WHY BRAND-BUILDING MATTERS NOW MORE THAN EVER
“When the brand strategy is revisited, it should not change too much, and the reasons for change should not be because the marketing director has changed but because the customer, the competition or the context has changed… In other words, proper reasons, not whims or vanity.”
If ever there was a ‘proper reason’ to reappraise your brand strategy, a recession is surely one of them.
In the UK, inflation has reached forty-year highs of 11%. As the cost of living crisis bites, consumers are redefining what ‘value’ looks like. Part of this is a reprioritization of what they spend – from the milk they buy to the holidays they do or don’t book.
As we enter into (another) period of uncertainty, brands and marketers are using this as a moment to step back and evaluate brand & marketing strategy. So what do we keep – and what should we change?
GET CLOSER TO THE ACTION
If you want to understand how this crisis is really impacting people on a day-to-day level, you just need to look around you.
The most effective brand strategies are the brain-child of both quantitative data and qualitative experiences – supplementing rich data with real, human stories. And these stories are all around us. How are you shopping differently? Are your friends and family changing their habits?
With the effects of economic uncertainty affecting different groups in different ways, it’s never been more important for marketers to be able to walk a mile in their audiences shoes.
HOLD FIRM ON YOUR FUNDAMENTALS
Whilst your consumers’ purchase behaviours might be changing – the human needs that you built your brand on are most likely not.
When everything feels in constant flux, people look for anchor points of stability – the brands people recognise and can rely on will feel more like ‘essentials’ and less like ‘disposables’.
And we saw this in full effect through the pandemic.
When coronavirus hit and the context of our lives changed overnight, so did many brand and product strategies. But research quickly showed that audiences didn’t respond positively to these new COVID-era editions.
We even saw similar trends during the recession in 2009. The brands with a strong identity, positioning and ‘reason for being’ significantly outperformed the competition. It wasn’t just about cost. Aldi and Lidl did well – but so did Waitrose and M&S Food. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons struggled because their identities were vague and lacked differentiation.
You’ve most likely taken years to establish brand saliency and build an understanding of fundamental brand benefits (both rational and emotional). Those benefits are critical to maintaining a place in consumers’ baskets at a time when they’re redefining value.
REINFORCING AND REFRAMING YOUR VALUE
Brands can navigate through this period of uncertainty by reminding audiences of your value – and reframing your benefits in line with the changing cultural and economic context.
For example, the latest BA campaign effectively reminds people why they buy at the more luxurious end of the scale. Over the course of a month-long campaign, the brand explored the reasons people travel. Like seeing a loved one, exploring a new culture – or just taking a break. Through sharp creative and witty copy the brand connects to the reasons people really want to travel. The same rules and opportunities apply to brands in our world of food and drink.
To grow in a meaningful way – you need to understand the competition. The rationalisation of spending means it’s not just about competitor brands, but competitor products and even competitor experiences. As The Grocer suggests in a recent report, some people are likely to revert to behaviours adopted during the pandemic…such as swapping takeaways for fakeaways.
Premier Foods recently announced further investment, doubling-down on positioning its brands as “meal-makers” with the support of the ‘Best Restaurant in Town’ campaign – which includes a dedicated webpage with a range of affordable recipes.
A BIT OF HUMANITY GOES A LONG WAY
As well as reframing the value you bring, brands can be there for customers through targeted actions, engaging with the reality consumers are facing and offering meaningful support.
Morrisons partnership with Heinz ‘Ask for Henry’ initiative discretely offers 160,000 meals to some of those who need it most, making a link to the philanthropic work of their founder.
Brave brands know when to hold firm. This doesn’t mean you can’t reappraise how your benefits appear based on current consumer realities – or against a wider context of competitors.
These are challenging times. But good marketing is always an important driver of growth in any context. Unilever’s success has shown how powerful maintaining saliency and reinforcing product benefits really is.
- Brands need to understand the lives of their customers closer than ever before. How are your customer’s behaviours changing
- Reframe your benefits to fit in with the context of people’s lives – but not at the cost of the brand you’ve spent years building.
- Assess what your competition is doing.
- Act with empathy and offer actionable support.
To learn more about managing a brand portfolio through crisis pre-register your interest here where you will hear first hand experiences from our seasoned panel of experts on ‘‘How to Manage Your Brand Through a Recession’.