08 Jul, 2010
Top Ten Tips on How To Build A Brand In A Recession by Simon Middleton
Simon Middleton, the author of Build A Brand In 30 Days has advised British Airways, Barclays, Aviva, Prêt A Manger and The Broads National Park on branding, will explain to EBA delegates why you should increase your marketing activities during recession and that you should also consider increasing your prices.
1. Review your authentic purpose
In a recession, by definition, times are tough and challenging. And in such times it’s easy for brand owners to get so wrapped up in the gritty day-to-day realities of keeping the business afloat that they can forget the big questions. Going back to the ‘purpose’ of the brand (asking “why are we doing this?”) can be a very good way of focusing on the essentials and the bigger picture. It can be very good for morale too, and in the end building a brand is as much a psychological endeavour as it is anything else.
2. Don’t mix up your strategy with your tactics
Strategy is about the long term, where you want the brand to go. Tactics and planning are about how you get there. But many people mix them up, and in the pressure of recession there is even greater temptation to do so. So when the going gets tough my recommendation is to go back to your strategy. Following a purely tactical route is like the tail wagging the dog.
3. Be certain of your positioning
Remember that, whilst there is always room in the market place for something new and different, there isn’t much room for things that are the same and imitative. Positioning is about finding a space in people’s minds and hearts: a space that (whilst it might overlap the competition) is different enough to be genuinely interesting.
4. Think about putting your prices up
In a recession everybody goes price-cutting crazy, but whilst that will generally give a short term sales boost, it can also do long term damage to your brand, dragging you into commodity hell. If your brand really wants to win a place in the psyche of the market place, being cheap isn’t necessarily going to help (unless your whole positioning is single-mindedly built on the principle of cheapness). Instead, do a counter-intuitive thought experiment: think to yourself, if my products or service were priced higher rather than lower, what is it about them that would win customers?
5. Market more, not less
The convention in recession is to cut marketing budgets. It happens all the time. But marketing efforts will lead you out of the recession! Cutting marketing first is like giving away your shoes! I would never suggest that marketing budgets shouldn’t be reviewed and made to work harder for every penny. But don’t just slash at them and think you are helping your brand!
6. Remember that facts are dull, but stories are thrilling
We are surrounded by data and data bores us! That’s the truth. But everybody loves a story. That’s why we love paperback fiction, and TV drama, and movies and celebrities in trouble. What do you tell your audiences about your products and services? Features and prices (facts) or inspiring stories to fire their imaginations? Great brands are built on story because story speaks to our senses and our emotions.
7. Don’t just communicate… engage!
It used to be that brands could be built by cleverly communicating (through great advertising for example). But the world has moved on. People want more, demand more now. And what they want is a two-way engagement. They want to have their voices heard and their opinions taken into account. They want to have a conversation with you rather than to be passive recipients of your advertising messages. Open up your approach to really converse, rather than just to talk.
8. Always be authentic
Nobody likes a fibber, or a spinner! And that couldn’t be more true than with brands. Arguably the most important thing you can do with your brand is to check its authenticity. Is it based on a truth: something real and robust about the product or the service that will stand up to examination? In recession, when pushed, out of anxiety or desperation to make quick sales, it can be tempting for a business to pretend to be something that it isn’t. To promise more than it can deliver. But that’s not the way to build a brand. Great brands are built on truth!*
*There is a caveat to this, which is that sometimes great entrepreneurial brands are based on “future truths”, a phrase coined by Tim Smit, founder of The Eden Project, to describe a determination to describe something great whilst still in the act of making it real: an act of faith which has to be followed up by real-world delivery of course.
9. Always be different and never imitate
You can make short to medium term sales through imitation, but you will never build a real brand that way. Work out what it is that makes you different (really different) from your competition and focus on that point of difference. In a recession there can be a terrible herd instinct in the marketplace. Businesses fall over each other trying to play it safe. The real brand winners, when the recession ends, will be the ones which have stayed away from the herd and made something special!
10. Don’t try to change people’s minds
People don’t change their minds, views or behaviours very easily. Whilst striving always to be different from your competitors, don’t waste time and resource (as so many businesses do) by trying to make people change their minds about something. Too many entrepreneurs think: “if only we could persuade people that little widgets are better than big widgets then we’d make a fortune.” But persuasion is not so easy. Much more effective to communicate your point of difference to people pre-disposed to be open to it and interested in it. In other words, find those people who have indicated in some way that they would prefer little widgets to large. Deliver a great experience to these open-minded customers and the word will quickly spread.