The Gray Cat Blog

A comprehensive collection of blogs designed to assist small business owners and multiunit operators.

Creating Your Branding Game Plan

Feb 06, 2023

What is your branding game plan?

Not the branding media schedule – that is just part of it – but rather, your overarching strategic decision-making game plan on all of your branding initiatives? Most advertising managers have a page or two media plan that an agency has produced that shows how their advertising dollars will be spent. The game plan I am referring to is the overall philosophy and management tool that keeps every aspect of their branding on track.

The game plan acts as a compendium of sorts – a concise, yet comprehensive strategy of how the brand is executed in the marketplace. It covers all touch points of the brand and the “rules” for its implementation. Rather than leave this to chance, your game plan crafts a branding decision-tree that allows the manager to ensure that every branding decision is accretive to the overall brand experience, not detracting.

The game plan is a document that should be created to assist in communicating the advertising and media plan. It serves as a guide for the internal teams at the organization including the company managers and franchisees as well as providing crystal-clear direction to the agency. The compendium provides further explanation of the overall process for how the advertising plan is created in addition to how it will be managed. These strategic decisions should be reviewed on an annual basis to determine the entire branding program.

Below are the key elements to include in your branding game plan:

Market Research & Demographics: Based on the market research conducted at your company, the targeted audience of your brand communications should be reached based on demographics, program selection and scheduling guidelines. Demographics should cut across the following attributes and all brand activities should be vetted against these targets:

  • Age Range
  • Male/Female Ratio
  • Total Annual Income
  • Employment Ratio
  • Marital Status
  • Ethnicity

Program selection refers to the review of a programs content to ensure that it’s consistent with the advertiser’s desired brand image and its demographics. Scheduling guidelines assist on steering the programming placement, frequency and delivery of media.

Flights, Weights And Spots: Next, determine the game plan for when and how to communicate your brand. Flighting refers to scheduling periods of activity and inactivity on a TV and/or radio schedule. A period of activity is called a flight and a period of inactivity is called a hiatus. Flighting is typically used to cover a long period of time, such as a year, within a limited advertising budget that does not allow advertising for 52 weeks. TV weight refers to the number of target rating points (TRP’s) scheduled in a flight. TRP’s are the standard unit of TV measure. Quantitatively, a TRP is equal to one percent of the target universe. Radio is a better medium than TV for building frequency. However, the fragmented nature of the radio market and the consumers’ listening patterns limit the cumulative reach that radio can deliver as a medium. Unit length refers to the duration of a commercial spot/radio broadcast.

Day Parts: Based on the demographics of the targeted audience, the brand manager needs to determine the optimal day parts of the messaging. Day parts deliver different audience compositions (e.g. daytime delivers a high percentage of women). There is also a correlation between a spots audience delivery and its relative cost. Primetime delivers a large, broad audience and is, therefore, the most expensive day part.

Electronic Media: Now, you need to execute the brand communication and there are numerous options from which to choose. Television delivers the highest reach of any medium. The sight, sound and motion of television allow the advertiser to communicate a message in a highly memorable way and to shape a visual into a recognizable image for their brands. Spot television offers the flexibility to target a specific local market aimed at the desired customer base in a programming environment consistent with the advertiser’s brand image. Spot air time for cable television is often much more expensive than broadcasting on a cost-per-thousand basis and does not have as large a reach. Cable television is limited because it only reaches paid subscribers. Spot radio is competitively purchased from local stations and can be easily targeted by market and demographics. Radio commercials are relatively inexpensive to produce which enables brands to change messages more frequently. Since radio has no visual, it is less expensive than TV.

Non-Electronic Media: There are other ways besides electronic means to deliver your brand message. Outdoor advertising is commonly referred to as billboards. Outdoor advertising reaches a large percentage of the population, but because it is seen by people “on the go” billboard advertising is appropriate only for brief messages. It’s best used as a medium to reinforce an established, well-known brand. Newspapers reach a wide cross-section of the public, which makes them hard to target a specific audience. Other options include solo direct mail and marriage mail.

Sponsorships And Promotions: Your brand can be communicated through sponsorships and promotions as well. For instance, the brand may be aptly communicated through the sponsorship of local sports teams. By sponsoring these teams, the brand is allocated spot time during broadcasts, as well as occasional “mentions” of the brand by the game announcers. In addition, the brand may receive postings of signage in the arena and mentions in printed promotional materials. Lastly, aligning the brand with a corporate charity communicates that the brand is an upstanding corporate citizen. These sponsorships and philanthropic involvement help communicate the brand community responsibility.

Social Media: An overall brand game plan would not be complete without addressing social media. Social Media adds increased brand awareness; more inbound traffic; high conversion rates; improved loyalty and customer satisfaction all while being very cost effective. Setting up a company Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, Twitter account and YouTube channel – each vertically integrated to your overall brand communications- enhances your brand presence. These social media enable the brand to be extremely nimble with its messaging and if integrated into an overall brand strategy, provide cost-effective touch points to key followers.

Your brand communications should work in tandem with one another regardless of the medium that is used to communicate. Each variable within these media – from program selection to day part mix – should be determined not haphazardly, but rather in a cohesive strategic branding compendium. Not only will the efficiency of your strategy be intact, but it will yield greater results.

John Matthews, President & CEO, Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc.

John Matthews is the Founder and President of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc. a Raleigh, NC-based management consulting company. Gray Cat specializes in strategic project management and consulting for multi-unit operations; interim executive management; and strategic planning. Mr. Matthews has over 30 years of senior-level executive experience in the retail industry, involving three dynamic multi-unit companies. Mr. Matthews experience includes President of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches; Vice President of Marketing, Merchandising, Corporate Communications, Facilities and Real Estate for Clark Retail Enterprises/White Hen Pantry; and National Marketing Director at Little Caesar's Pizza! Pizza!