The Key to Creative Deliverables that Generate Real Results for Retail Brands

05.31.18 / David Lemley

We know how easy it is for retail brands to miss the mark on brand strategy, too often mistaking brand strategy for design application or even marketing strategy or marketing activation. When your brand is faced with a problem — and time, budget, and business are on the line — the alluring promise of immediate results from new packaging or marketing tactics so often feels like a silver bullet.

But marketing strategy and creative deliverables alone can’t fix what’s wrong with your brand. Brand strategy has to be at the heart of every decision your business makes, from what you’re selling to how you’re selling it to who you’re selling to. It’s the single driver of company culture, product offering, and marketing translation.

Mistaking Your Brand’s Symptom for the Disease

When we first met with Russell Stover, their sugar-free line was floundering. After owning that niche in the marketplace for so many years, they were suddenly being pushed aside by other sugar-free brands that looked fresher and more attractive to potential consumers — and retailers were taking note. To fix what appeared to be a dying brand, “Change your packaging!” was the resounding mandate.

To be sure, Russell Stover’s packaging needed work. It was old-fashioned and screamed CVS bargain bin. But the packaging wasn’t the real problem; it was just a small symptom of a much bigger issue with their brand.

Figuring out what was actually wrong with their brand and putting a plan in place to fix it required strategy and time. It wasn’t a problem a new logo or a simple tagline from a copywriter could solve.

How Long Until I See Results From My Brand Strategy Engagement?

The truth of the matter is that, like Russell Stover, many of our prospective clients don’t approach us until something is fundamentally broken with their brand and potentially even their business. At that point, they’re looking for immediate outcomes and often struggle with the reality that the brand strategy solutions we offer take time to implement. But time and strategy are both necessary in producing real, lasting results.

Depending on the size of your company, you shouldn’t expect to see big-picture results from a brand strategy engagement until 12-18 months in.

If that number seems daunting, we absolutely get it. But take a step back and consider that real brand strategy implementation often requires changing your brand and perhaps even your company culture and internal operations from the inside out. That’s not a simple task. But if you can commit to the work required, it’s always worth the investment.

The Brand Strategy Journey: Strategy-Driven Creative and Everything in Between

The good news is that waiting for big results from your brand strategy engagement doesn’t mean you won’t have wins and aha moments along the way.

Phase 1

When we worked with Russell Stover, that initial moment happened during our first meeting with the client — just four weeks after our engagement with them began. Within a three-hour window, their team went from blindly (but understandably) assuming that new packaging would fix their dying brand to seeing their business change for the better right in front of their eyes. We were fortunate enough to witness and be the catalyst for that.

Phase 2

The next moment of validation typically happens two to three months into our engagement when we unveil the creative deliverables we’ve produced to our clients for the first time. This is when our conversations start coming to life, and our clients finally have a tangible, visual manifestation of all the work they’ve been putting into their brand strategy efforts so far.

Just a few months into their work with us, Russell Stover finally got the new packaging they actually did need. But instead of a quick-fix solution, they now recognized this deliverable as a vital piece of their brand strategy — not the other way around. The symptom they’d originally noted was remedied, but they knew more time would be required to address their larger brand problem.

Phase 3

For companies working with us on brand strategy, the real turns start happening between months 12 and 18.

For Russell Stover, those final shifts meant a change in their product’s ingredient deck and buttoned up inventory control, which subsequently led to globally positive feedback from retailers and their most successful sales period in quite some time. It wasn’t just their packaging that needed a facelift — ingredient quality and internal processes also needed to be addressed in order to appeal to consumers and retailers and make Russell Stover a more than viable competitor in the sugar-free market once again.

Ultimately, their business was saved by the strategic decisions they made during these 14 or so months they spent working with us. That’s something a one-off creative deliverable simply couldn’t have done.

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