Coming off of Super Bowl weekend, this week’s “water cooler” conversations have been around the most memorable (and funniest) commercials, the halftime show and of course, the actual game. There are varying degrees of interest for the latter two topics, but the ads seem to be the great unifier; puppy monkey baby, anyone? We tend to remember them long after the game and look forward year after year to seeing what the new kids on the block will bring forth and how the veteran marketers will top themselves. This, however, seems to be the only constant.

How we as an audience digest and interpret a brand’s messaging and content is dynamic and evolving. Today, we can view and replay commercials on demand; instantaneously share our opinions with people across the globe; and view the rest of the brand’s story online. Similarly, unknown brands may gamble to be instantly launched into the spotlight and gain valuable momentum and buzz, compared to the opportunities of 10 or 15 years ago.

These developments are motivated by changing technologies, the online worlds we’ve created around us, and as well as consumer demand for more unique and tailored products and experiences.

In our most recent Point of View, Brand Connectivity: Multi-dimensional Branding Comes of Age, I discuss consumer disruption of the marketplace – for better and for worse – and how retailers can (and should) answer appropriately. Although I would recommend focusing first on preparing foundationally by having the right internal organizational alignment, training and systems in place instead of how to produce your next Super Bowl campaign, let’s talk about how to put some of these branding strategies to use, now.

While many of you may not have the authority to direct your brand’s overall marketing strategy, you probably are collaborating on existing and future business initiatives and strategies. According to research from MIT Sloan Management Review, “Why Every Project Needs a Brand (and How to Create One),” there are four factors that will dictate stakeholder buy-in and overall support of an initiative:

(1) the perceived strategic importance,
(2) the reputation of the project leader,
(2) the project’s viability and
(4) the client (e.g., end consumer or user) status.

Branding a project increases the odds of success. The roadmap to accomplish this branding is called the 5Ps: Pitch, Plan, Platform, Performance and Payoff.

Seems pretty straightforward, but it can be a daunting task to realize.

The Pitch

This is the beginning and is described as the initial effort to sell the need for the project; you want to persuade key decision makers of the need for change in terms of a tangible gap or issue. You can do this by focusing on the challenge and opportunity, not the project…or in the case of Super Bowl commercials – the product.

For a project, this means being focused on the “why” or aptly named the “project promise” and being clear about problems and the importance of the desired future state, even if the journey will be hard. Additionally, this is the first opportunity to establish your communication channels and vehicles, your greatest resource to effect change.

The Plan

This means organizing project goals and activities – linking project actions to the project promise; and defining (and communicating.) roles and responsibilities.

On a project, it is crucial to build and maintain confidence and trust in the project’s feasibility. To do this, you should not only have a well-developed project plan, but also assemble the right project leaders to lead the change – those who are not only qualified, but also respected and established within the business regardless of job title.

The Platform

This means formally launching the project to both socialize and legitimize it within the organization, even to those groups that are not greatly impacted and stakeholders that you believe have been intimately involved in the project pitch and planning thus far. Do not assume that the immediate project team is on the same page just because you’ve already had multiple conversations.

There must be both an emotional and intellectual connection and it is best to deliver the message in ways, sometimes multiple ways, that resonate with each target audience, but also assure message consistency across audiences.

The Performance

This translates into delivering on the project’s promise by making the results transparent to stakeholders. Selecting the right timing, moments and touchpoints are key. Also, this means having the foresight and wherewithal to know that you may have to adjust planned goals and activities. This demonstrates resiliency in the face of challenges.

There is no such thing as under communicating. If left to their own devices, stakeholders will create their own story and act accordingly – even if those actions are in direct conflict with the project promise.

The Payoff

This means disseminating proof of the promise delivery and lessons learned, regardless of the outcome. You should celebrate the close of the project, reward stakeholders and communicate success metrics.

As the last “P” this means formally closing the project and linking achievement of project objectives to business strategy and actions. Done well and culminating with execution of The Payoff, this series of P’s will set you and your business on a solid track for the next transformative project.

– Courtney