Times have changed for superannuation brands. Renewed regulatory changes have empowered members to make more informed and active decisions about how their retirement savings are managed. Superannuation brands must consider not only their performance but their corporate social responsibility credentials and member priorities. How well funds understand their members’ needs has never been more critical, and beyond these capabilities, a unique and differentiated offering is essential to help superannuation brands stand out from the crowd.

A powerful way for funds to differentiate themselves is via enhanced and more effective member communications and engagement. According to Mercer Australia, only 54% of superannuation executives believe their member offering is unique and sets them apart from the competition. 

Superannuation brands must find a way to connect and remain consistently present and relevant to members throughout their careers. They need to be considerate of member needs no matter what age - 18, 36 or 50 years old, member needs will constantly change and the new choice world that funds find themselves in is more likely to promote consideration amongst members about whether the fund they started with at 18 is the best fund for them at 36, 50 and beyond.

Is your brand unique and relevant to your audiences?

In overall terms, to respond to these new challenges and build more distinctiveness into both brand and market offering, superannuation brands will need to have a deeper understanding of their members’ needs, wants, motivations and concerns. With change comes both risk and opportunity. How informed you are in relation to your members will determine whether you win or lose members and subsequent fund flows.

Brand research allows you to distil your brand down to its pure essence, finding the unique space your fund’s brand can occupy that will dramatically separate you from the similarity of other funds across the category. A strong brand shapes perceptions and influences decisions such as whether to stay with an existing fund or leave for a different offer.

By using research, your brand will be able to inform the development of a growth-focused plan that can help tighten marketing communications and strategy. By understanding your brand and members more clearly, you can ensure your communications are more effective and consistent, across both internal and external stakeholders.

Sharpen marketing expenditure and demonstrate member values

Apart from the efficiency benefits that research can provide, it can also allow your fund to avoid the wrath of the regulators in their ‘sole purpose’ tests. These tests are in place to ensure that all activities and investments being undertaken by a superannuation fund are to safeguard and grow retirement savings for members.

The industry came under significant pressure and criticism as part of the Financial Services Royal Commission for the volume and percentage of member returns which were being invested in advertising and sponsorship activities, neither of which directly benefited their members.

The marketing of superannuation brands has always been a contentious issue, given their legislated sole purpose to generate investment returns for members. But with greater marketing, superannuation funds can achieve greater economies of scale, increasing the pool of capital they have to invest for their members.

In superannuation, performance obviously matters, and pointing to the scoreboard has long been an effective defence used by brands when asked about ethical and transparency concerns. It was a line adopted to great effect by AustralianSuper Chief Executive Ian Silk at the Financial Services Royal Commission, for example, when he said the outperformance of industry funds over retail funds justifies their multimillion-dollar TV advertising campaigns.

Regardless, through research data and analytics, you will be more easily able to demonstrate how your marketing investment is improving member outcomes by highlighting the key benefits of your brand in the market, whilst also warning your members of the weaknesses inherent in the competitive environment.

Change is the only constant in this renewed superannuation landscape

For a number of years now, the superannuation industry has been awash with talk of change. Every year, the calls grew louder – underpinned by new developments that, at times, have been both startling and game-changing.

We are likely to see fewer overall brands in the sector, headlined by some very large funds, some moderate sized funds, and those in niche markets. There will be increasing competition, but likely more improved benefits for members with greater engagement between themselves and the brands they choose to align with. Understanding the unique makeup of these audiences is critical in this period as superannuation funds look to carve out a distinctive and sustainable position in the market.

It’s fair to say the level of change currently impacting the superannuation industry is unparalleled and likely to be the most significant it has ever faced. David Knox, Senior Partner and Global Pension Expert Mercer Australia said it best, “what happens over the next two years is expected to shape the industry for the next 20 years.”

At BrandMatters, our business is to help financial services organisations navigate their brand through the changing circumstances and uncover the insights that will guide a successful path forward. Now is the time to learn more about what will make your superannuation brand unique and compelling to your members. Feel free to reach out to BrandMatters to discuss your unique situation.

This article and insights are part of a larger deep dive into the trends impacting upon brands in the superannuation landscape. To learn more, feel free to download Part 3 of the Outlook for Financial Services Branding, where we explore the changing expectations for superannuation brands in greater detail.

One of the core principles underlying an effective brand strategy is to understand and align the company’s offering with customers’ needs and preferences. Understanding the discrepancies between what the brand claims it stands for and what customers believe, will help to construct a brand that is more accurately in tune with the audience. Brand research will help you gain deeper insight into your customers which can form the basis of your brand strategy.  

Research can also assist in consolidating views from internal stakeholders pre or post a merger or acquisition. The insights can deliver a richer understanding of the strategy behind creating a new brand name. The goal of research is to gain clarity on how brand performance and brand distinction is perceived by external and internal audiences. Ultimately, we want to uncover the meaning of the brand to those who interact with it in a 360-degree approach. 

Reducing the risks associated with rebranding after a merger or acquisition.

Insights from brand research can help organisations mitigate risk when it comes to rebranding. 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 going from a well-known established brand to an unknown new brand. This was the case for one of our past clients - mycar.

The strategic acquisition that made way for a strong new brand in a competitive market.

Continental Automotive Group is a world leader in tyre production. Founded in 1871, Continental is a multinational manufacturer of performance-oriented tyres. The organisation was focused on growth, and as part of that growth strategy, had identified Australia as a growth market. This resulted in the acquisition of Kmart Tyre & Auto Services – one of the largest tyre and auto service chains in Australia, which at the time had 258 branches and more than 1,200 employees.

With the existing brand name linked back to the original owners (Kmart, a brand owned by parent company Wesfarmers), the new owner needed to rebrand. They needed to make a strategic decision on what brand was required to bring this new, heavily service-oriented arm of their business to market.

Making a strategic decision such as this, in a market relatively unfamiliar to the new parent company, needed to be underpinned by research. For Continental Automotive Group, the research was the key to reducing risk by investigating how to retain existing customers and attract new customers in the Australian market.

BrandMatters were engaged to conduct brand research in order to test the market response to the new brand, mycar. The objective was to find a brand the internal team would feel confident with, a name that would drive their business forward and demonstrate that the brand’s strategic direction was aligned to the wants and needs of their customers.

Utilising both qualitative and quantitative research methods, BrandMatters were able to build a deep understanding of what the market valued about the current brand as well as test the identity of the new brand with existing customers.

Brand research enabled the Continental Automotive Group to understand: 

  • Their existing audience – what they valued about the current service/brand/offering.
  • The market – what were the needs of the market.
  • The internal culture – with such a significant workforce within the branch network, it was important to understand what was valued by the employees and stakeholders of the acquired business, and how they should best retain a positive culture through the acquisition and rebrand process.

BrandMatters were able to utilise the information that already existed inside the business. Kmart Tyre and Auto were already invested in the value of brand research and had engaged in brand tracking. Interrogating this information along with discussions with the internal team paved the road to formalising the right positioning for the new brand name - mycar.

Three key forms of brand research were used in this project:

  • Desk research

In this case, quality brand tracking research and competitor analysis was available and proved useful in unpacking insights into existing customer sentiment for the market segment. BrandMatters were able to clearly articulate the new brand positioning through interrogating this existing research.

  • Qualitative research

Internal discussions with key stakeholders were designed to facilitate an understanding of brand perceptions and strategic direction. A number of directions for the new brand were explored and one particular identity resonated strongly with the group.

  • Quantitative research

The quantitative research mined the sentiment of the general population interested in purchasing tyres and car servicing, utilising the existing positioning to help understand the potential of the new brand name. Given the strong network and customer base already established for the Kmart Tyre and Auto brand, it was vital that the new brand did not jeopardise this equity. In this case the quantitative research overwhelmingly supported the new brand direction.

Along the way, the research uncovered some key opportunities for the new brand including a greater focus on digital to make the customer experience more personalised and service seamless.

The new brand has been out in the marketplace for just over 2 years now, and mycar as a brand has been accepted and embraced by the team and consumers. To read more about the mycar brand project – see our case study or read a recent article by CMO magazine.

As mycar continues to grow across Australia, they’ve retained their focus on staying true to their brand positioning, delivering on customer needs above all else and importantly building brand trust along the way.

At BrandMatters, we believe a great brand is based on the right balance of strategic insight and intrinsic design. We love creating new brands for our clients, especially when they are born from insight and are embraced whole-heartedly by the entire team.

If your organisation has recently acquired a new brand, we highly recommend brand research as a tool to mitigate the risk of transitioning brands through the acquisition process. Contact us to discuss your unique situation. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 20:38

Your brand positioning is the unique, relevant, credible and sustainable position 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. It also encapsulates your organisation's purpose, or reason for being, that goes beyond just making money. Brand positioning is also sometimes called brand essence because it's the essential nature of your brand - its reason for being.

Now, if we were to collectively look back over the course of the past 12 months, it is likely you have adjusted your internal and external processes to meet the expectations of the dramatically changed landscape. For many B2B brands, whether a product or service-based business, this was a largely unavoidable consequence of pivoting to meet the market landscape.

These adjustments were likely made around the periphery, not fundamental changes, but they may have impacted your positioning and the unique and sustainable brand essence that you had been leaning on before. But as we begin to return to more positive economic conditions, its important to reflect and measure the changes made internally and decide what is important to keep going forward, especially as it relates to your brand positioning.

Positioning is the source of your power in the B2B buy-sell relationship.

Evaluating and testing the strength of your positioning might seem like a daunting proposition, but rest assured, we’re not necessarily suggesting that your current positioning is fundamentally broken. It’s probably more likely that it needs refinement or clarification so that you can be more focused and more importantly, meaningfully different.

Again, a strong positioning is the source of power in your ability to differentiate yourselves from the competition. Successfully positioned businesses in the B2B landscape find everything easier (including closing the deal) because:

  • The single-minded focus allows you to develop deep expertise, rapidly
  • Ideal clients are more receptive to your outreach, or in fact, seek you out
  • Navigating a sales process feels more natural
  • Not only are you able to spot trends as they appear in your market, but you are also able to tailor your information during sales conversations to demonstrate bespoke expertise.
  • Your clients are likely more inclined to pay a higher rate for your expertise
  • Your entire team has a clear focus, which makes for more empowered decision making and improved customer interactions at all levels.

It is important to understand that an accurately defined positioning is a brand strategy and is not a tag line. An effective positioning strategy will drive growth, align your team and provide the entire organisation with strategic direction.

What to ask when evaluating your brand positioning?

Although the past 12 months of business may have been outliers, it is important to consider your recent strategic decision making and evaluate whether these choices still align with your positioning.

When evaluating your current brand positioning, the first step is to ask your senior management team the following questions:

Do you have a distinctive product and service offering?

  • Are you focused on what you do best? Do you have the necessary strategic alliances to manage the rest?
  • Have you developed any unique approaches that add value to the brand experience?
  • What sets you apart from your competitors and is this clear to your clients?

Do you have the right team with the necessary capabilities and expertise?

  • Have you clearly communicated your positioning internally and do your employees understand the positioning and business strategy?
  • Are your employees engaged in bringing the positioning to life, especially through professional development programs, guidelines and performance reviews?
  • Do you have clear hiring processes to ensure you attract and retain employees who reinforce your positioning?

How are your business processes and procedures?

  • Are you using your systems and processes as an opportunity to differentiate your brand?
  • How does your pricing reflect your positioning?
  • Are you continuing to develop, own, manage and protect your own intellectual property?

Do you have a clear and distinct brand identity?

  • Does your visual identity and logo reflect your positioning?
  • Does your website and collateral reflect the style and substance of your brand?
  • Are your key messages, tag line, elevator pitch and brand story all communicating your positioning consistently?

How is your strategic decision making?

  • What are the criteria by which you identify and evaluate prospective clients?
  • Have you developed an accountable measurement to determine the value of success that you deliver to your clients?
  • Have you done an effective job in establishing and then communicating that position in the market?

Asking these questions will not only start the process of evaluating your brand positioning, it will also start to embed its importance to the strategic direction, growth and success of your business.

Without execution, positioning is meaningless

Make no mistake, these are challenging questions to answer and a great many brands that are well established would find it difficult to evaluate these. Prioritising a specific area or component may help in the short term to realign your positioning to reflect your business intent, especially through a period of significant change in economic conditions.

Positioning a brand is complicated. It is an art and a science and is not likely to be well understood or appreciated by operationally oriented people in your organisation. It is however critical to your organisation’s long-term success and again comes down to executing across the entire business.

At BrandMatters, we are experts managing complex brand conundrums and building unique brand positioning statements that can measure up against the dynamic market we find ourselves in. If your organisation needs assistance in the evaluation of your existing and future brand positioning, get in touch with the BrandMatters team here.