A strong brand with differentiated market positioning, top-of-mind awareness and consumer loyalty is a required foundation for a successful and growing business. That we know.

But let’s say your brand isn’t exactly where you want it to be. So you do the research, build a strategy based on brand fundamentals and devise a set of tactics to deliver this refreshed positioning into the market.

Here is when reality kicks in. You don’t have the budget to execute all those tactics, but every one of them seems important to shifting your brand into its new place in the market mindset. Unless you have this (unlimited) budget, you simply cannot do everything at once. And even if you did have a deep bank account, some strategies take time to percolate.

There is something we all tend to do in today’s fast-paced, need-it-yesterday world. We try to pack more into less. Do more stuff in less time. Buy more stuff with less money. Get more done with less attention. This generally does not work out well, and it can cause a lot of stress in the process.

As a marketing agency, we often see our clients face this morass when planning the evolution of their brand development. You see Point B from Point A. But how do you get there fast and within your limited budget? It is daunting, and sometimes paralyzing.

The 3-Year Approach
The answer is surprisingly simple … think beyond one year and build a three-year approach. Realize and accept that brands are built over time. Successful business strategy is not limited to one year, so why do we try to deploy brand strategies within this accelerated timespan?

Expanding from one to three years elevates the way you think and results in a thoughtful and manageable plan that can succeed.  The task ahead becomes more reasonable, realistic and achievable. Suddenly, the situation goes from stressful anxiety to sensible practicality.

It’s amazing how something so simple, straightforward and intuitive can be so liberating.

The Three Forms of Brand Currency
There are three factors in the equation that governs how you develop your three-year brand plan and manage expectations: money, internal execution and timeframe. The confluence of these three factors determines how long it will take to build brand and what it can represent at the conclusion of your plan.

In other words, the brand building equation is:

(x) MONEY * (y) INTERNAL EXECUTION = (z) TIMEFRAME

How quickly you want to move the needle on marketplace brand perception (timeframe) will determine how much you need to invest (money) and/or how much your organization must personally carry out (internal execution). For example, making an internal commitment to “walking the walk” accelerates the brand. This means rolling up your sleeves and doing the dirty work, e.g., establishing a vibrant and consistent social media presence, operationalizing the brand through personal employee-customer interactions and activating the brand through community involvement.

No one has unlimited budget and internal resources. When unrealistic expectations are in place without a true understanding of this brand building equation, the stage is set for stress, disappointment and conflict.

Escape all of this and shape a successful strategy by avoiding the doomed (too much to expect in) one-year plan. From the outset, think in terms of a realistic three-year timeframe, including an investment of money and internal execution that is available and achievable.

Remember: “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they worked on it every day.”