Marketing Communication Strategy is Not Brand Strategy

by Brad VanAuken, BrandForward, Inc.

I have found that a common error advertising agencies commit is equating brand strategy with brand messaging and marketing communication. While brand messaging is an important part of brand strategy, it misses many other potential components of brand strategy.

Think of the types of decisions FMCG brand managers need to make – product, product range, bundling/unbundling, packaging, pricing, sourcing, distribution, trade agreements and communication decisions … to name a few. If the brand exists at an organizational level, add to that business and business model strategy (including business philosophy, vertical and horizontal integration, business portfolio, erecting barriers to entry, amount of investment in R&D and innovation, etc.).

Remember, brands are whatever people think they are. Put another way, companies can try to position brands but ultimately brand positioning occurs in customers’ minds. And these positions are the result of ALL of the experiences that customers have with the brands – those that occur from messaging as well as those that occur from the product itself, the environments in which the product is sold, how the organization stands behind its products, etc.

So, when positioning the brand, one must think much more broadly than “What should we say about our brand?” One must think about “What are all the things that we should do so that our target customers prefer and are loyal to our brand?” This requires experience and thinking that is broader than creativity in images and words. It requires a systemic understanding of what contributes to a brand’s perceptions and at least an adequate knowledge of marketing and business strategy.

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