Podcast: Bringing greater efficiency to brand operations during disruption

Podcast: Bringing greater efficiency to brand operations during disruption

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Monday, April 6, 2020 | BrandActive

The 10-Minute Roadmap is a new podcast series dedicated to providing insights from BrandActive and our work with Fortune 1000 Clients on how to best manage brand operations and rebrand projects during uncertainty.

This episode, “Bringing greater efficiency to brand operations during disruption“, explores how uncertainty is forcing most marketing and brand executives to figure out how to be more effective and efficient – to “do more for less.” Many are taking the opportunity to turn their attention inward – to identify opportunities for improvement and put these into action right now so that they can weather the COVID period and emerge even stronger on the other side for years to come. Some of our Fortune 1000 clients are taking time over the next couple of months to find ways to improve outcomes where they can and lower the overall costs of brand operations.

In this episode of BrandActive’s “Ten-Minute Roadmap” podcast series, you’ll learn key actions to take now:

  • Examine all spending to quickly identify opportunities for smarter brand operations
  • Improve business outcomes by optimizing the efforts of employees and agencies
  • Fast-track three proven strategies—rationalization, automation, and simplification—to “find the money” for strategic initiatives now

Listen to the talk below now.

Full transcript of the audio below:

Hello and welcome to this 10 minute talk. I’m Phillip Guiliano and I’m a partner at BrandActive. The first talk in our podcast series focused on moving your rebranding project forward during COVID-19 and the second covered vendor management and supply chain disruption challenges. In this talk, we will cover a critical go forward strategy, bringing greater efficiency to brand operations where we’ll provide some great ideas on how to do more for less right now and put you in a position to realize these efficiencies for years to come.

There are three parts to this topic today. First, we will look at efficiencies in your direct spending on branded assets. Next we will look at people, vendors, and agencies. And then finally we will cover the big payoff strategies such as rationalization, automation, and simplification and fast tracking them during COVID-19 to find the money for strategic initiatives. At a minimum, this work will help you operate more cost effectively and efficiently, have more time for strategic activities, and set yourself up for ongoing operational efficiency.

Stay with me for the next few minutes here and I’ll try to succinctly deliver some actionable information on all of these topics. Here we go. Look, it’s no secret that marketing initiatives are typically the first things to get scrutinized during any time of business pressure. One of the best ways to defend against this or at least put yourself in a position of strength, is to have a great handle on all of your brand asset spend. And it’s also a place to start to improve operational efficiency. And I’ll talk about opportunities within two categories, known and unknown branded assets spend because marketing typically knows about creative, media buys, social and digital, but far fewer have a handle on branded asset related spend across other departments. This can really be a great opportunity for marketers.

We’ll start closest to home. You need to have a very granular understanding of marketing spend and the opportunities for efficiency. COVID-19 has effectively forced a reboot of many marketing initiatives, trade shows, sports sponsorships, a lot of key TV and other events are off the table for the time being. And I don’t need to advise any of you on how to look at where you are directing your marketing dollars. You’re already thinking about and adapting to rapid changes in viewing and consumption habits. That said, right now is a really solid time to evaluate your agency roster, what they are doing for you, what they can do for you, and how you can either consolidate for efficiency or diversify for the same or outsource key things at lower costs. We’ll touch on this a lot more in a minute. It’s also a solid time to look deeply at your internal processes, time to market approvals and how people are spending their time and on what. This can actually be quite a simple audit to do.

It’s also a good time to renegotiate things. We’ll touch on other activities here when we get into automation, simplification, and rationalization a little bit later. Truly I could easily spend two hours talking about opportunities in that area. In this next section, which addresses the area of unknown spend related to branded assets outside of the marketing department. And as I mentioned, this really is a great opportunity for a marketer and it includes signage products and packaging documents and forms, badges, uniforms, merchandise, employer brand, and so much more, right? But depending on how you are organized, it also encompasses spending that happens in regional marketing departments of different divisions within the organization or perhaps within different geographies.

Most marketers we work with have no line of sight into or current control over what happens in relation to or is spent on assets in these areas. Taking the time to do an analysis on processes, the creative involved vendors, people, standardization, rationalizing the assets as I mentioned, and other factors associated with these asset areas can really uncover a lot of efficiencies that marketing may indeed be able to reclaim and use elsewhere, while also just being the right thing to do for the business.

Even something as simple as diving deeper into what happens with collateral at a local level with one of our clients uncovered a hidden $500 expense, but then they were doing that a thousand times 12 times a year. Remedying this unlocked about $5 million of hidden money- so this can be enormously powerful. And this brings us to the second part of your efficiency analysis, understanding where employees and agencies are spending their time and money.Let’s start with the agencies.

We’re at a really interesting inflection point right at this minute where agencies have some clients that are going on pause and others canceling their work altogether. And at present they still have the resource capacity. If you are in the position of pushing ahead, then getting critical things out to your agencies may have you realize economies right now before that capacity goes away. It’s also a great time to look at your agency roster. As I mentioned, and you could keep this top line if you wanted, but I would challenge you to go deeper into your processes and see what happens with assets downstream to get the complete picture of full agency spend.

Review the full list. What are they doing for you? What can they do for you from a full capability set standpoint? What is their cost structure like? And then find the efficiencies. This also then opens up the door for renegotiation of costs with a better picture of the entire landscape. The same can be done with your own internal staff, right? What are people doing? How are they doing it? How are you supporting them to do this simpler and faster? Do you have people still processing mundane things that could be done differently, thereby using those resources on more impactful and strategic things right now? All of these things have a serious ROI equation behind them and tangible savings and also in opportunity costs.

Now we turn to our last topic in this podcast, which is about getting more granular on the specific actions that you can take to drive efficiency. Beyond what we’ve already shared, there are three proven strategies to put into action during this time of change, rationalization, automation, and the biggest driver of efficiency, simplification. We’ll start with the highest impact strategy, simplification. Approaching brand operations through the lens of simplification is key to finding and freeing up resources. And it’s the right place to start because it then points out all of the opportunities for rationalizing branded assets and automating processes. So much of what marketing does is conceived centrally but then executed locally without much of a detailed understanding of how decentralized resources actually do any of that.

You need to be able to balance the need for local control and regional implementation against the cost efficiencies and quality control achieved through centralization. Now maybe the best opportunity to draw more functions into a centralized structure or to add a better feel support model centrally to provide simpler guidance and documentation. This doesn’t mean building up a centralized staff. It’s about having centralized standard processes, agency relationships, vendors, decision trees, documentation support, and optimized assets and costing structures. Make everything that you do simple to do right and hard to get wrong. Standardize and specify your assets. Simplify your processes, reduce the volume of variations, and then of course automate and rationalize from there as we’ll talk about here in a little bit.

All of this improves time to market, frees up resources, and saves a lot of money, while improving the quality of outcomes and brand experience as well, which now leads us directly into the next area of this, which is automation. And I need to lead this part off with the fact that you absolutely need to do everything else in this podcast prior to automation. There may still be ROI to installing systems to support marketing automation. But without a thorough look at people, processes, activities, outcomes, and so on, you really aren’t going to unlock the full potential here. Then match up your current state and future state opportunity analysis to the set of available technologies and map these out, with a full cost and opportunity model associated with that.

This will allow you to then prioritize. Whether the opportunities rest in workflow automation, collaboration, online creation or adaptation tools. We then recommend phasing the rollout of these systems to aid in the adoption and lessen the disruption, which is critical right now. Prioritize, pilot first, prove the model in ROI, and then expand your systems.

Time is getting short, but I did want to cover one more strategy and that’s rationalization and this is powerful for so many reasons. It achieves efficiencies in production and involves less to manage. It saves a ton of money and improves customer experience and it also sets you up to then execute large change initiatives coming out of COVID-19 way more efficiently in the future by simply having less stuff to touch. The goal is to figure out how you simplify your asset families and this can be done with signage documents and forms, uniforms, collateral product materials, badge variations. Literally anything. Rationalization is what can take 4,000 different iterations of a hundred kinds of branded assets in say collateral and bring that down to 200 templates. It can simplify signage systems for efficiencies in acquisitions and new builds and so much more.

As promised, there was a lot in this talk. Honestly, the best place to start to understand how you can do more with less is to do an operational simplification audit across people, processes, systems, vendors and agencies, and support and training.

If you want to know more about that or any of the topics I’ve covered today, I’m happy to talk with any of you about your situation and share concrete ideas from clients, situations, opportunities we’ve helped them realize and the savings identified with each of those. Just click on the blue button below to submit your questions or reach out to me directly through our website. So with that, I’ll wrap up today’s talk. As promised, we’re continuing to keep these short out of respect for your time. To hear additional talks in this series of 10 minute roadmaps in response to COVID-19, visit brandactive.com/podcast. Thank you all so much.