Brand commentary

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.

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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.

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 fewer 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 the 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 the 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.

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