Everyone’s torn this way and that. It’s easy to lose concentration or to find yourselves prioritising the wrong things. If your brand feels like it’s drifting, here’s 7 sure signs that you’re not focusing on the right things.
Obviously most brands aren’t looking to take their eye off the ball. Often, they get caught up in internal matters at the expense of prioritising their customers. Sometimes they struggle to make decisions either because they can’t or because they don’t want to make the wrong decision. They get stuck – they have a problem they don’t know how to solve. Or they can become focused on one issue or one approach at the expense of the wider picture.
Seven problems, seven fixes
- You’re diversifying to try and bring in revenue. When a brand is not single minded about what it’s doing and its competitive approach, that indecisiveness often manifests in a rush to prise open the top of the sales funnel with an ever-widening set of offers that increasingly bear little resemblance to what the brand is known for. Brands diversify into these areas because they’re interested in them, because they see something as an emerging trend, because they’re grasping at straws (and any straw will do) or they like the idea of being in a particular industry. Such pursuits have two effects: they confuse customers, who now wonder what the brand stands for; and they dilute resourcing, making the brand less effective in its key market. The race to become a generalist, in the hope that it will magically lift top-line, never ends well.
To fix this: Think in terms of market adjacency, rather than market diversity.
- Your products are out of date. Products that lack currency indicate a brand asleep at the wheel. They signal a brand that either doesn’t understand changing customer needs or one that refuses to change what it does to meet those needs. Either way, this is a sure sign of trouble because it shows a brand that has stopped focusing on what consumers are interested in. People inside the business may feel they are busy and that there is plenty to do but, in reality, in the marketplace, where it really matters, the brand and what it offers is becoming less compelling every day.
To fix this: Think of your products as solutions rather than things. Your brand is not defined by what you offer. It’s valued by what it answers.
- Your market share and/or your margins are slipping. It’s easy to be frantic and not profitable because, sadly, there’s no correlation between amount of activity and degree of success. If your brand is sales-obsessed, it’s easy to praise and celebrate the wrong KPIs and to see setbacks in core performance factors as little more than setbacks. In point of fact, your brand is eroding. A fish may rot from the head down, but a brand dies from the bottom line up.
To fix this: Start and end with margin. How much you make is far more important than how much you sell.
- You’ve got lots of different messages in the market. You’ve got a lot to say for yourselves as a brand, but little or none of it is co-ordinated or consistent. Instead your communications are a series of campaigns that focus on specific products or particular offers without reinforcing and reiterating what the brand stands for. This suggests a lack of strategy, and a tendency to rely on tactics to get you from point to point.
To fix this: Look for ways to integrate your marketing so that it feels and looks like you in every instance. Heineken’s masterstroke was to stop thinking in campaigns and to make everything they do an expression of their global strategy.
- You’re always holding promotions or sales. This is the worst combination of 3. and 4. Your brand suffers from short-termism and a tendency to see success in cashflow only. Nothing wrong with cash, of course, but giving away so much all the time means you stand for little more than a bargain opportunity to consumers. This is a Venus fly-trap. The lure of cash influxes may look tempting but it will quickly trap your brand in ways that you may never be able to reposition your way out of.
To fix this: Change your value equation. Focus on ways to change why and how people are interested in your brand. If you can’t do that under your current brand, either rebrand or look to introduce a new “premium” brand into the market.
- Your investors are holding you hostage. The need to provide your investors with returns is hampering the ability to invest in the brand and/or resource other key elements of the company. Brand is a long term game. It requires patience and consistency; characteristics that those who’ve invested capital often struggle with as they look for the best returns on their dollar. Because marketers have generally failed to position brands convincingly as assets, many investors only see brands and marketing as dead money.
To fix this: Report clearly on why you see your brands are assets, how they help build overall value, the investment that takes and when and how investors can expect to see returns.
- You’ve over-committed to one course of action. Whilst it’s important for every brand to have a clear understanding of what makes it special, a brand will quickly suffer if it becomes obsessed on one aspect of what it does at the expense of everything else. Starbucks, for example, got into trouble when it stopped concentrating on coffee and focused instead on growing its presence. Equally, brands that concentrate on winning customers at the expense of keeping the customers they have can quickly find themselves engaged in costly (and futile) acquisition wars. Focus, ironically, is all about balance.
To fix this: Analyse where you make your money against where you put your effort. Devise a series of actions based on Repair, Consolidate, Maximise and Sell/Stop to ensure everything you do is based on a rich awareness not just of actions but also of impacts.
A key challenge for every brand today is balancing currency with legacy. You need to be doing enough to remind customers why the brand is what it is and why they can depend on it, and at the same time introducing new ideas that keep the brand interesting and give it vitality.
As Allen Adamson has recently pointed out, “The best brands today know that getting ahead and staying ahead requires being open and agile enough do two seemingly opposing things simultaneously. The first, to fluidly and quickly shift gears to meet the demands of the market. To anticipate, grasp and then intuitively react to the situation. The second, to do so without losing focus on the brand’s core equities, the things that drive what it stands for. That magical two percent that sets the brand apart from the competition … If an organization doesn’t have what it takes to shift on the fly, it fails. If it shifts but doesn’t maintain focus on its brand’s true colors, safeguarding the brand’s authenticity, it fails.”