Brand Strategy

Thursday, 21 January 2021 16:19

It would be an understatement to say that a lot changed for brands in 2020. Rapid change and pivots have been a central theme of survival for brands during 2020 and now, with the commencement of 2021, successful brands will need to decide on whether these changes will need to stay as the new normal, or whether they need to consider a completely new path for the future.

One thing is certain, many of the dramatic shifts in consumer behaviour are here to stay and brands need to be more in tune with their customers than ever before. As we discussed in our Guide to Brand Research, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a major fast forward on some of the consumer behaviour trends that were slowly bubbling away. This includes the major shift to predominantly online shopping, learning and meeting and remote working.

The impact on behaviour has demonstrated the criticality of agility within organisations. Some brands were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and were able to capitalise on these changes; others tried to pivot and failed to meet these new consumer needs. Some brands sought to weather the storm and carry on with business as usual.

Adapting your business and brand to the ever-changing needs of consumers is not an easy task even in the most favourable of circumstances. Brand research can help determine the right path, and also ascertain how your brand is being perceived. Understanding customers’ needs and emotional drivers better will help brands to find the right positioning that connects on a deeper level. Whether your business is B2B or B2C, the behaviours, emotions and needs of your customers or clients have changed and now is the time to ensure you (re)connect with them on a deeper level.

At BrandMatters, we believe there are three guiding principles to finding a deeper connection with your clients/customers:

  1. Trust
  2. Purpose
  3. Delivery

The importance of transparency and trust

Whether you are dealing with new clients or existing clients, earning and keeping their trust is vital. There was a remarkable change in the trust landscape since the Edelman Trust Barometer launched in January of last year, trust in government had surged, making government the most trusted institution for the first time in its 20 years of study.

The Spring Update of the Edelman Trust Barometer report conducted to dip into the consumer trust sentiments during the pandemic, shows that 67 percent of respondents believe that those with less education, less money and fewer resources are bearing a disproportionate burden of the suffering, risk of illness and need to sacrifice as a result of the pandemic, and more than half are very worried about long-term, COVID-related job loss.

With the release of the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, it appears that consumers do not know who to trust. Edelman believes this is a moment of reckoning for organisations. Transparency and trust come to the fore. Investors and consumers have indicated that environmental and social responsibility factors must play an important role. Businesses must work with the government to ensure they put people before profits as more people struggle with the uncertainty of their financial futures and employment opportunities. 

Articulate your purpose and brand positioning

Earning trust comes down to transparency, a responsibility for brands to act ethically and with a purpose greater than profit. Having a strong brand positioning that is communicated and understood throughout the organisation will mean that the whole team can effectively deliver on this with each and every customer interaction.

Your brand positioning is what will set you apart from your competitors and guide decisions on how best to connect with your ideal customers/clients. A strong brand positioning is a key deliverable of brand strategy and will be the most important tool brands will have in guiding them through these turbulent times when financial pressures can tempt brands to swiftly change course.

We’ve worked with many brands to define their brand positioning. To understand the importance of a well-defined brand positioning, you can read some of our latest articles on the subject or view our case studies.

Exceeding expectations on delivering value

The customer experience will differentiate your brand from competitors. Delivering over and above the threshold of expectations will drive loyalty, repeat business and referrals. Brands need to understand what it will take to deliver on and exceed their customers’ expectations. It is not just at the time of purchase, but the entire customer journey that needs to be considered.

A brand is a promise kept, so ensuring your brand delivers on the promises you make is critical. Developing and implementing proof points that resonate with your customers is vital. Consistently demonstrating these proof points to your customers is an important part of your marketing strategy.

Delivery of your brand doesn’t end at the sale of your product or service. It is essential to continually measure and monitor your brand performance. At BrandMatters, we believe a customer-centric approach will help propel a brand forward and drive growth. Through our proven methodology, we gather customer, market and competitor insights, and then use this insight to develop winning brand strategies.


Get in touch to discuss how you can truly understand and connect with your customers in 2021 and beyond.

As a brand agency, we are always on the lookout for brands to advocate for. We love to see brands do great things, inspire people and in return gain the brand loyalty they deserve.

Each year, we sing the praises of the brands we’ve been impressed by during the year. When COVID-19 hit, we saw many brands pivot or create unique offers to suit the volatile and changing demands of business.

Here is a list compiled by our team, of 10 brands that have impressed us in 2020.

StageKings

StageKings switched from making giant pop-up stages for large scale concerts and events to designing, manufacturing and selling stand-up desks and other 'isolation' office furniture. In recognition of the struggles that the music industry has faced during COVID-19, StageKings continues to donate a portion from every desk sale to Support Act, a not-for-profit which is providing emergency support, including a wellbeing hotline, to people in the entertainment industry.

RESMED

ResMed produces innovative medical solutions to help keep people out of hospital. In response to the global pandemic, the organisation swiftly pivoted to ramp up the manufacturing of ventilators by more than 3.5 times during the first six months of the COVID-19 crisis. ResMed also accelerated the launch of new digital health solutions to help clinicians remotely diagnose, treat, and manage sleep apnea and asthma patients during the pandemic and beyond. Mid this year they also launched a new campaign with Brad Fittler on the importance of a good nights sleep. As part of this ‘Awaken your Best’ campaign you can take a free online sleep assessment.

ING

The banking industry has been under intense scrutiny post the royal commission and ING have continued to hold a strong position in terms of being a trusted brand within the industry. During COVID-19, ING’s advertising featured their team doing their job from home, in an effort to showcase their commitment to their team as well as their customers. They also launched Real Talk, which is a series of films and articles that have been created to cut through the financial jargon, delivered by people who would resonate with their customers, and further support their brand positioning.

AfterPay

It’s hard to go past AfterPay, who have complete category dominance within the buy now pay later market. They have done an amazing job building distribution with retailers and have tightly targeted millennials very effectively as well as worked hard to put in place product features that encourage responsible spending and support for those in financial distress or for those who get their spending a little out of control. AfterPay’s shareholders have certainly been reaping the rewards in the brand’s success. The jury is out as to whether the current share price is sustainable, but in the meantime, it can’t be denied they thrived through COVID-19 via a targeted and potent focus on millennials.

NRL

Despite the naysayers, the NRL successfully navigated the pandemic and delivered an extraordinary 180 game season amid a shutdown of sport globally. The grand final crowd of 40,000 marked the biggest public gathering in Australia since mid-March when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. In terms of sports viewing and participation, it definitely had a positive impact on a sport that has faced a number of internal and external behavioural challenges.

Business Australia

Business Australia, the rebranded NSW Business Chamber was just days away from launching their new website when the pandemic hit. As a result, they quickly pivoted and turned their website into a COVID-19 news hub offering support and vital information to businesses facing the rolling crisis. With small businesses facing an economic nightmare like nothing they have ever faced, Business Australia knew they needed to ramp up their efforts in supporting businesses through the crisis. The dedicated coronavirus news hub has proven a lifeline to many businesses as has the freemium membership model. Read more about Business Australia COVID-19 pivot here.

Cheese Therapy

The bushfires and COVID-19 restrictions have put pressure on regional cheese businesses who traditionally rely on tourism. Cheese Therapy, an online specialty-cheese retailer, came to the rescue. One small town of Milawa in regional Victoria was facing the heartbreaking decision to discard their glut of cheese which was ready for consumption. Cheese Therapy came to the rescue putting an SOS on social media asking its cheese-loving followers to buy a ‘Rescue box’ to help Milawa. They expected to sell 50 and ended up selling 2000 packs of cheese. They continued this approach throughout COVID-19 lockdowns, introducing a monthly ‘Therapy box’ which included regional artisan cheesemakers unable to sell their cheese in their normal channels. Cheeses that were meant to be consumed on Qantas First and Business Class flights were now being shared and enjoyed by consumers in lockdown.

Buy from the Bush

Another regional superhero brand is 'Buy from the Bush'. A movement that started during the droughts and bushfires has continued to grow and evolve throughout the COVID-19 lockdown giving regional towns a way to sell their wares to city folk via an easy online process. The BFTB team has recently launched a sister site Stay in the Bush and both have become beacons for what buying Australian means to fellow citizens, and what can be achieved by consciously choosing Australian goods, services and experiences.

Spotify

Despite initial concerns of how COVID-19 would affect listening habits and subscription products, Spotify has managed to grow their subscriber base significantly. The brand has continued to be very active in the market during the year in terms of advertising and promotions. We enjoyed seeing them release their own version of market research – subscribers could view their own personal ‘Wrapped list’ which gives Spotify users a look back at their listening habits during the year, as well as providing an insight into its users' listening trends as a whole.

Airbnb

Airbnb wasn’t unscathed by Covid-19’s brutal decimation of the travel industry, but the short-term holiday accommodation rental company bounced back quicker than its competitors in the hospitality industry. They introduced a much more localised focus, with their ‘go near’ initiative as well as introducing safety protocols and measures to adhere to COVID restrictions. In the height of lockdowns and zero travel, they introduced a new Online Experience feature, where their customers could enjoy a wide array of activities from the comfort of their home.

This list is of course in addition to the list of our clients, who we’ve worked with this year and over past years, read more in our previous blog about our exciting client brand work.

In what can only be described as an unprecedented year, it has been heartening to see so many brands pivot and persevere through such tough times. We look forward to 2021 and continuing to see brands evolve and grow.

 

It has certainly been an eventful year. Like many organisations, our business has adapted through the COVID-19 pandemic, firstly working from home, facilitating virtual workshops via zoom and collaborating with a variety of clients who have been facing their own unique set of challenges.

In a year filled with uncertainty, we’ve remained focused on our belief that organisations who invest in their brand through research and strategy will survive and thrive.

Brands that take the time to understand their customers, the market and their competitors and subsequently articulated a clear positioning will find a way to cut through the clutter, stand out and resonate with clients.

We wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the clients we have worked with during the past 12 months, who are looking forward to a successful 2021. Our team have identified some of the most memorable projects of the year (in alphabetical order as we don’t play favourites):

 

BOULEVARD 

Introducing the new digital destination for private companies and their investors. We really enjoyed working with a passionate client devoted to producing a sophisticated brand expression that spoke to aspiration and transformation within the category. We look forward to seeing this exciting new brand proposition grow and prosper in 2021 and beyond. Here is a sneak peek at the work.

Burrana

We worked with the team to launch the new Burrana brand in 2018. The brand was well-received in the market with much positive feedback. This year, with new products set to launch, Burrana needed to develop a clear, evidence-based product portfolio strategy to launch their latest products to market. Despite the challenging and unparalleled year of disruption in the aviation industry, Burrana launched the latest iteration of its integrated in-flight entertainment platform, RISE. A complex and detail orientated platform that required a robust and well-articulated product portfolio architecture to define the value it brought to both existing and future airline clients. We worked intensively with the Burrana team in Australia and in the US to build the strategy in late 2019 before its launch in June 2020. RISE is a more nimble and efficient solution than the more expensive providers and is now set to take off as the industry commences the journey to recovery. For more details about the development of the Burrana brand and its journey with BrandMatters, view our case study.

Caruso’s Natural Health

Another brand we have had a long association with, Caruso’s Natural Health offers a comprehensive selection of holistic, natural health products. We worked with Caruso’s on the rebrand back in 2012, and consumer engagement and advocacy has gone from strength to strength. This year, we’ve worked on a research project to uncover consumer attitudes and behaviours for taking vitamins and supplements. It was great to get right into the consumer’s living room and for this project we also ran an online community where we covered many topics including shop visits, video diaries, customer journey mapping and an evaluation of all the touchpoints along the way.

Cuscal

As Australia’s leading payments provider, Cuscal sits at the edge of our payment revolution. In March this year, the Cuscal rebrand launched to the market with a refreshed positioning and look and feel, signalling to the market the contemporaneity of the organisation and its forward-looking view. We were thrilled to be engaged across this entire journey, view our case study here.

Interpod

Modular bathroom manufacturer - Interpod, engaged BrandMatters back in 2016 and 2017 to develop their brand positioning, brand story and key messages. Now we are delighted to be once again working with the team conducting some brand research which will determine their future strategy and visual identity.

Vero

We proudly worked with Vero to produce the 9th annual SME Insurance Index. Since 2012, the SME Insurance Index has provided brokers with invaluable insights into the insurance environment along with tools designed to help grow their businesses. The annual index launches each year in March; in the same week that the global pandemic would change business and the world as we know it. As the pandemic took effect, Vero realised that brokers would need additional insights into the impacts and to deliver actionable insights for the current environment. We worked with them to produce an additional SME Insurance Index COVID-19 Pulse Check.

These are just a few of the clients we have worked on this year.

We take pride in the work we do, and at the end of each project, we always feel very invested in the success of the brand. We believe that the strong relationships we’ve built over the years with clients speak volumes about our work. (In saying that, a google review would also be much appreciated)

Given the challenges this year has presented, we know and understand that organisations who have invested in their brand can confidently move into 2021 with optimism. We head into 2021 more determined than ever before to build brands that are informed by research and destined to differentiate.


Contact Us.

Brand architecture remains one of the most complex components of brand strategy.

Throughout traditional B2B business, organic additions to both the product and service portfolio can occur, and these additions can simultaneously (and unwittingly) strengthen and weaken an organisation’s alignment towards its key audiences. They can help customers and clients navigate the scope of a company’s offer, but also undermine their confidence and confuse them, meaning they often then seek out alternatives.

Brand Architecture is the way you organise, manage and present the portfolio of brands that sit within an organisation; much like a family tree. Sounds easy, yet this external summation and presentation of the organisations business strategy is frequently fraught and highly complex. This means it often becomes a challenging and sometimes daunting task for even senior marketers and those in the C suite. As organisations evolve and grow, there are often products and services that are built or acquired that can compete and cannibalise each other, just as there can be products and services that have very little alignment to the overall brand strategy.

As is often the case, specialist advice is required to cohesively, comprehensively, yet succinctly develop a sustainable brand architecture strategy. Especially considering the entire brand portfolio may require realignment, restructuring, reorganising or reinventing. Therefore, the process of developing a concise external-facing brand strategy and understandable navigation for your audiences is a key strategic task and not something that can be half done.

In such a complex and crucial task, without properly understanding the current composition of each brand within a portfolio, the level of risk is significantly heightened. So, what is the most effective tool that can mitigate this risk for B2B organisations?

Deploying well-defined brand research to uncover insights to optimise brand architecture strategy

Brand research is an effective and often underutilised asset that can significantly appease this risk. Powerful and well-articulated brand research will uncover and deliver insights that will help an organisation optimise their brand architecture portfolio.

When considering the most appropriate architecture of the brands, products and services in your organisation, there are several considerations that must be taken into account. These considerations are likely to be intrinsically linked to the brand strategy of your organisation and need to consider not just your current portfolio, but acquisitions or divestments you may make in the future.

By considering the wider brand implications through the brand architecture process, you will be able to build a robust and evidenced approach that has considered the pros and cons of each separate architecture option. These options are detailed below and more regarding these options can be found in our ebooks The Introductory Guide to Brand Research and The Guide to Brand Research for B2B organisations

How many brands are appropriate for your organisation and how strong are they?

What internally may be perceived as strong brands with clear differentiation from each other in the marketplace, may not be equally perceived by target audiences. Brand research is essential to understand the market perceptions and attitudes towards an organisation’s portfolio. Brand research will uncover the role and relevance of each brand within the portfolio from a customer or consumer perspective.

Avoiding market confusion, and blurred lines between each brand within the portfolio from a positioning and value perspective will help organisations avoid cannibalisation within an organisation’s own portfolio. Making a well-informed decision on the most appropriate brand architecture model is critical to successfully drive the business forward.

Types of brand architecture considerations answered through brand research

There are several considerations when determining the appropriate architecture for your organisation. Below are some of the typical questions a well-articulated brand architecture research program will address:

  • How are your brands currently being perceived in the market?
  • Is the market clear or confused by your organisation’s offer?
  • Where does brand equity reside, in the parent or at the product/service level?
  • Is there an opportunity for sunset or divestment of specific brands within the portfolio?
  • Are there any gaps in your portfolio that may satisfy the audience’s needs and wants?

More specifically, when considering longer-term strategic mergers and acquisitions to the product portfolio, brand research can help answer:

  • What is the long-term cost/benefit of the organisation’s current assets, including brand reputation and value?
  • What is the current position, strength and value of each brand in the newly formed organisation’s brand portfolio?
  • Considering what the newly formed organisation looks like, what is the new strategic direction? What are its long-term goals?
  • What are the customer expectations and how will the M&A impact the loyalty of existing customers?
  • How does/do the newly acquired brands fit within the existing architecture?

If your organisation requires answers to the questions such as the ones above, or if the conditions for a brand architecture review are relevant to your business, then that is a decisive indicator that it is time for your organisation to research your portfolio and rethink the brand architecture strategy of the business.

Please feel free to reach out to the Insights and Strategy team at BrandMatters if you have any other questions about brand research and brand portfolio strategy. We have a wealth of experience and case studies and can prescribe a bespoke approach that is suitable and aligned to your organisation’s unique situation.

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:

Redefining your brand narrative blog insert2

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?

BA blog 2 image insert

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

Page 1 of 3