conversation about future product much earlier on.

Open the conversation around your halo products. From iPhones to Air Jordans to the M Series ultimate driving machines, every brand has a product that embodies the best of what that company has to offer, geared toward a target market they want to influence. So what are your heat products? Over the next 36 months, what’s in the pipeline and how do your halo products evolve?

Next, identify which brand ambassadors are the best fit to represent your top products. Who are the up and comers, and who are the respected veterans you’re working with? How do their stories intersect with your brand? Which vertical and horizontal cultural events are the best places for your brand ambassadors to shine?

Make another list around your key product technologies and benefits. What aspects of your products are ownable and differentiate your brand from the competitors? How does that technology translate into a theme with broad appeal, i.e., it’s not about integrated Bluetooth, it’s about freedom. And finally, what are the key moments where product, ambassador, and audience overlap? Map everything to a calendar.

More detail can be added to this structure, including things like content you’ll need to create, and relevant media channels to bring the narrative to life. Challenge your social media partners to create stories that support your marketing goals for each season, and define how the campaign leads back to your brand web platform. Pencil in budget thresholds, along with indicators of success; how will you measure the retention, costs, conversions and sales?

The deliverable is a detailed plan with corporate objectives, assets you’re working with, the creative concept, marketing calendar, action items, and responsible parties. Spend a few weeks getting this organized, summarized and visualized.

There’s a huge upside to creating a long term go-to-market plan. In our experience, when a well thought out plan is put in front of management, funding is approved. Stakeholders in your organization have a seat at the table, and can tune your progress. There’s still pressure to move the needle, but there is less mystery around what it will take.

The final step is pitching your plan in a dynamic way that captures your vision. That’s the subject of our next Black Paper, published April 18.

See you in the future.

Nemo Design