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  Brand Strategy versus Business Strategy: Where do you start?
 There is no right answer. If you sell something with a lot of competition, you should position first and plan later. If you sell a unique product, then you shoud plan your growth and position in consequence. In any case both are closely related 
Luis Manzano, Partner, CIAC International - February 3, 2002
 The development of the brand is integral to the business strategy. To ignore one is to place the other in peril.

Did Starbucks begin by articulating the delivery of a desired customer experience, or was the idea simply to make money by selling coffee?

In a world where there are more products and services being offered than there is demand, one needs not simply to supply the market, but rather to create desire in the marketplace. We must capture the hearts of our audience, as well as their minds in order to secure demand – this is the domain of branding. 

Ian Tudhope, Co-Chief Executive, Interbrand Tudhope - February 4, 2002
 No matter which agency develops a brand, it always comprises two main components:
[1] objectives that state what the brand will do for customers, and
[2] behaviours that define how the brand will act to achieve its objectives. While behaviours can be created without consulting the business plan, objectives need to relate to a company’s competencies, target markets and long-term business goals. A good brand acts as a multiplier to the business strategy – just as a good manufacturing process or research and development competence does.

Both business and brand strategies suffer if the company does not understand the needs of the customer. The business plan will suffer since it does not know what products to produce. The brand strategy will not be effective since it is unclear which messages to concentrate on to help position the brand correctly in the mind of the customer. 

Aaron Shields, Senior Consultant, Siegelgale - February 4, 2002
 Business strategy and brand strategy go hand in hand. The greatest successes come when the two are developed in tandem. 
Brigham Field, President, UNYQ - February 4, 2002
 Brand cannot/should not be viewed as an isolated element, but a key component of the business model, along with Audience Definition, Value Capture/Profitability, Strategic Control Points/Value Protection, and Portfolio Definition. Just as looking at each of these elements as isolated variables would be a mistake, so too with brand. 
Dennis Flynn, Founder/CEO, The Sonar Group - February 4, 2002
 I think that the business strategy is first, assuming that is focused on the target and the best interpretation of its necessities. 
Francisco Díaz, General Director, Selling Point C.A. - February 4, 2002
 What is the point of working to establish something new in the already crowded business environment if it has no personality to distinguish it and make it speak to an audience? A brand requires that a business objective be put in place, that targets are known and that the competitive landscape is familiar territory. Until those components of a brand strategy are managed and integrated as essential parts of the business itself, a business plan is just a dream on paper. 
Rachelle Kuramoto, President, Avra Communications - February 4, 2002
 Brand strategy without business strategy is like building a house from the top down. A brand collapses if it doesn't have the strong foundation of a business plan in place. That's not to say that brand strategy isn't vital to the project from the start. Any good architect will tell you, you've got to have a vision in your mind when you are drawing up the blueprints. 
Chris Schermer, VP, Brand Services, Schermer Kuehl - February 4, 2002
 It's a bit like Thoreau's quote about building castles in the air 'for that is where they are supposed to be. Now put foundations under them.' A business plan is the castle; the brand strategy provides the groundwork, cornerstone and footing to support the business plan. Using that analogy, the brand strategy also provides the pathways to and from the target audiences.

Having a brand strategy without a business plan, or vice versa, radically diminishes the value of either. 

Kimber Smith, Senior Consultant / CEO, Colures - February 4, 2002
 A Company needs to have a business plan to survive. Brand Strategy is ENHANCEing their business.

Looking at Fortune 1000 companies, about 70 percent of the companies don't have a brand strategy...but they do have a business plan. 

Danny Wirianto, Founder, SemutApi Colony - February 4, 2002
 The consumers in the past were the 'victims' by paying premium prices on products branded. Today, consumers are responsible for the brand equity and its value. Therefore, a business strategy must be consistent with the brand strategy. Companies shall no longer rely solely in an extraordinary/unique/innovative business plan on the business strategy without including a solid brand strategy. Understanding the customer is nowadays more important than having only an extraordinary business mindset. 
Carlos Cipriani, Graduate Student, Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of Int'l Mgmt - February 4, 2002
 Branding is what happens to you when you are busy making business plans. But it could be bad branding. This whole discussion seems oblivious to the fact that you have a brand and that you are actively branding - even when you are passive. Get the things in sync - and be your brand. The rest is just futile talk. With branding you don't have a choice except the choice to realize that you have no choice and act according to that.  
Brian Dan Christensen, Strategic Planner, Midt Marketing, DK - February 4, 2002
 Branding is the imperative. It's what makes the business plan relevant/salient to consumers. Look at Target vs. KMart. 
John Shea, VP/Senior Account Planner, Cramer Krasselt - February 4, 2002
 Brand strategy flows out of the 'essence' of the organisation, without establishing it and then considering alternative brand strategies - that activate the essence -business planning merely becomes a sterile, 'box filling' exercise ! 
Peter McDonald, Managing Director, Trio MCS - Marketing & Consulting Services - February 4, 2002
 With Business Strategy, you've got something to sell. Brand Strategy lets you sell it. 
Stefan Daiberl, Director, Brand Valuation, Interbrand - February 4, 2002
 Think Barbie - did her creators have a brand strategy? I don't think so. What they did understand is what somebody wanted, and how to make it. It has only been the later years (ie, last 20 of her 50) that have seen Barbie emerge as a brand. 
Gary Hunt, Manager Business Development Projects, P&O Ports - February 4, 2002
 Ultimately the consumer or, in some cases, the audience determines & decides what they want or 'need'; if they are more 'sophisticated,' brand strategy is more likely to take priority and the reverse might be true too provided there isn't an overpowering 'consumerism' which seeks to 'gain an equal footing' with businesses.

In the end like most things, all parts are important as they complement each other & act as both a 'catalyst' & 'multipler' too. 

KHTeo, Independent, brand ZYX - February 4, 2002
 The business strategy articulates why a company is in business in the first place; the brand strategy articulates how a product or service is experienced in the marketplace. The brand strategy is dependent on the business strategy. 
Bryan Vincent, Senior Producer - Digital Branding, Landor - February 4, 2002
 The level of influence brand/business has in defining space in a market is significantly different from industry to industry. Understanding that difference is the critical necessity in gaining an advantage; not whether brand or business strategy comes first.

Brand strategy nor business strategy alone will allow a company to maintain long-term competitive advantage. As brand is the touchpoint to every stakeholder of a company, (that is, it is the focal point of all customers, investors, employees...etc.), there should be no difference between brand and business strategy. Brand strategy is business strategy and vice versa. The limitations and opportunities of both brand and business should be understood to create an optimal 'core strategy.'

The influence of brand within a market and the growth of brand value is much more influenced by the behavior and operations of a company than the act of marketing alone. And the value of operations and performance is recognized in the market significantly through marketing. Only when brand and business strategy are completely aligned can a company create value at an optimal level.  

Anonymous - February 4, 2002
 Brand strategy can never come first. Business strategy should define ones products and services. Various factors like environment, competition, consumer psyche would determine the brand strategy for the product and service. 
Partho Dasgupta, General Manager, Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd - February 5, 2002
 If we step outside of our too-often cloistered world for a moment and look at this issue from the consumer/customer perspective, then the answer becomes obvious. Customers don't respond to strategy. They can only respond to what gets executed or experienced. And it's in the execution or experience that brand and business strategy become merged and indivisible. From a consumer perspective, where does the business strategy stop and the brand strategy begin for Starbucks, Schwab, SouthWest Airlines, Orange, Amazon, etc? Any company that strives to compete on a customer perceived added-value basis, must treat branding as a core business strategy issue and plan both together. 
Marty Brandt, Founder, proBRAND - February 5, 2002
 This 'chicken or egg' argument ignores the simple fact that to be sucessful in business today you need to sucessfully integrate all elements of organisational planning. The best way to achieve this is to ensure that the development of all the elements take place concurrently and in a manner that ensures they remain aligned. Essentially all the strategies and plans are just pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that allow you to attain your goals. 
Leo Kerema, Manager Brand and Product Portfolio, BHP Steel - February 5, 2002
 Business is where money comes from in the form of products or services -- a strong brand is the strategy of how to differentiate you from the competitor, create an experience of added value and secure a long term position in the market.
The brand strategy enhances your chances to succeed with your business plan. The trick is to communicate your brand internally and externally in order to create good business. 
Lars-Ola Nordqvist, Chairman, Comvision, Sweden - February 5, 2002
 I vote for brand strategy first. Without knowing your brand and your strategy, you cannot define the business plan properly. Sales volume depends on your offer and how appealing is your offer to the consumer. You only can get this if you define your brand strategy first. 
Ivone Lima Miranda, Brand Department, ONI - Portugal - February 5, 2002
 What I miss in the comments is the fact that it is a circular process. It starts with the business plan, determining what the business position (and identity) is to be in order to make money. The brand strategy is part of the many mechanisms which support the business in achieving the goals. However, once determined, brand strategy is one of the factors to be considered in the further determination and development of the business strategy. This following the fact that, if taken seriously, a brand position should have some sort of consistency over a longer period of time. 
Yvette van Aarle, European Communication Manager, Claritas Europe - February 5, 2002
 Brand is the connective tissue holding constituents and a company in relation to each other. If brand is managed intelligently the relationship is a strong one; that is, it affects positive associations among constituents.

A business strategy that fails to recognize and account for this relationship (if such a thing is even possible) may lead a business to some short term financial prosperity. However, because it ignores the essentially non-rational/emotional character of relationship it suggests an organization that will fail to achieve a prominent, dynamic role in the lives of its constituents. In this way, the distinction between a business strategy and a brand strategy is missing the point. They are one in the same. 

Jeff Doemland, Account Executive, Maier Advertising - February 5, 2002
 There's some fabulously upstream thinking here. So, as someone who’s in the process of creating a brand, let me get downstream anecdotal.

I've borrowed money from the bank to fund the business. If I had presented no brand strategy, my banker might have spent some time agonising about whether to lend the money : but if I had presented no business plan, then he would have spent no time at all showing me the door.

It's not an intellectual argument, I'm afraid. But it is a reality. 

Matthew Lonsdale, Partner, gospel branding - February 5, 2002
 The brand strategy and biz plan must compliment each other. By doing so, one insures quickest ROI with the potential to maximize sales. One without the other is asking for trouble you don't need to encounter. 
Patt Kelly-Pollet, Merchandise Manager, BD&A Inc. - February 5, 2002
 Many comments here seem to suggest that the two endeavors are related, even integrated, but discrete. (Some even tangentially refer to a business *plan*, but that wasn't the question.) It seems to me that brand strategy is necessarily a subset of a comprehensive business strategy. If it's not, then why bother? No one but, say, a performance artist cares for long about a brand for which no business strategy exists, making the point of its strategy moot. 
Ash Arnett, User Experience, Sapient - February 6, 2002
 Biz strategy comes first. The Brand emcompasses most elements of your biz strategy and biz model and conveys them to the market place. If you have no biz strategy, your brand strategy is an empty shell. 
Francois Montrelay, SVP Marketing & Comms, ABN AMRO Bank GTS - February 7, 2002
 where do you start: brand strategy vs. business strategy? if there is the urge to create a vision it usually is already part of a business strategy. if sensual enlightenment comes first - well, then there is the urge to create a business strategy. 
Anonymous - February 7, 2002
 It depends (that old coverall opening!): it's a little like recruitment - sometimes you write the job description and go looking for the right candidate; other times the candidate writes the job description. Play to your strengths, if it's a great brand, lead with the brand strategy; if it's a so-so brand, lead with the business plan. 
Gerard Tannam, Consultant, bradley mcgurk: partnership - February 8, 2002
 What business plan without a strong BRAND IDEA? What brand success without a stringent business strategy? If internal competition makes a company's character, they are going to fall out of the market anyway ... 
Patrick Lang, Senior Designer, Ramstein Ehinger Associates, Switzerland - February 8, 2002
 A business strategy is aimed at achieving particular customer behaviour. Only if customers actually purchase, use (more often), pay a higher price or donate (more) will the objectives of a business strategy be met. These objectives may include a larger market share, increased returns, higher margins and increased shareholder value. Brands are designed to persuade consumers to exhibit the behaviour that will make these objectives come true for the organisation. Thus, business strategy comes first. 
Sicco van Gelder, Managing Consultant, Brand Meta - February 8, 2002
 In reality, it is a moot question. A successfull business requires both, so it is irrelevant which one is developed first. It is the implementation that derives financial success (the obvious objective of going into business). The critical element is that the two compliment each other and are both created in relation to the market. 
Darren McColl, cummins&partners - February 10, 2002
 The debate is largely a philosophical one. Just as the electron, displays both wave and particle like attributes, depending on the aspects of its behaviour being modelled. So the entity we call a business displays both brand and business attributes. Both models are needed to shed understanding, insight into the complex relationship that exists between the ‘entity’, its products/services and consumer relationships. In this philosophical view Shareholder value rather than being seen a separate issue, can be seen as further attribute of the business entity, requiring equal attention. 
William Chouffot, Freelance Designer - February 11, 2002
 Brand strategy is business strategy. You can not choose to do one before the other.

Branding is the ability to compete with intangibles. In a world where that is more valuable than competing with tangibles, the brand strategy becomes the business strategy. This means that the two once separable entitys now are inseparable. 

Tomas Conradi, management consultant, Differ - brand-driven innovation - February 11, 2002
 Biz strategy first and foremost. What business you are in, who your key customers are, and how you will earn money, are broader issues than how your brand differentiates you, how you will bring the brand to the market, and how you can leverage the brand. 
Toni Maloney, Founder, - February 11, 2002
 A brand strategy without a Business case is called a vision or idea. A Business case is generally referred to as a foundation (and as such will often survive without defined branding, albeit with moderate success). It is entirely possible for one to drive the other, however, I know which one I would prefer to enter business with. You only have to cast your mind back to the .com debacle to witness the effect of great ideas with ill defined business plans. 
David Craggs, Creative Director, Lastplaceonearth - February 11, 2002
 Bottom line - you can have business strategy without brand strategy but not the other way. Brand without business is like the pope without religion. 
Farah Sayeed, CKO, SAC - February 11, 2002
 Our society is a tradition driven one. We lean toward those brands and businesses that have awed us for decades. Summation: Sell your business, then your product. 
Emily Jones, Student - February 11, 2002
 If a brand is a collection of perceptions in the mind of an audience, you have to do some business first (business strategy), for these perceptions to be registered. Thereafter choosing to influence and positively manage these perceptions (brand strategy) feeds into and helps both modify and support the business strategy, becoming an ongoing circular process. 
David Murrell, Branding Manager, Kudos Information Ltd - February 13, 2002
 You necessaily start with a business plan that has evaluated the variables that would affect the market potential of a given business, such as competition, market potential, target audience, etc. A good business strategy will then frame a branding strategy around that business plan that positions the company to its best advantage. The opposite approach, of planning a brand strategy in advance of a business strategy, would be a classic variation of a solution looking for a problem. 
Steve Rapier, VP Account Planning, The Artime Group - February 14, 2002
 Many brands and businesses met their fate while battling it out in internal debates on brand strategy or business strategy. How many times have we seen how companies and/or brands tried to force their propositions down the consumers throats. I think it is time we all moved beyond these strategic approaches and design a new one, the consumer strategy, with the key objective of bridging the gap between the consumer perception of our business and brands and that of management's perception. Once we did this, the appropriate brand approach and the business model supporting it are almost natural fall-outs. 
Bela Schweiger, Director of Marketing - February 15, 2002
 The initial business idea might well be triggered by brand strategy; for example, you want to position your product/service differently. However, without a business strategy you won't come far - for example no investor will give you any money. The brand strategy is one part of the business plan, together with other just as vital parts that together form a complete picture of the business idea. 
Anonymous - February 15, 2002
 The question sounds like - Egg vs Chicken.
Only one thing is clear - they couldn't exist without one another.

Also here is always one question behind. What kind of resources (time, $...) you like to invest in planning? (Obviously business-plan where brand srtategy included is lot more expensive.)  

Andrew Breadman, Senior Partner, MarkMAN Consulting - February 18, 2002
 If I understand the issue correctly, then I interpret it as a man planning for his baby b4 he has met his wife. For an existing venture the brand strategy could be implemented at any stage (in the short term) but for a virgin, business strategy is paramount and imperative, steered if u like with a brand strategy in mind. 
Cajero, Economist, WCC - February 20, 2002
 I am absolutely dumbfounded by the number of comments that state that a brand strategy should exist before a business strategy. I believe in the power of brands, but a brand can never be strong if the fundamentals aren't right. The fundamentals being the business strategy. And depending on which business strategy school you adhere to, strategic positioning can play a role in that.

Also principles are only principles if they can be generalized. Take an industrial company for instance. In most cases they don't work with brand strategies. They do have a business strategy however. Seems they can survive without a brand strategy.

In other words: a business strategy always comes before a brand strategy and brand strategies are not always needed. 

Pepita E.A. Bos MM, Strategy consultant & Interim Manager, Self-employed - February 26, 2002
 I would share the dumbfoundment (is that a word?!) of your previous correspondent, but for the fact that we are writing in the medium of brand consultants. And brand consultants are a wonderfully evangelistic lot : so much so, that many forget that brands are there to serve business, and not vice versa.

Imagine any other body of professionals (lawyers, say. or accountants) claiming that the work they did was SO vital that it took precedence over the construction of a solid business plan. I think we might call that vain… 

Matthew Lonsdale, Partner, gospel branding - February 27, 2002
 Business Strategy must come first. The business must clearly identify its objectives and goals and then communicate them both internally and externally so that they can be achieved and delivered. Your brand is your promise of your delivery, be it product or service. It is the values by which you will conduct your business, and it is this that you want to present to your audiences. The brand strategy supports and communicates the business strategy. If the business strategy is clearly defined and the brand strategy clearly determined to support and communicate the product/service and values, shareholder value will not be reduced but increased. 
Barry McLaughlin, Creative Director, Source Design Consultants - February 28, 2002
 Seems to me, business strategy is the competitive positioning of brands.

Sure, they go hand-in-hand, but the business plan has to come first. We've all seen how interesting brands can fail fairly quickly without smart strategies to support their evolution. 

Larry Eckerle, Managing Partner, Zero Gravity Group - February 28, 2002
 The importance of brands depends on the true ambitions of the company. Businesses can exist without a strong brand idea, but leaders will not exist if they have no brand idea behind their business. It is very easy to get self deluded in the process (that's what happened during the .com era), but leadership can only be attained if business strategy is inspired by a big idea. 
Manuel Ho - February 28, 2002
  back to debate