Do you remember when you were a child the first time someone made you a paper plane? If your recollection is anything like mine, you couldn’t believe how it left your hand and made its way across the room. Before long though, it lost height and velocity, and fell to the floor.
One of my more cynical friends has this joke about how much media budget is needed to keep a brand going successfully: “Give me all the money you can burn and it will go like a rocket!”
It’s easy to see a brand as an expense that relies on getting attention to make its presence felt and to make the expenditure worth it. Detractors see it that way too. They’re very quick to opine that unless they’re constantly fed money to keep them in front of consumers, brands simply fizzle and fall to earth.
I don’t share that view. Particularly now, with all the different ways that we access and talk about brands, I see them less as rockets kept airborne by media schedules, and more as planes that need air flowing over their wings to help them maintain lift.
Those currents are made up of a number of elements that collectively generate value. They include:
The currents work in different combinations and to different levels of intensity and effectiveness at various pricing and positioning points across every competitive sector. And when they are working well, brands maintain their elevation, even climb. The key point here is that success is not just about the money you spend on your brand, it is about the lift you generate and maintain through this combination of factors, some of which you control and some of which are beyond your control.
It also raises two aspects of market dynamics that help explain to me the need for an iterative brand strategy: market friction; and market gravity.
- Market friction – the levels of resistance your brand encounters in the marketplace. These are the forces that combine to make your brand fall short if it runs out of impulse. Most of these are generated by competitors, some by wider macro-economic factors, some by reputation
- Market gravity – there is a natural inclination for brands to fall. When currents diminish, stall or fail, it does not take long for brands to start to lose height. Some will lose prominence but continue on. Others will go into an arcing dive, at varying angle of acuteness, that may or may not lead to their demise. That’s why you cannot set and forget a brand, or assume success.
An iterative brand strategy, in fact an iterative business strategy, is about checking the ‘height’ of your brand relative to your competitors and to your history, and adjusting and responding to the volume and the dynamics of the currents passing across your brand.