Brand Assessment & Goal Setting
Step one. That's where we're gonna get started. And, again, the first question here is where are we starting from? And our best friend in this journey is gonna be the famous "SWOT". So we're gonna learn how to build one. So, SWOT stands for strenghts, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The first two quadrants in the top it's gonna be the internal assessment. So this is about really knowing what is going for for your brand? what are those things that you can count on to set it up for success? And from a weakness standpoint are all those things that maybe the brand has not accomplished yet. Or what or those things that could really drag you down or limit your potential? So, you always need to understand both. Now, the strengths are things that you will capitalize on, and the weakness are things you will try to mitigate or improve on. And then we have the external elements, which are the opportunities and threats. So, opportunities, again, are market conditions that are happening that...
you want to ride the wave on. So we're gonna talk about some examples on that. And threats are things that could jeapordize your business, that you need to know up front. And we'll look at some examples as well. But as you can see here, what you want to do is really really have a very rational and practical look about who you are as a product or a service, and what's happening around you. And then, competition will play a key role as well. So we'll look into how to build one. So, now that you know the basic premise of the model, there's really three steps on how to build a SWOT. First, how to define the right competitive set. Two, we start populating the quadrants for your brand, going left to right, from strengths all the way to threats. And then at the end we prioritize based on the importance of really articulating the current state. So the first step is to really define the competitive set, because your success will be very much dependent on where you are versus competition. The magnitude of differentiation versus the next lead competitor will really impact how attractive you are, and how likely consumers are to buy you. So you're never doing branding in isolation. You always need to know what are all the next options that we have out there. And competition is defined by the products or services that can easily replace what you're offering. Right, what would be another product that could just deliver the same benefit? And it's very much category specific. So, for example, if your brand play is in the transportation business you could define your competition for example, if you are a performance car, that would dictate a set of competitors. But, for example, if you are in the small car business for the urban dweller, maybe a bike is part of your competitive set. Because if the need you're trying to solve is short transportation, short distance transportation, that gives you a whole different category than when you're thinking of high performance car. So the definition of your marketplace and the definition of your competition is specific to your category, and specific to what you're trying to do. Same thing, you could also look at the different levels where you wanna compete versus your premium product or an average product or a luxury item, right? You're not gonna be competing because the need you're trying to solve might not be the same. If you're a status item, or where you're really going to a specific functionality. So, very important that in this journey of really identifying strengths and weaknesses is really dependent on how you define your market. Then, when we think about being clear on where you compete and what's your product, then you can start doing the exercise. And then so we start with strengths. And the strengths, again, are those attributes that will offer you a competitive advantage to succeed in market. And the strengths can come from different places, right? It could come from the brand itself, it could come from the organization, it could come from how you operate your products and technologies. And I'll give you some examples in a second. Then you have the weaknesses. And, these are the internal factors that could drag your growth. And sometimes, you know, we might be a little bit hesitant to acknowledge reality on a weakness. But, you're better off looking at your business with the realities of what are the things you have not achieved yet. For example, if you do not have broad distribution yet, or you're a small brand, it's better to know that up front, but it doesn't mean that you're not gonna do something about it, right? You're goal would be then, how do I capitalize on that so that I can come out ahead even versus competition? Opportunities here are very market specific, and again are things that you want to ride the wave on. Right? So when we think about consumer trends that are positive when you're seeing a rise in consumption in the category where we also think about what are the different potential that you have not tapped into as a brand, right? That will all go into that section. And threats in comparison are things that are particular to the environment that could impact your ability of having a successful business, or how you operate. When we think about changes in taxes, or loss, right? Or you have a main competitor that is just growing extremely fast because they launched a new product. That's a threat to your ability to actually be competitive in the market. So let me give you a few more examples on, you know, I'm gonna read this from the book, on what could be types of strengths? And these are the most common ones that people can refer to. So, in a brand, for example is strong brand equity. Like, people know you. That could be a strength. If you have a well developed market share, right? If you already have a significant portion of the pie. That could be a strength because it means you already have a following. Superior performing products. We talked about superiority. If you really have a product or an IP on it or a service that is 5-star rating, that of course would be a strength to capitalize on. If you have proven innovation, for example, or if you have a unique ingredient that you discovered, that would be a strength to leverage. And then, for example, distribution. If you happen to have, for example, distribution at a chain that brings the product to many, many customers already, that would be a strength. On the other hand, examples of weaknesses could be if you're not as developed, if you have no market share and maybe your next competitor is quite developed, then you have to invest quite a bit in terms of being able to gain that market share. If your product doesn't have any core advantages, that's typically a red flag. Right? Because parody products don't allow you to do that much differentiation in the marketplace. And sometimes, it could be you have a great brand and a lot of things going for you, but maybe it's not being managed very well, or you don't have right management, or you don't have the right structure, or, you don't have access to capital. That's a weakness. It can be solved, right? But you would be articulating that in that section. Examples of opportunities would be if your market is growing, right? We talk about mature categories and growing categories. Is there a new consumer following and a need for that? Is there a segment that is growing? For example, are you targeting a segment of the population that is fast-growing? You know, younger consumer, aging population. That's an important consideration to make in terms of your potential as a brand. And, you know, market dynamics that could benefit you, maybe the product that you sell has a tax benefit, right? So that will help your financials. So that's something to capitalize on. It's certainly attractive for investors if that was happening in your brand. And then, threats, in contrast, if your category is being commoditized, you know, if consumers are not willing to pay that much for your product, that's also a red flag. And then, any changes in distribution, or changes in legislation, again, that will impact your ability to go to market. So, here, use these examples just to understand how each of the buckets are different. And the intent is that your summarizing your situation. And as you summarize, if you do this really well, you'll probably have a very long list in each quadrant. And that's why the third step is really prioritize what are the things that are most important. Because this is not all about, you know, doing a master list of all the things that describe you, but what are those things that you're actually going to do something about, and that your marketing plan will actively address. So that's why the last step, is you prioritize based on importance. And you also don't need to do this in relationship to every single competitor. Only the ones that matter, and that you perceive that based on the consumers that you're going after will be a viable choice for them to replace you with. Why? Because to be successful, you want to be their number one preference. So we are in the preference business. So this is how you build a SWOT. You could do it individually, if you have a team you could do it as a team and gather ideas. It's a very helpful tool to do. And you will see that it will resurface when we're talking about the marketing plan, as this will become also the backbone of the rationale of your potential as a business. So that is our SWOT. So once you have a good definition of where you stand, you know where we are in the Disney map, now you can start thinking about, okay, if I'm here, what is feasible for me? Where do I want to go next? And when we think about where I wanna go next, the key concept here is Brand Trajectory. And what Brand Trajectory means is, what is the path that you want your business to follow? Now, you would say, well of course I want to grow, I want to be successful. The reality is that brands go up and down. Why? Because a dynamic business is not just about what you do, it's what your customers do, and it's also what competition does. So, a helpful model here to refer to is that at any given point, your brand could be in a very different trajectory, but it's up to your decision in terms of what's the type of strategy, what's the type of investment you wanna make, to either set it up for success, or whether you are in a different situation where you have to apply different techniques. So, let me explain what the different stages are. So, if you're just starting a business, you're in the start up phase. And the choices that you make as a start up are very different than when you are already established in market, right? You're dealing with a very different set of circumstances. You might not even have customers and you're looking for investors. When you're a growing business, you're basically just focusing on how do you optimize and how do you acheive keeping those consumers and getting more consumers. So, if you're in the start up phase, your objective is to sustain that success and grow. Now, because it's possible that you cannot stay always there, the next phase, which is called "Realignment", is very possible that you have to make adjustments along the way. This means, for example, a competitor launch, or, you know, your product is not as good as it was because there's something more attractive out there. You need to slightly adjust what you have been doing. Either the target, the product, the offering price. So that's realignment. And you have to make different choices versus where you are just the sustaining phase. Then, there's also turnaround. This is when a lot of things are going wrong, and that you're better off actually revisiting several elements of the certain model that we've talked is, maybe you need to stand for something different. Or maybe, it's time to, maybe your consumers that used to buy you are not buying you anymore. Turnaround means that you're really flipping things. And, you're goal is coming back to success. You need to know what are the things that you're going to shift in order to make that a reality. And it doesn't mean that's everything, but the SWOT can even help you identify. Maybe your weaknesses became a longer list than your strengths. That is very possible in a turnaround situation. And then divestiture, you know, some brands will stay with us, some brands will no longer stay with us, right? So, at times, you know, as a business, if you have a brand that does not have a lot of potential but it still has customers, you can decide to harvest it, you know, so it just continues to just let it go, see how it runs. Or you can sell it to someone else that maybe has different know-how, or a different portfolio of products. So, this summarizes basically all the possible phases that a brand can go through, because, unfortunately it's not aways up. Even the big brands that we've seen is more like a mountain climb. And, each of these stages will require different types of investment and brand strategy. So that's the trajectory. So, we know where the brand is, we know roughly, you know, maybe your in a start up, you're already in success, or you need to just retouch your brand. Then you have to really start to dream a little, which is what we call Vision Setting. And Vision Setting is one of the core responsibilities from anyone who owns a brand, which is really defined, if this is where I am today, this is where I wanna go next. And you need a vision to be bold. You need a vision to be actionable. And you need the vision to really set up the brand and the trajectory that you aspire to. If no one in your business dreams, all your gonna do is be pushing product. You have to hope for a better future where the brand becomes bigger. So, it has to be exciting, it has to be stretching, it will bring people along. But it has to be simple. There's many different ways to craft vision statements or mission statements, right? You know. But the number 1 tip is, you have to just sit down and write. Put things on paper. Don't be too judgemental at the beginning, it's a process. And the simplest way to do it is to really use this simple framework which is where you think about articulating where you are. You wanna move from "x" situation to "y". So, using some of the previous information, for example, on the SWOT, you could easily start crafting a statement by saying, "I want to move my brand from" You can insert from your SWOT basically a summary of where you are. But these strengths and these weaknesses, I wanna move from that situation to this situation of acheiving this type of goal, this type of vision, with this type of impact for consumers. As simple as that sounds, of explaining "I wanna move from, to" that's what the best vision statements do because it allows you to imagine the trajectory, and also what it would take. One of my favorite mission statements is "Lego". This is one of the epic, star brands in the last couple of years, you know? They've become even, you know, pop culture and rise above even just being a toy company. And that's all behind an amazing vision, which is moving from being the third largest manufaturer, toy manufacturer, to really a brand that invents the future of play. Inventing the future of play, inspiring generations of the future, or the builders of tomorrow, takes you to a whole different level of choices. Takes you to a whole different, call it stretching an emotional territory, where actually you're opening your wings for more products, more connections, more ways of building the brand. And that's what a vision does. That's what a great vision does. And you should have that for any brand that you're building. So, spend some time. Go out there and get creative on articulating where you are today with the SWOT, and then where you wanna move to. If you have the vision, of course, you have to then land it in reality and give it some foundation. And that's why we have goals as well. So, for the vision to come to life, you have to have a backbone on what are the different elements that will really make it possible as a business. And that's when we talk about Goal Setting. And in the simplest terms possible, for a brand to be successful, to accomplish any vision, you have to have sales growth, you have to increase your market share, and you need to be profitable. Those are the three core metrics that you just need to master in any business. Tiny business, cupcake shop, to a billion dollar brand, you will always be talking about sales, share, and profit. And these measures need to be what they call SMART. Specific, because we're talking about numbers. Measurable, right? You can track them over time. Actionable, you can do something about it. Realistic, they reflect where you are. And then timely. So that's an easy acronym to remember. SMART. So, when we're talking about sales growth, it's about how many consumers are you gaining every year that translate into sales. That's how most brands actually define their success. How many new customers am I able to bring into the brand? Market share, it declares your position in market, and what is my percentage of that pie. And there's a little bit of this effect of the more people see you, the more people buy you, the more likely you are to gain market share over time. Because we as consumers, as you know, we see people using a brand, it's called the "Big and Popular" phenomenon, we're more likely to get that for ourselves as well. So market share is a self-fulfilling prophecy. And then profit. Star brands are profitable. Why would a brand need to be profitable? Because you need to pay your employees, you need to produce better products, better services. You need to invest in marketing. That's not free. So the profitability of your brand is the foundation on whether you're sustainable over time or not. How many brands are great that went away because they didn't have a solid business foundation? You don't want that to happen to your business. And then, here, linking back to the evolution of the trajectory, every single situation, whether you're in a growth situation, whether you want to grow your sales, your share, and your profit, that is a very different situation where for example you're defending from competition, right? So, for example, if you have a major competitive launch, or you're a very small competitor, and the next big one, what would be one of the implications to get more market share? You need to invest. So if you have to invest more to gain more consumers, it's gonna be more costly, what will be impacted? Your profit. So in a situation where you're gaining rapid market share, for example, your profit won't look as good if your just shares are rising or if you're the only one in the marketplace. So without getting into too much detail on these different strategies, you know, knowing that there's different ones, you know, you grow, you sustain, you're defending, or you're harvesting, which we talked. The choices that you make in terms of setting the goals for what's acheivable in terms of sales, market share, and profit will differ. There will be yours that you might be okay profit if you're investing to grow your brand. There might be other years where your investor will tell you, okay, where's my payout for this money? You know? You got the money, now turn it into sales. So, please keep in mind, sales, market share, and profit, are core measures that you need to keep front and center on being able to track whether your brand is successful or not, because that's the backbone of the business.
As far as the vision statement
How long should a vision statement be, and well let's start with that.
Very good question. The vision statement should not be long, right. It should be, I've seen it in like, two lines, like the lego example that I shared mission statement. It should be distinctive, and it should be clear. I think the length of it is really dependent on how you're going to use it. For example, if you have a business where you have more employees, right, you could have just your vision statement and you can have supporting facts or explanation for them to be part of that vision, right? Because sometimes the word might not do justice. You can support it with images, et cetera. But I would stay away from things being too long, because it, A, would show that you're not being choiceful enough. And 2, it's gonna be harder for anyone who connects with that vision to be able to play it back. The best vision statements are short, memorable, you can play them back, but descriptive enough that it actually embodies which trajectory you wanna be in.
Great. And how would you compare a vision statement to a mission statement?
I would use those interchangeably.
Sometimes companies just in the mission statement add other things about the employees and external parties so it just depends. I would say they're very, very compatible. I like vision because that's telling you where you wanna go next. (laughter)
It's more the big picture.
Great. And when the students out there are building their SWOT
Which we talked about is strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, the hands on approach to that is writing everything down? Can you talk a little bit about what your strategies are for that?
Absolutely. Absolutely. So, the key is to start internal first, which is strengths and weaknesses, so that you're just looking inwards versus your brand versus competition. I like to actually like to do the squares so that you can start basically comparing. Because sometimes your strengths are your weaknesses or your weakness could be a strength, right? Sometimes they have a mirror effect. So it would be good to start populating it as such. And I would have a few versions. You could also write different SWOTS depending on competitors. If you're not sure who is your key competitor or if that leads on different choices, you could write a SWOT relative call it in a premium market, and you could write a SWOT if you're not defining yet which positioning, you could write that to a different set of competitors. It's just a tool for you to get clear on what would be the best way to really summarize for you and for someone else where your brand is starting from. And then just write, write, and write. And I look, looking at the four quadrants is helpful, because hopefully you wanna be able to summarize, you know, even in a paragraph form, what you have going for you, what might hold you back, what is working for you in a marketplace, and what are the things that you have to actively manage. So, use the four quadrants intentionally and there could be very different ways in which you can do that.
I always have a hard time setting mission statements and visions statements, and I don't know how far I should go. If I should go more to the philosophy side, or more to something I can measure. If there's something that I can measure, then once we reach the mission, once we achieve it, should we do a new mission? Or should I go with something more philosophical like reaching the whole country, or I don't know.
It's a good question. I think visions should be bold. And it's not something that, your vision should not be your vision for the year. Like, vision should be a long-term horizon. So I would think, 5-10 years out. Now, your goals is what you measure. Like, your vision you should be able to measure in your strategy, but, that's why I like to think the vision and the goals always come together. What you will be measuring is whether you're delivering the goals, and you need to pick those goals that actually support the vision. So, for example, if in your vision you're, okay, I want, you know, to reach the whole United States with my product, right? Well your goals, you could break that down over 5 years, and understand what is realistic for me to achieve every year in terms of consumers? And then you measure whether you're moving in the right direction. But I would try to be more visionary in the statement, but ground it in reality. That's why you have the goals. So the goals is where you make it more tangible, but the aspirational part, keep an incentive. Because it will keep people stretched. And, also, remember the vision, remember, we talked about high order benefit? Those two live in the same space, right. It should be something that you aspire beyond just the product and service that you sell. Okay.
When would you say it makes sense to communicate your vision? Because a lot of small brands don't necessarily communicate their vision, you know, let's say on the website, or branding material.
Excellent question. I would say for the most part, vision and goals are internal statements to guide your brand. Now, when you are so good at it that your communication choices, your product, your story, your experience screams it out, and you arrive to a very good articulation of it, you can use it, you know, for external facing communication. But that's hard to do. So I would use all of this internally first as you're setting the trajectory of your brand. But if you have something that's quite meaningful, for example, if you are the founder, and the vison statement is really why you're putting this product out there, we're gonna talk about the why in this next section, then you can use it. Alright? But I think the priority is the clarity for yourself where you wanna go next. Okay? Excellent questions. So with that, we're actually, it's going to be a good segway to step number 2 of the Star Brand model, which is defining the brand and the equity.