Don’t close your brand off to the market
by Claudia Ferguson. Don’t close your brand off to the market. Now more than ever is your time to demonstrate your innovation, showcase your expertise and commitment to the market and build your reputation.Monday, 25 May 2020
by Claudia Ferguson. Things are about to get ugly – as the extreme lockdown drives a deep recession in South Africa; but now more than ever is your time to demonstrate your innovation, showcase your expertise and commitment to the market and build your reputation.
South Africa has been stuck in a long business-cycle slump and this has only been exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Late March saw SA’s credit rating lowered to sub-investment grade, citing the deterioration in fiscal strength and structurally very weak growth. This also resulted in business confidence dipping to a seven-month low. Enter COVID and lockdown – more economic pressure and more uncertainly. Job losses and halts on hiring.
A slow-down if not a complete halt in production across all sectors. Budget cuts all round. Markets are shrinking, debt deficits are increasing, disposable incomes are decreasing and the shape of recovery uncertain. And with the situation equally volatile offshores, it is hard to stay optimistic – especially when confronted with it on a daily basis.
Being in the business of brand development and marketing – not only do you witness budget cuts first-hand but, more importantly, you are privy to the behind the door discussions and the real business sentiments. And while many didn’t want to come out and say it, yes denial is a strong motivator, it’s clear that we have plunged into another recession – the third since 1994. Certainly, it’s the big ‘R’ word nobody wants to hear. However, the economy always has and always will have its ups and downs – it’s how you weather the storm and knuckle down that makes the difference especially now when volatility and uncertainty are shaping the ‘new normal’.
So, what should businesses do during the ‘ugly’?
- Evaluate the business: It’s a good time for reflection – what works, what doesn’t. Look at ways to diversify, repackage and innovate – and make sure to consider the current climate and new regulations.
- Know your options: Government and private sector have launched interventions to support your business during the Coronavirus outbreak. These relief measures including support packages for small business, loan schemes with banks and expanded tax relief with more options and criteria becoming available regularly. Explore each fund, eligibility, application process and criteria and see what could work for your business and alleviate cash flow pressures.
- Don’t cut prices: Many businesses will be tempted to lower their prices just to make a sale or win new business, but it will become harder for customers to justify paying the regular prices when things turn.
- Focus on customers: Put effort into retaining relationships. Focus on maintaining quality service.
- Maintain ethics: Businesses may be tempted to cut corners or due diligence in order to save costs or keep a contract for example. Business ethics and integrity cannot and should not be swayed.
- Don’t spin: Transparency is key. With staff, customers and suppliers. Keep lines of communication open. Be honest. Be human.
- Don’t make kneejerk decisions: Don’t close your brand off to the market. Now more than ever is your time to demonstrate your innovation, showcase your expertise and commitment to the market and build your reputation.
- Remember to look at the positives: Some businesses are thriving, others are supporting local, innovation is happening, people are learning from challenges and others are paying it forward. Even though it’s very dark out there, the positives are there if you know where to look.
The real challenge in the COVID-19 crisis is the scale and speed of the downturn. Things are about to get ugly – as the extreme lockdown drives a deep recession in South Africa – but tides will change (albeit slow) as lockdown levels ease and more sectors open up; and many analysts are hopeful of a significant rebound during the second half of 2020. The ‘ugly’ can’t last forever.
Claudia Ferguson, has an impressive consulting career and her fair share of industry stories to tell. And she does exactly that – tell brand stories, backed by strategy and high-level consulting – all focused on impact. She believes in the power of the African continent, the value of insight and experience and the importance of relationships on the continent and beyond its borders. She thrives on challenge and as a Business Director at Orange Ink, her responsibilities include strategic business development for the agency and its client portfolio.
– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every Monday and Thursday • Subscribe here
– Take advantage of Retailing Africa’s ‘Pay-what-you-can’ business support package • Read more