Brand Values

As the pandemic continues to transform markets and reshape the allocation of budgets, it appears that more accountable marketing is required to justify expenditure from C-Suite executives. These are audiences that are interested in heightened return on investment with decreased budgets, essentially expecting marketers to do more with less. 

But how can you drive return on investment with decreased budgets? Or generate cut through and differentiation in an overcrowded marketplace? 

This is by no means an easy task, having been made even more difficult by the competitive pressures of other organisations, who appear to be communicating more frequently, from a more defined position and with a more powerful brand to lean on.

Well, if they truly believe their organisation is adequately positioned to drive sales in the context of this turbulent market, we would put this to them:

How has your organisation sought to break through the surplus of similar companies, that employ similar people, with similar educational backgrounds, who have all recognised similar shifts in attitudes amongst their audiences, who have developed similar ideas to handle these situations, by producing similar products or services, that have similar prices and are of a similar quality?

If they could answer that succinctly and with purpose, we suspect that they would be in the minority.

In your organisation (aka the real world), although you are likely to have put in place new actions, responses and communications for both your internal and external stakeholders throughout this recent period, the influence of these factors has changed the composure of your future revenue generation, mostly by decreasing your capacity to generate interest and cut through. So how can you drive interest and sustainable differentiation in this unfolding marketplace? 

Expressing the purpose of your business through a grounded and truthful positioning statement

Defining your brand’s unique essence and positioning is the most effective way to drive differentiation and distinctiveness in your category. A brand’s positioning is the internal expression of its purpose. It is the business’ reason for being that goes beyond simply ‘making lots of money’. A positioning statement sits at the intersection of business and is used to inform sales and marketing strategy, product development, HR and hiring decisions and team culture. As a result of these components, it encompasses the experience your customer ultimately has with you.

A well-defined brand positioning represents the unique, relevant, credible and sustainable position that you own in the market. It ensures your clients and prospects can clearly tell your brand apart from your competitors. It specifies and expresses how your brand is unique and compelling, providing a reason to choose your brand over others. Brand positioning is also sometimes called brand essence, because it's the essential nature of your brand - its reason for being.

Powerful brand positioning binds the internal and external components together. It's the high-level idea that unites and guides all organisational activities, actions and behaviours, from organisational strategy, to the products you launch, the businesses you acquire, the way you communicate, how customers experience your brand and how your employees behave - it is the compass for the organisation.

But beyond this, what are some of the functional benefits of clearly articulating the essence of your organisation? How does it turn up as a advantage for the consumer, your organisation’s sales figures and your own marketing initiatives?

The tangibility of brand positioning in driving return on investment

We believe there are six key and comprehensive benefits for both the internal and external components of an organisation that can be achieved through unique, clear, relevant and sustainable brand positioning:

1. It ensures your brand stands out and generates cut-through in its category

2. It provides customers a reason to choose your brand over competitors, presenting them with a necessary validation of their choice

3. It enables your brand to charge and sustain a price premium, demonstrating both short- and long-term return on investment

4. It enables your brand to build trust with its key stakeholders – customers, employees, shareholders, distributors, partners, intermediaries – because you are consistently seeking to deliver on your promise

5. It helps your organisation attract and retain the best of employee talent – providing a single uniting force for all people to work towards, as well as an understanding of what is required of them to work for your organisation

6. Ultimately, strong and relevant brand positioning delivers clients who are disinterested in alternatives.

Positioning your brand for the future and driving ROI

Given the context of the pandemic, many organisations have experienced a decline in ROI due to heightened competitive pressures and a lack of differentiation in their positioning.

In an environment typified by reducing expenditure, marketing budgets are being tightened but are still expected to deliver the same (or better) return on investment. Driving this sales growth in this context is challenging, but the task is made even more daunting when organisations have not established a positioning to lean on.

If your organisation needs assistance defining the unique, clear, relevant and sustainable brand positioning that binds your strategy going forward, please feel free to get in contact with the BrandMatters team here.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

How can brands demonstrate their authenticity

Customer centricity 

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

Longevity and consistency

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

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

Purpose before profit

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

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

Brand research

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

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

Examples of brands that have succeeded in demonstrating their authenticity

Airbnb

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

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

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

Bank Australia 

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

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

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

 

Trust is earned through authentic interactions

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

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

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