Brand Strategy

BrandMatters Managing Director, Paul Nelson, discusses the need for businesses to refine or redefine their brand narrative in COVID-19 times.

In the past few months, the world has seen a massive shift in the way consumers live, consume, shop, interact and go about their daily lives.

There are very few brands who have not been affected in some way, shape or form by this crisis. Businesses have needed to be agile, change direction, evolve strategy and rethink their futures. A lot of this change needed to take immediate effect. As a result, your brand narrative may need refining, or perhaps a complete overhaul.

Once your organisation has dealt with the actions, responses and communications both internally and externally in relation to COVID-19, it is a perfect time to reflect on your brand and refine the brand narrative for what will be the new normal. It is time for brands to really put themselves in their client’s shoes. You can focus on what your core target audience needs and wants from you at this point and beyond.

It is important to prepare your brand for a pivot, have contingencies in place and make sure your brand positioning is in line with your next moves. If your response to this crisis is not aligned with your brand, it will appear unauthentic and will not resonate (at worst it may result in customer backlash).

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

A recent article categorised brand narrative into three distinct phases during the COVID-19 crisis as outlined below:

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Many agile brands have been able to easily adapt their messaging through these phases, but the third phase is of particular importance. Restating brand purpose needs to lead the way into the new future. Some brands may find obvious synergies in their past values and what they can do to respond to the crisis, but others may need to dig a little deeper to find the right approach.

Refining or redefining your brand narrative may be an essential next step.

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 to ensure your marketing and messaging is aligned with your targets’ 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. The CMO’s role is vital in steadying the ship, navigating the changes and communicating the brand message.

See Paul Nelson discuss how CMO's can deliver value in tough times, or you can get in contact with us to discuss your brand positioning 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.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020 10:19

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

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

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

What are the biggest challenges for B2B organisation tracking? 

Smaller, more niche target audiences

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

Multiple stakeholders involved in decision-making

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

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

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

What are common misconceptions about B2B tracking? 

Emotional benefits and messages are only important in B2C. 

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

Relationships are more important than brand in driving sales

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

How to approach the unique challenges of B2B brand tracking?

Challenge 1: Smaller, more niche target audiences

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

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

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

Challenge 2: Multiple stakeholders involved in decision-making

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During the last 6-8 weeks, we’ve had a number of clients and prospects seeking our assistance as they attempt to cope in these times of rapidly changing business conditions and associated uncertainty. We’ve had clients asking us to rapidly deploy right sized market research studies, assist them to pivot their brand into a different market adjacency with greater growth prospects, or to simply and rapidly activate a marketing and content plan as they seek to grow sales. We’ve also seen a significant increase in the number of downloads and requests from our e-books on our website too, which are available for free at any time here.

Given the success of the proposals we’ve created and the number of requests being received, we’ve decided to create a number of fixed price, productised solutions that address the challenges of brand right now:

1. Market research: In this post Covid world, research is critical for clients seeking to understand their market, what’s important to their customers and how they and their competitors are performing against these drivers. Asking simply, "How am I performing against what’s important to my clients?"

2. Brand Architecture: This market research often informs a key packaged solution in relation to brand architecture and brand stretch too. This relates to a business looking to pivot its business and brand towards a more lucrative Covid market. The question we’re being asked 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?" Organisations need greater certainty around risk levels of brand stretch into new markets. "Can I take my existing brand in, or would I be better creating a sub brand or perhaps an endorsed brand?"

3. Brand Positioning: With architecture confirmed and resolved, clients are also seeking assistance on how to reposition or re-fresh their brand in this new market context as well. Asking "How can I be clear, unique, relevant and compelling?"

4. Marketing activation: This packaged solution is the most pragmatic for clients and prospects experiencing a downturn in sales demand. This marketing and activation plan is a succinct set of workshops to get their marketing activated and their content created, in an accountable way.

The benefits of each of these solutions are specifically geared to deliver answers quickly, pragmatically and cost effectively. They can be executed independently or in unison. Each of the productised solutions we are developing contain a clear, simple and accountable series of benefits and deliverables, within a defined fixed cost and time frame.

Stay tuned as we communicate further on these cost effective, yet flexibly tailored productised solutions. If you are looking to move more quickly, you can reach out to us directly here or contact Paul Nelson on either 02 99547900 or 0413 028766.

See also our blog on 6-point checklist for brands in managing a crisis

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

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

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

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

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

BrandMatters’ BM Inside

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

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

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

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

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

6-point checklist for brands in managing a crisis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Review your business strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Don’t stop marketing

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

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

6. Review, Review, Review

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

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

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

In this crisis, very few organisations will be unaffected. What is now important is how brands react and how they handle this uncertain and unprecedented situation.

How can organisations lean on their brand in order to get through this crisis? And which brands are already demonstrating this?

It is easy to get distracted, panic and make drastic non-strategic decisions in times of crisis. But for those who hone their brand strategy and focus on communicating the appropriately toned message at the right time will be better placed to see this through.

With the long term effects of the COVID-19 outbreak still to be realised, and the short term interruptions felt by the hour, it is vital that organisations manage their brands and messaging very carefully so as to ensure the continued health of their business.

“What leaders need during a crisis is not a predefined response plan but behaviours and mindsets that will prevent them from overreacting and help them to look ahead.”

In the recently released Edelman Trust Barometer for 2020, there was clear evidence that consumers are looking to organisations and their leaders to take action. This report was conducted before the current COVID-19 crisis took hold, with 78% of respondents acknowledging the role CEOs play in taking the lead and making decisions when it comes to environmental decisions.

Many brands are already demonstrating some amazing examples of brand values, purpose, customer care and empathy in action.

Some notable examples include:

  • Zoom is supporting businesses through the pandemic by promoting tools that ease and facilitate home working, virtual meetings and video conferencing, it is also allowing students to use its premium functions for free.

  • Google has also made its video conferencing service, Hangouts Meet, available for all G-suite customers until July 1, 2020. Hangouts Meet allows for up to 250 participants and live-streaming to up to 100,000 viewers per domain. You can also record and save meetings.

  • Louis Vuitton has announced it will be converting three of its perfume manufacturing facilities in order to produce hand sanitiser, which will be given, at no charge, to French authorities and the largest hospital system in Europe.

  • Coca-Cola has diverted some of its advertising spend towards a health message on the importance of social distancing by way of a creative execution on their billboard in Times Square.

  • IGA, Coles and Woolworths have managed the distribution of scarce goods by introducing the rationing of toilet paper and some food items, as well as the initiative of an exclusive shopping hour for the elderly and disadvantaged.

  • Time Out temporarily rebrands as Time In. Their editorial direction will pivot from dining out, to entertainment avenues closer to home such as ‘best Netflix new releases’, restaurants offering home delivery and other content to keep people feeling positive about being confined to their homes. 

  • Online social platform Nextdoor is helping people connect with their neighbours to assist with buying groceries for those in isolation, share toilet paper and walk people’s dogs when they can’t leave the house.

  •  Many businesses are taking the opportunity to promote their products and services that can be enjoyed from home. Some have found innovative ways in offering these services, such as virtual museum tours, 14-day online fitness programs and restaurants adjusting to include home delivery (if they did not before).


Brand as a defence strategy

In any crisis, brand can be the backbone of your defence strategy. It is the one thing your competitors cannot copy, and it is the one thing that will differentiate you in the eyes of consumers. We don’t know what the road ahead looks like in this unprecedented time, but we do know that a strong brand will recover quicker than a weak one, so maintaining your brand equity in the minds of customers, stakeholders and employees is critical.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020 17:33

Rebranding an organisation can be a minefield of potential pitfalls if not undertaken with expertise.

For many successful organisations, brand is one of their most important and valuable assets. The decision to rebrand should not be taken lightly. Here are some of the more common mistakes to avoid when undergoing a rebranding project:

1. Not engaging in brand research

Brand research is a key component in uncovering the attitudes, perceptions, gaps and opportunities for your brand prior to rebranding. A rebrand will only resonate with its key target audience if the brand has invested in getting to know their customers’ needs and pain points.

There are many benefits and risks to undertaking a rebrand. Insights from brand research can help organisations mitigate risk and inform decision making. A rebrand represents considerable investment from a financial and time perspective, not to mention the risk of losing customers who were loyal to your existing brand. This factor is particularly pertinent when transitioning from a well-known established brand to an unknown new brand.

As a research-led brand agency, we may appear biased on this point, however, without the insights that come from researching your customers, competitors and the market, a rebrand will simply be a wardrobe change.

2. Not having a solid strategy behind your new brand

Don’t undervalue your current brand equity; ignoring what you have already built and the trust you have earned with customers can have a negative impact.

“Stay true to your values. That’s why you were a success in the first place, and that’s how you make incredible things happen.”

Rafe Offer

After conducting research, mapping out a brand strategy to clearly define and articulate your brand values, brand positioning and key points of difference is the next step. The insights uncovered in your brand research will assist in defining your brand positioning which can then inform the development of your new brand identity.

3. Copying a competitor

As tempting as this may be, replicating the activities of a competitor can be one of the worst mistakes you can make, essentially creating less differentiation, less recognition and may result in some legal hot water.

In today’s commoditised market, brand is often the only thing that differentiates you from your competitors. If your competitors have done a good job with their branding and it resonates with your target market, then your rebrand needs to resonate even more.

Remember, a brand is more than a logo; you can showcase your brand by delivering on your values and positioning and then demonstrating these through your brand visual identity and throughout all of your customer interactions. 

4. Following a design trend that doesn’t relate to your offering

Trends come and go. Take a short look back to the ’80s and ’90s to realise that if you follow trends too closely you will soon be outdated.

In the world of branding, there has more recently been a trend of minimalising design, and unfortunately, this can result in brands becoming devoid of personality and can risk losing their identity. If your brand positioning is strong, it can hold its own with a minimalist design. A good example of where minimalist brand design has been successfully deployed is Apple; the brand appears to have stayed consistently simple since inception, however, if you review it more closely it has been refreshed and reinvigorated several times.

The minimalist branding has been effective, in that it allows the non-design elements of the brand to shine through, such as brand positioning.

Brands that dare to be different have the opportunity to create their own visual language.

5. Not being bold enough

Swimming in a sea of sameness will not allow your brand to showcase its distinctiveness. While being bold can sometimes be seen as a risk, daring to differentiate has definitely worked for many brands who have opted for an impactful approach to branding.

There have been some really great examples in recent times. Who Gives a Crap, a brand that disrupted the ‘undisruptable’ - toilet paper. The use of fun branding, the convenience of home delivery and the drawcards of not-for-profit plus environmentally friendly packaging, made this toilet paper brand extremely attractive. Another example is The Boring Company, founded by Elon Musk, after getting annoyed by traffic in Los Angeles. The Boring Company, a fun play on words does exactly what it says - boring as in tunnel boring.

6. Not rolling out the rebrand comprehensively

“Having a vision for what you want is not enough. Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Thomas A. Edison

An effective roll-out plan is paramount to the success of a rebrand. If a rebrand is well planned and executed, then the communications phase should be a lot easier. Ensuring that all brand assets are refreshed and internal stakeholders are fully briefed, will create a clear understanding of the new brand and a smooth rollout to your customers.

Conducting a full audit of all your assets, assigning a project manager and working group to the task, is a great approach to ensuring consistency and accountability.

7. Not communicating a rebrand effectively

A saying we often repeat in marketing is that ‘when you are sick of saying something, your customers are only just hearing it’. This is particularly important in the case of a rebrand. The rebrand must be clearly and consistently communicated both internally and externally.

A rebrand announcement can easily be missed. It is vitally important that this message is heard and

understood so that it does not result in a loss of effectiveness when you launch into general brand awareness marketing. Launch loud and proud and get 100% behind your new brand.

To rebrand or refresh? That is the question.

A true rebrand is a journey that involves comprehensively analysing what has changed within your

business and strategy, bringing that change to life through a defined brand positioning and visual identity that signals the change to the market.

Our latest e-book, The Refreshing Guide to Rebranding explores the catalysts, benefits and risks of rebranding. Feel free to download it or call us to discuss your unique situation.

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