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Innovative Impact Blog: Brand Planning in uncertain times

In these uncertain times, plan for the actions you may never take for brand planning success

Authored by Melissa Dagless, Head of Growth and Innovation, Uptake Strategies for the PME Innovative Impact series.

In this article for Pharma Market Europe, Melissa Dagless, highlights the importance of developing a culture of continuous refinement and flexibility, due to the traditional annual brand planning process no longer being sufficient in a world of constant change. She explores focussing on proactivity and pre-arming teams with the tools to respond to emerging trends and risks, which requires a transformational shift towards enquiring minds and insight generation, with regular tracking of lead indicators and pre-defined lag indicators.

Melissa suggests by implementing agility and flexibility into your brand planning process, decisions can be reliably led by causes rather than results. This approach will ultimately lead to the development of a brand that maintains its impact throughout the year, driving performance for patients, clinicians and the organisations alike.

Read below or click to access the published version

To be successful in changeable times, we must elevate the way we create our brand plans

We are always taught that failing to plan is planning to fail. But, what if there’s more to it than that?

A beautifully crafted brand plan is a wonderful thing in times of predictable stability, but we are absolutely not in those times, nor are we likely to be anytime soon. Often – seemingly daily – a curveball is thrown at us that risks pushing us off course.

Trying to follow your brand plan rigidly in a world of change is like playing a game of whack-a-mole. You spend more time being distracted by the changes while attempting to get back on track, rather than responding in a way that will lead to optimised performance. Ultimately, the speed and quantity of moles has the potential to overwhelm the finest of players!

Five steps for innovative planning

To be successful in changeable times, we must elevate the way we create our brand plans, spending more time:

  1. Defining critical growth drivers
  2. Using ‘practical’ AGILE techniques:
    • To co-create cross-functional plans, with a laser focus on the critical decisions that need to be made, driven by deep external insight
  3. Baking-in measurement of true lead indicators:
    • To rapidly assess whether performance is on track and whether there is a need to ‘course correct’
  4. Rigorously scenario-planning:
    • To agree (at a cross-functional and leadership level) on the actions to be taken in each of the ‘likely and high impact’ scenarios, enabling seamless responses
  5. Streamlining decision-making teams:
    • To create a leaner structure, removing barriers to change, and the dilution of our boldest ideas.


This proactivity adds far more depth and agility to the planning process. Bizarrely, it means that we will likely never action much of what we plan for in step 4 above. But, if we know where the pivot points are most likely to appear and what risks we may face, we will be pre-armed with the tools to build confidence and resilience within our teams. If and when the time comes, we’ll know what to do.

An evolution in brand planning

A transformational shift has occurred. Traditional annual planning is no longer enough and there is now a continuous need for refinement of the brand plan. Due to this, enquiring minds have become your most valuable assets, particularly when those enquiring minds exist at leadership level.

It’s time to build cultures that actively and constantly question the status quo, and to develop a systematic way of generating insights. Regular and consistent tracking of lead indicators, combined with a rear view of predefined lag indicators, is critical in the early discovery of emerging trends, enabling rapid diagnosis at local and global level. If we can achieve this, I am confident that our decisions will be reliably led by causes rather than results.

Planned flexibility

Planning is more crucial than ever in times like these, but before you plunge headlong into what you have always done, I urge you to consider how you can add flexibility to your process to develop a brand that continues to have impact throughout the year and drives performance for patients, clinicians and your organisation.

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