Category: Brand Strategy

Introduction to Big Smartie

According to executives, nearly half of all strategic initiatives fail.

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One sure way to develop efficient tactics

One sure way to develop efficient tactics – Don’t roll the dice. All your
tactics can be very effective and efficient to implement once they are tied directly to your larger strategy. You can quickly evaluate each tactic based on your companies values, personality, positioning, SWOT, and consumer needs.

Here is an example of the potential cost of neglecting to directly tie
tactics to a larger strategy. During the Atkins Diet craze many potato chip companies who had solid growth for years were suddenly losing revenue. Sales and business development people were screaming for a diet product. Companies started reformulating their product line, designing new packages, creating new sales programs and new messaging—then the fad wore off. The image of their company had now become convoluted, and getting back their market share
likely was even more difficult.

This initial response was human nature. Of course, the natural response was to develop “diet products.” Without organizational guidelines that are stronger than the panic, what else would an entrepreneur do?

Since constant change seems to be the constant part of the business climate, this re-creating of tactics would need to happen quite often without the overarching guidelines. The leadership team, or in some unfortunate cases an outside firm, would need to regroup again, put their heads together, and craft another set of actions they’d need to take immediately to respond to the new situation. Next, they’d need to create a new budget to support those actions, scrapping former efforts to adapt to the new situation.

It is possible that these are actually the correct actions for that moment in time, but how can you be confident that they are appropriate for the long-term goals of your company?

• How do you know this is the right direction and not just a new direction?

• In what ways should the new plan connect directly to former efforts and in what ways should it deviate?

• Will the return be worth reinventing internal procedures to support the changes?

• Will the company really be able to deliver on its new promise/direction?

Do you have the right tactics?

Is that the wrong question?

You can hire an outside firm to help you. They will most likely offer you a brilliant set of short-term tactics, which, may work for awhile. They will even want to call it a strategy. I suppose it is a strategy of sorts—a short-term, action-oriented strategy.

This can feel like the perfect solution, because you have very likely already spent years rolling up your sleeves and pushing through to the next level. You may feel like, with this plan, you finally have some real help at the executive level, and you may. But I can promise you there is a far more efficient path to evolve a business. I will also promise you that to do what I suggest will make you feel like you are going backward in order to go forward; so let me explain further.

A strategy that is rooted in tactics will work within a given set of finite circumstances. Once those circumstances morph into something new, the strategy will need to be re-created rapidly.

Strategic intent and strategic objectives should guide tactics.

What’s being demanded by the empowered buyer?

The research company GlobeScan annually surveys a thousand top thought leaders, as well as the general public, in a majority of countries around the world on some really pertinent issues. At the Sustainable Brand Conference in 2007, Rob Kerr, Executive VP of GlobeScan, discussed recent key findings. That research showed how rapidly the consumer’s sense of empowerment is increasing. Does the consumer believe they possess the power to influence a company’s behavior? Over the last few years there is strong and steady growth in mainstream activism in most countries.

It’s no surprise there is now a strong belief that a company should be rewarded for being socially and environmentally responsible, but there is an even stronger sense that a company should be punished for harming social and environmental health. In North America, 46% of leaders say they would reward a company for good behavior while 55% say they would punish a company for behavior that may damage social or environmental health. Now, that’s a sense of empowerment.

These statistics indicate there are a growing number of individuals around the world who feel they can apply pressure that will force companies to comply with their desires. And, of course, they are right. Companies desperately need those who will purchase their products or services. There is no business without someone to do business with.

It is interesting that the sixties helped us distrust authority, but it took until now sometime after the turn of the century—to really understand that the buyer, not the seller, has the power.

A few clicks and they know if your being honest.

Word of mouth used to travel pretty fast, but now it travels at the speed of the Internet. Buyers are only a few clicks away from finding out who your company really is—not who you want them to believe you are. They can quickly see how their peers rate your products and service, any press releases that unveil your values or lack thereof, and blogs that may voice opinions in detail. It’s getting more difficult to hide behind a brand image that is inauthentic. Thank goodness.

In the long run, people trust what you do rather than what you say. It’s a universal principal. “Showing” versus “telling” is powerful, and now the empowered buyer is closely watching what you do from many angles.

It’s clear the reality of doing business is changing.
What’s your plan?

The Brand is losing power.

We want more—more than just “stuff” for the sake of having it. We want more than the emotional high of associating our personal worth with the brands we choose. We want less jargon and more for our money. We want to save the trees, save the planet, save the children, and educate the poor, and we want a product that does what it claims it will do. Or we’re out.

This is an exciting time for brands who prefer telling the truth. It’s encouraging that we are all demanding more from the products and offerings we spend our money on. It restores a little faith in human nature. But it will also increase the demands on the business owners to pay attention to their customers and to find a way to be accurate about who their company is and it’s motivations. The question is how?

Consumers that demand authenticity

It is an interesting era we are in–the age of information. It’s also been called the age of misinformation. But whatever the case, the general public knows their own power and seeks insight into what’s really going on. The chest beating slogans of the past no longer penetrate our modern minds. We must be shown not told. Demonstrating your claim and backing it up with action is mandatory.

The origin of this mindshift is in the changing nature of our world. A large segment of our population now lives at a level of luxury that is unique in history. There is much more physical comfort available to a common person which raises our level of expectations in many areas:

* Demanding an experience rather than a mere product.
* Talented employees choose a position based partly on how they feel about a company’s values and standing in the local or world community.
* Choosing brands that demonstrate corporate social and environmental responsibility.
* Quick, emotional responses to any message with a whiff of falsehood.
* News organizations and individuals gain esteem by uncovering and broadcasting misrepresentations and outright lies.

In communication strategies for organizations, authenticity often gives way to simpler, quicker, more superficial solutions. It’s certainly easier to find a message that will appear to satisfy the target audience in the short-term rather than dig deeper and ask a few hard questions. Many times the corporate culture disallows that digging. Unfortunately, the digging is left up to a growing number of journalists, consumer advocates and individuals who experience the brand.

It’s not that organizations lack an awareness of this problem. But there is a strong desire to avoid the problem. There are more immediate issues that need attention. Most people who have a bad habit plan on changing that behavior tomorrow or next week or after the holiday. It’s the same with changing corporate habits–easier to procrastinate than roll up your sleeves.

We empathize with that inertia and have found a few motivators we thought we could share:

1. 93% of American consumers operate in everyday life with varying degrees of sustainability consciousness. Research clearly reveals that a cultural shift is taking place in terms of consumer awareness, acceptance and practices that relate to sustainability. Full article at

2. The series, Food and the Environment: A Consumer Perspective, identified that at least attitudinally, 52% of Americans in 1997 were seeking to purchase “earth-sustainable food products.” Full article at

3. The focus on wellness is pervasive. Over half of all consumers are proactive about their health and wellness, focusing on lowering their health risks and preventing disease. Full article at

4. A few examples of campaigns that produced not only long term goodwill with their audience but an immediate and tangible return for their efforts:
*Coca-Cola: In 1997, Coca-Cola donated 15 cents to Mothers Against Drunk Driving for every case of Coca-Cola bought during a 6-week promotion in more than 400 Wal-Mart stores. Coke sales in these stores increased 490% during the promotion.
*TUMS: In 2003, through its “TUMS Helps Put Out More Fires Than You Think” campaign, TUMS pledged to donate 10 cents to the First Responder Institute for every bottle of TUMS sold. In addition to donating $238,000 to the Institute, which in turn funded 60 fire departments throughout the United States, TUMS saw a 30% increase in the number of displays shipped to stores and a 16% increase in sales volume.
*American Express: In 1983, after American Express pledged to donate a penny to the restoration of the Statue of Liberty for every transaction made by its cardholders, use of American Express cards increased by 28% and new users increased by 17%. Full article at

5. More than two-thirds of Americans say they consider a company’s business practices when deciding what to buy. At the same time, there is a substantial increase in the number of American workers who want their employers to support a social cause or issue. Part of 2007 Cone Consumer Environmental Survey by Opinion Research Corporation.

6. Many Americans say that good corporate citizenship makes them more willing to do business with a company. Corporate citizenship can influence consumer opinion and behavior, and essentially turn consumers into brand champions. Respondents indicated that good corporate citizenship by a company or brand would inspire them to (in ranking order):

  • Be willing to try the company’s products for the first time
  • Welcome the company into my community
  • Recommend the company’s products and services to friends and family
  • Improve overall trust for the company, its people and products
  • Improve overall opinion of the company’s reputation

Full article at