An advertising strategy should support the marketing plan, which in turn supports the company business plan.
In the Real World you will rarely be handed a marketing or business plan. So here's how to figure that out yourself.
There are two parts to any advertising strategy:
Part 1 - Assessment - What's going on?
Determine what's going on in the market. What's the history, the major trends and the current situation? And what are the risks and opportunities? Also, what's the future looking like? With the product. With competitors. With consumer attitudes.
Part 2 - Action - What should we do about it?
Determine what your client should do about the the most significant opportunities and problems revealed in the assessment.
What action should you take regarding the competition, technological and media trends? Specifically, how can you address those issues with advertising and related tools? For example, what if anything should you do with the brand, with direct marketing, on social media platforms?
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The first step in the development of your strategy, the assessment, could be accomplished with a SWOT analysis.
Properly done, a Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats assessment will give you a 360 degree, full-color photo of the market. A SWOT analysis will help you figure out the "What's going on" part. And figure it out quickly. The "What to do" part of your strategy should follow logically from the "What's going on" part.
For example, say the SWOT analysis reveals that there is serious and growing competition from price slashers.
Your strategy to deal with that particular issue might be:
- Create a stronger brand personality - one based on a financially upscale, but emotionally down to earth character.
- Position the product as high value for money, in part with the slogan,
"Quality counts, and you're worth it."
- Use traditional direct marketing techniques, combined with an expanded social media presence, to target younger buyers with strong, introductory offers, before they have established a product / service / company preference.
You can see how your ad strategy addresses a business issue, competitive price pressure.
You can also see that the ad strategy deals with the big strategic issues: branding, positioning, direct marketing, and media. And it does so with simple action statements describing, at a high-level, what you intend to accomplish.
Picture you. Walking into the board room, looking confidently around the room, and saying,
"OK, Mr. President. Here's what's going on. Big picture. One, two, three.
And here's what we will do about it. Big picture. One, two, three."
That's the essence of strategic leadership and vision.
Some of the issues that influence advertising strategy
Lead generation / customer acquisition
How do you get qualified traffic to the Website, the store? Perhaps you employ multiple approaches, such as SEO / content marketing, plus digital direct response / email, plus social media. You should certainly keep an eye on emerging media, trends in media and entertainment consumption.
Define, the brand. As it is now, in the minds of consumers. And as you want it to be known.
Learn how the company, product or service is currently positioned in the minds of consumers, and define where you want it to be positioned.
Psycho-Dynamics of the market, the target audience.
14 fancy letters for a simple idea: what's going on inside the brains of buyers, of perspective customers?
You can get a quick insight into those brains with consumer involvement theory, CIT, which explores how consumers make purchase decisions. For example, you probably buy the same brand of soap with a mindless motion at the market. But you do your homework when buying a car. Most people do the same. And that tells us how to talk to them.
Besides what you can learn with CIT, there are other issues at work in the audience, such as why people buy the competitor's brand.
"People think our competitor produces higher quality, more reliable products."
Or perhaps it's not so much what people think about competitors, but what they think about your client:
"Gosh, I don't know if I want to buy a Mac. So much more expensive than a PC."
Get the idea? Psycho-Dynamics is everything. It's all that stuff rattling around between the ears of potential customers. The thoughts, feelings and ever-changing prejudices that influence purchase decisions. That's the Psycho-Dynamics of the market.
And it is always changing. Always. Day to day, hour to hour, sometime second to second.
Marketing objectives reflect business goals. Some examples:
"In the first year we want to capture 10% of the market in six cities."
"Our goal is to be profitable in this country within 6 months."
"We want to increase sales with this product to the point where profits reach $50,000 per month, and do this in 12 months."
All of the above, of course, to be accomplished within a budget, the marketing budget.
How advertising strategy supports marketing objectives.
Let's say you get a call from Fred of Fred's Farm Fresh Ice Cream. Seems his chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavors are flying out of the freezer. But no one wants his latest invention, the prune flavor even though it tastes great and is loaded with fiber.
Fred' says, "Hey, I want my Purple Prune flavor to add 20% to my sales - not steal sales from the existing three - or I'm going to dump it in 12 months. Here's one million dollars to work with. What do you suggest?"
In this case your strategy might be to:
- Re-name the product: Sweet Prune Surprise.
- Re-position it: Surprisingly Sweet, Surprisingly Healthy.
- Build a brand based on the personality of a fussy old lady, a great cook, who is very demanding: it's got to taste great, and be healthy. Or she's rejects it.
- Achieve immediate sales with in-store promotions, discount coupons, and coop ads with major grocery stores.
- Associate Sweet Prune Surprise with a healthy lifestyle with sample booths at family / sports activities, such as the 5k Family Fun Run.
All the while, keep in mind that one single thread you want to weave into all of your communications; that one most important thing you want to say:
"Prune surprise is loaded with healthy fiber, and surprisingly sweet."
A final word about strategy.
The most important part of an advertising strategy is the objective, or more precisely, one or more strategic objectives, such as driving sales or building a vivid brand personality.
Strategic advertising objectives should support marketing objectives. And those advertising objectives will almost always involve sales, branding, positioning and media.
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