Insight, market monitoring and assessing whether a brand plan is fit for purpose

Views & Analysis

This article is the last in a series of three from Osprey Health Consulting. In this third article we will cover the importance of insight and measurement in brand planning and provide the brand planner with a checklist to assess whether their plan addresses the challenges of the modern pharmaceutical market. As we described in our previous article, the elements of the brand planning process remain the same, and planners will recognise what we are describing. However, how one implements the process has changed and it is those changes we describe here.

Poor firms ignore their competitors; average firms copy their competitors; winning firms lead their competitors
Philip Kotler


What is insight and how do you create it?

A dictionary definition of insight is; the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing. The key word here is intuitive. The US Supreme Court Judge Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography in 1964 could also apply to insight, “I don’t know how to define it, but I know it when I see it”. You can see insight in market position, advertising and communication; it stands out and it often transforms the fortunes of brands and the direction of markets. Importantly, insight provides new ways of thinking, of describing and of perceiving. There are methodologies that support groups in developing insight (examples are Edward De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats and the six “Whys” process). However, irrespective of process, in our experience, it is the deep desire of the marketer to discover insights that will drive them to learn more about customers and their needs and to make connections (that’s the intuitive bit!) that go beyond mere data. In short, insight comes from constantly wanting to gain deeper knowledge about markets, customers and environments and asking the “How”, “What” and “So what?” questions.

Insight is always;

  • Based on a deep understanding, beyond data, of customers, disease, competitors and environments
  • Developed through a curiosity that keeps asking “Why”, “How”, “So what?” to peel back customer behaviour, get behind data and reveal new understandings
  • Revealing a deeper promise about your brand that goes beyond functional issues
  • Revealing new ideas, words, segments, territories and descriptions that competitors do not use
  • About the future and links together multiple players or sources of information
  • Focused on action. If an insight does not drive the organisation to action it isn’t useful

The intangibility of insight means that some people will discount it and others will avoid it because they can’t “Measure” it. However, application in asking questions and ultimately deriving powerful insight will be rewarded many times over with results.

Good companies will meet needs; great companies will create markets
Philip Kotler

A couple of examples of the impact of insight

We’ve avoided using examples in these articles. However, examples of great insight are useful, as it is an intangible concept. So here are a couple that nicely illustrate the value of insight.

Firstly, the Lilly approach to the launch of Cialis. They were late to market behind Viagra, and had perceived clinical effects that were potentially unhelpful, such as a slower onset and a duration of action of 36 hours. Their drug didn’t seem to fit the existing set of needs. However, somewhere in the planning process at Lilly an insight was created. Some couples didn’t like the idea of having to be organised, take a tablet at the right moment and “get on” with the act. Lilly acknowledged this, drew a number of threads together, recognised a deeper understanding and created a new set of words and images based on this fundamental new understanding. The new word that captured this was “Spontaneity” and it led to a new way of describing what Cialis does, turned the clinical issues of slow onset and 36-hour duration into benefits and drove the team towards a different visualisation of what Cialis offers. This insight created a meaningful differentiation and a unique position from Viagra, and led to significant marketing success for Cialis.

The second example involves an organisation with an eye drops treatment for glaucoma that wanted to find the unique position/differentiation that would help them win against multiple competitors. The organisation decided to step back from the planning process and strive for insight. They took the unique clinical aspect of their treatment, that it works for 24 hours while other treatments stop working after 12 hours, and spent time peeling this away with a series of “So what?” questions. They realised that the true value was not 24-hour coverage, it was that in the future grandparents will be able to clearly see their grandchildren. This insight immediately elevated the brand above the competitor’s merely clinical approach, it changed how the brand was described, related well to customers and created a new position and language, clearly differentiating the brand.

This example of taking known facts about a brand and applying a “So what?” process is one of a number of useful techniques that provide a structure for insight generation.

Who is responsible for insight

Because it has elements of intuition and creativity, some marketers may think that insight is best left to the creative agencies. In our opinion this is not correct. Involve the creative agencies of course, but insight remains a process that the marketer must drive, just as developing CSFs is a process, and most people wouldn’t leave an agency to develop their CSFs.

The generation of insight transforms the fortunes of brands, creates meaningful differentiation and “Blue Oceans”. Whatever process is chosen, it is the desire of the marketer for insight that will make the difference.

It is often the case that when you find it difficult to write a unique position statement or define why you are differentiated in a meaningful way you are lacking insight. It may be best to step away from the process for a while and return to insight, apply an insight process, drive out a few ideas and then come back to the position/differentiation/segment discussion. This is likely to provide new perspectives and strengthen your plan.

Market Monitoring

Feedback is the breakfast of champions
Ken Blanchard

What do we measure and why?

The term Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), often used by marketers, doesn’t capture the scope of what we are talking about here because we are discussing both the performance of a brand AND monitoring the evolution of a market. Therefore, we prefer to use the term Market Monitoring (MM). MM is an increasingly important part of both the strategic and brand planning processes. We need to know, often in real time, what the impact of our plan is, how the market is evolving, what competitors are doing and how stakeholders are reacting. We need MM that provides us with information we can act upon to reallocate resources, adapt communication, exploit opportunities, stop ineffective actions and implement new actions. The role of MM is not to generate support to justify the plan, it is for illumination of the path forward. MM should measure brand performance and changing environments, attitudes and habits as well as specifics such as competitor activities.

When developing MM for a modern brand plan there are two major categories of KPIs that must be developed;

  • Those measures that monitor the progress of our plan and strategy that inform and facilitate course correction if required. They may be aligned with MM from the strategic plan and should monitor not only cross-sectional data such as market share, sales and distribution but also longitudinal elements such as changing attitudes, evolving habits and, of course, belief shifts
  • Those measures that “Trigger” optional parts of the plan. For example, if your plan includes a statement “If a competitor starts to promote to primary care then we will implement a set of tactics” you must have a measure that monitors primary care for competitor activity

The sources of MM are many. The role of the Competitor Intelligence (CI) team is clearly pivotal, as is real-time information from field-based staff and healthcare professionals, as well as recognised, more traditional, market research based approaches. In today’s markets a critical element is the ability to gather information quickly, understand the implications and respond. This is especially important in modern markets where scenario planning identifies critical information required in real time.

The involvement of the CI team, and perhaps others, can support this responsiveness. It may benefit the planning process to have a timely, usually monthly, review of CI versus the plan to answer the question “Is there any CI that has implications for our planning, any CI that suggests we should “Trigger” a particular set of tactics?” Having a well-informed and integrated CI team in this process increases efficiency significantly.

What does a modern brand plan look like?

In these articles we have discussed critical elements of strategic and brand planning, some that overlap and some that are unique to their particular process. Our desire is always to raise the quality of strategic thinking, insight and planning, and to support the planners with these difficult and challenging goals. To support planners, we have developed the checklist below to help quickly assess whether a brand plan meets the criteria required to be successful in the modern world of complexity and uncertainty. We have deliberately covered specific elements of the brand plan and do not claim to have covered every element of the planning process. However, we believe that the checklist below will allow planners to identify gaps in their thinking and planning and to create more robust, accurate, flexible and relevant plans that support them, their cross-functional teams and their leadership.

Consistent alignment of capabilities and internal processes with the customer value proposition is the core of any strategy execution
Robert S. Kaplan
Sections of the brand plan process Planner’s Checklist
Relationship to the strategic plan
  • Does the plan provide a consistent and clear flow of thinking aligned with the strategic plan?
  • Does the plan leverage MM?
  • Is it clear what elements of the strategic plan (for example ones specific to my local market) I will use if required?
Environmental analysis
  • Are the plan assumptions based on clear evidence?
  • Are the assumptions fundamental (Can I combine two or more assumptions into one more fundamental assumption)? Have we developed the smallest effective number of assumptions?
  • Do the assumptions support our description of every trend that we see or anticipate? Are our assumptions comprehensive?
  • Is our SWOT focused on the environment we anticipate during the plan period?
  • Does our SWOT cover all the environmental issues and assumptions?
  • Are our individual S, W, O and T items supported by evidence and do they meet the tough criteria for inclusion in a SWOT?
  • Have we carefully studied the implications of the SWOT axes (S-O, W-O, S-T, W-T) on our thinking about differentiation and position?
  • Have we received detailed and comprehensive cross-functional input and agreement to the SWOT?
Stakeholder analysis
  • Have we considered all likely stakeholders that exist or will emerge through the plan period?
  • Have we considered the evolving needs of stakeholders through the plan period?
  • Have we considered how stakeholders will interact and potentially influence each other?
  • Do we clearly understand, and can clearly communicate, the required belief shifts per stakeholder that will make our plan a success? Does the plan clearly address all the belief shifts?
  • Do we need segmentation to improve the effectiveness and clarity of the plan?
  • If yes;
  • Are our definitions of segments informed by deep and meaningful insight?
  • Are our segments unique and especially unlike our competitors?
  • Are our segments important and relevant to our stakeholders?
Market position
  • Is the market position informed and developed through deep and meaningful insight?
  • Is the position unique and meaningful to customers?
  • Is the position relevant to all the market segments we have identified?
  • Is the position reflected in all our communication, verbal, written or visual?
Competitive assessment
  • Have we considered all competitors that exist or will emerge in the plan period?
  • Have we considered all the positive and negative implications of competitor position and activity?
  • Do we have the right contingency (IF, THEN) plans in place?
  • Are we prepared to monitor, in real time, critical activities of certain competitors?
Flexible strategy (core and specific)
  • Is our brand plan flexible enough to deal with all major eventualities during the plan period?
  • Does our strategic plan offer insight into whether we need scenario planning in the brand plan? (This may be appropriate if the strategic plan does not consider scenarios or the local market is changing markedly, for example with a number of competitors launching, or if the plan period covers a period of important environmental change, such as regulatory or governmental change, or if the brand plan covers a significant period of time, for example 18 months to 24 months)
Tactical implementation
  • Is our tactical implementation fully aligned with our strategic goals? Can we align each tactic with a specific CSF?
  • Can we clearly communicate our tactics to our internal stakeholders such that they understand the strategic relevance of each tactic, and what the outputs and measurements need to be for each tactic?
  • Can we explain our strategy and plan in 3-5 core statements?
  • Are all internal stakeholders (anyone that will implement some aspect of the plan, or influences people that do) aware of the strategic and tactical goals of the plan?
  • Have we clearly explained the need for MM information, why it is required and who is responsible for providing it?
Market monitoring (MM)
  • Does our MM monitor our progress towards our strategic goals?
  • Does our MM provide real-time information that is required to “Trigger” contingency plans, whether this is market based or competitor activities?
  • Is our strategy and brand plan based on a unique insight and perception of the market? If so, what is our unique insight?
  • Have we driven the insight process enough to support the creation of a unique position or unique segments?
  • What are the unique segments, words, images and concepts that our insight process has provided?
  • Are we using these unique insights throughout all our communication whether verbal, written or visual?

This series of 3 articles was written by the team at Osprey Health Consulting, a strategy firm specialising in and passionate about strategic planning and brand planning. We would like to hear your comments on this article.

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