When should I change my brand strategy and/or brand identity?
Brand is a sensitive beast, misread the signs or fail to understand the subtleties and you can find yourself out of touch and with a disengaged market. Like much of the branding process, there is a little science and a lot of intuition to timing your brand change.The science is around identifying significant factors of change such as; market share gain or loss, significant technology or consumer trends with the potential to change your marketplace, and changes to your competitive landscape. Intuition is gained from years of specialist experience and the ability to ‘thin-slice’ the market context to provide perspective on how those changes will affect your category, your brands position and your businesses bottom line.
We occasionally have a conversation with a client that goes a little like this; “I don’t have a brand, I’ve never invested in the process of defining and positioning my brand and I’m not sure I need one”. A brand is the collective understanding of what your organisation, it’s products and or services stand for in the market. A brand informs the market on how that business is positioned relative to your competition in every aspect from price to product to quality and reliability to innovation and service. Every business has a brand, the question is whether that brand was defined, directed and managed by the business, or by the market. In the hospitality game many restaurants have a facebook page that they manage to promote their business, but some do not. For most of those that do not, they find their customers have created one for them and are using that page to comment (good and bad) on their brand experience. This is the perfect analogy for how brands work too.
The business world has never before been such a fluid environment. There have never been so many factors for business owners to manage in order to remain competitive and position themselves for success. Consumer trends are coming thicker and faster than ever before, technological change is impacting categories every day, markets are open 24/7 and new competitors are popping up like rabbits in springtime. Where once you could ‘set and forget’ your brand positioning, in today’s business environment you need to stick close to your customers and be monitoring your brand position and proposition annually.
So what should I be looking for?
There are some clear indicators that it’s time to review your brand, including:
• For start-up businesses the branding challenge is simple – you need to position your business in the right way from day one. However, not all start-up businesses can justify the investment in a professional branding outcome, but those who can, reap the rewards through faster establishment in the market and accelerated early stage growth.
• Shrinking market share or revenues is a strong indicator that something in the market has shifted and your brand is losing resonance. Flagging revenues and market share can be the result of new competition entering the market, consumer trends moving beyond your offer, or a tired brand losing resonance with the ever changing market.
• Change in business strategy that impacts the direction of the business will typically require the brand to evolve along with it. These changes might include the introduction of new products and services or a decision to go after new markets, or to focus in on owning a particular segment in your market.
• Confused, contradictory or inconsistent marketing messages are a strong indicator of lack of clarity within an organisation on the value proposition and positioning of a brand. There are a host of reasons this may have occured from shifting market to lack of clarity or management. Whatever the reason you’re missing the mark and wasting valuable marketing dollars and effort.
• Flagging client or customer loyalty suggests your brand isn’t working as effectively as it should and a fresh approach is required to re-engage your previously loyal customers. The trick here is picking this trend before it begins to show-up in sales data. The earlier you pick-up on flagging engagement, the more likely you are to be able to turn it around.
• Damage control after any significant incident that has impacted the standing of the business. This can require anything from a re-focus on brand messaging through to a complete re-fresh to signify change to the market and leave damaged baggage behind.
• Social media sentiment is an effective measuring stick for how a brand is traveling. Comments on social media are timely, raw, open and honest and can allow you to zero-in on an issue causing dissonance with your market. By tracking social sentiment you can not only gain clarity that brand work is needed, but also a direction on what my be missing the mark with your brand currently.
If your gut is telling you your brand is losing its magic with the market – you probably are. Most business owners are well attuned to their customers and the market, and often sense a change in momentum before the big metrics start showing a negative trend. If you’re feeling your brand is losing its steam, or you’re a little overwhelmed by the complexities of keeping your brand fresh, relevant and engaging, it’s time to talk to an expert, typically the insight and perspective they bring will provide a greater sense of clarity and an understanding of the best way forward.
Pic via chrisdesign