Displaying items by tag: Brand commentary

One of the core purposes of a brand portfolio strategy is to help customers navigate the scope of a company’s offer in a way that best reflects the brand’s promise. Now, given the turbulence of markets, shifts in competitor service disciplines, your own tactical and strategic pivots, and the evolving sentiments of consumers post COVID-19, the importance of a strong and clearly defined brand architecture cannot be overstated. 

As we all emerge from the immediate and significant challenges of the pandemic and begin to settle into our new economic reality, it is increasingly clear that attention spans are shorter, discretionary budgets and spending diminished, and ultimately, brands are trying harder to secure their share of both market, mind and wallet.

In this state of flux, a brand architecture review can help an organisation streamline their brand portfolio so as to maximise return on investment and minimise confusion in the market.

There are a number of brand architecture models that may be appropriate for your unique organisational strategy. Considering the ever-changing environment we find ourselves in, which brand and product architecture strategy is the best fit for you?

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Our publication e-book – An Introduction to Brand Architecture outlines the core brand architecture structures that are available:

In this COVID-19 environment, if you are changing markets, channels or products your existing brand architecture is going to be implicated. There are certain questions we are being asked at BrandMatters in relation to this, notably, will your existing brands stretch to new markets, or could you serve the same or new markets with less brands? For businesses looking to pivot their core offer and brand away from displaced markets or towards more lucrative COVID markets, how do you inform such decisions? How do you mitigate risk and maximise opportunity?

As marketers looking to find answers to these fundamental brand architecture conundrums, some of the most significant considerations you will need to assess when undergoing your brand architecture review include…

How many brands are appropriate for your organisation?

The more brands you have the more thinly spread your (dwindling) marketing budget will become. A good first step in a brand architecture review is to logically assess the number of brands you need verses how many you currently have, considering also the necessary market requirements and demand post-COVID. It’s essential your offer doesn’t appear to cannibalise itself. If your organisation has made acquisitions, mergers or diversified recently, asking whether there are there brands that are now competing due to overlaps in service offering or across similar channels is essential. It may also be the case that incremental additions over time have created complexity and confusion, which are likely to have been accentuated in the context of the pandemic.

Brand distinction, in terms of quality or features, is one way to ensure that customers aren’t interpreting your brands as too similar, whereby the price becomes the determining factor in decision-making. In my experience, when customers experience difficulties understanding the full scope and relationships between brands, they seem to be restricted from fully connecting with the brand and are also more likely to make price-based purchasing decisions or search elsewhere. In this turbulent and over-communicated context post-COVID, attention spans are undoubtedly lower, and your brand need to be aware of this when it comes to the organisation and presentation of your brand portfolio in the market.

Testing your proposed new brand architecture structure through brand research will help you ensure you succeed in implementing an optimal model. Without properly stress testing your new or revised go-to-market strategy, you risk investing heavily against an unproven brand architecture strategy that may not be custom fit or suited for growth post COVID-19.

Building in flexibility

A brand framework that has been designed for today’s crisis without adequate flexibility given to future challenges will inhibit growth and increase of market share. I have found this fundamental flexibility is not always considered in brand architecture strategies. So, building flexibility into a brand framework requires longer term strategic thinking, and an understanding that markets that previously existed to serve customers are now intrinsically altered from what they were before. 

Another useful way to demonstrate flexibility is to provide greater certainty around the levels of risk in the investment your organisation is making with any potential brand architecture. This is essential for the marketing function of any organisation to demonstrate flexibility to C-Suite executives, where your role in overall position of your organisation can look to showcase higher level strategic thinking that gratifies budget expenditure. 

Where to start the brand architecture journey

Before and throughout the pandemic, BrandMatters has been assisting organisations across multiple industries in re-evaluating their brand architecture to ensure they are match fit for the post-COVID context. 

We’re offering a comprehensive productised solution that enables organisations to map their suite of products and services, and inform decision making in the management of these portfolios, in a cost-effective, efficient and accountable way. 

If your organisation needs assistance in evaluation of your brand architecture, get in touch with the BrandMatters team here.

Optimal brand architecture ensures that the brands that exist in an organisation’s portfolio are consistently adding value to justify the costs required to sustain them. Given the changes thrust upon us by COVID-19, many organisations and marketers are struggling with the management of their go-to-market strategy and brand portfolio to best meet the evolving interests of their shifting audiences. 

Organisations need to ask themselves one critical question: Is our current brand architecture, the way in which our products and services go to market and the inter-relationship between them, still fit for purpose, or, does it also need to evolve.

Brand architecture is always most efficient when it is aligned to and reflects your business strategy, giving relevance to how your brands can meet your objectives. This is never truer than now as we move into the post-COVID world, where the needs of the market and targets segments are swiftly evolving. Or, in the words of Simon Sinek, “It doesn't matter how much we know. What matters is how clearly others can understand what we know.” 

Ultimately, an optimised brand architecture structure is the anchor by which all brand decisions can be made. But in a world in flux, where internal business perspectives and external customer perspectives have shifted, where is the best place to start this brand architecture process?

Understand your current portfolio structure

It’s essential as a starting point to map out your existing brand architecture as it currently stands. Our publication, An Introductory Guide to Brand Architecture can help you understand the various brand architecture models that organisations adopt. 

Taking stock of your current situation is an important early step in the brand architecture review process. Many organisations grow organically over time: brands are acquired, brands extensions introduced, innovation and NPD is a constant. 

Mapping your current brand portfolio will enable you to understand the interrelationships between each of your brands, establish whether any of your brands overlap or cannibalise each other, and determine the relevance of each of your brands within the marketplace.

Since the onset of the coronavirus, many organisations have shifted their processes and sought access to new markets. Some have acquired incremental additions that over time have created complexity and confusion, where certain brands may be competing due to overlaps in service or product offering. And in a period of declining marketing expenditure, there may be increasing duplication of effort across the business that is bringing unnecessary cost and inefficiencies. 

It is only by taking an inventory audit of the existing portfolio can these factors become apparent, which is why this is such an important step in the organisation of your brand architecture.

The critical role of brand research

Brand research is also an essential step in the brand architecture review process. It not only identifies current market perceptions of your brand, but it will also inform the perceived impact of potential architecture alternatives. Researching your market can uncover the differentiating factors that can influence future decision making and de-risk the evolution of your portfolio structure.

Given the turbulence of markets recently, your existing brand research is likely outdated and not representative of the state of play through which you are likely to base your tactical and strategic considerations on.

Even short term, cost effective brand research can help measure the immediate impacts of the apprehension in the market, which will provide insights and analytics to prompt more extensive brand research to help identify and then address your unique situation post-COVID. Just last month, BrandMatters completed a quantitative research dip of over 500 SMEs across Australia for Vero’s SME Insurance Index COVID-19 Pulse Check, providing insights that helped hundreds of brokers understand the changing nature of the current climate and the impact these pressures are having on their key clients.

Turning insights into an evolved architecture

The complexity level of your brand architecture will depend on your current business model, the number of brands housed within your organisation, and the capacity to pivot and flex as required. 

In an environment where the market is evolving by the fortnight, it is important too that your architecture is built with flexibility in mind. An architecture framework that has been designed for today should include the capacity to incorporate mergers, acquisitions, brand collaborations or extensions, pivots and new target markets. 

In this COVID-19 world, if you are changing markets, channels or products your existing brand architecture is going to be implicated. Asking whether your existing brands should stretch to new markets, or could you serve the same or new markets with less brands? For businesses looking to pivot their core offer and brand away from displaced markets or towards more lucrative COVID markets, how do you inform such decisions? How do you mitigate risk and maximise opportunity?

The question we’re being asked by clients is "If I move my brand into that more lucrative market, can I do it credibly, or am I hindering my own brand as it’s simply a bridge too far? 

Future proofing your brand architecture with an inherent flexibility is crucial. It is more than likely the short-term tactical decisions you have made during COVID-19 pandemic were made to stem declining sales, as opposed to strategically reposition your entire organisation. But all organisations face different pressures, the number of changes in go-to-market strategies and brand portfolio organisation reflect this.

Where to start the brand architecture journey

In response to these challenges, BrandMatters is assisting organisations across multiple industries in re-evaluating their brand architecture to ensure they are match fit for the post-COVID context. 

We’re offering a comprehensive productised solution that enables organisations to map their suite of products and services, and inform decision making in the management of these portfolios.

If your organisation needs assistance in evaluation of your brand architecture, get in touch with the BrandMatters team here.

Marketers have known for years it’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it. And the key to a successful rollout of marketing activity is clear-minded, researched and informed marketing planning, knowing your audiences and how to communicate with them. 

As traditional marketing roles continue to evolve in response to the pandemic, it has become even more important for marketers to enact their roles through different channels and communicate to shifting audiences that have been saturated with ongoing content and messaging during and after the lockdown period.

Despite these significant changes, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the truth of marketing fundamentals, and that understanding an audience and their requirements is critical in order to deliver products and services that fulfil their needs and wants. The wants and needs of our audiences are shifting quickly, and all organisations need to review, evaluate and recalibrate their marketing in order to deliver the optimal offer to their targets. 

Informed marketing planning is critical to inform smart decision making in a continually changing landscape. But what does activating your marketing look like in a post-COVID world? How can it best benefit your business in a period of declining marketing expenditure?

The benefits of evaluating your marketing

Evaluating and recalibrating you marketing will provide a number of immediate benefits in current context: 

For your business, it demonstrates the marketing function not only understands the offer but will proactively flex its approach to generate further demand in a methodical and pragmatic way.
For your Board and senior leadership, it delivers assurance that the organisation and its offer is being promoted in the best and most effective way within a competitive, crowded and convoluted post-COVID marketplace.
For transparency of marketing spend, it delivers clarity around the best use across channels, so reduced investment is organised prudently for maximum return.
For market cut through, it shows flexibility and nimbleness in proactively embracing the new and uncertain economic environment, driving competitive advantage and consequent market share.

Principals of great marketing planning

In this ongoing state of flux, it is clear that returning to the fundamentals is essential. There are three key principals that can assist when initiating a marketing planning process:

1. Deliver genuine value: Attention spans are at a minimum, so deliver content that is worthy of their attention. Reigniting latent loyalty amongst existing, lapsed and potential customers is critical here. Define the sources of value within these three different audiences and understand their unique interests in relation to your existing and future content.
2. Solve a pain point: Immediacy gives currency to your marketing, so seek to solve or address a problem your clients are facing right now. These pain points are likely to be different from what they were pre-COVID, and they have likely shifted from the onset of the pandemic to now as life begins to transition again.
3. Deliver with consistency: Just when you are tired of saying it, your audience is just starting to hear it. Consistency built into all of your plans is essential, so your message achieves cut through.

Don’t forget your internal audiences

Planning for external marketing activity will certainly engage your external audiences, but what about internal audiences? All your people are brand ambassadors, and if they also believe in the messages your marketing seeks to deliver in the post-COVID world, they become living and breathing brand marketers for your organisation.

Marketing for the post-COVID-19 world

Post-COVID brings both market uncertainty, but also opportunity. 

BrandMatters is assisting organisations across multiple industries in re-evaluating their marketing activity and bringing back the fundamentals to ensure they are match fit for the post-COVID context. 

Our productised marketing activation solution enables organisations to evaluate their market, identify opportunities and strategies to achieve success, and deploy marketing plans and calendars that are accountable, actionable and manageable.

If your organisation needs assistance in evolving your marketing to meet the demands of the new market, get in touch with the BrandMatters team here.

Pivot.         Extension.          The new normal. 

As the everyday vernacular of our crisis evolves, so too does the variety of views on possible recovery…

The long road.          Snap back.          Tough times ahead.

The list is endless, yet organisations are facing two very immediate and pertinent questions: does our current marketing approach match the evolving reality of the post-COVID market, and if not, how does this need to change?

Regardless of the pivot, the realignment, or the refocus, our view at BrandMatters is that marketing cannot be successful without holding true to marketing fundamentals, fundamentals that have proved essential across industry, geography and time. Fundamentals act as the guide for decision making, and provide the structure to calmly evaluate market opportunities. 

These revised conditions require challenging thinking and a deep interrogation of your existing marketing plan. Many organisations will fail to effectively review their existing marketing plan and shift it appropriately for the post-COVID era. But what constitutes a future-proof marketing plan and how can it help assist organisations in flux?

The basic outline for a marketing plan provides the road map to qualify our new reality for businesses of any industry type:

Marketing planning

Market overview

Understanding your environment as of today is essential. In our current crisis, this becomes a continual monitoring process. A market overview needs to take into consideration:

• A " helicopter" view of the market and which brands service the market – Have brands that once serviced the market shifted their strategic and operational focus to capitalise upon new opportunities? Has there been a shift in specialisation focus for your immediate market?
• Environmental analysis including competitive, economic, political and legislative
• Analysis of an organisation’s product and/or service to evaluate fit to current market conditions.

Competitor analysis

In this climate, your competitors are already active and planning. In order to gain competitive advantage, it’s essential to understand:

• Your major competitor(s) in relation to key segments – how have they shifted their services? Are there new/different competitors in your market from those that came before?
• Their current and expected strategies – have they shifted their go-to-market strategies to reflect changes in market demand? What does this mean for you?
• The strengths or weakness of each competitor and understanding that these are not what they were before
• The levels of consolidation or expansion within the industry
• Their market positioning and unique selling points (USP) – is their positioning still realistic/feasible for current conditions? Can you look to capitalise on their decisions and changes to solidify your own market positioning?

SWOT analysis 

What do you have already to hand, and what do you know? List out all your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Your competition? Defining their relative strengths and weaknesses provides context of your relative strength and competitiveness. Without fail this analysis will be significantly different to the last time it completed.

Target Market & Segmentation

Our markets are now changing swiftly, as is their wants/needs, and so we need to (re)define our audience targets: 

• Demographic and psychographic
• Socio-economic
• Geographical
• Attitudinal and personality
• Lifestyle/Lifestage
Now, we can define their revised needs/wants and expectations.

Marketing objectives

Our objectives, both in terms of market share and revenue targets, need to reflect the realities of the changed world. Your marketing objectives will revolve around the following:

• Improve perceived market positioning
• Commensurate increase in market share
• Increase brand strength in the eyes of stakeholders and customers
• Increase the strength of and buy in of your brand by your staff
• Recreate your thought leadership strategy to reach new and different audiences 

Marketing Strategies

Brand is made up of the thousands of interactions your customers have with your brand. The classic services marketing mix, from which we can achieve our objectives, is captured in the 7 Ps:
• Product
• Price
• Place
• Promotion
• People
• Processes
• Physical

Traditionally, these tactical joysticks have be pushed and pulled for different purposes in our marketing strategies. But understanding that the most appropriate marketing mix strategy for this period is the key takeaway here, and whether your existing strategies reflect the appetite in the market. Answering this question will provide an insight into whether your overarching marketing strategy is correct for the post-COVID context.

Marketing calendar

This essentially comprises marketing activity eg What, when, how and who. It should contain a wide mix of elements such as events, web, sales tools, PR, advertising and so on.

The market’s appetite for marketing activity has shifted dramatically since the onset of the coronavirus. Determining whether your marketing calendar output still reflects these changes is essential in understanding the levels of engagement you will achieve with your marketing activity.

Evaluation

Tracking success is now critical to determine if your adjusted product/service provision meets the needs and wants of your targets. Through tracking, you are able to determine cut through and shifts in customer perceptions and attitudes.

Marketing for the post-COVID-19 world

BrandMatters is assisting organisations across multiple industries in re-evaluating their marketing activity and bringing back the fundamentals to ensure they are match fit for the post-COVID context. 

Our productised marketing activation solution enables organisations to evaluate their market, identify opportunities and strategies to achieve success, and deploy marketing plans and calendars that are accountable, actionable and manageable.

If your organisation needs assistance in evolving your marketing to meet the demands of the new market, get in touch with the BrandMatters team here.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020 10:19

We’ve come a very long way since the time Lord Leverhulme famously lamented: ““Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is, I don't know which half.” In this era, measuring performance is increasingly important and commercially savvy marketers are required to clearly demonstrate how their marketing investment is working to build sales and meet business objectives. Accountability and effectiveness are key for all brand and marketing activities.

While brand measurement (often referred to as brand tracking) is a valuable way for all organizations to demonstrate this accountability, business to business (B2B) organisations face unique challenges when it comes to measuring their performance. Selling to other businesses is very different than selling directly to consumers. In B2B transactions, the stakes are frequently higher, and getting the sale can be a more involved process. Traditional thinking is that B2B is driven by relationships rather than brand, so in the past very little brand measurement has been performed. However, defining and tracking relevant metrics for a B2B organization should look at both the performance of relationships and the role of the brand. 

Increasingly brand is being understood to have an important part to play in guiding decisions. As humans our ability to process all the information available has a limit, and much of the time we use heuristics, often referred to as cognitive shortcuts, to help us make ‘safe’ decisions. Our professional lives are no different. Brands signify what type of employees you are likely to have within the organisation and therefore what type of relationships will occur (refer to our previous blog on employee branding). Therefore, as with any organisation, whether your clients are consumers or businesses, it is important to have well-defined brand strategies and strong, disciplined brand measurement. Brand measurement for any organisation ensures accountability and guidance moving forward.

What are the biggest challenges for B2B organisation tracking? 

Smaller, more niche target audiences

Firstly, the size of the client base is usually smaller. Instead of reaching thousands of consumers some businesses could have handfuls of business clients and a very niche audience. So, it is common for many B2B organisations to have clients that are hard to reach and difficult to get feedback from. 

Multiple stakeholders involved in decision-making

In most B2B organisations, a range of stakeholders are involved in decision making, either as influencers, users or final decision-makers. So, you need an approach that enables you to understand all the diverse behaviours, needs and attitudes of your business customers. 

Brand is delivered by a broader range of vehicles, including relationships, websites, conferences and events

The way B2B organisations communicate to their clients can be more complex and often rely on a mixture of different methods targeting the same client but at different levels in the organisation. An organisation might choose to target frontline staff through training initiatives whereas c-suite decision makers could call for a more personal and direct sell. Brand measurement for B2B organisations needs to account for these different levels of activity in order to ensure efforts can be held accountable and ultimately enhanced where needed. 

What are common misconceptions about B2B tracking? 

Emotional benefits and messages are only important in B2C. 

Some may argue that purchase decisions in businesses are commonly more rational than purchase decisions made by consumers. We would argue (with clear support from neurological studies on the role of emotional processing in decision making) that in either case, whether professional or personal, decisions are never devoid of some emotion and therefore brand tracking needs to look at capturing both elements as much as possible. 

Relationships are more important than brand in driving sales

While we agree that a good client relationship will usually help sales, we would argue that your employees and the way they deal with their customers is a large part of the brand identity. For more on this topic please refer to our previous blog on employee branding.

How to approach the unique challenges of B2B brand tracking?

Challenge 1: Smaller, more niche target audiences

To reach smaller and at times very specific audiences it’s important to be flexible when it comes to research methodology. It might be more effective to try a hybrid approach to research. For instance, you could have in-depth one on one interviews with existing customers to understand your brand’s performance but also a category read of the general business population using a research panel to uncover perceptions of your brand at large. 

Use client lists. In other words, if you have an email database of existing and ex client contacts you can utilise this to collect feedback by sending out a survey. Research can be expensive if you’re trying to recruit very niche respondents so effectively using what is already at your disposal is vital. 

Accept smaller base sizes. While it may feel more comfortable to make decisions based on 5000 responses, B2B organisations need to do more with less, so accept the feedback you do receive and collect it as often as possible.

Challenge 2: Multiple stakeholders involved in decision-making

We know that there is a lot of complexity when it comes to collecting feedback from multiple stakeholders across each client. However, one of the ways we believe in to tackle this issue is about being methodology agnostic. By this we simply mean that we think research should look at incorporating different approaches for collecting feedback, both quantitative options (i.e. online surveys) and qualitative methodologies (i.e. in-depth interviews). It’s important to consider different ways in which your customers want to give feedback. For some a quick online survey is fine, for others who may be more senior and receive hundreds of emails a day a personal one-on-one phone call or meeting might be the better way to go. 

Challenge 3: Brand is delivered by a broader range of vehicles

It’s important to create the right questions to cover off the different ways the brand is being communicated to your clients. Whether it be delivered through a confidential survey or included in a discussion guide, knowing how to ask and what to ask shows the importance of having the right insight into the brand activities and the experience of crafting the right questions.

Given that B2B brands are also more likely to be heavily reliant on client relationships it’s also important to include questions that address these relationships, whether that be satisfaction ratings, or recommendations. Where possible it helps to link methodology to customer experience measurement. 

A final area to take into consideration is that many research companies have limited experience working with B2B brands and little understanding of how brands work in the B2B space, so insights may not be relevant or actionable. It’s important to work with an agency with deep knowledge of B2B. 

Please speak to our team at BrandMatters if you would like to find out more about B2B brand measurement.

Making business decisions in times of uncertainty is difficult and disconcerting. The economic stakes are extremely high right now and for many this time of uncertainty will lead to a legitimate fear of calculated business risks. It’s understandable that many businesses panic when they see drastic changes, but the key is to remain as level-headed as possible, to make sensible decisions on factors that you can control and objectively evaluate data that can support your future success. 

So, whilst proactive efficiency drives are a commonplace reaction for businesses in a tougher economy, avoiding mistakes through understanding the market has never been more important. To do this, we believe that consumer research is more important now than ever. Understanding changes in consumer mindsets and decision making is critical to avoid market missteps and to ensure your business takes advantage of shifts in the market. This isn’t ‘business as usual’, and cooler heads will prevail.

Here are the main reasons why consumer research is vital:

1. Find your optimal target market

As capex and opex budgets shrink across the board, and consumer spending declines across many sectors, understanding who the most optimal group to target is important. It’s no longer effective to appeal to the mass market for either products or services. Knowing who to connect with and how you can reach them effectively is necessary for success and survival. Without understanding who your optimal target market is, a business has no way to effectively direct its resources to those customers with the highest potential for sales growth and loyalty to the brand. 

The most effective way to identify your target market is by asking questions of those within the market itself. Whether by quantitative or qualitative research methods, it’s useful to uncover what drives their purchase decisions, which brands they consider or are loyal to and which brands they might reject. The goal of any research method always centres around uncovering the underlying needs, attitudes and motivations of consumers to discover which areas align with your brand’s offer. 

2. Understand lapsed users 

For many businesses the value of consumer research not only is about looking forward at which consumers to target but also looking back at those who used to choose your brand and no longer do so. There’s always wisdom in learning from your mistakes and a business that fails to learn is at risk of continuing to make the same errors and therefore not evolve to survive. 

Understanding what might have driven consumers away, whether a more attractive competitor offer or a larger shift in consumer needs, is necessary for a business to move forward. By understanding why you are losing consumers, your business can make key strategic changes to your offer to bring them back to your brand. Without this understanding a business will have to continue making key decisions without data explaining how, and also importantly why, consumers are no longer choosing a brand. 

3. Find who the brand’s new users are

Some might say this point is the same as understanding your target market, because what could be more important in a target market than those who choose your brand? However, while there should be overlap between your target market and your current consumer base, there’s much that can be gained from taking a closer look at those new to your brand. 

Knowing how these new users heard about your brand lets you know which channels are reaching those new markets and are therefore worthwhile to continue investing in. Research also allows a business to uncover what attributes new users associate with the brand. This association gives key insights into what elements are working well for your brand and should be maintained when considering any other strategic, tactical or operational changes the business may decide to make in this time of uncertainty. In the end, research into new users allows you to ensure that the business changes you make tomorrow don’t alienate your newest and therefore least consumers. 

4. Create clear brand distinction in a sea of competitors

In times of uncertainty it’s common for spending to be down and therefore competition in the market to be more aggressive. For a business this means that understanding what gives a brand a competitive edge in the eyes of the market is even more critical. 

Consumer research takes the guesswork out of understanding what makes a business distinct and appealing. It’s not just assumptions made in a board meeting about what makes consumers choose one brand over another. It’s handing the question over to consumers and asking them, using direct and indirect methods, what it is about each brand that drives their purchase decision. Great risk lies in making the wrong assumptions about your brand’s distinctiveness and therefore spending valuable resources communicating the wrong message or even worse making changes that remove the reason existing users choose your brand in the first place. 

5. Make sure your marketing spend is accountable

Last but not least, consumer research during times of uncertainty helps to evaluate whether marketing spend is benefiting the business and what adjustments are needed to optimise the communications strategy. There’s no point in spending money on marketing that isn’t returning anything to a business. While some may argue short-term sales are the only measure of success, brands that build a platform in the current uncertainty are the ones that will foster long term consumer trust and loyalty for the future. And while this may not mean an immediate impact on the bottom line during high consumer uncertainty, effective marketing will assist a business in recovering faster than competitors who have stayed silent. 

In times of economic stability, where the market is strong, the rise of consumer and business spending can compensate for less than optimal branding, positioning, pricing, or segmentation. However, today’s market is anything but certain and the risks of making uninformed assumptions about consumers is very high.

Your business decisions during this crisis are important and making sure you have a clear understanding of your consumers is critical in ensuring you are making the right decisions. So while much of the current crisis is out of our direct control, ensuring you have the right information to make the most optimal decisions for your business is a big part in being prepared for the new world to come.

Please speak to our team at BrandMatters if you have any other questions about consumer research in times of uncertainty.

Right now, markets are anxious and unstable. Competitors are confused and unpredictable. It’s a COVID world and the need to cut through and have your message be heard and understood has never ever been more challenging.

In this context, the C-suite is extremely hesitant to invest in brand and marketing.

In fact, according to McKinsey in B2B, nearly 50 percent of companies have cut their short-term spending in response to the crisis and declining demand, and a similar portion expect to reduce their long-term budgets as well.

Yet marketing industry luminary Mark Ritson has gone to pains to highlight that a recession is a great opportunity for brands to grow market share, if you can make the rest of the C-suite understand that marketing is an investment and not a cost. From Ritson’s analysis of the 1920-21 recession and supported by more recent research work on the 2008-9 recession by Kantar, there is a substantial volume of data to back this up.

So how do you get the C-suite more engaged in the role of brand and marketing, so they understand the difference it can make?

Through BrandMatters’ own research we conducted a few years ago as part of our Brand Leaders report we believe we’ve got several insights that could also be applied in this context. As part of this research we unearthed a broad range of views, the Brand Attitude Spectrum. As part of the research and conversations with some of Australia’s leading CMO’s we identified that Australian organisations hold a wide spectrum of attitudes towards the role of brand and marketing, with three main groups being identified:

1. Embracers – where brand sits at the heart of the organisation.
2. Aspirers – where brand is seen as critical by some stakeholders within an organisation but other stakeholders are more circumspect.
3. Doubters – where brand is a function of the marketing department, seen as a cost and not a strategic asset.

As part of our research we unpacked the attitudes and behaviours of each of these groups and then explore the implications this has on the role of brand within organisations moving forward. By understanding where your CEO and where your organisation sits on the spectrum, you can then devise strategies to support the Embracers, inform the Aspirers and educate the Doubters on the critical role of brand and marketing especially in these times of crisis.

At BrandMatters, we believe that through a deeper understanding of the characteristics of each of the prevailing attitudes, marketers can understand the size of the task and equip themselves to educate the organisation in the benefits and returns in brand and marketing investment at this time. After all, there has never been more at stake to position your brand against an existing, new or evolved audience and communicating that accordingly.

To read the chapter on the Brand attitude Spectrum, or to download the entire report, click here.

For many businesses, the Covid crisis has necessitated a reduction in human resources across the board: client facing, back office, and marketing. In times of economic stress or downturn, marketing is frequently a function that is viewed as an easy downscale, either to a skeleton team or completely, as focus turns swiftly to directly generating revenue.

Yet in our post-Covid world, it will be the generation of demand that will drive the generation of revenue. Supply chains have evolved and restructured. Customer sentiment and priorities – both B2B and B2C – has swiftly shifted. Competitors will be more opportune and potentially aggressive in securing market share, particularly if the market has shrunk.

To capture their share of a possible smaller market, organisations will need to actively review their brand strategy and the key touchpoints with which they engage their customers: honing lead-nurture acquisition strategies, sharpening content creation, creating targeted campaigns, ensuring social, digital, SEO/SEM, advertising and media are all providing clear ROI.

These seismic market shifts and heightened need to go-to-market effectively sit in stark contrast to the reality: how to generate demand when the marketing resource has either been heavily reduced or excised? Rehiring full-time resources may not be a tenable proposition without the revenue stream to support it, matched with high recruitment costs often at 20% of salary.

Organisations are looking for an effective but right-sized solution.

BrandMatters’ BM Inside

For several years, BrandMatters has been assisting clients in taking the pressure off their marketing functions and short-term resource gaps by placing our marketing professionals on-site to drive forward marketing activities and brand initiatives. BM Inside places a BrandMatters marketer inside a business for as many days per week as needed, for as long as needed. Two days per week for three months, five days a week for 6 months or any other appropriate scaling, BM Inside matches the requirement of the business. Best of all the service is completely flexible and can be dialled up or down in line with changing requirements.

BrandMatters assigns an appropriate marketer according to the skill level that the organisation requires, without the additional expense of recruitment costs. Placed on-site quickly, the marketer becomes a seamless part of the client’s team with access back to BrandMatters’ deep brand and marketing expertise. The resource’s briefing, performance management and professional development is managed by the BrandMatters team, providing accountability throughout. In addition, BrandMatters maintains oversight of the ongoing execution of client deliverables and quality control, ensuring the service is completely seamless.
BM Inside creates immediate marketing momentum. BrandMatters’ knowledge of the client’s business combined with the practical experience and know-how of the marketer means the typical three-month ramp-up time of a new employee is eliminated.

BM Inside allows small businesses to kick start their marketing in a right-sized, cost-effective way, so they can start to generate returns before committing to a full-time employee. For medium sized businesses, BM Inside brings an additional and senior marketing resource that can develop strategic marketing plans and coach and mentor junior marketers.

BM Inside can help businesses kick start demand generation in our post-Covid world. With BM Inside in place, business owners can be assured the marketing function will be match-fit for our new normal.

Could BM Inside support your business as an on-site marketing resource? Learn more about BM Inside here or contact us to find out.

6-point checklist for brands in managing a crisis.

As Winston Churchill famously quoted "Never let a good crisis go to waste". As a leader during crisis, he became more strategic, communicated both effectively and inspirationally. Brands can take some learnings from this during the COVID-19 crisis in asking how they maintain trust? How do I communicate and enhance consumer confidence?

In an era of corporate transparency and economic crisis, the actions of businesses, industry and brands are under greater scrutiny and judgement. It is vital that brands don’t knee-jerk react, but maintain their integrity, understand what their customers require, stay true to their brand values, and continue to communicate in the most appropriate and manageable way.

It is easy to get distracted, panic and make drastic, non-strategic decisions in times of crisis. But in the past (admittedly this crisis is unlike any other), those who hone their brand, that focus on communicating the right message at the right time will be well placed to see this through.

Here is a 6-point checklist for brands on a mission to find the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.

1. Review your balance sheet - but not at the expense of your skills base

Now is the time to conduct a review and focus on what you don’t need. Financially reviewing your business and cutting unnecessary costs straight away, will allow you to focus on what is important and continue to move forward in a positive way.

When reviewing your operational and capital expenses, there will be a lot of challenging decisions, especially when it comes to human resources. Remember the value in employees, what they were doing for your business before the crisis, and how vital their experience and skills as we move through its duration.

Where skills are lost, a key question is how quickly would you be able to gain those lost skills back once the crisis is over? What is the cost-to-benefit ratio of future recruitment against current resourcing? Are there other ways to reduce overheads so as to ensure you maintain culture and morale?

As all organisations are looking to streamline their operations, it’s critical to figure out what you need and what is prudent to ditch. Look after employees, customers, and suppliers, as they are the three most important groups for your business when we lift out of this tough period.

2. Review your business strategy

Crises drive the need to reframe business strategy. How you are going to get through the next 3 months, the next 6 months, the next 12 months? Business has changed so dramatically since COVID-19 has engulfed the world. Of your revenue streams, which are still performing? Which ones can no longer be supported in our new reality? How ready are you for a more digital environment? Are there any easy to access opportunities within your current market that you could easily pivot to?

To survive, many brands have pivoted dramatically into completely new markets, where areas of demand have been identified as potential opportunity. Some great examples we have seen here are gin distilleries pivoting to hand sanitisers, or manufacturing companies producing equipment for healthcare professionals.

They have asked themselves the important question “What can we do with what we have?” The answer may not be what they were expecting, or what they dreamed their future would look like. But these pivots, transferring resources and skills into unfamiliar areas, may well be what keeps them alive for future business opportunities.

The key takeaway is innovate: think about every angle possible, and utilise your resources wisely.

3. Balance the short-term revenue generation strategies vs long term viability

A potentially damaging strategy that an organisation could take is to sit tight and wait for this crisis to blow over. There is no worse strategy than doing nothing. Fear can often lead to knee-jerk decisions such as selling off assets or cutting costs to the point where they cannot operate. An example of short-term reactive decision making, airlines and travel companies may have thought that holding on to their customers money would have allowed them to get through this period. It was soon obvious that for this sector, the crisis ran deeper than holding on to cancellation fees. This sector is not going to return to its former normality for some time, if at all.

Looking longer term, generating entirely new revenue streams is critical for the climb out of this downturn. There is a massive opportunity for brands to reinvent themselves in exciting and new ways to meet the demands of the world moving forward. Profits and dividends will come later if you make the right moves now.

4. Ensure you keep the communication clear, concise and consistent.

Now is not the time to underestimate the power of communication. Customers are online, they are watching the news, listening to latest updates and in their spare time, they are seeking their entertainment online or communicating with friends online. Now, more than ever, concisely and consistently reaching your audience (potential new and existing customers) is vital.

As a brand, you need to consider your communication strategy both internally and externally. Your messaging must evolve, be reflective of the daily situation and considerate to your customers’ needs, without being opportunistic or playing on fear.

If your website or social media communications have not evolved since the crisis began, your brand may be perceived as being out of touch, or insensitive. Regardless of what your product/service provision, you need to empathise with your customers. Place yourself in their shoes to determine what solutions you can offer to their problems. Your message must continually evolve as we move through the crisis, with a sense of togetherness that will keep you connected to your customers.

Internally, communication is just as important. Don’t ever feel like you are over-communicating with your team. With communication comes confidence and reassurance. Silence can breed anxiety.

5. Don’t stop marketing

Once you have your business strategy and messaging refined, the next step is execution. If you don’t start marketing, no one will be aware of your new positioning or messaging. If you haven’t already developed your marketing campaigns and lead-nurture sales funnels, now is the time.

Create content that resonates, educates and motivates your audience. Pick the most effective channels in which to focus your communications and ensure your marketing is highly targeted. Use your owned media as much as possible as these customers already know and like you. Customers who are already in your sales funnels, or engaged in your brand in any channel are an important asset. Now, and now more opportune than ever, is the chance to reach new audiences.

6. Review, Review, Review

Look at your current KPIs and ask: are these all still relevant? If met, will they help you survive this crisis? You need to be realistic in your goal setting. Now may not be a time to look at profit as a singular metric of survival: ensuring efficiency and effectiveness may be more beneficial, or activity vs output may be a more relevant metric.

It is also important to take the temperature of your audience, get a good read on whether your messaging is resonating, and how your brand is performing compared to your competitors.

Surviving the Covid-19 crisis in the short term may not be enough. Like past crises, it too will pass. However it will create a new normal, and it is in this context your organisation needs to learn how to thrive again.

It’s a sad week for many Aussies as the news breaks about the end of an era, the end of 72 golden years of Holden as an iconic Australian brand.

But the writing was on the wall and the time has come for many automotive brands to take stock of the current market, keep up with technology and consumer demands and embrace the new future of the automotive industry.

BrandMatters’ Managing Director, Paul Nelson reflects on the brand:

“I’m a multi generational Holden fan and my sentiments are a mix of nostalgia and frustration. Sad to see the demise of a brand that was part of my social fabric growing up. Frustrated to think of what might have been, with a different mindset.

So what happened? To me it ultimately came down to leadership looking backwards on what made the brand great in its heyday and losing connection with the next generation of consumers and what they were looking for in an ideal car.”

So what were the factors that contributed to the demise of the Holden brand?

1. The brand suffered from its US owners (General Motors) who didn’t have visibility or a committed understanding of the Australian market. 

2. Holden sales have been in systemic decline, especially since the decision to stop manufacturing here was announced in 2017. As a global player, GM would have been looking at this market and making decisions on the best way to exit.

3. The dependence on Commodore as the replacement for the Kingswood, when the market demanded a much broader range of styles and sizes of vehicle. 

4. Since local production stopped, GM were committed to sell what they had, rather than what we wanted. After all, the Australian market would have represented a very small, and potentially insignificant share of its overall focus. GM further claim their focus was on left-hand-drive markets – Australia today is right-hand drive which, at only 25% of all cars manufactured, meant higher re-tooling costs. 

5. As the range was narrow and the relevance too low, so was the investment in brand building and advertising. A drop in loyalty and pride in owning a Holden soon followed, as Holden had decreasing relevance with a younger audience, who aspire to new emerging, efficient, environmentally friendly brands that increasingly are the norm. 

In a statement made by GM’s President, a nod was made in recognition of the love of this brand in the Australian market “At the highest levels of our company we have the deepest respect for Holden's heritage and contribution to our company and to the countries of Australia and New Zealand," he said. So what was it? What led to the failure? Was it the traditional marketing forces?

It could well be argued that it lacked market commitment, product range, competitive offers and customer understanding. Its brand weakened dramatically as a result. All these factors meant it didn’t take long to lose relevance for today’s customers.

So it was all these local factors that began to spell the end for Holden. But the bigger and more fundamental factors were global.

Global competition ultimately caused the demise of this local brand. In an industry with such high manufacturing costs, a focus on innovation and the need for economies of scale, it seems near impossible for an automotive brand to be localised like the Holden brand was.

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