The Brand Ecosystem: A Roadmap for Strategic Marketing Communication

When marketers, CEOs, or investors come to us for help with their challenged better-for-you brands, they’re feeling some kind of acute pain: consumers aren’t buying, retailers aren’t stocking, competition isn’t slowing down.

They think they have a problem with innovation or packaging or the logo. But the first step in our strategic consultation — the competitive audit — often reveals a set of challenges they didn’t know they’re facing.

Our competitive audit is based on what we call the Brand Ecosystem. This is a series of seven critical marketing disciplines that we use to benchmark our client’s brand across its competitive landscape. The seven disciplines build from the bottom — a foundation of consumer education — upward:

  • Social
  • Direct
  • Website
  • In-Store
  • Advertising
  • Public Relations
  • Consumer Education

Curious about what that competitive audit looks and feels like? We’ve gathered a set of benchmarking questions about each of the seven Brand Ecosystem platforms that you can ask of your brand to see how it’s currently performing and where you have some work to do.

Rebuilding a Marketing Strategy: The Brand Ecosystem

Our Brand Ecosystem model takes the conversation out of the realm of emotion, predisposition, and bias that most brand teams surround themselves with and into the realm of impartiality, reality, and fact. It doesn’t disallow opinion and gut instinct, but it bases those inputs on a solid analytical framework.

Within each of the seven platforms, we look at how the brand is performing vs. its competitors.

  • Do consumers understand not only what the product can do for them (features and benefits) but what the brand stands for (its WHY)? Does the brand teach them the language they can use to advocate?
  • Is the brand story so compelling that influencers and media outlets are gravitationally drawn to covering it?
  • Does advertising function as a call to the brand’s tribe and give them reasons to connect more deeply?
  • Does the in-store experience, including packaging, whisper in the shopper’s ear and tempt her to buy?
  • Does the brand’s website serve as the hub of all digital outreach, reinforcing every step of the customer’s journey from consideration to advocacy?
  • Do the brand’s print and digital direct communications speak intimately to each individual customer?
  • And finally, does social media reach the right consumers through the right platforms with the right messages?

Team Responses to the Competitive Audit

The Brand Ecosystem is a tool that gets at the heart of a Better-For-You (BFY) brand’s challenges in the marketplace. Unbiased and data-driven, it presents an unflinching view of how the brand is doing at winning consumers’ minds, bodies, and souls.

We understand that these raw results can be unsettling for the client team, because they reveal misfires and missteps in their marketing strategy. Relying on a deep analysis of the data helps us paint a picture of the brand that the team may not see because they’re working within the ecosystem. Depending on their roles in the organization, different people have different reactions to what the process reveals:

Founder/owners may feel blindsided by everything that happens during a competitive audit. After all, the brand is the expression of their innovative idea. They take bad news personally and react strongly. But by the time we get to the part of the conversation about what’s possible for the brand’s renaissance, they’re converted. As we talk them through each platform in the Brand Ecosystem, they begin to understand that bad news translates to actionable insights. In a way, the process feels like therapy to them.

Investors recognize that the brand needs this kind of brand strategy guidance. They’re often the most businesslike of the team and have the least amount of emotion. They’re initially skeptical of the audit process, but the first ones to uncross their arms and lean in during the presentation.

Marketers are usually the one with the biggest blinders on. The audit digs into marketing execution, so they’re defensive of the work because they’ve had a hand in it. They fear the unpredictability of what the audit data will show, but they eventually come around.

Change agents the CMO or CGO or CEO newly hired to turn the business around — are often the people who bring us in. They’re enthusiastic about the insights the audit reveals and eager to get started.

Salespeople are often the most resistant to the idea that anything is not working, including the things they’re saying about the brand to their customers. They don’t want to change the positioning of the brand because that will disrupt their deals and therefore their income. And yet, they’re the most passionate about the outcome because they know the difference it will make.

Overcoming Resistance and Taking Action

Knowing that stakes are high for the team and their own work is in the crosshairs, we share our audit results with careful consideration. We need the entire team to buy into our recommendations if the brand is to transform.

When BFY brands strategically act on all of these platforms, the Brand Ecosystem creates engagement between brands and human beings. It simplifies the communication strategy across multiple channels and streamlines the messaging into a cohesive, ownable narrative that delivers a brand’s message to critical audiences. It builds brands that better-for-you consumers actively crave with their mind, body, and soul.

If you feel your brand isn’t firing on all seven cylinders, it’s time to investigate what isn’t working. We invite you to learn more about our Brand Ecosystem model in David’s book, Beloved & Dominant Brands. If you’re ready to get started, let’s get in touch.

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Founder, President, & Chief Strategist
David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

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