There is a lot of confusion over the various types of plans businesses use and even more confusion about how Brand fits into the mix. This article strives to bring clarity to these tools by sharing brief definitions of each term, in the relative order in which they should be addressed and by using the analogy of building a house.

What is Positioning?

Your business should start with Positioning. A Positioning Statement is a forward-looking statement that succinctly defines how you want to be positioned in the marketplace. It should be an honest reflection of who you are today, but with short-term attainable aspirations. This statement is for internal use to assist in communicating with various publics and is brought to life by your entire team through day-to-day activities. The more you embody this statement, the greater its power and resonance.

If Positioning is your stake in the ground, the plot of land on which you choose to build, the various Plans (as described below) are the blueprints from which you will build.

What is a Strategic Plan?

A Strategic Plan outlines where an organization is going over the next year or more, how it’s going to get there and how it’ll know if it got there or not. 

It involves the high-level components of your business from an organization-wide viewpoint: mission, vision and values; goals, key objectives and key performance indicators. It sets the course for your business and should be used as a road map for all employees.

What is a Business Plan?

A Business Plan may focus in on a particular product or service within an organization and therefore is an operational plan for creating, promoting and selling each particular product or service (even if there is just one). This Plan gets more into the financial, operational, sales and marketing, management, etc and demonstrates what your business is all about.

What is a Marketing Plan?

A Marketing Plan gets into the specifics of who you serve and how you serve them. It determines then how you will reach those customers and ensures you provide them with the right avenues to reach you. It also evaluates the competitive field... who else is out there, what makes you different, and how will you focus on strengths and mitigate weaknesses and risks?

A Marketing Plan has two major components: a Marketing Strategy — an idea on how the goal can be achieved; and Marketing Tactics — the actions you take to execute the strategy.

Once you’ve determined where to build and what you are going to build, you need a foundation. Your Brand is that foundation as it determines the core look and messages of how you will communicate.

What is Brand and How Does It Fit Into The Mix?

Your Brand is the entire experience your prospects and customers have with your company; a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a product, company or place, which serve to create associations and expectations around it. A Brand Identity is not a logo alone, but the collective look and feel of your organization’s communications materials. This often includes a logo, fonts, color schemes, patterns, photo style, symbols, and even sound, which may be developed to represent implicit values, ideas, and even personality.

A Brand Image however, is much broader as it is the collective perception, planned or incidental, of a product, company or place and is the result of every interaction a user has with that product or company or place. This includes interactions with the people, environment, materials, and messages associated with the product, company or place.

The best brands invoke positive emotions or experiences and have adequately aligned perception, reality and organizational goals. This is done through deliberate planning, marketing, and culturing of what you want your brand experience to be. If you don’t control the perception, it will happen to you anyway.

Brands, “branding” and brand equity have become increasingly important components of culture and the economy, now being described as “cultural accessories and personal philosophies.”

You will use many tools when building your Brand house including the basic necessities: a logo, tagline, messaging and elements palettes. Other tools may vary: a website, marketing literature, advertising, etc. Regardless of the tools you use, if you don’t have a plot of land or a blueprint, it is going to be a real challenge to build anything worthwhile.