Sales a Little Wobbly? Check Your Alignment.
May 17, 2019
We were talking to a group of small agency principals recently. We asked how many knew their largest client’s business strategy. Fewer than five of the fifty or so in attendance raised their hands – we weren’t surprised. It seems that both agencies and clients are equally at fault for this ‘separate camps’ mentality. We agency-types get caught up in the creative execution of assignments to promote sales and our clients don’t often look at us as being valued strategic partners. So the important strategic business stuff never leaves corporate – what a waste!
Here’s why: A company’s business strategy will have a far greater chance of success if it is in alignment with the company’s brand strategy. The really great advertisers get together with their really great agencies and make really great brands. So why can’t the smaller agencies and clients get together? Well, in many cases, the client doesn’t have a plan. Or if it’s a larger advertiser, the CEO, President, COO, CFO, VP of Marketing and a bunch of consultants shut themselves in a room and brainstorm a business strategy. Then they pass it on down to marketing for a plan and execution. What a waste of neuron-power. Most agencies can offer incredible insights, even if only adding marketing wisdom to that plan.
“We agency-types get caught up in the creative execution of assignments to promote sales and our clients don’t often look at us as being valued strategic partners.”
Here’s an example of a terrific business strategy that’s perfectly aligned with a brilliant brand strategy:
Early in its development, the BMW brand held a minuscule share of the European luxury car market and an even smaller share of that audience’s mind. Mercedes Benz out-sold BMW 3 to 1. Mercedes established its foothold on the U.S. market by promoting their “European Engineering.” However, if you talked to a BMW designer, they’d tell you that they had far superior engineering than the Mercedes Benz cars.
They suggested that they designed and built cars with much greater responsiveness to the driver’s actions, providing a better sense of the road beneath and offering them greatly enhanced control. Mercedes, according to BMW, had a smoother ride. The tighter feel and enhanced responsiveness of the BMW gave drivers the sense that he or she was in complete control, and that was something no other brand of automobile offered. This handling advantage was greatly appreciated by sports car aficionados and car enthusiasts. Thus, a business strategy was born. “At Bayerische Motoren Werke, we will build highly engineered automobiles and market them to performance-minded enthusiasts.”
This new strategy would be communicated to all of the company’s employees, strategic partners, suppliers, distributors, customers, sales teams and marketing. And at this point, with (BMW’s long-time agency at the time*) Ammirati & Puris involved in every step of the strategy development, a brand strategy was carefully crafted as well, and aligned for the purpose of advancing an overall corporate message: “BMW, the Ultimate Driving Machine.” And it too was delivered to the same employees, strategic partners, suppliers, distributors and customers.
For three decades, BMW’s business strategy and brand strategy alignment have driven the company to the top of the category. Today, BMW outsells Mercedes Benz 3 to 1.