Brand activation

Your marketing plan sets out what you will do over the next 6 to 18 months, but you still need to turn those plans into actions. Our guide covers how different elements of the marketing mix 4Ps can be converted into brand activation. Learn how to keep track of brand performance and influence people in the business who might delay or disrupt your brand activation plans. 

Brand activation

How this guide raises your game.

1. Learn how the marketing mix 4Ps activities can be converted into brand activation. 

2. Read how to measure and track brand performance. 

3. Find out how to influence people who might get in the way of your brand activation.

Great marketing requires thought and preparation before it becomes great marketing, 

This preparation includes your market research, your segmentation, targeting and positioning, your brand identity and your marketing plan.  All this preparation brings you to a point where you can feel more confident about delivering great marketing. 

But, great marketing only becomes great marketing when consumers get a chance to experience it. And that means brand activation. 

So, use this guide to learn how you make that brand activation leap from planning to action.

Planning to action - Man leaping a gorge to show leap from marketing plan to brand activation

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Marketing mix to brand activation

In our marketing plan skill guide, we covered the 4Ps of the marketing mix. These were Product, Promotion, Price, and Place.

In this brand activation guide, we will use an example from each of these 4Ps. We will show examples of how to convert high level marketing plan recommendations into actions. 

In the marketing plan skill guide, we also shared the GAME plan format as a way to summarise key activities.

But this GAME plan format also serves a second purpose. It can also act as the executive summary for the activity when you need to pull together resources and a team to carry out that specific activity. 

It contains the key elements of the Goal of the activity, a summary of the activity and the specific measures and evaluation attached to the activity. 

The next step after the GAME Plans is to identify the key resources needed to deliver the plan.

Who else do you need to involve?

How much budget do you need?

When does it need to happen? 

To answer these types of questions, you need to convert the GAME plan into an activity brief. In this brief, you document the resources and requirements needed to action the GAME plan.

Let’s review some activity brief examples across the 4Ps – Product, Promotion, Price and Place – from the marketing plan.

Marketing mix 4Ps to Brand activation examples

Product example : Launch a new product

Your market research and your SWOT analysis will likely have identified opportunities to create and launch new products or services.

This new product development process can be long and complex. But in the context of brand activation, we will focus on the link between the marketing plan and the start of the new product process.

Before the new product launch process begins, you should research the idea to check it has target audience appeal. You should also have a view on whether the sales opportunity is big enough. 

With those two provisos in place, most Innovation and New Product Development projects kick-off with  a high level project plan.

This high level project plan needs to capture all the relevant details of the project. You use these details to communicate what needs to be done. And so, you use this summary to manage and keep track of the project.

Let’s work though what’s included in a typical NPD project summary template. 

New product launch project summary

Project Name

New product launches need teams of people to give up their time to carry out the tasks required.

So, as it becomes a distinct part of the business, you should give the project a name. This project name means people can easily identify and refer to the project. They know what to expect when you set up meetings. Or send requests for information or help.

You can choose to keep the Project Name simple. Call the project directly after what the project will deliver. Let’s say Project New Widget, Project New Size or Project Attract Older Customers for example.

But while simplicity is generally good, bear in mind, you may want to keep the scope of the project within the team itself. 

If members of the project team discuss the project, people outside the team who hear the project name will know what your product launch will be. You may not want this to be widely known. In the early stages, you often want to keep knowledge of the project quite contained.  

Project code names

Project meetings might not always take place in your offices or premises. People often take work calls on public transport or in cafes. There is always the potential your competitors will find out about your plan. So, it’s quite common to give New Product Launches a “code name” to help maintain secrecy. 

Some businesses choose project names that allude to the nature of the project. But, which don’t give away exactly what it is.

So from our project name examples, above. Project New Widget might become Project Elastoplast. Because you are ‘sticking on’ a new widget.

Project New Size might become Project Jumbo. Because you are making an extra-large version of your product.

And Project Attract Older Customers might become Project Grey. Because grey as a colour is associated with older people. 

You get the general idea. 

Of course, while this helps give some cover or secrecy to your intention, if a competitor did overhear one of these project names, it wouldn’t be an impossible code to crack.

Some businesses who run many innovation projects will have a randomised list of project names. A list of male or female names. Or a list of countries. Or a list of figures from Greek mythology to give you a couple of examples we’ve come across.

Project team

New product launches can be complex projects to manage through a business.

They can involve multiple functions in the business. Each function will have a point of view on how best to launch the product. There will be questions and challenges around ‘how’ the product will fit into the existing business. These functions will ask what it will look like and how it will be managed. 

So, in order to manage this complexity, there are three clear groups of people you should identify on the project plan.

Three brains working together
Project leader

This is the person who is ultimately responsible and accountable for the delivery of the project.

This person will be the one who writes the project plan summary. They will organises the meetings, tracks the actions and ensure that the right people do the right things to launch the product.

This role is vital to the success of the project. The person identified (and it should be a single person), needs to have the authority to run the project. And they need the people management and organisational skills to make sure all the actions happen on time and meet expectations.

Project team

While the project leader is ultimately responsible, innovation and new product development requires a wider team.

The project leader should identify which skills are needed to deliver the project. They should secure the time and agreement of those people with those skills in the business. 

A typical project team would comprise people from different functions in the business. e.g.

Operations and Supply Chain Management – To manage the manufacture and delivery requirements of the new product. 

Finance – To create and manage the project Profit and Loss, costings and sales forecasts.

Sales and Marketing – To make sure the project fits with customer and channel expectations, And to make sure that it is consistent with the brand identity and any other marketing considerations. 

Research and development – If the new product requires development of any new capabilities, process or ingredients, someone with R&D experience would typically also be on the team.

Of course, the nature of the team depends on the nature of the product launch and the skills available in the business. If you do not have all the skills available in-house, you may need to find specialised help from outside to join the team for the duration of the project.

For example, a representative from a supplier or someone from the marketing agency will often need to join the team.

Project Sponsor / Stakeholders

At key points during the development of new products, you will need to make decisions about the direction as circumstances change and new information comes to light.

You should decide in advance who makes these decisions and how they are made. For this, most project teams will also have a sponsor and stakeholders.

The Project sponsor role is to represent the project to the wider business. They need to help resolve disputes and disagreements about the project direction.

Stakeholders are people impacted by the project, but who are not actively involved in each part of the project. For example, legal advisers or functional leaders who have people from their function on the team. 

These stakeholders need the opportunity to share their views and the project leader should identify who they are and how to involve them at the start of the project. 

Project timeline and key milestones

The new product project plan should include key dates when major actions need to happen for the project to launch. Obviously, the kick-off date for the team and the launch date of the product in to the market are key.

But there will be other key actions between the kick off and launch that should also be captured.

These could for example be market research and testing phases of the project. These could be specific approval sessions.  Approval of the final business case or of the final marketing plan for example.

 

Calendar

If the project requires retailer engagement or creation of new warehouse capacity, typically these items have long lead times. So these types of actions need to be set as major milestones before the product launches.

Plan a post launch review

Note also, that the launch may be the ‘formal’ end of the project, but it is worth building in  a post launch review element of the project. So, a specific check-in review AFTER the product launches to share learnings about what worked and didn’t during the launch development. These learnings can and should be fed back into future new product development launches so mistakes don’t get repeated.

Strategy / Rationale

The aim of this section is to capture succinctly why the product is being launched.

It should refer in no more than 3 or 4 bullet points, the opportunity. Perhaps supported by a key fact or piece of evidence. Does the new product meet an unfulfilled need? Or does it stretch the brand to a new target audience or occasion? Maybe, it even just exploits a new ingredient, process or piece of technology.

Whatever the reason, have the summary here because it will be a constant reminder to the project team. The strategy will be more likely to ‘stick’ in the minds of those involved when it appears in project status summary. 

Objective

Similarly, the project summary should include the high level goals and KPIs so that they are easy to find and track.

In particular, when these objectives are clearly articulated at the start, it can help resolve disputes and disagreements further down the line. 

Project description

This is a short summary of how the project itself will be done.

The aim is to keep it relatively short. Identify only the high level actions, changes or developments associated with the project.

So, this might be a new ingredient. Or a new way to manufacture a product. Or a new process to deliver a service.

The project description should outline the key steps that need to happen so anyone who is unfamiliar with the project understands what the project will deliver. 

Target audience and Point of Difference

We covered much of how to identify the target audience and create a Point of Difference in our guide on  Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning. 

The structure of your positioning statement looks like this :-

To (target audience), the (brand) is the (category frame of reference) that delivers the (benefit) due to (reason why) as proven by (reason to believe).

So, for the project summary, you need to pull out the target audience and the Point of Difference from your positioning statement.  

 

3 steps of the process - Segmentation - divide the total marketing, targeting - pick the most attractive, positioning - build your brand

The point of difference is the benefit, the reason why and the reason to believe.

While you do not need to re-do your whole positioning statement for each new product launch, you should note any changes, updates or amends to the positioning statement caused by the product launch. 

For example, if the product launch targets the existing audience but at a new consumption occasion. Or it upgrades the core benefit through improved performance. You should include these changes to the positioning on the project summary. 

Success Criteria and Competitive Advantage

Your success criteria relate to how you will know the project has been a success. While this might be as simple as meeting the overall business objective set out above, it can and often does include other criteria.

You could define success as launching the product on time and within budget for example. You may have other factors such as influencing customers or changing perception of the brand that can be built in as success criteria.

If your project includes new processes, systems or ways of working, you can set some success criteria for these too. These relate to how the project will be carried out.

Competitive advantage

You should also capture here any competitive advantage that the project will deliver.

In terms of how consumer sand customers perceive the brand, the Point of Difference may already have captured this.

But you should also include any additional advantages that the New product will deliver. For example, cost savings, speed of delivery, quality or reach to a new or different segment. These are all new competitive advantages which you should track on the project summary. 

Business deliverables / Budget / Time status

This section covers the three main questions that anyone outside the project team will have about the project.

  • Will the project delivery be as expected?
  • Will the project be delivered within the agreed budget?
  • And will the project be delivered on time?

You can use a traffic light system to indicate the status of the project on each of these questions.

Green indicates that the project is on track and no action is required.

Amber is a warning that some action needs to happen to manage or resolve an issue.

And red indicates that the project will miss expectation on either delivery, budget or time.

Where amber or red, you should add commentary to explain why the status is that colour. 

Traffic lights

Financial data

You should include the high level financial expectations of what the product will deliver over the first two years. This should include unit sales, revenue and profit margin.

While there may well be a more detailed financial analysis that sits behind the summary page, having this information easily available in the summary helps stakeholders easily compare between new product projects.

Budget

The high level budget required to deliver the launch including cost of goods / production, advertising and any significant other costs should also be outlined in the summary document.

Recent tasks / Risk assessment / Next steps

All the above details are usually written at the start of the project. They then do not change very much over the course of a New Product project.

However, all the remaining elements of the template are more dynamic. They capture changes at each major milestone of the project and are updated more regularly. 

The recent tasks completed section will outline the 2 or 3 biggest achievements of the project since the last update.

The next steps section indicate what are the 2 or 3 most important tasks that will be completed by the time of the next update. 

The risk assessment will identity any risks to the project not meeting expectation.

The project team identify these risks at the start of the project. They should also include any actions to resolve the risk. Use a traffic light system to indicate the impact of the risks on the delivery of the project.

Green indicates that the risk is under control and will not impact the project.

Amber indicates that some work is required to manage or resolve the risk.

And red indicates a risk that has a high likelihood to impact the outcome of the project. 

This is only an example to show how Product might be brought to life in brand activation. For a full review on how to manage and run a full innovation / new product launch, check out our marketing innovation guide. 

But use this template as an example of how a high level GAME plan on your “Product” part of the marketing mix from your marketing plan, can become a plan to organise and manage a team to deliver a New Product launch. 

Promotion example : Launch a new communication campaign

The second P of the four Ps we will go on to look at under brand activation is promotion.

Now, in many businesses, the word promotion has multiple meanings since it can mean the broad act of any activity that promotes the brand.

But it is also often used to mean a much narrower event or campaign, and often related to temporary price discounts. So, our brand will be on “buy one get one free” promotion in November for example. 

 

Marketing Communication brief - blank template

So, to avoid confusion, under the broad “promotional” term we’re going to talk about communications specifically. 

Example : Communication brief

In the example we will go through here, the marketing plan could propose a new communications campaign to talk about a new benefit or land a new or more impactful message about the brand with your target audience.

In this case we would would want to create a communication brief for the agency.

You’ll note that the format of this brief pulls together a number of the key elements we’ve covered in the brand development process. 

Firstly, we have the brand vision, essence, personality and values that we covered in the skill guide on brand identity.

Next, we have the business opportunity, marketing challenge and growth target that will have come out of your marketing plan

Then, we have the communication challenge that will have been identified both from market research and from the marketing plan

The brief then specifies the Point of Difference (the benefit, reason why and reason to believe) from the segmentation, targeting and positioning process

And finally the brief closes off with some of the key details from the GAME plan and activity calendar including budgets, timings and who is responsibility for the delivery of each activity. 

Work with the marketing agency

If we then look at each of these elements in more detail, we can see that each of those elements answers a question or provides context to a marketing agency. The agency are then tasked to come up with a plan to respond to the communications brief.

We give more examples of how this works in for example our guide on advertising and our guide to websites. The communication brief can also cover your media planning and buying. 

Communication briefs are the most common types of brief used to move from the marketing plan to create brand activation. 

You can also read more of what happens AFTER you write a communication brief to an agency in our skill guide on agencies. In that guide, we identify the key people in an agency who will pull together the response. 

Pricing example : Regular / competitive and promotional pricing

As part of your audit of the market, you should have analysed the impact of price in your category.

This analysis should include the sales performance of your products when they are at the ‘regularprice. It should include the change in sales when you offer them at a discounted price. And it should include any sales information you have about the impact of competitor pricing

From your marketing plan, you would then typically write a pricing plan as part of your brand activation. You would build this plan with your finance and sales (customer) teams.

This pricing plan would typically have 3 key components from a marketing point of view.

  • Your regular and recommended promotional price.
  • Competitor price tracking.
  • And a price promotional calendar for the year. 

Let’s look at each of those in turn using a hypothetical example from a T-shirt producer. 

Price plan summary page

Regular price vs promotional price

In most categories, there is a trade-off between the number of units sold and the regular price. The regular price is the price at which your product normally sells. 

Brands with higher regular price points will typically sell less units. But they will make more dollars per unit sold.

While brands with lower regular price points will sell more units. But they will make less dollars per unit sold.

As you flex your price in the market, you will typically find a sweet spot regular price. This is where your trade-off between profitability and volume delivers the best return.

However, obviously, your competitors will also flex their prices. This clearly impacts on the attractiveness of your regular price. So you will want to run sales promotions on price to give yourself the opportunity to drive short-term sales. You should look for an ideal promotional price that you offer to combat competitor promotions. 

Psychological pricing

We should also mention  the phenomenon of psychological  pricing. This is based on observed behaviour that shoppers do not always perceive price in a totally rational way.

For example, note the widespread use of “.99” pricing. So for example where $24.99 might be the price rather than the rounded up $25.

Many studies have shown that this $0.01c saving has a great influence over the likelihood to buy. Even if logically, it would seem to make little to no difference.

This seems to be because consumers tend to process the left hand number more than the right hand number. So they give undue preference to the $24 in a $24.99 price. They feel there is a much bigger price difference than there actually is in reality. 

There are many such other psychological price factors to consider. For more on the subject, we’d point you to this great summary here

Competitor price tracking

Your second price consideration should then be how you price relative to competitors. This  depends on your positioning statement and how your target audience perceives price. 

For example, if you position brand as the highest quality product on the market, you may decide that you need to be the most expensive product. Consumers expect the most expensive product on the market to be the one with the highest quality. 

On the other hand, if you decide that you want to appeal to the greatest number of consumers, a lower price point will support your position. 

The price point you choose positions your product in the market versus your competitors. You should decide it from market research and feedback from the sales team and customers. You should also work with your finance team who can put together different financial scenarios based on volume and price forecasts. 

In our hypothetical example above, we might be a #2 player in the market looking to take volume share from the #1 (Competitor A). So our price plan is to maintain a 10-15% price discount at all times.

But we also recognise that a lower quality cheaper competitor (Competitor B) might start to take volume share from us if the price gap is too wide. So we might set a cap of how much more expensive we would ever be than them. In this example, we would never be more than $10 more expensive than Competitor B. 

In this case, we would also detail any additional benefits or limitations to the promotion. So, securing more in-store space when we have a promotion that will run through more units or running a specific promotion through only one channel or one customer. So, free delivery for online shopping in this case.

Price promotional calendar

The final component of your price plan is then your promotional calendar. This is where you detail different types of sales promotions that you will run on different parts of your range.

So, on our example, we have three different types of promotion. A 25% discount, a 2 for one offer and a free delivery offer.

But we would choose to run these promotions on different products and at different times of year. This would be based on our understanding of what drives the biggest increase in sales for each product.

Red Sale Sign

Price challenges

Price can be one of the more difficult parts of the marketing mix to plan.

In particular, when you work with retailers, you cannot set the price in-store directly. Setting a resale value goes against anti-competition measures.

You can only affect the price the retailer pays you and make recommendations on what the in-store price is. This is why you see “Recommended Retail Price” on a lot of products.

In addition, you will always be slightly in the dark on your competitors price positions until they go live. And of course, the underlying costs can change due to market conditions. You need to work closely with sales and finance teams to monitor and track the impact of changes on pricing in your marketing mix.

Place example : Retail customer plan

While your “place” could be your own shop or store or even your online shop if you work in e-Commerce, for many products, the “place” is through a third party retailer or distributor. So, to bring to life how your brand activation might link from the marketing plan to a customer plan, we created an example as you can see below.

The customer plan contents and layout are not hugely dissimilar from what you might have put together in your one page brand identity or in your GAME plan. But they are written from a sales point of view. 

They will include a view on what the ambition and objective is for that customer for the year, and then some high level pillars which summarise the key initiatives that the sales team will plan to do with that customer in the 6 to 18 months ahead.

As you can see from our example, these activities may be specific to the sales team themselves.

Sales team objectives

An objective for the sales team with a customer could be to build a better relationship with that customer. It would be achieved with a shopper insight project with that retailer’s customers.

However, the sales team objectives might also overlap directly with your marketing plan.

So in this example, the launch of 2 new product variants will require the sales team to prepare a business proposal for the retailer to stock those products. 

Retail customer one page summary

They would need to define the various terms, conditions and measurements which will govern the launch and sale of the new products through that particular customer.

Then, you can also have some customer activities which partly overlap with the marketing plan.

So, in this case, the customer account manager has identified online as an opportunity. But to deliver this the marketing team would need to support with materials, content and other brand assets. 

Marketing Plan to brand activation summary

Before we cover how else the marketing plan drives brand activation, it’s worth recapping where we’ve got to. Where the marketing mix identifies a particular P to focus on, various templates and processes can be used to pull teams and resources together to go implement that activity. Whether it is a new product launch, a new communications campaign, a price change or an in-store or online activity, the marketing plan sets the direction for the business from which all brand activation plans then fall out. 

GAME plan to measure performance

In all the above examples, we’ve focussed on the start of each activation. Our focus was to make the leap from the marketing plan into the start of brand activation.

But in reality, unless you are a new business, the chances are that you won’t have all your projects at the start and will have them running on different time lines.

So, one of the other key areas which we mentioned in the GAME plan section of the marketing plan was the area of performance measurement.

 

Measurement

It’s important to have checks in place to identity when projects are on track or not on track. It’s important to have checks in place to measure if the impact of each project is delivering what was expected.

So, brand activation depends heavily on the ability to measure and track performance.

Performance measure – Sales 

At the simplest level, your key measure may be sales. This can be the total amount you sell over a period of time and how your sales compare to your competitors.

Depending on the industry, you can check and evaluate sales either daily, weekly or monthly. 

Where you sell through retailers, you should seek to get hold of their sales data to the end customer where possible. This can give a better indication of actual consumer demand as your sales to the retailer will be subject to their stock levels.

This sales data may be available as part of your agreement with the retailer. Or in some cases, you can access it through third-party research companies like AC Nielsen or IRI Worldwide. 

You should also look to capture information beyond total sales. The more information you have the more you can analyse what is happening in the market. Can you get hold of price and promotional information about competitors for example? Can you find out when competitors advertise? Or how widely distributed competitor products are?

Such information helps you build a much richer picture of the market. It helps you make better decisions on what works and what doesn’t. 

Performance measure – Consumer metrics

But brand performance can also be measured through talking to your consumers. Ask for regular feedback on their thoughts and feelings towards your brand. This commonly takes place in a brand health or brand equity tracking study.

This type of study is normally a quantitative research approach. It asks a statistically representative sample of the total audience a series of questions about the category and the brands within it. It typically reports on a quarterly or six monthly basis.

You should look to include questions related to your brand identity in brand health studies. You should track these over a period of time. 

If your essence is about “healthy snacking’ for example, you would want to regularly check with your target audience if “healthy” is how your brand is perceived. Or whether competitors are do healthy better than you are.

Marketing plan quarterly reviews

Following on from regular tracking of sales and consumer metrics, you should set a regular schedule to look for any other major changes which might impact your marketing plan.

As we mentioned in the guide to the marketing plan, a quarterly (or sometimes six monthly) review of the marketing plan is a worthwhile use of time.

The aim is not to rewrite the whole marketing plan, but to identify any major changes in the market since the plan was written. 

Eye

This review should be documented and circulated around key stakeholders in the business. And then an open discussion held to review changes and make recommendations. 

Quarterly review agenda

There’s no set agenda, but typically you would expect to see the following :-

  • review of the last quarter performance.
  • summary of the brand equity trends.
  • update on any changes in the market-place.  
  • summary recommendation about the 3 -6 month activities.

Contents can include, for example, a collation of the New Product project one page summaries we shared above. This would show how ALL your innovation projects are progressing.

You might collate the communication headlines and initial campaign results to show how your brand is or isn’t building equity with its consumers.

And finally, you might re-check the SWOT analysis you did in the marketing plan and see in particular if the Opportunities or Threats have changed.

Have your competitors made any major moves since you wrote the marketing plan? How has your relationship with your customers gone? Do you have any information from your online sources that might impact your future brand activation? 

When you are in the middle of brand activation it can become very easy to get focussed on the here and now. Quarterly reviews are there to force you to step out of the daily grind of brand activation and look ahead to the next quarter and beyond.

They’re also a great opportunity for teams to share progress and successes with the wider business. So the quarterly review can also serve as a way to inspire and inform the rest of the business. 

Brand Activation – how to engage the business

Talking of the rest of the business, you would think that with all the benefits of brand activation to drive your sales, it is an easy job to gain support from other functions. Because driving sales is usually the main goal for businesses, right?

Well, unfortunately, most businesses are not that simple. In most businesses, there are competing goals, working styles and processes that can make brand activation a tough process. 

Here’s a couple of examples of working styles that you’ll find in some businesses that can make brand activation much tougher to achieve. And our thoughts on how to work with those styles.

The constant questioner

In general, asking questions is a good thing. There’s nothing worse than that awkward pause after you’ve presented an amazing transformational business plan and ask “any questions?” and nobody says anything. Urgh. That’s never good, 

So, yes questions are good. But you do come across people in organisations who use questions as a weapon. People who use questions as a way to divert, delay or destroy initiatives.

 

The constant questioner - Marketing humour cartoon of woman with hand raised asking "I know we covered that 20 minutes ago, but if we could just go over question 52 again"

While some questions may be borne out of genuine curiosity and a desire to collaborate and be involved, this is something entirely different.

The driver that typically sits behind the constant questioner is one of fear. A fear of change or disruption. A fear of things being not perfect or mistakes being made. The reasoning is that it is better to be late than to be wrong. But this caution can lead to opportunities missed, and a lack of learning.

We’ve found the best way to work with these types of people is to allow questions, but make the way you ask and capture questions quite structured. Avoid vague generic questions and ask / direct the questions towards specific parts of the project.

Phrase your questions in a way that looks for positive feedback to improve the project rather than negative feedback to delay the project. “How” is a great way to start questions with these types.

Questions like “How could we deliver this project ahead of deadline?” or “How could we use this project to improve system efficiency?” make the questioner look for answers rather than excuses.

The helpfully unhelpful

A close business cousin of the constant questioner is the helpfully unhelpful. They have similar underlying motivations of fear of change and failure. They have a strong desire to maintain routines and the status quo.

However, they recognise that asking questions can be an obvious delaying tactic. So what they do instead is take the idea of your brand activation, but overload it with helpful builds and processes so that it becomes unwieldy and much more difficult to complete.

So, they’ll refer to other people in the business who can give ‘extra inputs’ to the project.

The helpfully unhelpful - Marketing humour cartoon of a man saying "I really like your idea, but the steering committee will never approve it, because you haven't given them 12 weeks notice ..."

 They’ll refer to process and systems which are in place to ‘protect the business’, ‘drive efficiency’ or ‘avoid mistakes’. Even if those things are not the actual goal of the brand activation.

They do not want to appear unhelpful, but don’t realise that the ‘help’ they offer can often delay or kill projects. 

Here’s the way to manage it though.

If their suggestion clearly makes the project better or it’s something mandatory that if you don’t do, the company would be put at risk – like a legal or quality issue – then by all means follow the suggestion.

But if not, make one step towards following up the suggestion, but if that one step leads nowhere, then kill the suggestion.

Most of the helpfully unhelpful rarely check back on what they’ve suggested anyway. And if you’ve made at least that one step, you can show that you listened. but ultimately you were accountable for the project, and so you made the decision about what was and wasn’t important.

The grenade launcher

Our final challenging style is what we call the grenade launcher. Typically, these are more senior people in the business, and who are only usually involved as stakeholders and approvers rather than being deeply involved in the project itself.

The reason we call them grenade launchers is because their input to the project is like a grenade. They spend limited time on the project, so they want to maximise the impact of the time they do spend on the project.

 

The grenade launcher - Marketing humour cartoon of a woman throwing builds at someone as she says sorry, on my way to another meeting. If you can just build these by close of business, that'd be great

So they’ll often find one big deal-breaker of issue with the project. And throw it at the project team like a grenade. But then they don’t hang around to help with the impact of their input. 

A project that doesn’t quite meet profitability threshold in the first 12 months. Or a customer insight that means a new pack won’t meet the customers shipping requirements. Or a IT system process that nobody knew about before that will delay the project by 3 months.

Just some examples we’ve seen of ‘grenades’ that have been thrown into brand activation projects at businesses we’ve worked with in the past. 

The only real way to deal with these sorts of situations is to get to the grenade launcher before they have a chance to pull the pin.

Informal check-ins before approval meetings, project summaries circulated regularly, a clear risk matrix and mitigation plan process can help reduce the likelihood of someone throwing a grenade into your carefully crafted brand activation project. 

Brand activation summary

As we’ve outlined in this guide and the one on the marketing plan, the process of brand activation is a mix of structured milestones through the year (the marketing plan and quarterly reviews) but with the ability to flex and adapt within each quarter as market circumstances evolve. 

Though, we’ve covered high level examples of typical brand activation that fall under the marketing plan, the actual detail of each often requires much more knowledge than we’ve been able to cover here. 

In particular, we’ve found communications and digital marketing to be two of the more specialised areas of marketing that require skills over and above the planning examples we’ve given here.

You’ll find guides to these areas in other sections on this site. 

Three-brains and brand strategy

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