I read recently that less than one third of businesses undertake regular customer research. They don’t feel they have the time or the budget it seems to wait for answers, and they don’t see the value in doing so. They prefer to trust their own perceptions and experiences. They’re drawn to action plans.
Every day, companies are pitched opportunities to take their business in a ‘new’ direction or to stay the course—by colleagues, by their consulting agencies, because of the actions of competitors or by delegations of customers or suppliers. It can be, as many a marketing manager has told me, bewildering. And many struggle to balance the strategic need to move things forward over the longer term with the plethora of more immediate demands for response or action. Singularity is hard in a world of distractions.
It’s easy to think of what your brand is there to do (purpose) and how your business intends to prosper (strategy) as separate things, different agendas. But more and more brands are looking at ways to bring these two ideas together: building and focusing their business around the wider impacts they intend to have.
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?
Whilst the measures for evaluating what a brand is worth are well established, those for quantifying a brand’s potential seem less so. In general, brands are valued on their residual equity (what they are associated with and the depth and competitiveness of that association), their competitive performance and how much they are assessed to be worth.
Everyone talks about growth and for the need to become a market leader. But once you’ve become the number one player, then what? What do you do after that to retain the lead you’ve worked so hard to get and that has now made you the target of everyone else’s aspirations?
Both Jeff Swystun and Mark Ritson have taken aim at the brand industry with characteristic frankness. Whilst applauding the advances in turning brand into a recognised commercial activity, Swystun believes that an industry developed to fight commoditisation has itself succumbed to that market pressure. It has, he says, become “… highly stylized, shiny, and cool but largely standardized, prescribed and frequently devoid of substantiated benefit.” Everyone is being different in exactly the same way. Brand is today’s shiny metal object.
If you need to shift your culture from where it is to a different viewpoint and value set, is there any incentive for change without a crisis? Will a culture make changes on its own or do people need a fright in order to seriously disrupt business as usual?
This thought-provoking presentation includes some interesting observations on the contrasting effects of brands on the world. On the one hand the Y&R planners point out, brands are responding to consumer expectations that they will drive social change, spending around $18 billion a year on charitable efforts and using their financial clout and influence to affect real change. On the other, some of the biggest brands now know more about us as consumers and individuals than government agencies and we have no real ways of knowing how they will use that information, and to what effect, going forward.
Actions are not strategies. Great strategies change more than where you are, what you call yourselves, what you offer. That’s Michael Porter’s thought. Great brand strategies re-invent the emotional context within which your brand competes against others in the marketplace. That’s mine. A great brand strategy redefines the relationship that people have with a brand over time. People think about you differently because they feel about you differently. That opportunity often gets missed in the rush to give people internally things to execute.