Ever since the GFC, global markets seem to have become more volatile. Oil prices rise and crash; China’s growth soars and slides. When market dynamics are this dramatic, how should you look to effectively develop a brand? Do you go with the ebb and flow, or act as a beacon of constancy?
How should you think of your brand when you have a product that costs a lot to use? Is an expensive product automatically luxury? How should we draw a distinction between luxury and, say, premium?
So, last day of the year here in New Zealand. Summer’s arrived (something we always welcome in Wellington) and I’ve had a few days to put things in order and get ready for the year ahead.
Some searching questions recently from executives who seem to pride themselves on being brand sceptics prompted me to review the parameters of what brands can do, what they can’t and why I still believe that branding is a vital business activity.
There’s a tendency to see disruption and innovation as huge moments of significance that shake the status quo to its core. Ultimately though neither is about that at all. It’s often about having the courage, vision and confidence to (gently) do big things. And to do them when and where they were least expected.
Everyone strives to win, but what happens when you compete in a market where you are, and can never be more than, number two? If you’re Pepsi, for example, or Bing, how do you find the energy to continue to build out a business that will stay where it is, behind a massive incumbent? How do you do that without becoming uninspired, distracted or stuck?
Everyone loves a good story, and the critical strength of heritage brands is that they have such stories in abundance. Little wonder then that as American consumer confidence starts to look up, the brands that remind consumers of what they have, where they are and where they’ve come from are doing well. It’s a timely reminder of just how much the story of a brand links to the narrative that buyers run in their own minds of the lives they lead and the lives they would lead if they could.
Recently Jan Rijkenberg raised some interesting points in an article (thanks Jeremy) in which he questioned the importance, indeed the relevance, of underpinning individual brands with the identities of their corporate owners. It does brands no favours, he suggests, to collectivise them as part of the bigger entity. In so doing, he maintains, they lose their individuality and therefore their specific appeal.
Familiarity is something every marketer craves for their brand. They want the marque they are responsible for to be known, asked for, a household name. But does icon status in and of itself guarantee anything anymore?