The F.E.A.R. Checklist
The aggregate lesson of the case-studies and data we have at our disposal, from business and nature, brands and animals, is that the only way to avoid extinction, to cheat death, is to relentlessly adapt. For marketers, this means moulding your brand to external conditions, crafting a specific set of characteristics and behaviours around the observable traits of the market your business exists inside.
That approach can be simplified into a single brand strategy checklist: the F.E.A.R. checklist.
Food: How do we adapt to the characteristics of the customers in our specific market?
Faith: how much faith is involved in purchasing a product like ours? How slow are the benefits of products like ours to reveal themselves?
Cost: how expensive are our products, absolutely and relatively? How high are barriers to purchase?
Consumption: how, where and with whom are our products consumed?
Motivation: what do customers in our market want from us or products like ours? If we need a reputation, what do we need a reputation for?
Environment: How do we adapt to changing external conditions?
What are the most likely threats to our brand health over the next two years? Break out culture, competition and technology, and be clear that the significant impact will occur in this period.
What are the most significant of those threats? Assign probabilities and prioritise.
Where (and why) have we previously over- or under-estimated a threat to our brand health?
Advantage: How do we adapt to our business’s greatest strength?
What is our core strength as a business? Why have we survived for as long as we have?
How does that strength offer advantage inside our market? In what way is it most distinct?
Is what we do uniquely well understood by customers in our market now?
Risk: How do we adapt to our relative need?
How far are we behind the category leader (or our target)? Is the gap growing or shrinking? How long has the current trend persisted?
How focused is our approach right now? If we’re the category leader, are we broad enough to grow our base? If we’re behind, are we focused enough to generate more sales impact or build more brand equity with fewer resources?
Do we need to challenge how the market is shopped to maximise our advantage? If so, how?
Rules for use
You can only reach useful answers that guide positive future action if you are honest about how you answer, seek guidance from a broad set of sources and have the humility to calibrate and re-calibrate your understanding based on feedback and results from the outside world.
If you can commit to this, then whatever the size, type or background of your brand you can build yourself an authentic, productive and efficient marketing programme.