brand protection

Pivot.         Extension.          The new normal. 

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

The long road.          Snap back.          Tough times ahead.

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

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

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

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

Marketing planning

Market overview

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

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

Competitor analysis

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

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

SWOT analysis 

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

Target Market & Segmentation

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

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

Marketing objectives

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

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

Marketing Strategies

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

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

Marketing calendar

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

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

Evaluation

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

Marketing for the post-COVID-19 world

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

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

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

“As a small business without the marketing expertise or the time to drive it, it’s very hard to proactively focus on the promotion of our own business.”

 

Not every business has a marketing function.

Whilst the big players in business may have marketing teams spread across the country, the reality for many organisations is vastly different. Many organisations, both small and medium-sized, do not have a marketing function at all, reliant upon incorporating those responsibilities within the BAU of another or adjacent role such as sales or events. For those that have small or part-time marketing functions, the ability to execute programs or initiatives over and above regular BAU marketing, such as a brand refresh or launch, places additional pressure on an already busy resource.

“As the Managing Director, I am often pulled in many directions and need to wear many hats within our business. Marketing was one of those hats.”

 

How Covid-19 has changed the game

Our current health and economic crisis has only exacerbated this pressure, with the questions being asked “What will the new normal look like?”, “How can we compete in a new environment?” and “What marketing activity will drive awareness and differentiation when everyone else is doing the same?”

As we emerge from the current crisis these questions will become even more pointed and pertinent, and Chief Executives, Managing Directors and Boards will be looking to their marketing functions to demonstrate clear ROI on future marketing spend.

Organisations and marketing teams will be seeking solutions that address kickstarting or restarting their market positions and profiles, being alert and sensitive to the evolving landscape of the post-Covid-19 business environment.

 

How BrandMatters supports organisations under resource pressure

For several years, BrandMatters has been assisting clients in taking the pressure off their marketing functions and short-term resource gaps by placing our marketing professionals on-site to drive forward marketing activities and brand initiatives. BM Inside is a dedicated resource who is not only an experienced marketer, but also comes supported by, and equipped with, the deep strategic knowledge and insights from the BrandMatters’ team.

We have filled short-term resource gaps, such as maternity leave, have led and deployed full national brand refreshes where the marketing team did not have the capacity to do so, have taken businesses with minimum market profile and driven awareness and consideration. Across the development of brand strategy, education of internal audiences, creation of marketing plans and calendars, we have assisted our clients in delivering clear and beneficial ROI against their marketing spend.

“Having BM Inside in-house for three months gave me the peace of mind that things were getting done.”

 

How branding will support businesses in the new world

The effects of our current crisis are only becoming apparent. But what we do know is that organisations will need to develop nimble mindsets. The old ways of working will no longer be tenable. Marketing will also evolve, but for many organisations asking the big questions of a changed future, marketing may not be top of mind, particularly where little or no resource has been able to be allocated pre the crisis.

At BrandMatters we firmly believe that differentiated branding and smart market positioning will be critical in driving survival in the new marketplace, regardless of whether the audience is B2B or B2C. Yet with even more downward pressure on resources, organisations will be looking to rely on trusted and proven partners.

“We’re now moving forward with renewed confidence in our new brand and our position in the market.”

Looking to the evolving future, organisations have the opportunity right now to evaluate how they have previously deployed marketing, and what marketing strategies are needed. For those that are looking for support to drive marketing forward in the new world, BrandMatters’ BM Inside has proven a trusted and accountable resource.

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

6-point checklist for brands in managing a crisis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Review your business strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Don’t stop marketing

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

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

6. Review, Review, Review

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

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

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

It takes time, investment, integrity and consistency to build a strong brand. At BrandMatters, we often talk to our clients about a brand being more than just the logo or brand name, however, your brand name or brand name used in a logo, can become the most distinctive visual cues for your brand.

One option to protect the value and longevity of your brand is trademarking. A trademark's essential function is to distinguish goods or services of one company from another. They must therefore be of distinctive character and can't just be descriptive of the goods or services sold.

The Australian Government's IP Department defines a trademark as:

“A trademark can be a letter, number, word, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture, aspect of packaging or any combination of these.”

As a branding agency, we always strongly recommend a full due diligence process is undertaken on any new brand name or logo. It confirms registrability and identifies any potential threat or infringement that may occur.

 

How registration works in Australia

Trademarking in Australia is governed by IP Australia and comes under Trademark, Copyright and Australian Consumer Law.

Trademarks are registered under classes for both goods and services categories: 34 classes for products covering pharmaceuticals to furniture to food and drinks; and 11 classes of services covering telecommunications to auditing to freight transport.

Classes help expand the volume of trademarks currently licensed – identical or similar trademarks can be registerable once evaluated and confirmed that they are in non-competing industries, for example and hypothetically “Star Plumbing” or “Star Theatre”.

 

What can’t be registered?

It’s best to avoid disappointment. Given the millions of brand names, logos and website URLs in the world, there is a slim chance the name an organisation has fallen in love with is available. Decades of trademarking, defensive trademarking (where organisations register variants of their trademarks) and proactive registration of every possible URL variant means brand agencies need to find inventive circumvents to create brand names that provide not only true market distinctiveness but also trademark registrability and URL domain purchase.

This provides a substantial challenge.  So, what are some pitfalls to avoid from the start? There are some exclusions that can’t be registered:

  • Descriptive brand names, eg “Orange Juice”
  • Names that reference quality or outcomes
  • Geographic references
  • Common surnames
  • Offensive or profane language
  • Commonly adopted words
  • A combination of the above.

 

The right to challenge

The intent of copyright law is to ensure clear use of names, logos and other intellectual property where there are no conflicts. This process takes time. Once an organisation has submitted a trademark application, IP Australia provides the initial pass to proceed based on its own preliminary checks. The application then moves to a period of “challenge”, where other entities can put forth a case against registration of the pending trademark where they feel it is similar or substantially similar to their own. If the pending trademark passes the challenge period, the trademark can operate in the intended market and category with the legal protections in place for the trademark.

 

Why trademarks are important

A registered trademark provides a brand with exclusive rights to use, license and sell the trademark, ensuring the brand is free of any usage issues within the target market and jurisdiction.

And this registration prior to launching in the market is critical. It’s tempting to take the chance and launch a brand without the trademarks being registered. And there might be many reasons for this. First mover advantage. Merger & acquisitions. Numerous other time pressures.

But launching into the market without registration is fraught with risk. The real threat is where, in the absence of the due diligence process, a brand’s name or logo are identical or substantially similar to that of another in the target market or an adjacent market, the market’s geography or another geography.

This opens the brand to the risk of legal recourse from the entities that own the identical or substantially similar trademarked brand name and logo. At best, the unregistered brand and branding will need to be pulled from the market. At worst, it can be argued as constituting misleading and deceptive conduct with inevitable legal ramifications.

 

Brands going international

Registering a trademark in any jurisdiction provides a brand exclusive legal right to use, license and sell within that jurisdiction for the goods and services for which it is registered. Where the rights are for one jurisdiction, eg, Australia, this is straightforward.

However, when brands enter international markets there are a number of other considerations beside ensuring distinctiveness and registrability.

It’s important to ensure from the outset that the desired trademark is registrable in all intended markets. Piecemeal registration, for example registering first in Australia and then in other jurisdictions, may result in availability in Australia, but non-availability in other markets.

A further consideration is that some names and logo marks are culturally specific, and don't always translate as well in the context of other markets. With the availability of names restricted and the use of made-up brand names circumventing this problem, what may sound like a smart brand name in Australia may in fact sound rude, profane or embarrassing in another language.

 

Assurance from the start

Taking the time to conduct a full comprehensive search via IP lawyers is an essential part of due diligence in ensuring an intended mark can be deployed in all intended jurisdictions. Identical, substantially identical, mis-translations, cultural considerations and URL availability all play into the registrability of the desired trademark both in Australia and in other geographies. Best to avoid disappointment, and check from the start.

It is never too early to protect your brand with a trademark, especially when you are planning to invest significant funds in brand awareness and drive your brand positioning in a crowded marketplace. There are a number of resources available to find out more about trademarking – IP Australia is a great starting point. At BrandMatters, we build strong, unique, relevant brands that will become your organisation's most valuable asset – so protecting this is vital.