While some people associate business planning narrowly with sales forecasting, or as a means to obtaining investment, it can also be used by companies to assess the impact of changes to the environmental context. This analysis of the future can help inform strategies and tactics in the present, which help to minimise the likelihood of certain outcomes, particularly negative ones happening in the future.

I spotted an advert in a recent edition of Newsweek which resonated strongly with me. The advert was placed by a company that clearly had one eye on the future, had identified a significant threat to a key supplier and had begun to put in place a number of clever activities in an attempt to protect this key supplier.

Who was the key supplier?

It is the humble honey bee, and the company in question is Haagen-Dazs.

Recognising that the ingredients it uses in its ice cream rely heavily on pollination by honey bees, Haagen-Dazs has set up a website which strives to raise awareness of the alarming decline in honey bees. The advert in Newsweek went one step further, consisting of an advert alongside a printed recyclable sheet embedded with wild flower seeds. The instructions suggested you ‘save a bee‘ by planting the page and watering it.

Not only is this a clever campaign that both engages and drives action, but also one that essentially carries no cost for the consumer. In economic terms it is a great solution to a real growing strategic problem, and also a very effective marketing ploy. For ice cream lovers the world over, it is also a very worthy cause!

Alan GleesonAlan Gleeson

Alan Gleeson was the general manager of Palo Alto Software UK, makers of Business Plan Pro and LivePlan. Alan has an MBA from Oxford and an MSc from University College, Cork, Ireland. You can follow Alan on Twitter @alangleeson.