Displaying items by tag: Brand Purpose

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.

On 20 September 2019, Strike4Climate occurred across the globe. It was reported that over 6 million people worldwide, including over 300,000 people in Australia attended the strike.

This global strike movement is one of the largest ever seen across the world since the protests against the Iraq war in 2003, but it wasn’t just the sheer number of people that caught everyone’s attention, but also the vast number of organisations and brands that backed the cause.

To name a few, Patagonia, Ben&Jerry, Lush and Greenpeace were just some of the companies to align their brands with the cause, dedicating full pages on their websites to show their support. In an unprecedented alliance started by Australian company Future Super, together with Atlassian and KeepCup, called This is not Business as Usual, companies came together to pledge their support for worker participation in the climate strike. In just over a week, more than 2,800 companies across the nation joined the pledge.

This kind of support and public display of brand purpose is becoming more common among successful brands. There have been many that have led the way, and now others are redefining themselves with clear purpose and focus.

In fact, the heat from climate change is becoming a reality that brands cannot ignore. The pressure for businesses to act responsibly is stronger than ever - consumers are moving to support brands that take a stand. The pressure is coming thick and fast, not solely from consumers but also from regulators, employees, investors and shareholders.

Brands now need to be seen as responsible global citizens. A recent Garner report stated that “Employees, in particular, millennials are seeking to have a socially meaningful impact through work that aligns with their own values.”

The global market research company, Forrester has reported on the impact of climate change and how it is altering the world of business.

“Today, consumers explicitly consider factors such as company values and commitment to certain causes or beliefs when choosing brands to associate with or products to buy.”

Source: Forrester

There is definitely a recipe for success when it comes to the brands positively presenting themselves as a champion for climate change action. Brands must practice what they preach - they cannot simply advertise the fact. Brands must articulate their values throughout their brand strategy, brand story and communications.

In a previous blog, we highlighted some brands who are successfully incorporating sustainability into their brand values. These included:

  1. IceBreaker. Not only are their products living up to their promise, but they also commit to sustainable agriculture. They use merino wool from New Zealand and promise that the wool can be traced back to the farm it came from. They have created a sustainable business model that is built to support the farmers and is based on genuine trust and mutual concern for animal welfare and protection of the natural environment.
  2. Le Creuset. Quality and longevity of the product is what makes this brand stand out from a sustainability viewpoint. For almost 100 years, their brand promise has come with a lifetime warranty with a focus on building products that last, rather than throw-away short-lifecycle products.
  3. Who Gives A Crap toilet paper. Not only is the product and packaging made from environmentally friendly material, but the company also donates 50% of its profits to help build toilets for those in need.
  4. Sukin is an Australian, all-natural skincare brand. Their promise is - “what we leave out is what makes us special.” Their products are made of all-natural ingredients and no chemicals. 

The questions being asked, what does it mean to be sustainable; what do brands need to do in order to ensure consumers trust and value their contribution to environmental causes, in order to support them? Brands need to look at all angles, consider all options and put the planet on their agenda.

Business Insider recently interviewed four Australian brands who are weaving sustainability into their values in unique ways that resonate with their brand positioning. One example listed was Future Super.

“We won’t invest super into coal, oil or gas — leading sources of climate change — as well as any banks that finance fossil fuels, and companies that provide polluters with essential services,”
Kirstin Hunter, Managing Director of Future Super.

Many brands are coming up with unique ways to incorporate sustainability in their brand. Some of the initiatives that brands are committing to include:

1. Eliminating single-use plastics
2. Recycling programs in the workplace
3. Investing in biodegradable and earth-friendly packaging
4. Eliminating the use of chemicals in the workplace or in production processes
5. Reducing energy and water consumption
6. Ensuring environmentally friendly waste management systems
7. Measuring carbon footprint and offsetting carbon
8. Developing a climate action plan
9. Setting emissions targets
10. Initiating corporate social responsibility programs

This list is not exhaustive; ideally brands need to find the right initiative that will fit within their brand narrative - and be authentically and honestly executed. If companies fear that implementing these sustainability initiatives is going to be costly and impact negatively on their bottom line - they need to think of the alternative, and that is that climate change will damage economies, reduce the availability of finite resources and increase the cost of doing business. So it is for both business and humanitarian reasons, that companies of all sizes take action.

The below model graphically depicts the relationship between sustainability and profit. When implemented well, it will have a positive effect on market share and profits.

Sustainability Profit Relationship Model

 

 

Source: Sustainability-Profitability Relationship Model

Climate action offers companies the chance to connect with consumers in a way that demonstrates a common goal. It provides an opportunity for brands to weave this message into their brand story and communications.

It is not only customers who will support brands who actively and authentically weave sustainability into their values. This year's Edelman's Trust Barometer showed us how employees are relying more and more on their employers to lead the way on social responsibility, and with this comes the power to act on important political issues, such as the environment and its preservation. Brand purpose and aligning your brand to employees' values is becoming increasingly more important in winning the war on talent.

It is undeniably evident that brands have the power to move individuals towards positive change, in fact, some of the most successful brands have even managed to start the movement. Consumers will choose a brand they resonate with, a brand they feel represents their views. BrandMatters specialises in brand strategy; finding the right approach to incorporating sustainability into your brand strategy is imperative, and this is something we can help you uncover.

Contact us

 

Additional resources on this subject:

https://www.notbusinessasusual.co/

http://theconversation.com/climate-change-focusing-on-how-individuals-can-help-is-very-convenient-for-corporations-108546

https://www.adnews.com.au/news/the-climate-games-the-advertising-industry-pressured-from-all-directions#Cbz4yusgzhL6TxfT.99

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/body-shop-issues-call-action-160400989.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/simonmainwaring/2018/10/25/why-and-how-business-must-tackle-climate-change-now/#a945d064712b

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/4-aussie-businesses-share-what-theyre-doing-to-fight-climate-change-on-a-day-to-day-basis-2019-9

 

What does it mean for a brand to be authentic? It has a lot to do with ethical behaviour but mostly it should be about telling the truth and demonstrating your commitment to this truth. Consumers are seeking out brands that do more than just talking about how great they are, they are looking for proof that the brand is willing and able to practise what they preach. It is increasingly vital that brands rise up to this challenge and prove to consumers they intend to live up to their brand promise.

Authenticity is not something you can create via a campaign. It needs to be demonstrated across every touch point and every moment the brand interacts with the consumer. Most importantly it needs to be true - not just a gimmick. Consumers are savvy and their expectations are high. According to last year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, the expectation on CEOs to step up and lead change was up to a record high of 65%. CEOs and CMOs can achieve this by working together to put brand purpose front and centre of the organisation.

Not only are consumers seeking out and choosing to support authentic brands, they are also actively calling out inauthentic brands (mainly via social media). The speed at which disapproval can spread is rapid, and the digital footprint left is extremely hard to reverse or repair.

As a brand strategy agency, BrandMatters work with brands big and small, established or start-up, to develop an authentic brand narrative and positioning. A brand’s story needs to be rooted in the brand vision and needs to ensure it addresses the target audience in a way that resonates with them and makes them believe the brand truly understands their needs.

In this time of disruptors and game-changers, no market, industry and category is safe from being called out or completely alienated by consumers. In the wake of the banking royal commission - a recent Roy Morgan Report indicated that 1.3 million Australians are considering opening new bank accounts in the next 6 months. In an industry where the hassle often outweighs the motivation, this number is staggering. ING and Bank Australia are two examples of financial services brands who have stepped up with a message that targets these consumers and are demonstrating how brands, even banks, can be good, ethical and authentic.

How can brands demonstrate their authenticity

Customer centricity 

Putting the customer first. This shouldn’t be a new concept, but for certain industries, complacency has taken over - performance has been measured by profits and dividends alone. This view is incredibly short sighted. Brands need to put their customers first if they want to survive long term. 

Longevity and consistency

Brands need to stick to their guns. Once they have developed and articulated their brand position and brand values, they need to find ways to communicate and demonstrate these values. Examples such as Nike, Lego and closer to home Qantas are legacy brands who have consistently demonstrated their values. They have managed to stay relevant and consumers appreciate this consistency because trust has been developed and consumers know what to expect from these brands.

It doesn’t mean that they can’t change, adapt or innovate - but when they do it must be in a way that is in-keeping with their brand position and brand values.

Purpose before profit

In the past, CEOs and CFOs have been told to put the shareholder first. Now, even their largest stakeholders are challenging this, and realising that ethics and sustainability needs to be part of the equation.

Many brands and organisations have implemented a corporate social responsibility policy (CSR), and actively support a charity or support the community in some way, shape or form. The main issue with CSR is it is often seen as a side responsibility that comes after profits. The values that lead to a CSR policy should be shifted over to become part of the brand values rather than a side project.

Brand research

Brands who care about what their customers are thinking and feeling will engage in brand research or brand tracking. Asking for feedback and continually improving based on the feedback will help brands keep a pulse on the market and the needs of their target audience. It inevitably will help them make decisions about the future of the brand and how to stay relevant. NPS is a great way to measure consumer sentiment. Simply put, understanding the likelihood of your customers recommending your brand is a great benchmark of your brand equity and customer satisfaction.

Many businesses have adopted the Net-Promoter Score as their dipping stick into customer satisfaction - if they see the levels change, this can trigger some more intensive investigation or research and lead to changes in the brand strategy.

Examples of brands that have succeeded in demonstrating their authenticity

Airbnb

Airbnb’s brand positioning is ‘belong anywhere’. The idea behind Airbnb (people essentially opening their homes for strangers to share) was incredibly reliant on building trust. More importantly, the trust needed to be two-way. The owner of the property (host) needed to trust the customer (guest) and the guest needed to trust that the offering from the host was authentic and genuine.         

To many, this seemed like an impossible level of trust and convincing people would be no simple task. Airbnb demonstrated their authenticity by implementing a system of support, connection and safety.

Further to this, they are continually standing up and shouting out about the things they value and believe in. Examples of this were their support for marriage equality and also their protest of the Trump travel ban with their campaign #weaccept. Not only did support for these issues align to their brand, but the message of acceptance is one that underpins the trust they have built in their community (both guests and hosts). Airbnb’s entire business model relies on establishing this trust, building relationships between strangers, which is essentially what every brand needs to do.

Bank Australia 

When reading Bank Australia’s vision and values you may well disbelieve it. Bank Australia was established in 1957, originally as the CSIRO Co-operative Credit Union. In 2015 it was renamed Bank Australia and continues its’ focus on ethical and sustainable banking - which is 100% owned by its’ customers.

The timing of the launch of their recent campaign was precise and resonated immediately with consumers who had lost faith in the traditional banks and were looking for a better alternative.

The campaign highlights how the brand is turning its values into action - for example by only investing in renewable energy and affordable housing solutions and not investing in fossil fuels.

 

Trust is earned through authentic interactions

At BrandMatters, we believe relationships matter, a positive relationship between your brand and your customer is fundamental to success. In a world where consumers are bombarded with choice, as a brand, you need to stand for something - otherwise, the consumer choice has no critical path and will end up being about price. Living and breathing your brand values (both internally and externally) will help you develop a strong bond with like-minded customers.

Creating buy-in from your employees - who in turn will become brand ambassadors - is a great first step (read more in our recent blog employers guide to re-building trust in a disillusioned world). Living your brand values internally - with a strong employee value proposition - is a great way to establish how strongly it resonates and will result in your employees becoming strong brand advocates, working from the inside out.

Starting with a strong set of principles, we can help you develop and articulate your brand’s purpose, and most importantly provide the tools to bring this purpose to life through authentic interactions with your customers.