Marketing Bootcamp

The 3 Elements of Your Brand You Need to Nail Down for a Marketing Plan

The first week of January, we made a New Year’s resolution to write a marketing plan for the year, and we’re going to stick with it. This set of articles will help you follow a deliberate series of inputs that will complete your plan for the year, and help to grow your business. Stay with me week after week and watch where it takes you!

But before we dig in, we must first establish some fundamentals about your business, and some basic building blocks about your brand. If you don’t have these in place, it’ll be difficult to fully write and execute a marketing plan. You’d be writing it in the dark, with nothing to ground it.

Related: How to Get Customers Raving About Your Brand

You must first have definition, positioning and tone ironed out before you can write a marketing plan.

1. Brand definition

How do you define the business you are in? What’s your line of work and how would you describe it? What do you do for a living? If you can’t quickly and succinctly define your brand, then you can’t possibly write a marketing plan for it. And if you can’t describe your brand and your business in a few sentences, then you haven’t given it the focus it needs. It’s pretty simple, actually: how do you market your brand if you don’t know what you do?

2. Brand positioning 

This is quite different than your brand definition. The definition describes what your brand does, and what you provide to your customers. Positioning describes how your brand makes your customers feel. You need to get them both down before you can take pen to paper on your marketing plan.

3. Brand voice 

There are many ways to cut at brand voice, but for the purpose of a marketing plan it’s important to decide up front the kind of tone you want your brand to take to the marketplace. Aggressive? Care giving? Community? Competitive? Laid back? Get your voice down before you ask others to join.

Related: 10 Quick Tips for Better Business Writing

With these three simple components down, now you can tackle your marketing plan. You will know who you are and what you do, you will know how customers feel when they work with you, and you will know to interact with them on a daily basis. Or at least you’ll know the basics.

Let’s take a look at an over-simplified example from a big brand: Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola is in the beverage business, that’s how the company “defined” the brand. Granted, Coca-Cola has expanded the types of beverages that carry the brand name through the years, but they are all beverages -- or at least somehow linked to the beverages that the brand sells. Coca-Cola is in the beverage business, and the brand managers have to market it as such.

The Coca-Cola brand, however, is all about making people feel happy, refreshed and connected. That’s how the brand wants to make their customers feel. So while they are indeed “selling” a beverage, the emotional benefit that the brand provides goes well beyond the functional attributes of the products.

The brand’s voice, at least as it appears to me, has the tone of inclusion, aspiration and hope, leaving a consistent mark on every piece of its marketing communications. That may sound obvious to you, but I can also think of many beverage brands that are exclusionary, trendy or extreme -- which is how they chose to be. Coca-Cola, however, is very different than all of those brands and their voices.

These three brand elements -- the definition, positioning and the voice -- lay the groundwork for your brand’s current marketing plan this year and beyond. Without those elements in place, there’s no way you could write a plan.

We get to that part next week. Meanwhile, you have some homework to do!

Related: Can You Find the Hidden Images in These 40 Brand Logos? (Infographic)