1. Go long on your brand
Building a successful brand has never come easy. It takes insight into consumers, creating products and services they love and investing in your reputation. The current market environment makes it tempting to profit at the expense of your brand – say by reducing quality or discounting – but these actions can quickly erode the competitive advantage and customer goodwill that takes years to build. More than ever it’s important to invest in and manage your brand with a long-term mindset.
2. Be continually persuasive
Brands must seek to continually influence consumer and shopper behavior with big ideas delivered creatively and persuasively. Even brands we nostalgically like to think have stayed the same forever need to continuously change to stay relevant. Brands like Coca-Cola and Marmite never stop tweaking their marketing and design to make sure they are always hitting the sweet-spot with consumers.
3. Immerse yourself in the market
To keep up with changes in the market, commissioning research or reading trends reports will only take you so far. To find deeper insights, the best way is to spend time with your consumers, listen to them, experience how they live, and see what your brand means to them – I promise you will be surprised. Persil’s “dirt is good” branding, based on the insight that mums struggle to balance their role of protecting their kids (wrapping them in cotton wool) with their desire to help them become independent adults, would not have been possible without the insight that comes from spending time with real people, not research documents.
4. Innovate to inject new life
When the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (now 3M) started out in 1902 they probably weren’t thinking of making Scotch tape, Post-it notes or medical equipment –these were products which were born through the need to innovate to stay relevant. Businesses of all sized should be continually looking for ways to innovative – whether the changes be large or small scale, as stagnation is a hindrance to long-term success.
5. Think like your competitors
Many companies are too slow to respond to market changes because they’re worried about alienating their current customers, so thinking of how your competitors might challenge your brand can help you make the hard decisions necessary to grow. Under Steve Jobs, Apple launched new products that cannibalised their existing ranges, but continually grew their market share and profit.
6. Look beyond your category
Only tracking developments in your own category or industry can limit your perspective to immediate competitive threats, missing out on bigger shifts and opportunities. Inspiration can come from anywhere, so it pays to keep your eyes peeled and search in the more unlikely areas.
7. Don’t paint your brand into a corner
Keeping the future in mind is essential when making brand decisions. The key is to get the balance right; brands need to have real meaning, but associating your brand with too specific a product or service could limit your scope for growth and leave your firm vulnerable should a specific market disappear.
8. Don’t ignore underserved consumers
Traditionally underserved groups like older or disabled consumers offer opportunities for companies willing to invest in them. Although the founder of Oxo Good Grips kitchen tools was inspired by his wife’s arthritis, their ease of use made gave them widespread appeal, revolutionised kitchen utensils, and built a very successful brand. In this day and age, the generic ‘target’ consumer doesn’t exist, so segment thoroughly and don’t be afraid to target segments no-one else is.
9. Reward trust
Trust in large companies is at an all-time low and it’s easier than ever for most people to find out just about anything they want to about a company. Today trust in your brand is one of the most valuable things you can own, but it needs to be defended. It’s unlikely that Barclays, one of the most trusted brands since 1896, will easily be able to regain the same levels of trust and respect and so it’s imperative that firms of all sized seize the initiative to reward trust and build lasting relationships with consumers.
10. Don’t cover up
Finally, with trust such a valuable commodity, brands that mislead consumers almost always end up paying the price. Even though BP invested hundreds of millions in it’s ‘beyond petroleum’ brand advertising, it’s doubtful whether anyone would find that credible today. Investing in your brand by building your reputation even when it hurts will pay dividends in the long run so whether times are good or bad, be transparent in your operations.
Mark Artus is CEO at global brand agency 1HQ