What is a brand planner and do I need one on my branding project?


What is a brand planner? It’s a great question, and honestly, a few years ago we wouldn’t have been able to answer you. All we knew was that we wanted to find a way to work with clients and dig deeper to support them in new and exciting ways. Brand planners get to the core of your business, and if your creative agency doesn’t have one on the team - we’d be asking if they are really doing what’s best for your business goals.


How your business will thrive when you work with a brand planner

Working with a brand planner cuts out speculation and assumption, otherwise known as total time and money wasters. The work you do with a planner will give you a greater understanding of where your business can go next, and how to take it there.

Good brand planners will give accurate - and most importantly - clear and easy to follow feedback on every aspect of your brand. The project should not end until you’ve completely nailed:

  • The truth of your brand 
  • What makes your competitors tick
  • Your clear point of difference 
  • Who your ideal buyers / customers are
  • What your messages will look like 
  • How to communicate your messages

We sat down for a blether with our very own kick-ass brand planner Charlotte, to get a better understanding of what she does, how she does it and how it makes things better for our client’s business goals.


Hi Charlotte! We’re curious…how would you describe your role as a brand planner?

Brand planners are truth-seekers. We are experts on people, behaviours and branding. It’s my job to immerse myself in a client’s business, market and client base. This can take so many forms, and never follows a set path. One day I’m a market researcher, the next I’m knee-deep in competitor analysis, being a secret shopper or preparing a branding workshop… it’s a role that never sits still. Our ultimate aim to ensure that we give clients a brand grounded in truth and relevance.


Do clients come to 39steps specifically for what you do?

At times, but, understandably, many clients don’t really know that my role exists. For an agency of any size, having a planner is an advantage. There’s so much to understand before the design stage, and being thorough at this early phase pays huge dividends later on.


What do you love about your job?

The variety is key; there are always interesting stories to discover and tell. It doesn’t matter what sector the client is in – it’s all about learning and discovery.

I also love people; I couldn’t do my job if I didn’t. Working closely with clients and really getting under the skin of their business is a privilege… and it’s obviously an utter joy to present work to a client and hear them say that we’ve really nailed it. You know you’ve guided them through the first part of a hugely important journey.


You’ve been in this industry for 17 years. What are you most proud of?

I take pride in all the success factors, big and small. I feel pride when I see a business that we’ve helped go on to flourish, but similarly I smile every time I see a TV ad I’ve worked on, or see a website go live.


What kind of jobs keep you awake at night?

It’s the nature of my job that I don’t switch off; inspiration and information is everywhere. Sometimes ideas arrive at the strangest times; that’s why I always carry a little notebook with me so I can scribble things down.

To be a good planner, you need to be quite nerdy, and I’m afraid I fit that bill.


If you could go back in time and give yourself advice for starting out – what would you say?

I’d say – stay open-minded and be a sponge. Learn as much as you can from the people around you. Every project you work on improves the next project you work on. It’s all connected.


And what values or life lessons have you learned while working as a planner?

I’ve learned to keep asking questions. Even if, which is regularly the case, you’re annoying everybody else in the room. Keep asking questions until you get what you need. ‘Is this the best it can be?’ ‘Have we answered the need?’ ‘Why did we go down this route? Is there another way to go? How could we do this differently?’

Our clients need to know we’ve kicked the tyres as much as we can before we proceed.


What would your colleagues say about you?

I won’t rest until I’ve found the answers; I’ve been called Miss Marple or a grown-up Nancy Drew. I’m not sure which is better…

I have to keep in mind that it’s my job to be a pain in the ass sometimes, and I know that everyone understands that.

We had feedback from clients recently who said I was someone they could be open and honest with; someone to bounce ideas off without judgement. That is so important to me, clients and colleagues alike need to know they can trust me and that part of my job is to make things clearer and easier. Not more confusing.


Where do you get your inspiration from?

Inspiration is omnipresent; life is full of interesting stories. From passing beautiful packaging on the shelves of the supermarket to listening to Radio 4 and reading industry magazines, I constantly absorb information.


When it’s time to escape being a planner where do you like to go?

I never escape it, and I’m fine with that. My family are used to it. They’re used to me lying on the floor of supermarkets across the globe taking photos of interesting packaging.


What else do you have to say about being a planner?

I suppose I’m involved in this work to help people succeed, and be a source of knowledge and, at times, comfort, for a client. I suppose it’s a bit like a visit to the GP; sometimes giving clients the re-assurance that it’s nothing I haven’t seen before and is fixable can be the best starting point.

So, now you know what one is, you know you need a brand planner in your life, right? 

Now you know what working with our brand planner could do for your business, you'll be keen to know how you can get some of the action. A 39steps brand workshop will take your business in the right direction.  If you like the idea of cutting through the  noise and reaching new heights then it’s time to think about bringing in the 39steps brand workshops team.