The Cheshire Cat Gives Brand Advice

Sitting at a traffic light, I looked up and saw a billboard with a business advertisement.  It showed a mathematical equation: Strategy + Execution divided by the name of a local firm.  I was surprised, since I had just been thinking about two of my clients who were at opposite ends of the strategy vs execution spectrum.

Working with many natural products start-ups, I usually see very bright entrepreneurs with lots and lots of marketing ideas that explode in all directions.  There is no shortage of great ideas, but what’s missing is focus.  “What’s wrong with that?” they say, “don’t we need exposure, awareness, buzz…?”  I usually reply with a favorite quote from the Cheshire Cat: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

Why is it important to know where you’re going?  Because your target audience, your tactics, your execution of the tactics and your brand tone & voice will all be different depending on your ultimate goal and who you want to go along for the ride.  Awareness is great, but if it doesn’t appeal to the right potential audience at the right time in the right manner, the execution of the plan will fall flat.

Most marketers understand this on some level, so they’re quick to establish strategy first.  At the very least, marketers who know they’re off-strategy or want to execute “a great idea” fit a reasonable strategy to the tactics that they’re using before the boss or the venture capital company sees the results.

What doesn’t happen very often is that the strategy is meticulously thought out, molded into the support structure for the brand, but the execution is missing.  I’m working now with a start-up who has built the entire philosophy, strategy, goals and objectives underpinning the brand, and are now stymied with no marketing plans.  They thought that their concept and cause were so compelling that building an e-commerce was all they needed to do before their launch.  But as they’ve found, the “Build It and They Will Come” strategy, based on hope alone, is not enough.

This company knows who their potential target audience is, but never thought about how to reach them.  As it turns out, while the target is good one, it is hard-to-define and even more difficult to reach.  If the company can’t reach them, then how will these potential customers ever discover the company’s brand–or website on their own?

Strategy + Execution are inextricable linked.  A brand can’t be successful with one, but not the other.   Where does your brand stand in this oft-debated continuum of marketing focus?

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