Why You Need a Strategic Review, Not a Re-Brand : Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I explained why a branding update/tweak is, unfortunately, the go-to solution for too many founders when the business does not perform to expectations, stagnant, or declining. It’s literally as easy as the next packaging run and a web update.

As promised, I want to share some thoughts on how you conduct a professional strategic review…of an early-stage brand. Yes, you can do this yourself. Yes, you may wish to have Board members or other experts participate.

  1. Collect the right external data behavioral insights on your fans and (if you’re eight figures) historical, national POS data on your category and competitors, HH penetration data
  2. Gather ALL the data you need – behavioral insights on fans (national POS data, HH penetration data) channel mix data via distribution, store counts and zip codes for stores,
  3. Use the CPG Causality Pyramid
    • evaluate potential weaknesses in the product (sensory, symbolic, occasion reach); do you have an advantaged attribute-outcome signal you’re sending to consumers?
    • evaluate potential weaknesses in placement (i.e. evaluate %ACV growth (or store count growth) to see if it’s excessive, evaluate the appropriateness of channel placement, then banner placement within each channel and channel complexity)
    • evaluate potential weaknesses in pricing (i.e. benchmark to channel norms first, look for excessive discounting and non-strategic discounting, % of sales drifting into EDLP banners, etc.)
    • evaluate potential weaknesses in your promotions (i.e. effectiveness of trade spend in-store, sampling, PR, social media, e-mail)
  4. Look at your 4P mix – your default playbook
    • is it driven by a coherent competitive strategy (or just a mix of things you’ve tried)
    • is it unique among competitors?
    • is it ownable? (i.e. will competitors be unlikely to follow your moves?)
    • is it bold enough to generate memorability? (think massive SkinnyPop displays from 2010-2012!)
    • is it holistic? (i.e. are you even doing sophisticated consumer promotions?)
  5. Make limited, bold changes in the right order
  6. Measure in six months
  7. Keep adding changes, if performance has not improved

Branding agencies focus on your primary symbolism and package design. Since product is the first “P” you should evaluate if performance is sub-par, it’s not exactly insane that founders start messing with their pack design to jumpstart growth.

The problem is that branding agencies focus on symbolism ONLY. They won’t tell you that you have a sensory problem or a nutrition problem, or a category problem. They have no ‘right’ to comment on these because of their basis of being hired.

Not to mention that your product may actually be excellent, but your sales efforts were, well, misguided. Changing your brand symbolism might actually screw things up even more.

If you don’t like your performance, you need to do a comprehensive strategic review first. Only hire a branding agency if you have a problem with your core symbolism. But you are the one with the data to determine that, not the branding agency.

If you’re a founder who’d like to learn more about creating your own competitive strategy and strategic plan for exponential growth just like the pros, please register HERE to join the next cohort taking my Riding the Ramp training webinar on Dec. 4. I look forward to meeting you there. Only 14 slots left.

And please check out other founder resources elsewhere on my site.

Dr. James Richardson

[email protected]