Pandemic proof your brand
by Michael Smollan. Purpose is driving brand development as consumers gravitate to businesses with heart.
by Michael Smollan. It has been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. Now more relevant than ever as we connect to what really matters and reach for that post-pandemic sweet spot, in the knowledge that we have to manage business and not the pandemic, as the threat of disruption is here to stay. Purposeful branding is essential for building a business and right now in the shifting upside-down right side up world of change, we have seen consumers needs changing dramatically. With that we have to make sure that our brand messages are consistent and that there is a deeper level of connection with customers and the communities’ brands and retailers serve.
There needs to be a truly deep understanding, as surface level just won’t cut it, of what this change brings for the year ahead and the sharpened focus and differentiation that is required to increase impact and value-add. It is about really taking a fresh approach to connecting with a diverse marketplace where there is space for all and done the right way, potential for endless possibilities.
There is no denying that a company’s brand is undoubtedly the most valuable intellectual property, from representing organisational identity, to enhancing culture and extending the value proposition. However, as the sum that connects the parts, this has to be done in an authentic way, especially right now as the goal posts have shifted in terms of what customers want; their related purchase power; and where brand loyalty is not necessarily a given.
In a recent opinion piece around what 2021 means for brands, marketing and strategy agency WARC emphasised how cultural contexts have taken on heightened importance for brands trying to connect with consumers in varying stages of recovery this year. They point out that it is culture that anchors consumers to the familiar and by ignoring this, brands may struggle to build meaningful and intuitive engagement in a post-Covid world where culture means connection.
We recently went through a brand refresh at Smollan and for a brand like ours with an established heritage that grew from a family name into a brand name, we had to take a clear step back and critically review exactly what we stood for us to re-position our brand accordingly. While beautiful imagery, colours and renewed positioning statements are critical with a brand change, it is also about – and this is so important, otherwise what is the point – a commitment to view all one does as a brand and a business, through a purposeful lens. There cannot be a brand without a path to purpose. No longer is there first and second place for profit and purpose – going forward the two cannot survive without each other. Regardless of whether one is a small player in a big pond or has a business with scale, there is an enormous opportunity to transform lives and that has to be reflected in one’s brand.
Strategic consultancy Blue Marlin looked at key trends that will rule the year and purpose comes up as a central trend driving brand development as more consumers will gravitate towards businesses with heart. They suggest that “purpose will be oxygen” as evolved consumers steadily grow around their interest in social equity and the environment, showing how people value brands that align with their own personal values. Staying agile should be another key focus as strategic transformations adopt broader visions or perhaps bring change to market dynamics as trajectories re-set – so too will aspects of one’s brand need to change. And lastly, while brick-and-mortar is geared towards becoming more experiential as ecommerce takes its place as the retail channel of choice, more traditional stores will need to repurpose themselves. To build experiential re-imagined models as they take a blended approach to bring back much loved trips to the mall with friends.
The pandemic has brought so many new ways of exploring things differently and allowed us all to play in fresh spaces. Brand owners now need to ensure they dial up empathy, accountability, and transparency, and allow for brand attributes to intersect with human moments to create and grow sustainably.
Michael Smollan is Chief Growth & Innovation Officer of Smollan. Smollan is a leading retail solutions company that delivers growth for retailers and brand owners across five continents by covering every aspect of how their brand is managed at the point of purchase, from field sales to in store and digitally. Smollan partners with brand owners and retailers to deliver accelerated growth by increasing reach, driving availability and visibility, increasing efficiency and delivering superior shopper experiences; operating across emerging and developed markets, in modern and general trade, and across physical and digital channels.
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