May 14, 2021 | Diane Bures

Is It Time to Refresh Your Brand Strategy?

In recent weeks, we’ve started to see a shift in the media reporting, heralding imminent recovery. In much the same way that the sudden crisis we found ourselves in 2020 forced immediate changes to the way we live and work, recovery will also begin to inspire companies to examine their business goals, plans, and practices. 

If your company is taking another look at marketing strategy, there are many steps you’ll need to take, from evaluating your existing customer personas to auditing your digital marketing integrations. However, I’d like to suggest that any large changes start with first taking a look at your overall brand strategy, especially if it’s been a while since you really did a deep dive.

Whether you’re a well-established agriculture company or an agtech startup, start by reviewing (or creating) your brand architecture to ensure it still aligns with your business goals and current market demands and pressures.

In its purest form, brand architecture is the structure by which your company organizes its brands and products, either under a single brand with multiple product lines, as a parent brand with sub-brands, or as some combination of both. There are advantages and disadvantages to each structure.

Types of Brand Architecture 

A single brand umbrella, also known as a branded house, will spend less time, money, and effort on branding, establishing a single brand under which all products fall. These brands often enjoy greater brand loyalty, and brand loyal consumers are usually willing to spend more. However, when it comes to public perception and brand reputation, a branded house may find all product lines suffering in the event of widespread product failure or public relations crisis, even if the issue is limited to a single product in the portfolio. 

A parent brand with sub-brands, often referred to as a house of brands, has some measure of protection against this sort of public perception problem. Sub-brands are usually not correlated in the mind of the customer. 

In an increasingly connected world, most farmers are only a click away from figuring out the parent brand of any branded product, which is why that protection may be limited. This can also work to a company’s advantage – a strong parent brand with a well-established reputation can offer a halo effect to sub-brands, even when they are new or unproven. Endorsed brands are those where the parent brand is clearly stated on sub-brands. 

The last common form of brand structure, though certainly not the last, is a hybrid brand, which contains some elements of multiple brand structure types.

Brand Differentiation 

Once architecture is defined, you’ll want to re-examine the portfolio. Start by determining where you want to go with each product, and how those goals align to broader business goals. Each brand or product must have a clearly established position, and you may find through this process that some brands or product lines no longer fit in the portfolio. Portfolio pruning and realignment will offer greater opportunities in the long term, at the cost of some short term struggle. 

True differentiation within the portfolio may mean narrowing the target or focusing on fewer features and benefits for each brand. It is tempting, especially for brand managers, to want to be “all things for all people”. With true differentiation, the strongest brands will be those that are laser focused on their target audience, and who know which features and benefits are nice-to-haves, vs. must-haves for their customers. 

Taking the time to differentiate products internally is equally as important as external differentiation against your competitors. This internal differentiation will help guide budget decisions.

It is tempting, especially for brand managers, to want to be “all things for all people”. With true differentiation, the strongest brands will be those that are laser-focused on their target audience. Click To Tweet

Marketing Budget Prioritization

Budget allocation across a portfolio of brands or products is always challenging, especially when marketing budgets are tightened, even while expectations of revenue growth and increased market share remain. 

The brand positioning and differentiation you have established in previous steps will guide your budget decisions. 

For example, we have a crop protection client with three products with the same active ingredient. Careful positioning and differentiation have resulted in three successful brands. The first product has been in the marketplace for several years and is positioned as the “standard” product. The second product is the same active at a lower concentration and is positioned as the ‘economical/fighting’ brand. The third product, a premix with another product, is positioned as the ‘premium’ brand. In clearly differentiating these brands, they are not competing against each other in the market, and overall sales have grown as a result. 

This differentiation strategy also shaped the budget allocation for each product. The allocation is weighted toward the premium product, followed by the standard product, with little to no spend on the economic brand. Positioning all three brands within the portfolio has created an even larger presence in the market than a stand-alone scenario.  

No matter which brand structure you choose, the time you take to lay the foundation for your brand strategy will pay off in the long run. A strong brand is one that withstands the tests of time, adapting and adjusting to changing customer behaviours and needs. 

Is your company taking another look at its marketing strategies? Let’s connect and discuss your goals and plans for the coming year. 

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published in September 2016. It was revised May 2021 with updated information.

Diane Bures

Diane has established and managed marketing and advertising teams for both international and independent advertising agencies for over 20 years. Her focus is aligning the client’s business goals with marketing outcomes that are rooted in a deep understanding of the customer, a strong brand strategy, a strategic marcom plan approach that is personalized, digital-first and performance-driven. You can connect with Diane on LinkedIn.