Brand commentary

Discussion between Lee Shorter, Practice Manager at Aquent, and Paul Nelson, Managing Director of BrandMatters.

You can view the video interview on our YouTube channel here or scroll down to view it at the bottom of this article.

PN:
At BrandMatters, we're experiencing a sharp increase from the market and our clients with enquiries for employer branding and employee value propositions, or what we call an EVP. Joining us today is Lee Shorter from Aquent, a global workforce solutions organisation, to discuss the current state of the employment market here in Australia.

Lee, a lot's changed in the past 18 months in the world of recruitment. Attracting and retaining talent has become a major challenge being faced by many organisations across Australia and around the world, where closed borders have had a huge impact and led to skilled immigration shortages. Lee, as a professional in the area, could you set the scene for us? What are the major challenges organisations are facing in recruitment at the moment?

LS:
Over the past sort of 12 to 18 months there has been a complete shift in the market. We have gone from being in the midst of COVID, where we had businesses making huge rounds of redundancies for obvious reasons, contractors being let go. So, we had a lot of candidates on the market that were looking for jobs, but companies were not looking to hire. Now that we're through the worst of that and coming out of the back of it, there's been a complete shift to how companies are really picking up their hiring efforts, looking to build up their teams again. Projects are kicking off again, funding is being given for new projects. Everybody is now looking to hire and they're all needing the same skill sets.

They've all got volumes of roles that they're needing to fill and so it's a really competitive market. We've shifted from having lots of candidates and no jobs, to now having not many candidates but a lot of jobs. That's means it's taking a lot longer to hire, and companies are needing to be flexible with the way that they recruit and the people that they recruit. And it's also having a knock-on effect to existing workforces because they're the ones that are having to pick up the slack. So that then creates a problem for the employees who are potentially feeling overworked and then maybe looking to leave themselves which is then further adding to the already difficult problem.

PN:
Aquent specialises in placing digital and creative talent in the brand and marketing and creative services industries, so in your experience, what are these employers looking for in an organisation? What are the main factors driving their decision making?

LS:
We do a lot of research into this, and our data shows that a very small percentage of people are active with their job search at the current time, probably only about 15-16% of people are actively looking. These are people that are on SEEK, on LinkedIn, on company careers pages, reaching out to hiring managers, trying to find an opportunity for themselves, but still a very small percentage. What the data also shows is that around 60% of people, if they are approached about the right opportunity at the right time, would consider a move.

And so that's very important when it comes to things like employer brand, the ways in which we can entice people to an organisation, what would prompt them to leave one role for another role if they're not actively looking. Things like pay is obviously important. We're seeing an increase in salaries because the demand is so high, people are looking for up to around 20% increases to change jobs, which is quite considerable. But I think that the top three things that people would be looking for and why they would change jobs would be interesting and varied work, strong leadership, and most importantly, flexible working.

PN:
That hybrid working these days has changed everything, hasn't it? If you don't have it, then it's an absolute turnoff. Losing good people is always tough on organisations, especially losing creative people or those highly valued by clients and service organisations. So, what makes talent leave good jobs?

LS:
There are a couple of reasons, the main one being poor leadership. People are three times more likely leave a job because of poor leadership than they are for more money. People think, "Oh, you're looking to change jobs, it's because you want a bigger role, or a larger role, or things along those lines", but really most people are leaving managers, rather than jobs. That creates a problem. In this scenario, there are things that can be done in terms of leadership coaching to increase staff well-being and happiness.

I think that as well as that, placing importance on retaining your existing workforce, rather than throwing all of your efforts into hiring new staff is critical. People more likely to consider leaving in a situation such as, “I'm coming to the end of my contract, but nobody's spoken to me about an extension, all they're concerned about is bringing new people into the business”, or if “I've been pushing for a promotion for the past 18 months and all of a sudden, they're hiring for the role that I feel like would be a logical next step for me”, again, these are all reasons why people would look to move on.

PN:
In terms of attraction and retention and the role of employer branding: what are organisations doing retain their best and their brightest?

LS:
There's a lot that can be done in terms of attracting new people to your business, but that should not come to the detriment of the existing workforce. So, keeping your existing workforce happy should be a key focus. An unhappy workforce is going to spread externally because if people can see that average tenures are really short, people are leaving at six-12 months in, then that is going to make them think, "Oh, actually there's something inherently wrong within this business and that's probably not something that I would want to get into myself." And people know people, and especially in the creative and marketing industries, people have friends that work in the industry, they will talk, people will post on LinkedIn about positive experiences they're having with a particular employer. So that all plays into ways in which they can attract people to a business.

I think it's important as well for businesses to really speak to their top performers and see whether internal people are perceiving their brand in the same way that the company thinks that their employee is, or external people perceive their brand, because they can be two completely separate things. That can be done through things like interviews or surveys with your staff, they're the ones that are living and breathing the brand and its values and then trying to link that into your employer brand and your employee value proposition, so that it really resonates with the existing workforce.

PN:
We do a lot of work in employer value proposition development and the market has moved quite a bit there, which is the rate of inquiry coming through to us with people seeking to work out. How do I attract and retain the best? How does my organisation be known as the place to work and the people to work with? So, I guess the question is around employee value propositions, how important are they in overall terms? Do you hear a lot about them in your day-to-day activities at Aquent?

LS:
It's extremely important. We hear about it all the time and it's something that we are consistently asking our clients because we are representing their brand to the market. We need to know the ways in which we can entice people to their business, when there's so much opportunity out there for people. How can we position you as the right next step for them to take in their career. So, I think you need to look at your employee value proposition and really see whether that actually aligns to what's important to people now.

Previous employee value propositions may have contained things like, “We've got a strong office culture and we have lots of social events, we've got ping pong tables and a beer fridge”, all of this kind of stuff. But if you are not in the office, that's irrelevant. And so, your value proposition then needs to pivot and align to what's important: flexible working, long-term opportunities, career development, education and training, all of these kinds of things are what people value. And so that then needs to be translate across and into your employee value proposition.

What I also think is that companies, particularly when they're looking to attract new people to their business, are placing too much importance on what they want and what they need versus having a strong employee value proposition that's going to be employee centric. We always link it back to this notion of, what's in it for me? If you have a look at a job description or a job advertisement, and you'll see a laundry list of, “We need five years’ experience in this. You must have experience in that, this software is of vital importance.” You can actually turn people off, when instead reframing that to “What are you actually going to get out of it? What benefit are you going to get from working with us? We can offer this, the projects that you'll work on will allow you to do X, Y, and Z. This is what our employees are saying about us.” People then no longer have a reason to turn down an opportunity, but rather look at it and think, "Actually, this is something that I really want to explore."

PN:
It feels like there's a real mutuality there, where rather than the employer just saying, "Here's what we expect of you”, the employer is also being able to go back to the employee and say, "Here's what you can expect from us in return," so that mutuality actually occurs.

You've also talked about the fact that the market has changed, and organisations have had to pivot, especially as they have done through the working from home with flexible and hybrid working environments. Given all that, how many organisations are you seeing that are actually updating that employee value proposition, or just leaving it live and relying on what they used to say, to attract and retain the best versus updating it to a more current context?

LS:
I think that there are some companies that are updating, but definitely not enough and I think it really needs to be looked at. Firstly, if you don't have an employer brand or an employer value proposition as it is, then it needs to be pulled together. If your EVP needs updating, it's important that you involve your people in that process. They're the ones that are living and breathing your brand and its values on a daily basis. They're the ones that really should have input into what these brand attributes are, and this can be done through things like workshops. I always find that an external party facilitating that helps because there's no bias either way towards an organisation, or its people, or its values. And when operating in a workshop environment, as yourself what's important to you? What do you enjoy about working for this business? What opportunity have you been afforded?

It's also important that it's not just words on a page, that once you've assembled your employer brand and you've put together an employee value proposition, that's seen to be actioned, people know and are actively aware of it. If your employee value proposition contains things like, “We value training and development and lifelong learning”, but in reality, you don't afford people the opportunity to go and do courses or attend conferences or events or get paid time off to complete an education course that is really going to benefit them, then this will not benefit business. If you're not living and breathing the values that you say that you have, then it's pointless really. And the same goes with various other things like diversity and inclusion, if that's part of your EVP, ensuring it actually is and that it isn’t just a token gesture is critical. For example, do you have D&I counsel? Are you placing importance on diversity and inclusion? Are you including that in your hiring processes? Are you affording opportunities to the same people regardless of their background, or their gender, or their religion? All of these things are critical.

I think companies need to get better at that, it's not just about having a strong employee brand, or a strong employee value proposition, but actually bringing that to life within your organisation. Say, for example, we've seen things like having an employee value champion, where certain people within the business that really embody everything that your values stand for, having them get involved in the onboarding process of new starters and educating them on what the values are and how they can help bring that to life. And it comes back to getting your people involved because as I said, they're the ones that are living and breathing your values.

PN:
It just can't be posters on the wall or some nice creatively written words in a PowerPoint deck. It's got to be authentic, doesn't it? It's got to be demonstrated through leadership as well. They've got to live that and breathe it on a day-to-day basis, it's going to turn up for their employees on a day-to-day basis, absolutely. So, as we bring this to a close now, Lee, it's been difficult to predict the future with just so much change going on in the marketplace, but where do you see the talent market going over the next few years? And you importantly, how can businesses prepare for this?

LS:
In the immediate term, the companies that are coming out the back of the COVID and thinking right, we're now through the worst of it, we can go back to normal and go back to how things were, but aren’t realising that things have changed and change for the better, they're the ones that are really going to struggle when it comes to attracting and retaining staff. We were hoping or expecting that with borders reopening that we would see this influx of international talent coming into Australia, that hasn't really materialised as yet. I think that will take some time, I think over the next 12 to 18 months, we'll start to see that increase and so, that will definitely help.

But I think that the companies that will get through this next 12 to 18 months in the strongest position, are the ones that can align their values and what they're positioning to existing employees and potential employees, ensuring it really aligns with what they're looking for. So having a strong employee value proposition, having strong initiatives around diversity, inclusion, sustainability and demonstrating that they can offer career progression, that's of vital importance to people at the moment. If companies can start to implement this, they are going to have a happier workforce and a workforce that is going to advocate for them and attract other people into the business, people who are increasingly hearing positive things about this organisation. So that's how I see things playing out.

PN:
Lee, we really do appreciate you talking the time with us today. There are some deep insights you've provided and we are very grateful for them.

LS:
Thanks again for having me.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022 08:43

Discussion between Jayson Walker, CEO and Director of Tribel, and Paul Nelson, Managing Director of BrandMatters. You can view the video interview on our YouTube channel here or scroll down to view it at the bottom of this article.

PN: I thought we'd just start by talking about the Tribel story. You built a business out of Aon and brought a number of your team with you. It might be scary for some people having stepped out of a very large organisation like Aon. What led you to do that?

JW: Very scary I must say. Bringing a team of very capable, passionate people in the financial advisory sector during a period of significant change as a result of the Royal Commission, to embark on exiting a large global corporate like Aon was a very challenging thing to do. I, like the rest of the team, am passionate about financial advice and the wellbeing it helps provide to the broader community. It wasn’t actually a difficult decision to make. The scary part was concluding the transaction in a management buyout with a large global corporate, but more importantly, engaging the team who were going to come along with that transaction to be part of the journey.

PN: Your product is your people. It's absolutely critical and you've done a sensational job doing that. Despite doing so well, the market is still highly competitive. It's very crowded and you've got to cut through the clutter of all that change and bring clients on the journey. How are you doing that?

JW: It goes back to the start of the journey that we set in place for the first three years. Funnily enough, the first of May this year, 2022, will be our three-year anniversary of the management buy-out. That was all about making sure that we provided clear, concise communication to our clients. We had a clear, clean brand, which although had some references towards our global parent, was able to set us aside. There's lots happening in the financial planning industry. It's about making it simple for the end consumer to understand. The market has moved into that space. It's now providing clear, concise messaging to help people get educated and understand more so that when they do come to us, we're a facilitator of the end outcome, which is a better financial wellbeing outcome over time.

PN: What about the process of moving your clients across from the security, safety and familiarity of Aon through to Tribel? How did that go for you?

JW: We spent a lot of time in the way we positioned the brand. Gratefully, the journey of the team moving out of Aon into the new environment meant that from a client point of view, the core factor of their relationship with Tribel, (as with Aon), was as an individual and those individuals came with the process. Because they were part of the journey, they were the ones who helped create the brand, the name, the vision and what we want to stand for. The conversation that they were having with clients was passionate, heartfelt, transparent and honest about why. I think that made it easy for us.

PN: Building trust and meaning in this environment is so challenging. Talk to me a bit more about financial wellness, what that means and how that turns up as a benefit for your clients.

JW: Wellbeing overall has a number of pillars to it. It can be five, six. In my world, that's three. One is social wellbeing. The other is physical wellbeing. The other is mental wellbeing. What sits behind all of those is financial wellbeing. There's lots of research in the marketplace that if you manage someone’s financial wellbeing, it helps deliver on those other three pillars. It gives people more time to focus on looking after their physical wellbeing. It relieves the stress and pressure around their mental wellbeing. It takes away all those challenges. We've all heard statistics of how many people get divorced and the underlying factor in divorces these days is generally financial.

If you start to look after those things, then you help people feel comfortable in their life. This isn't about making people wealthier than what they can naturally be with their capital contributions through income. This is about making people feel comfortable and not stressed. Research around the globe shows that if you can focus on financial wellbeing, it underpins those other three pillars and helps someone become well totally, in all of those areas. We focused on that. It's about making sure we deliver on their financial wellbeing to then help people with those other factors in their life.

PN: It’s managing the whole person, isn’t it. Rather than just their own personal balance sheet or being their personal CFO, you're actually thinking about their goals or aspirations, their functional needs and critically their emotional needs as well.

JW: We've still got a bit of a journey to go. We've now built that solution around financial advice, accounting and finance. The next stages of our growth will be, how do we enhance and help people in those other wellbeing areas such as the social, emotional and physical? That'll be a journey we look to go on over time.

PN: Let's talk about the financial planning industry. Over the last three years you’ve traversed a phenomenal amount of change, lifting out a team, setting up your own practice, building that out and dimensionalising that beyond financial planning. What are the broader challenges and opportunities the financial planning industry itself is facing? We know about the Royal Commission and the impact that's had, but that's only part of it, isn't it? What about the other challenges and opportunities facing the industry?

JW: There really needs to be a considered view about a total restructure of the industry in my opinion. If you look at its complexity from a compliance and regulatory point of view, a bit similar to our tax system, it's a patchwork of fixes that have been put over problems for decades and decades without a fundamental restructure of outcomes that deliver to a client's need. Cost of advice is unachievable for most Australians. Why is that? Well, we have a compliance and regulatory framework that costs significantly more money than it used to. Ultimately, the end-consumer has to pay for that. I think there's definitely a position for regulators and legislators to think about how financial advice is reconstructed. Ultimately, in my view, it's a liability issue. Today, we have independent financial planners who have their own licence. There's then aggregated financial licences which we're a part of who provide services.

How do all of those individuals provide comfort to their consumer or their client that in the event of an error occurring that there's fundamentally a support system that provides compensation for that? Today, it's all positioned at an individual financial advisor level. As a result, that stops attracting individuals into our marketplace. They think, “well, if I've got to be liable for 100% of everything I do and there's a cost associated with doing that”. That detracts from new entrants thinking about joining our industry. Whereas you have mid-sized firms like ourselves, larger firms and boutiques where the business should be wearing the liability for the advice provision to a consumer, based on the infrastructure it supports. I don't have all the answers naturally, but there's a need to think about a total reworking and structural change for the industry around how consumers access advice affordably and remove a lot of the historical legislation and regulation that provides no protection for the end-consumer.

PN: You've done a sensational job of attracting and retaining the best and the brightest across your firm. As we close, what advice would you provide to anyone who is considering a career in financial planning? From my point of view, it's such a critical, fundamental plank in people's futures and financial planners have a critical role to play. If someone was thinking about a career in financial planning, what advice or guidance would you provide for them?

JW: It's an interesting question that you often get posed. The conversations you have with individuals is firstly choose a career which is about helping people, supporting individuals who do not have the knowledge, capability, or experience to put themselves in a better financial position and achieve their lifestyle goals. And secondly, look at our profession for what it will be, not what it was.

If you look back in history, it took 475 years for accounting to be considered a profession. If you look at financial advice in Australia, it started with the life insurance days. It's only around about 75 to 80 years young, and we are on the cusp of being considered for all intents and purposes, a profession. There's hallmarks around a profession and that's education standards, associations, regulation and oversight by regulators and legislators. We're not far away from that. What I would say to individuals considering a professional career is look at where we will be and jump on that journey. Don't look where we've come from, because in any industry that has had a journey, you can always find areas of turmoil and challenge that they've been through to get to where they are today.

PN: Your final answer there basically summed it up in terms of your future focus and what you've already created and certainly what you will continue to create going forward. Jayson, we really appreciate your time today. Thanks so much for joining us.

JW: Thanks, Paul. Nice to be with you.

 

To see Tribel Advisory, click here. 

To see Tribel Accountants, click here

To contact BrandMatters click here.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022 17:03

As brand research specialists, we explore and analyse changes and trends emerging across various industries. The insights we uncover through this research formulate the basis of strategic brand plans, brand design and brand activation plans.

Unsurprisingly, brands face another turbulent year of change in 2022, however, as we look at the role and responsibilities of brand over the past year, some key insights and opportunities emerge around these four key priorities for the year ahead:

  • Authenticity – consumer trust must be earned and retained
  • Positioning – be clear on your brand positioning – find ways to demonstrate this
  • Sustainability and ESG – action is required urgently
  • Employer branding – employees want an inclusive, flexible workplace with shared values

Authenticity – consumer trust must be earned and retained to keep your existing customers happy and returning

Insight: Consumer behaviour is changing at a rapid rate and it is more important than ever for brands to connect with their customers in a more personalised way and demonstrate their humanity. McKinsey’s Covid-19 Consumer Pulse survey indicated consumers have been switching brands at unprecedented rates during Covid-19.

Opportunity: To win back consumer loyalty, brands must meet consumer needs and start by better understanding each customer. Brands who demonstrate their purpose and show their humanity, empathy and vulnerabilities will resonate with consumers. Brands need to support customers and employees during these challenging times – show generosity, kindness and understanding.

Brand tracking is vital to keep an eye on consumer sentiment towards your brand. Download our Guide to B2B brand measurement or contact us to initiate brand tracking to measure your brand health as we head into 2022.

Positioning – be clear on your brand positioning and purpose – then find ways to demonstrate it with action

Insight: It is expected that the purpose of a brand should go beyond maximising profits. During the pandemic, purpose proved its worth, creating a sense of belonging and a much-needed unifying enabler.

Opportunity: Purpose is the reason to exist and will guide brands through the rapidly changing landscape. The most successful brands incorporate their purpose into their brand positioning: What do I believe? What are my core values? What is our single-minded proposition? What keeps our business heading in the right direction? What sustains it? Positioning is about perception—how your customers think and feel about your brand compared to other options.

Generally, we suggest crafting a positioning statement after in-depth research and analysis of your customers, competition and organisation. However, we’ve recently created The Brand Distillery Workshop where you can uncover the essence of your brand within one day. If your organisation has a pre-existing understanding of its customers and market landscape, this powerful workshop is an ideal way to harness the collective intelligence within your team to define your brand’s positioning or reason for being.

Sustainability and ESG – investors, consumers and employees are all expecting brands to play their part. It’s now time to make those expectations a reality.

Insight: It is no longer a 'nice to have'; consumers are demanding brands take responsibility when it comes to sustainability and ESG. But it is not just consumers; employees and investors are also expecting brands to step up when it comes to net-zero targets and ESG commitment.

Opportunity: Brands must practice what they preach and start delivering on their sustainability promise. Not only is it the right thing to do but failing to address the issue will potentially affect the bottom line. See our recent article about some of the different types of actions brands can take when it comes to being more sustainable. Brands can also influence consumers to make better decisions when it comes to sustainability.

We’ve also written a lot on the topic of ESG in the financial services industry with our comprehensive report ‘The Outlook for Financial Services Branding.’

Employer branding – employees want an inclusive, flexible workplace with shared values

Insight: There is currently a significant skills shortage and organisations across many industries are struggling to find talent. If you are hiring in 2022, you will most likely be competing for candidates with the right skills and experience. Employee satisfaction in overall terms is lower than normal and a lot of employees are experiencing burnout in response to the ongoing pressures of the pandemic. To gain a competitive edge in attracting and retaining talent, organisations need to truly understand what’s important to their employees today.

Opportunity: Employees want to work in a company where there is a clear vision and common values, so it’s important to articulate an employee value proposition (EVP) that resonates with your team and is tangible enough so they can proactively embrace it.

In today’s climate, a strong employer brand will help in the recruitment process. Demonstrating acceptance and empathy in relation to an employee’s mental health and flexibility needs is more important than ever as is prioritising diversity and equality within your workplace.

See our recent e-book – The guide to employer branding for more information. This provides tangible tips and suggestions on employee alignment and how to achieve a motivated and engaged workforce.

Looking forward

In 2022, the global pandemic will continue to affect consumer behaviour, trust and loyalty. It is vital to have the right team on your side to help prepare your brand for the next phase of growth.

BrandMatters can tailor a brand research program that will help you better understand your customers, align your brand positioning and priorities and ensure you attract and retain the best employees who will drive positivity and growth for your brand in 2022.

If you would like to begin the process of energising and activating your brand and business strategy this year, reach out to the team at BrandMatters to discuss your unique situation.

At a time of volatility, it is harder than ever for brands to cut through and connect with their clients. The goal posts were well and truly shifted for everyone and many brands scrambled to pivot, reallocate resources or were forced to go into hibernation.

Some brands pushed through and continued to focus on the long game. Brand leaders and marketers have been faced with major challenges, all at an incredibly rapid pace. For some the tough decision to strategically prepare for short-term pain to enable long-term gain has or will pay off as we emerge from this latest installment of the COVID-19 crisis.

At BrandMatters, we’ve assisted brands with brand research, brand strategy and brand design and have witnessed firsthand, the importance of staying true to your brand values, keeping the client front of mind, and nurturing your internal brand even through the toughest times.

Pivoting or hibernating has been necessary for business survival, but for brand equity, we believe staying true to your brand positioning and brand story will prove just as powerful in the longer term, post-pandemic.

So which brands have demonstrated the critical traits that will see them through to the other side of this pandemic? Our team of passionate brand advocates have put together a list of the brands we feel will pull through even stronger than ever as we emerge from these unprecedented times.

Here is our list of brands that have impressed us recently:

ABC

Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, was quick to respond back in March in terms of its key role as Australia’s ‘truth teller’ broadcaster. Even though they’d been hit with major budget cuts, they did what Australians expected of them and that is show up and keep us informed.

They quickly adapted their news coverage, pivoted to zoom, and focused on delivering the news and programming online via ABC iView. They have created several versions of its ‘I Am Australian’ song, with a virtual choir made up of everyday Australians singing from their homes during the various lockdowns. The various iterations include one sung by students of Broome Primary School in Yawuru language which resonated across the nation to remind people we are still connected, despite the physical disconnection.

The ABC has a role to keep Australians informed, educated and entertained, more so during these COVID-19 times, with trusted content and services accessible to all Australians.

Qantas

Of all the industries affected by COVID, aviation was undoubtedly one of the hardest hit. Throughout the pandemic, they’ve been in the public eye, with news of staff standdowns, billion dollar losses, and numerous press appearances by Alan Joyce publicly pleading with governments to make decisions on timelines for domestic and international borders to reopen.

As avid travellers, who all have family overseas and interstate, our whole team was moved to tears by the recent advertisement release by Qantas encouraging Australians to get vaccinated. The tone and messaging of the campaign fits with the airline’s brand positioning and values and is part of a broader ‘Be Rewarded’ campaign.

Airbnb

Another tourism brand that has not been able to operate in their normal capacity, Airbnb has shown resilience and even managed to continue with a successful IPO in the midst of the pandemic.
Airbnb have been focused on brand building with their latest campaign – made possible by hosts and have introduced measures in preparation for the return of travel. These include strict disinfectant protocols and relaxed cancellation policies.

They’ve ramped up focus on experiences and introduced virtual experiences to their suite of offerings. Recognising the increased use of at-home devices, Airbnb have introduced virtual background images of its stunning spaces, free for download and use.

Service NSW

Of all the organisations and brands that have been thrust into the limelight, it has been Service NSW. Not only have they had to change their entire business strategy from a predominately face to face model, but they’ve also had to roll out, at rocket speed, a range of new initiatives to support their customers (the entire adult population of Australia). This included the NSW COVID Safe Check-in App and a range of other initiatives together with business grants and disaster grants for Australians who have had their income impacted by the pandemic.

The next step from a tech perspective is managing the integration between mygov and Service NSW in order to allow vaccination status to be easily identified as we open up. These integrations and improvements would normally take a government department several years to implement. Service NSW has been incredibly focused on the end customer and enabling them to get what they need.

VERO

One of BrandMatters’ long-standing clients, we may be a little biased here. Vero is focused on building relationships and truly partnering with insurance brokers by giving them a better understanding of SMEs and their attitudes towards commercial insurance.

The annual Vero SME Insurance Index provides unbiased insights into the needs and pain points of SMEs in Australia. This research is conducted annually to help insurance brokers better understand their core target audience.

In 2020 the Index was released just as COVID hit in March and Vero knew that SMEs were facing difficult times that would not be reflected in the report. As a result, Vero commissioned an additional SME Insurance Index COVID-19 Pulse Check, which provided actionable insights for brokers into the challenges being faced by SMEs during the pandemic and what they could do to support them during this time.

As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc for SMEs, the Vero Business Recovery Grant was created to help existing Vero SME customers deal with the financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

To read more about BrandMatters’ involvement in creating the Vero SME Insurance index visit our case study.

Aesop

Established in Melbourne in 1987, Aesop has become one of the most respected skincare brands in the world. During COVID times, many luxury brands have suffered as a result of tighter consumer spending. Aesop has continued to grow and has stayed focused on offering innovative, unique products and experiences as well as showing continuous genuine dedication to producing sustainable products and design.

Part of this sustainability journey is a strong focus on climate action and reducing their carbon footprint. In 2019, Aesop committed to becoming net-zero by 2030 and established a science-based emission reduction target by the end of 2021. So far, they have earned certifications from B Corp, Cruelty-Free International and PETA as well as achieving carbon neutrality through carbon offsetting across the global business for their 2020 operations; an achievement verified under South Pole’s Climate Neutral label. Not losing sight of the importance of sustainability throughout the pandemic will see them emerge as a leader in this category.

TAL

TAL is a leading provider of life insurance products within Australia. TAL have been actively campaigning throughout the pandemic on the importance of ‘Insuring this Australian Life’ which has been their tagline for some time. It has resonated well throughout the past few years, with Australians faced with bushfires, floods and of course the pandemic, ‘Insuring this Australian Life’ is about the only way to describe it.

The marketing lends naturally into our need to protect what we have, our families, but also to be smart in a time when there is unrelenting change and uncertainty of the rollercoaster of environmental and social disasters. TAL’s marketing doesn’t feed into a reactionism to make things as they were, but it does tap into the need to create one constant that can be relied on in an ever-changing world.

TAL’s existing tagline and approach was right for the time and enabled them to consistently reinforce their messaging as the last 2 years have unfolded. It is in contrast with MLC’s “Life Unchanging” tagline which, whilst also tapping into protecting what you already have, slightly jars as one thing life is not right now is unchanging.

Xero

Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform for small businesses with over 2.7 million subscribers around the world. From the onset, the Xero brand was very clear in its positioning of ‘beautiful accounting software’. Xero was a disrupter in this market and a game changer for small businesses.

During the pandemic, Xero has released a series of initiatives to help connect with their target audience, however they have not deviated from their core offering. For most small businesses, who were trying to cut costs, Xero was one of the subscriptions that still represented value during the difficult times.

Xero continued to focus on product improvement – continued to focus on making accounting for small businesses beautiful, by simplifying everyday business tasks and integrating with other systems commonly used by small business owners such as Square, Receipt Bank and others. From a communication perspective, they’ve released a series of guides for small business start-ups and a podcast series called ‘What led you here’ where Xero’s CEO talks to founders and entrepreneurs about their business journey. There is also a series of articles sharing Xero customer stories.

A clear brand positioning is a key to success

As a brand agency, we are always on the lookout for brands to advocate for. We love to see brands do great things and inspire people, and these are just some of the brands we’ve noticed over the past few months while in lockdown. 

Importantly, these brands have proven that brand building is not just about advertising and pre-purchase communications. It requires connection throughout the entire organisation at every consumer touchpoint and must involve other parts of the business – fulfillment, sales and customer service.

Brands are realising the role of brand is more than just the ‘typical’ marketing function and that organisations must create an environment that better integrates brand into the entire organisation.

Ultimately brands with a strong positioning have proven they can successfully navigate a crisis by adapting their brand to the changing environment.

These brands will come out the other side much stronger.

Is your brand ready for lift-off post pandemic? Get in touch if you are ready to take the next step in clarifying your brand and forming a closer connection with your customers.  

Managing Director, Paul Nelson talks about the major changes affecting the superannuation industry that were announced in this month’s budget. How will your brand positioning and marketing be implicated? How can brand research help in navigating these changes?  

In the recent budget, we saw some of the most fundamental changes to the superannuation industry we have seen in many years. These changes came as quite a shock as the industry was really expecting an extension of the early withdrawal scheme, which remained largely untouched. This overhaul is significant, especially to marketers and brand owners relying on the easy growth in members and funds that previously came through new members when they were changing jobs. Organisations who relied on the easy growth that was previously available will find this is now largely extinguished.

Let’s briefly run through the changes before we make some suggestions on how brand research might assist you and your brand as you work to navigate through this new operating environment.  

The changes have come in under the title Your Future, Your Super and they set out the Government’s claim to save Australian workers an estimated $17.9 billion in fees, when they commence on July 1 2021. The Government’s changes come with bold promises to “create more competition, which will drive down fees, weed out poor performers and increase retirement savings”. These changes include:

  • New super accounts will no longer be automatically created every time a worker starts a new job. Instead, member superannuation account will 'follow the member' (in a process defined as stapling) when they change jobs, preventing multiple super accounts from being created.
  • Superannuation funds will be required to meet an annual performance test.
  • Poor performing funds will be required to notify their members of their underperformance.
  • The Government will establish an online comparison tool known as 'YourSuper' providing information about superannuation fees and returns.

What are the implications of this on brands and marketers and how might research help?

The need to understand your members, needs, wants, motivations and concerns has never been greater. With change like this comes both risk and opportunity. How informed are you in relation to your members will determine whether you win or lose members and subsequent funds flow. Included here is a detailed understanding of what’s not just important to your members, but how well you are performing against these same attributes and drivers.

Brand research allows you to distill your brand down to its pure essence, finding the unique space your brand can play, dramatically separating you from the superannuation category’s sea-of-sameness (insert stock shot of retirees and footprints on the beach). A strong brand shapes perceptions and influences actions to whether you stay or leave your fund. Research can inform the development of a growth focused plan and tighter marketing communications. By understanding your brand and members needs more clearly, you can more effectively communicate externally too. Focus groups can inform breakthrough creative that separates your brand, captivates your audience and triggers actions that grows member numbers and funds inflow.

Apart from the efficiency benefits the research brings, it can also avoid the wrath of the regulators around the “sole purpose” test. This test is to ensure that all activities undertaken by a super fund are to safeguard and grow retirement savings. The industry came under heavy criticism as part of the Hayne Royal Commission for the volume of members investment returns being invested in advertising and sponsorship activities. Through the research data and analytics, you may be able to more easily demonstrate how your marketing investment is benefiting members by highlighting the key benefits of your fund whilst identifying the weaknesses inherent in competing fund performance. Obviously, the last thing any member wants (along with the regulator) is to be stapled to a non-performing fund for life.

In the context of employer branding

The requirement for superannuation funds to meet an annual performance test has been discussed for some time, but now as a result of these changes has now effectively been brought into sharp and immediate effect. There is no avoiding poor investment performance, and nor should there be, so the brand’s role and the role of brand research is to ensure the business has the best and brightest fund managers connected to, or part of the organisation.

Increasingly the most celebrated and coveted services brands all share one thing now more than ever – their emphasis on culture. And one of the primary reasons for this is that employees are more indiscriminate than ever. Strong services brands treat employees more like customers and less like resources. But how do you understand what it takes to attract and retain the best and the brightest – culture and climate and employee brand research. Insights through this research allows all services firms to reap the benefits of a highly engaged and passionate workforce. By understanding your internal or employee value proposition through research enables you to attract and retain the best people within the industry. It helps the firm attract and more than its fair share of the most talented recruits at all levels.

For funds considering consolidation or merging

It is well known that the regulator has a view that smaller funds should consolidate, or merge and the Government may have initiated some of these changes with a view to enable this. For these funds, there needs to be a research informed focus on being very clear on your narrative, especially around the member and to a lesser extent employer value propositions to ensure they are credible, relevant, unique and sustainable. The alternative suggests that without this their proposition will simply be subsumed within the larger, merged entity or fund.

A clear brand purpose matters more than ever

Understanding who you are, what you stand for and why this matters has never been more important and these changes highlight this fact. Given the turbulence of 2020, even if you thought your brand was clear, this may well have well changed. Being clear on purpose, vision, values and what your stakeholders need, want and expect from you has never been more critical. Again, if you’re not sure of this, or you believe it has changed, then research will be hugely beneficial.  

At BrandMatters, we have a deep understanding of financial services and has completed more than 400 individual projects in financial services including work completed for AMP, Aware Super, Tasplan, and Legal Super. 

Contact us to learn more.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020 11:01

It’s not uncommon for us to hear a simple lament from senior marketers and decision makers within B2B organisations: “We need to understand our clients better, but we simply can’t justify a big, expensive market research project”.

Heightened by the ongoing turbulence in markets and economic conditions, the purse strings of marketing extensions continue to be tightened and more closely monitored, meaning the function needs to do more with less and constantly justify investment to C-Suite executives.

So, what can they do to accurately understand their clients and shape their strategy going forward?

Well the good news is that, contrary to popular belief, high quality and well-articulated brand and market research doesn’t always have to be expensive. There are a multitude of techniques and methods that can be deployed to gather relevant, tangible and compelling insights into your market and clients, without requiring an extensive budget that is traditionally associated with a research program.

In order to explore these individual costs further, we have looked to break down the main elements that determine the price tag of contemporary research projects.

Capture

 

If you would like more detailed breakdown of these project elements, or a deeper understanding of some of the research options available to you, feel free to download our free Guide to Brand Research: 2020 Edition.

So how can organisations apply these impact and potential savings to produce the most cost effective and high-quality outputs? We will begin by exploring what not to do, and then provide some techniques to maximise the cost efficiencies within a contemporary research project.

What to avoid when looking to save money on research

As a rule of thumb, there are two clear areas that costs need to be retained – at the beginning and at the end of a brand or market research project.

And if we were to quote the great Albert Einstein…

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes”.

Now when we apply the above quote to brand and market research, it is highly likely that by taking the time and tangibly allocating resources to planning at the start of the process, that you will gain significant savings in the overall project in the long run. By approaching your unique situation with a thorough and well-articulated brief for your research provider, you are likely to be provided with insights that are more actionable and more aligned to business strategy. This also means the recommendations have more longevity as the research is received well internally, which further binds the subsequent strategic decisions that are made in accordance with the implications.

Likewise, when clients are looking to save money by cutting the hours spent on analysis and insights distillation at the end of a project, the efficacy and quality of the findings is undermined. Given the turbulence of traditional markets and operating models, there are very few organisations that have been able to continue unaffected and are currently operating in contexts that are uncertain. So, once you have made the practical and strategic business decision to invest in research to address this uncertainty, why cut corners on the elements that will guide strategy going forward? Simone Blakers from Rapp said it best…

Data is an expense, but insight is a bargain”.

The very best data, measurement and evaluation metrics are fundamentally limited if a research partner does not have the time to apply their objective analysis to make sense of them. What does it all mean, how can the business use the information to address a problem, grow the business, change the strategy, make a difference… the list of outputs are highly variable and completely bespoke to an individual organisations circumstances, it is not a one size fits all approach and that obviously comes with some additional expenses..

The best techniques to apply when looking to save money on research costs

Beyond these two main areas to avoid, there are some clear and realistic methods that organisations can apply to save money on a research project. Once again, this comes down to the ability to plan and prioritise accurately and efficiently.

At BrandMatters, we typically consider and apply these five cost saving techniques, depending on the whether they are appropriate for the circumstances and requirements of each individual client.

1. Use existing mailing lists and data bases

Finding and accessing the most appropriate people can be one of the most challenging and expensive components of a research project. These concerns are naturally heightened in the context of B2B organisations, who operate with smaller sample sizes, unique respondents and niche audiences. This cost can be substantially reduced if you have access to your internal audience databases and mailing lists.

2.Explore online methodologies

A large volume online quantitative survey can be shared to external clients and stakeholders as a mechanism to engage multiple audiences cost effectively. Hosting platforms represent a high value for money and with increasingly tight budgets have effectively supplemented expensive online research communities for small/mid-tier organisations.

3. Be disciplined and focused

Despite the best intentions of maximising research outputs, organisations need to make sacrifices by being specific and prioritising areas/target audiences. Unless you adequately resource your marketing function, there wont necessarily be the budget available to address everything you want to cover. Questionnaires and interviews need to be focused and disciplined to get the best value out of them.

4. Minimise travel with video conferencing

In the B2B context, qualitative research costs can escalate quickly if a researcher is required to travel and be face-to-face with multiple stakeholders. Combat these costs by integrating high quality video conferencing software, where there is increasing parity in quality and levels of acceptance with senior leaders.

5. Utilise existing insights and information

Desk research remains a critical, cost effective component of a well-defined research methodology. Without properly understanding and defining the current market and status quo with existing research insights of publicly available information, questionnaire and discussion guide development can be compromised.

Partnering with the right supplier

In summary, with careful planning and prioritisation it is entirely possible to achieve a deeper understanding of your market and clients with brand and market research on a tighter budget. Partnering with an experienced and objective supplier ensure the quality of your research is not compromised by shortcuts in cost cutting measures. An expert research partner will build carefully designed qualitative and quantitative research programs that will set your organisation up for sustainable growth.

If you would like to discuss your unique circumstances, feel free to get in contact with BrandMatters.

BrandMatters' Director of Brand Strategy, Kylie McNamara, discusses the biggest challenges for B2Bs in measuring their performance.

 

While brand tracking is valuable for all organisations, 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 more about relationships 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 the majority 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 measurement through brand tracking. Brand tracking 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 hundreds or 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 business clients that are hard to reach and difficult to get feedback from. 

Multiple stakeholders involved in decision-making

When it comes to B2B organisations, you’re not just dealing with one person making a personal decision, you have to be able to take into account a range of stakeholders calling the shots and a lot of others influencing the purchase decisions. So, you need an approach that enables you to understand all of the diverse behaviours, needs and attitudes of your business customers. 

Brand is delivered by a broader range of vehicles, like 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 tracking 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 personally. 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 who your employees are and how 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 a decision based off 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 research 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. 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 have any other questions about B2B brand tracking.

BrandMatters' Director of Brand Strategy, Kylie McNamara, discusses what simple steps businesses can take to gain understanding of their customers.

 

To say that it’s important for brands to understand their customers is stating the obvious. 

But for many brand owners the idea of “understanding customers” is daunting. It’s often associated with big, complex and expensive research projects which feel out of reach for many businesses, particularly in hard economic times when managing budgets is paramount.

So, should we file customer understanding in the too-hard basket? Perhaps put it off for another day, when conditions are less challenging and we have more time?

Or are there ways that businesses can gain valuable insights without huge budgets?

As much as I love to run large scale market research projects, I love uncovering useful insights about customers and markets even more. And I firmly believe that gathering rich, useful insights is in reach of any business with a little thought and planning.

There are two broad approaches to consider if you are looking to build your customer understanding, but the coffers are slim or even empty:

• Gathering insights about your customers without formal market research
• Looking for more cost-effective ways of conducting market research

Today I want to cover how you can gain insights without research. I’ll cover cost-effective market research in another blog.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to uncover insights about your customers without research is to make a subtle attitude shift. Take the time to slow down, absorb information and believe that insights are all around you, and you may be surprised at just how much you can find out. 

More specifically, here are some of my favourite ways of learning about customers:

1. Draw knowledge from your people

Your people can be an amazing source of knowledge. People who interact regularly with customers, those who have been in your company or industry for many years or even those who have recently come from an adjacent industry or competitor can bring valuable and diverse perspectives. 

The biggest challenge with this form of insight gathering is to remain objective and to draw out useful implications from simple observations. This is why it can be helpful to use an external person to help facilitate this process, to provide structure, objectivity and importantly to give the team confidence. 

Workshops with key members of your team can be a great way to spark off each other and share observations. A workshop facilitator will be able to design exercises and activities to make this process as easy and productive as possible.

2. Review previous research

Many companies have shelves and hard-drives full of research reports that haven’t been looked at since they were delivered. While these reports may not be able to specifically answer your current questions, they are highly likely to contain useful clues and information that can inform your thinking. So before lamenting a lack of budget to conduct new research, it is well worth looking at previous research, even if it is a few years old. You may be surprised what you can uncover!

3. Review other sources of data

Formal market research is unquestionably the best way to answer specific questions. However, like a good detective, clues about customer behaviours and attitudes can be found in a range of data sources. Some areas to think about include:

• Customer reviews, both formal and informal
• Customer satisfaction surveys
• Customer comments and communications

4. Search for publicly available information

In this data rich era, information is everywhere, and a simple google search can uncover reams of information to help you better understand your customers. Some of my favourite sources of information include Harvard Business Review, McKinsey and even LinkedIn. There is also plenty of useful syndicated research which can be purchased for considerably less than it would cost to undertake research yourself. Some great examples include IBISWorld Reports and WARC.

Of course, the trap with all this information is sifting through everything that is available and working out which information is credible and valuable. This is where working with a good consultant can help.

5. Talk to others in the industry

Experts in your field can provide informed, insightful perspectives that can be enormously helpful in understanding your customers. Consider industry leaders, journalists, academics, industry bodies, think tanks and more. A number of one-on-one interviews, facilitated by an experienced interviewer, with these types of opinion leaders can furnish you with a rich understanding of your category for a fraction of the cost of a larger study.

6. Be a good observer!

Get into the habit of keeping your eyes open whenever you are interacting with or exposed to customers. You never know when your observations will be helpful.

So, if you want to understand your customers but your budgets are limited, don’t despair! There are plenty of ways of uncovering useful information and insights without having to spend a fortune. If you’d like some advice on how to go about doing this, please contact us at BrandMatters. We’d love to help!

As the pandemic continues to transform markets and reshape the allocation of budgets, it appears that more accountable marketing is required to justify expenditure from C-Suite executives. These are audiences that are interested in heightened return on investment with decreased budgets, essentially expecting marketers to do more with less. 

But how can you drive return on investment with decreased budgets? Or generate cut through and differentiation in an overcrowded marketplace? 

This is by no means an easy task, having been made even more difficult by the competitive pressures of other organisations, who appear to be communicating more frequently, from a more defined position and with a more powerful brand to lean on.

Well, if they truly believe their organisation is adequately positioned to drive sales in the context of this turbulent market, we would put this to them:

How has your organisation sought to break through the surplus of similar companies, that employ similar people, with similar educational backgrounds, who have all recognised similar shifts in attitudes amongst their audiences, who have developed similar ideas to handle these situations, by producing similar products or services, that have similar prices and are of a similar quality?

If they could answer that succinctly and with purpose, we suspect that they would be in the minority.

In your organisation (aka the real world), although you are likely to have put in place new actions, responses and communications for both your internal and external stakeholders throughout this recent period, the influence of these factors has changed the composure of your future revenue generation, mostly by decreasing your capacity to generate interest and cut through. So how can you drive interest and sustainable differentiation in this unfolding marketplace? 

Expressing the purpose of your business through a grounded and truthful positioning statement

Defining your brand’s unique essence and positioning is the most effective way to drive differentiation and distinctiveness in your category. A brand’s positioning is the internal expression of its purpose. It is the business’ reason for being that goes beyond simply ‘making lots of money’. A positioning statement sits at the intersection of business and is used to inform sales and marketing strategy, product development, HR and hiring decisions and team culture. As a result of these components, it encompasses the experience your customer ultimately has with you.

A well-defined brand positioning represents the unique, relevant, credible and sustainable position that you own in the market. It ensures your clients and prospects can clearly tell your brand apart from your competitors. It specifies and expresses how your brand is unique and compelling, providing a reason to choose your brand over others. Brand positioning is also sometimes called brand essence, because it's the essential nature of your brand - its reason for being.

Powerful brand positioning binds the internal and external components together. It's the high-level idea that unites and guides all organisational activities, actions and behaviours, from organisational strategy, to the products you launch, the businesses you acquire, the way you communicate, how customers experience your brand and how your employees behave - it is the compass for the organisation.

But beyond this, what are some of the functional benefits of clearly articulating the essence of your organisation? How does it turn up as a advantage for the consumer, your organisation’s sales figures and your own marketing initiatives?

The tangibility of brand positioning in driving return on investment

We believe there are six key and comprehensive benefits for both the internal and external components of an organisation that can be achieved through unique, clear, relevant and sustainable brand positioning:

1. It ensures your brand stands out and generates cut-through in its category

2. It provides customers a reason to choose your brand over competitors, presenting them with a necessary validation of their choice

3. It enables your brand to charge and sustain a price premium, demonstrating both short- and long-term return on investment

4. It enables your brand to build trust with its key stakeholders – customers, employees, shareholders, distributors, partners, intermediaries – because you are consistently seeking to deliver on your promise

5. It helps your organisation attract and retain the best of employee talent – providing a single uniting force for all people to work towards, as well as an understanding of what is required of them to work for your organisation

6. Ultimately, strong and relevant brand positioning delivers clients who are disinterested in alternatives.

Positioning your brand for the future and driving ROI

Given the context of the pandemic, many organisations have experienced a decline in ROI due to heightened competitive pressures and a lack of differentiation in their positioning.

In an environment typified by reducing expenditure, marketing budgets are being tightened but are still expected to deliver the same (or better) return on investment. Driving this sales growth in this context is challenging, but the task is made even more daunting when organisations have not established a positioning to lean on.

If your organisation needs assistance defining the unique, clear, relevant and sustainable brand positioning that binds your strategy going forward, please feel free to get in contact with the BrandMatters team here.

Over the course of the past few months, the world has seen an enormous shift in the way consumers live, shop, interact and do business with each other. 

There are very few brands who have not been affected in some way, shape or form by the pandemic. Businesses have needed to be agile, often changing direction and indeed strategy to reflect the rapidly evolving context we find ourselves in.

And in our immediate context, just as we have begun to taste some degree of freedom and the gradual unwinding of the pressures of lockdowns and restrictions, it appears inevitable that our environment will again shift to feelings of isolation and the associated anxieties that that comes with. 

But what does this mean for your organisation? Well, you have likely already recognised the level of change required to navigate this context, as well as the immediacy to which these changes were made. You now need to consider whether your brand narrative is appropriately defined to reflect the changes you have made and determine whether you need to overhaul your brand positioning to stay relevant in the minds of your key audiences.

Ultimately, this period represents the perfect timing to reflect on your brand and refine the brand narrative for what will be the new normal. It is time for brands to walk a mile in the client’s shoes and focus on what they really need and want from you, at both this point and beyond.

Preparing your brand for a pivot

If it is the case that you have actively considered refining your brand narrative, you must first define the existing state of your brand, and then determine the future desired state of your offer. In order to prepare your brand for any percentage of strategic pivot, you should first consider:

1. Have you determined how your brand is currently positioning itself?

2. Can you identify, understand and compare the positioning of your direct competitors? 

3. Have you responded by developing a right-sized brand pivot that is considerate of these factors? 

Once you have an understanding of your dynamic market, you must put in place the contingencies to navigate the degree of change from what is existing. Your brand positioning must be aligned to the longer-term strategic thinking of your organisation. If your response to this period is not aligned with your brand, it will appear unauthentic and will not resonate with your audiences (at worst it may result in customer backlash).

Brand positioning is long term, so don’t rush, cut or run

Whilst it is important to establish a higher aspirational goal for your brand in light of the pandemic, the risks of repositioning your brand should also be considered. If you make a decision to shift your positioning, you need to be sure you aren’t completely abandoning the established position that had recognised you as a real force in the marketplace, especially for something you may not have earned credibility yet or is simply opportunistic. This can leave your brand in no-man’s land and in this overly competitive context, may cannibalise your existing and future sales.

As we always insist, a brand position needs to be credible. Part of that means aligning yourself in a place between what you're already communicating, against where you'd like the brand to be; what your audience currently believes, and what the audience would value. It's about balancing the experience of the brand, with the promise of the brand.

The most appropriate positioning for your organisation, in the context of the pandemic especially, should exist somewhere in the centre of these requirements. If your brand is positioned only by what existed before (what they already believe), it wont ever grow. If it is positioned too far towards where you hope it will go, especially towards rapidly expanding COVID markets, it won’t appear credible and sustainable. This process is one to be treaded carefully, you need to reinforce what you are in your customer’s minds, as well as stay relevant by nudging the brand to where you believe it needs to be.

Why revisiting your brand positioning so important in these turbulent times

Revisiting and refining your brand narrative can ensure your brand remains relevant during this period and beyond. Currently, consumers and employees are feeling vulnerable, uncertain and need reassurance. Brands need to lead with a distinct focus on their culture, their narrative needs to be reflective of both the internal and external. It is important that brands demonstrate their values, both to their customers and their employees.

Many agile brands have been able to easily adapt their messaging through the pandemic period and although we have gradually felt more comfortable and less apprehensive with the way we conduct business, the period to follow is the most crucial to get right. The next few months are likely to symbolise the ongoing nature of this pandemic and the new future we find ourselves in. Some brands have found obvious synergies in their past values, but many more need to dig a little deeper to find their right positioning to take to their evolving market.

It is time to take stock, weigh up the options and make your strategic moves. Unfortunately, during a crisis these strategic moves need to happen quickly. The key to getting this right is to dig deep into your brand values, and core purpose and ensure your marketing and messaging is aligned with our customer’s needs and addresses their new pain points. It is vital to rely on the experience and knowledge of your best people to lean in and make informed decisions. 

Where to begin your brand positioning journey

Repositioning your brand represents a complex, strategic brand conundrum. But the benefits of defining the unique, relevant, credible and sustainable position that you own in this dynamic market will help to ensure your clients and prospects can clearly differentiate you from your competitors.

If your organisation needs assistance in the evaluation of your existing and future brand positioning, get in touch with the BrandMatters team here.

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