Slow & steady no longer wins the race. How to keep your brand relevant in turbulent times.

Updated: Jul 2

These are the four questions you should be asking your brand right now!


Strong, iconic brands are built over time using a relevant, enduring and consistent brand promise, purpose and personality that builds trust and loyalty among its consumers.


But the world is changing rapidly and your well-established, iconic brand could be losing its strong-hold as your consumer's needs and problems are evolving or new start-ups and insurgent brands are disrupting the status quo and redefining category rules.


How do brands balance the absolute imperative to maintain this strategic endurance and its recognized, trusted brand proposition with the need to be agile in a world that is moving and changing so quickly?

By asking and answering four essential questions, regularly!

1. How are your consumers needs changing and are you still relevant to them?

2. Who are your current competitors and are you still distinctly different to or better than them?

3. What promise do you deliver to solve your consumer's current needs, better than your competitors?

4. What are your brand guardrails to guide agile, fast decision making?



1. How are your consumers needs changing and are you still relevant to them?

Consumers needs and problems have evolved rapidly in recent times so you may have to course correct. It is important to identify the changes that are directly affecting the purchasing and consumption behaviour of your category and brand


There are several macro, global shifts in culture & motivations that are likely changing your consumers needs and behaviours within your category and therefore their expectations from your brand. And of course, there are the recent changes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Lets start with some macro, global examples


The desire to consume products that support the sustainability of our planet is one of the most prolific examples of changing consumers motivations that are forcing brands to reassess their brand and product offers in order to retain meaning and relevance. Brands like SodaStream have totally revived their brand by focusing on the reduction of single-use plastic water bottles and every day another brand is making a statement of intent about their future strategies.


Another example is consumers changing attitudes away from artificial ingredients in favour of their natural counterparts. Johnson & Johnson recently relaunched is 124-year-old baby shampoo formula last year removing all artificial ingredients and harmful chemicals after a 20% decline in sales, as insurgent brands such as Honest & Co reset the category dynamics with 100% natural alternatives.


There are also multiple cases demonstrating significant changes in motivations & tensions when it comes to wellness, the pace & stress of our lives today or the adoption of technology and the corresponding behaviour changes these shifts have driven. If you haven’t already started looking at how these global macro trends are affecting your consumer's behaviour, then that is your first step.


Some of the critical changes we are seeing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are increased importance on health & immunity and a somewhat contradiction between leaning towards trusted, well known big brands in times of uncertainty but a desire to stay, shop & support local. But probably the most prevalent topic of discussion is how to provide better value for money as we move into an economic downturn. It is so important to remember that better value means more than a cheap price.  Good value also means that you have solved problems and therefore are useful and worth the money spent. 


You can find more details on COVID-driven changes in consumer needs & behaviours in this article


When answering key question 1, the next step would be to gain a much deeper understanding of your consumer and the more specific, smaller but equally important changes in their motivations and tensions. Identifying these changes before your competitors do and possibly even before you own consumers realises it, is where you will find your competitive, first-mover advantage and the chance to drive transformational growth.


Of the back of the macro Wellness trend, many brands have launched a low-calorie version of the category leader, with a common promise of indulgence without the guilt. But Halo Top dug a little further and solved the deeper, more specific insight around the heavy guilt consumers feel when they hit the bottom of an ice cream tub, usually in one sitting. Solving this tension with the X calories per tub/Stop When You Hit The Bottom proposition has driven Halo Top’s incredible rise to fame and it now out-selling Ben & Jerry’s in the USA.



2. Who are your current competitors and are you still distinctly different to or better than them?

Like consumers, the competitive landscape is constantly changing. Insurgent brands are disrupting and resetting the rules in even the most mature categories. Many businesses have had to pivot quickly and sharply just to survive the COVID pandemic.


Continually monitoring your competitive framework and understanding the drivers of growth for even the smallest of competitive brands is critical. In today’s digital world, with more channels of communication & commerce than ever before what may seem a low-risk, niche brand one day can surge to become a major global threat overnight, rewriting the rules you have played by for years. Finding ways to either pre-empt and block this disruption or pivot to a more ownable (and relevant) proposition needs to happen quickly but strategically.


Berocca is an excellent example of a brand that has evolved to be distinctive and relevant in today’s busy world. The original ‘hangover’ recovery cure that gave you back your B-B-Bounce, Berocca got swallowed by Red Bull and the energy drink market with their high caffeine levels doing a much better job getting us feeling some sense of normal after a long, late night.

However, as our lives got busier and more stressful, so came the emerging need for sustenance to get us through a typical day, even if we were asleep by 9.30pm the night before. Berocca pounced on this new need and repositioned itself with Big Days Start with Berocca. With its sustained energy boost thanks to the vitamins & minerals reasons to believe, this was a much more distinctive and credible strategy for Berocca vs. the fleeting boost an energy drink gives you.




3. What promise do you deliver to solve your consumer's current needs, better than your competitors? And is it credible & authentic?

In answering questions 1 & 2 you may have found that your brand promise must evolve to meet the changing needs of your consumer or to combat or pivot against new competitive threats. As a result, you will need to revisit your brand proposition, purpose and personality. You will need to ensure your brand is solving your consumer's problems, better than your competitors.


To do this, the most obvious place to start is with your brand benefits. What are the functional, emotional and social benefits your brand offers? But more importantl, what are the attributes and reasons to believe these promises.


Consumers distrust for big brands is evident and the topic has been extensively researched and written about, so I won't go over well-covered ground. We know consumers can see right through brands who are pretending and with social media, they now have a voice to call out brands they think they are behaving in an unauthentic, deceptive manner.


So more than ever, brands need to speak with integrity and demonstrate the credible and powerful reasons why they are making the claims they are or taking a stand on a social issue or purpose.


Although it may be deemed 'old school', the Brand Benefit Ladder ensures any functional, emotional or social benefits a brand is promising are strongly linked to and backed up by solid reasons to believe and ownable brand attributes and assets.


Another way for a brand to demonstrate its authenticity and integrity is in the way it acts and behaves. It's Brand Personality and Values.

If you think about it, a person’s personality is a key indicator of how real and authentic they are and how consistently they display their true personality will determine how much we trust them. It is the same with brands. Defining and delivering a consistent, authentic brand personality will build credibility, trust and loyalty with your consumers.


Side note: Brand personality can also be used to help build consumer relevance and competitive differentiation. But more on that here


4. What are your brand guardrails to guide agile, fast decision making?

Your freshly defined, relevant & distinctive brand will need to stay dynamic & flexible to compete in today’s fast-paced world. So you need to establish Brand Guardrails to spell out which elements of the brand positioning and the marketing mix are classified as SHOULD ALWAYS BE and should never change, what COULD BE if the situation called for it or SHOULD NEVER BE as it would damage the long-term equity?


Every day someone in your business will need to make a decision that will affect how your brand is perceived in the market place. This decision making needs to be fast, but it also needs to be informed to keep the brand tracking towards its long term goal.


So it is essential that you not only define your brand guardrails but ensure everyone who plays a part in executing your brand positioning is also fully informed and aligned. This may include cross-functional partners such as the sales team, R&D or external partners such as your agency village.


These guardrails may define strategically which categories your brand can or cannot enter into or other brands you would or would never collaborate with. Tactically, it could be the tone of voice and humour in a social media post, or a price you are willing to drop to on Amazon before you devalue your brand position in the market.


Balancing your brands strategic endurance and its recognized, trusted brand proposition with the need to be agile and nimble in a world that is changing quickly can be achieved by asking the four essential questions regularly.

1. How are your consumers needs changing and are you still relevant to them?

2. Who are your current competitors and are you still distinctly different to or better than them?

3. What promise do you deliver to solve your consumer's current needs, better than your competitors? And is it credible & authentic?

4. What are your brand guardrails to guide agile, fast decision making?


If you'd like some help answering these questions we'd certainly love to help you!


We can run a strategy workshop which will step you through each key question with a detailed explanation and application of our signature tools and inspire you with case studies of brands who are ‘doing it well’. You will leave with a clear action plan to Sharpen you Brand Proposition and ensure your brand is keeping up in today's turbulent and fast-changing world.


We’d love to talk further so please email us anne@viamarca.com.au

0 views

© 2019 by via Marca  

+61 418 657 137

  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Instagram
  • YouTube

based in Sydney, Australia but available globally