Let’s get the bad news over with, shall we? Difficult times and the very real suffering they represent reinforce the need for bold fiscal action. If industry players fail to act, they are likely to lose millions, if not more, and an already expanding unemployment bubble could very well burst free.
So, what’s the good news, you say? Given the glaring economic realities, how do businesses and marketing leaders reinforce confidence in their ability to lead? How do they exemplify brand integrity and any goodwill their company may have? Given the current dwindling levels of consumer confidence and economic malaise, is such a thing even possible?
Believe it or not, it is not only possible, but best to build a strong brand in an unfavorable economy; opportunities abound. Using some tested and time-honored rules, one can strengthen brand trust and grow share of wallet and voice even in the most difficult of times.
Two great opportunities to leverage those time-honored rules come to mind: 1) competitors are reducing their marketing spend and 2) your stakeholders are most perceptive during times of uncertainty. Most important of all, you must never stop communicating with your stakeholders when times are difficult. When confidence is low, customers and employees want their trusted brands to exude competence and integrity.
While competitors go back to cut costs, savvy marketing practitioners use the opportunity to fill the void with communication and brands that are relevant to the lives of both stakeholders and customers.
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These days, anyone who provides comfort, confidence, constancy and consistency wins. There are some inexpensive yet powerful methods to produce significant rewards. Whether you lead a small business or a multinational, every message emanating from your organization and brand during these challenging times must take on additional significance. Your stakeholders are listening to what you say and closely watching what you do.
Customers may not be spending as much, but they are paying attention to every signal your organization sends. Even as paydays draw near, employees are also anxious and thus paying close attention to every move their leaders make. With every new data point, stakeholders and customers alike have either increased trust in your brand, or lost confidence and moved to some other brand.
Once again, difficult times are the best times to establish your credentials as a trusted brand. Here are 20 critical actions for establishing a strong brand in a weak economy.
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- Let your brand always be regarded as the company’s most valuable asset: A brand is not just a marketing tool; it is often the essence of your company. Though this may be recognized, it is often not acted upon. More attention is paid to property, machinery and technology than to brands. The truth is that a weak brand losing trust in its markets renders an apparently sound company worthless. Brands are valuable. While auditors and lawyers may take their time in recognizing this, the new generation of managers are already acknowledging the change, so why shouldn’t you?
- Let your brand involve customers in a relationship akin to friendship: Brands have to involve people. Personal attention, recognition, surprises and doing exciting things together are the essence of friendship. As an added extra, find a common cause to passionately participate in, engaging your stakeholders and customers every step of the way and you will then have found the perfect recipe for success as a brand builder.
- Let your brand stand for something;be different: It is better to be something to someone than nothing to everyone. The traditional brand does not want to let anybody down. It is atypically a mass-market product. The trouble is that such brands are emotionally shallow. For the new individual audience, the brand must stand for something special. It must have a philosophy and be different, not only in features, but in attitude. Such a brand creates fans, or better still, brand-groups who through their sheer loyalty will not only stand by the brand but will also enthusiastically introduce it to others.
- Use your social media network: So much has been said on the subject, so we will not dwell on it, save to say that everybody is on some form of social media and is tuned in loud and clear. Spend some time listening to chatter about your brand. If there’s none, then you have your work cut out for you, my friend.
- Exude integrity: This is the most important element of building a trusted brand. Organizations that will be able to thrive in a weak economy are those that will always deliver on their promises. No exceptions! It’s no longer about what you say but what you delivered on. You can hardly bring in a positive stream of goodwill if there’s only negative feedback about your brand. Once tainted, your integrity is gone! No business!!
- Showcase organizational capabilities: It’s one thing to talk a good game. It’s quite another to deliver. Stakeholders want to know that your team has the technical know-how to deliver on your brand’s promise. Teach people how to better interact with your brand, and they will bless you for it with their hard earned monies. Become a trusted source of knowledge in your industry or sector.
- Emanate goodwill: Authentic goodwill, particularly as the public suffers in these hard times, drives a powerful message across organizational channels and throughout your marketing mix. For example, brands with long term investment in sustainability practices are shoring up credentials as brands that do good whilst doing well. Organizations that embark on cost cutting measures to save jobs are far better respected than those that do otherwise. The key is to lead with integrity, let your stakeholders know that your company has a soul and your brand will have a cherished place in their hearts and pockets.
- A brand is created in the customer’s mind: The traditional view of the product or service is that the brand is dead. The brand train has moved on to something almost ethereal. Whether your product comes in a 50 kg/liter pack is no longer of relevance to the consumer. The brand is now the perception which the customer has of what your brand does for them. How it makes them feel or be seen amongst their peers. How differently it makes people of both sexes perceive their importance in society. No longer can you sell the product or its benefits to your consumer, but the perception of what it should be.
To be continued…
Written by Brain Essien