The Importance of having Brand Workshops

Some call it branding workshop and some the brand experience workshop and some other call it the brand perception workshop.  The latter two are the same alluding to how to bring your team in sync with the reality of the brand and also to come to the conclusion of what is really needed from the brand – and how to achieve it.

In my case, I prefer to use the brand workshop to work out the current position vis-à-vis sales figures of the brand and competition, market share (market size), reasons for low or high sales, feedback from the sales team and the marketing team with limited responses from the general attendees that might include the production head and others.

Of course, in the process of assessing the sales figures and having an expert analysis of the trends on the chart one would be able to pin-point on the brands weakness as against sales performance.

In the course of the workshop teams will feel victimized – especially the sales team, if the top lines are not showing any improvement or the targets are not being met. One should be clear the workshop is not a witch hunting program but clearly to get a understanding of the brand, its performance in the markets vis-à-vis the competition and the market size and to come upon a strategy and a plan on how to improve the sales which would directly be reciprocal to the brand’s inherent strength. Alternatively aggressive sales initiatives would improve on the brand equity.

There are umpteen ways to go about conducting a brand workshop but every one of them should have an agenda and a concrete program etched out to keep everything in check on time limits. It also goes without saying that all active participants – especially the marketing and sales department are given enough time to get their data in place, as this will be required to assess the performance. One should preferably have data spread over a period of one year.

I speak from experience that prior planning for the workshop or it is a wasted effort. Especially since it can take 1–3 days and that is very precious time for sales and others who will be attending it.  In one of the organisations I worked for the agency had proposed a two-day workshop to discuss more than a dozen brands. I suggested to the director that the team was not prepared for the same but it was rejected and what occurred was comical. At the start of the workshop itself neither the sales nor the marketing had all the right sales figures. And then everybody had a free-for-all inputs that derailed the entire workshop. The end result – there was nothing to show that it had been anybody’s worthwhile.

So if you are planning a brand workshop – prepare for it judiciously. Like a lawyer preparing for a case and be clear about what you want to give and what you want to take away from it. Over-all, remember the end objective is to have a consensus on the brand/s identity, its purpose and goals and to have a guide map to help teams in their respective area to plan and execute their tasks more efficiently. All aimed to enhance sales and improve the brand standing.

It would be prudent also to make participants clear on the way the workshop is to be conducted – the agenda should preferably carry a Workshop Etiquette sheet sp that everybody is in line.

Some of the rules can be as follows:

Everybody has a right to speak and share their ideas all ideas are deemed equal

Be positive about the workshop and its objectives

Be prepared to participate actively

Be open-minded and at the same time do not be judgmental or argue instantly. Write down your objections and take them up in the open-hour.

Be prepared and know about your area of expertise. Be creative.

We encourage radical and out of the box ideas

Don’t criticize others’ ideas, if you do, do it constructive

A typical agenda for the brand workshop should be aligned with the proposed take-away:

  1. Assess Brand Standing
  2. Through Sales and Trends – Sales figures  from teams
  3. Comparison with Competition and market size
  4. Through Visibility – Traditional and Digital
  5. Through off-the-cuff Surveys for top of the mind recall
  6. Through feedback from sales team on the ground
  7. Quality, Production and other standards/Packaging
  8. Route-to-market / response in handling stock outs
  9. Channel Partner assessments
  10. Marketing spends
  11. Sales promotions
  1. Once we understand the actual facts of how the brands is doing it is time to spend some time on the discussing the brand in depth
  1. The CEO and other key decision makers in management who have had the longest association with the brand should be given the first opportunity to define the brand’s core values – whether it requires changes or stays as is. The CEO can also define the larger and long-term plans for the brand.
  1. Using this as a starting point core brand values can be put down on paper in discussion with the teams so that everyone is in sync. At this point one can also discuss the corporate mission and vision statements as also the brand visions and goals and see if they sync. This is the time to come assess what some people call the single minded proposition (In other words could be the USP or a core belief) which should be snappy and straight conveying the intention of the brand and the company.
  1. Prior to this or after this (in case there is still some doubt in people’s mind) once can undertake the Brand Experience session.
  1. This Brand Experience session requires prior work on preparing more than 20 – 100 posters giving visuals and texts of a variety of brands similar to the client’s brands. The idea being that all participants will be asked to pick their favourite and to give points to each of the visual in which they see what they would like to see in their own brands. This will give an idea of how each person sees the brand and how he or she wants it to be perceived. The end of the session one will have a string of adjectives and metaphors that will assist in zeroing in on what your brand should be/ or wants to be perceived as. In many ways this will clearly demonstrate the brand identity.
  1. An extension of this exercise would be in creating the brand prism using the inputs of the audience and the decision makers
  1. The final output of this session would be successfully generating a set of core brand values that can be carried forward into all marketing communication material
  1. A final session of the workshop would be to have consensus on the way ahead with quarterly phases up to a year.
  1. Targets – regional, and total
  2. Category-wise, customer-wise, SKUs
  3. Communication Theme
  4. A generic marketing calendar highlighting important periods/or sequenced by campaigns
  5. Sales promotion activities in tandem
  6. Larger promotion plans for important dates
  1. Before the end of the workshop one can summarize the key elements/take-away from the program and explicitly earmark individuals or team who will be responsible for preparing the final reports on individual aspects.
  1. The goals and objectives of the workshop are not said to be achieved till the agency or the teams in charge submit their reports and findings. This can be reviewed by key decision makers and changed as per their perceptions and understanding. This will finally be taken as the final document that will guide the various teams in achieving their targets.

Findings from the workshop can include the following

Key insights
Brand identity guidelines

Brand Mission and Vision Statement

Single Minded Proposition

Value Added Proposition
Competition Analysis
Market Analysis

Suggestions from Participants on Way forward