California just entered the “Yellow Tier” which is the least restrictive phase of the pandemic lockdown. If our COVID infections keep dropping as they have been, we’ll soon have an economy that is wide open again. But demand won’t immediately jump to pre-pandemic levels because people will still be cautious. There will still be a lot of unvaccinated people out there and it will be a while before people – especially older people – will be comfortable mixing it up at movies, sporting events or concerts. Still, notwithstanding some parts of the country that are trailing California, and some parts of the world that are still suffering horribly in the emergency, things are finally starting to look up, at least here in the US. But everything will be different in the new economy. There is not a single enterprise that has not changed the way it’s doing business. The market is now more mobile, more digital and more agile. And one thing it won’t tolerate is a stagnant brand.
So now is a good time to take a long, hard, cold-blooded look at your brand. Re-read your mission statement and your vision statement. Do they still have meaning for your post-lockdown market? Warning: If you had to pull these statements out of mothballs to read them, you’re already lagging. Take a look at your brand identity. Are you still stuck in the 70s? If you’re not sure, ask your teenage children what they think of your look. They’ll be brutally honest.
The way a brand succeeds is to be what its market wants it to be. Maybe you recently founded your company and you have a vision of its success in your mind. Doesn’t matter. What matters is the purpose your market has for your business. If you want your brand to be X and your market wants a brand that is Y, sorry but you’re positioned for failure. The market won’t move to accommodate you. You have to be what the market wants you to be. You have to become Y.
If you’ve been in business for decades and are already successful, the story still holds true. You have to move when your market moves. Maybe, when you started, the market wanted X and you gave them X. Great. But now the market wants Y and you have to give them Y. Maybe you can’t see it because you’re still profitable. But, trust me, unless you change, some new competitor will soon eat your lunch. You can’t hold on to that we’ve-always-done-it-this-way mindset. It’s tragic to see a business fail, after years of success, just because it can’t or won’t adjust to a changing market. (I’m looking at you, Sears.)
But let’s say you match up. You’re giving the market precisely what it desires of you. You pivoted from X to Y to meet their demands. Fantastic! You have a strong brand and can watch it grow in value … or can you?
Trouble is, your work is not done. Because the market is forever changing. They wanted Y this morning but, this afternoon, they’ll want Z. And the pace of change has been accelerating since at least the 1950s. Trends now come and go in a heartbeat. Obsolescence arrives before you can spell Technolog …
And now, the COVID pandemic has altered not just trends and technology but our very culture and the way we conduct business. So everything is in flux right now. How can the owner/manager of a brand keep up?
The answer is to position in a way that keeps you in constant dialog with your market. Frequent communication, consistent messaging – and listening – will solidify your relationship with your market. You’ll never be left behind. When your market moves, you’ll be moving with it. You might even get a chance to lead it once in a while. But you will fill a meaningful role in the market’s collective life. You will be important to it. You will be relevant in what is being called the “evolving present”.
B2B businesses are not immune. In spite of the RFPs, the purchasing committees and other barriers designed to take humanity out of the sales process, the ultimate decision-makers are still human. That means they are governed by emotion, by inter-personal relationships and social constructs. Branding strategies can be even more effective in the B2B world than in B2C. But that’s another article.
So take a look at your positioning. See what your kids think of your brand identity. Audit your marketing practices. Survey your competitive landscape. Most of all, talk to your market. Pay real attention to your brand. The new economy is leaving now. Don’t miss the boat.
BEST BRANDING READS – WEEK OF MAY 10, 2021
Rebranding Made Easy I – Eight Reasons for Change in Turbulent Times
A really great article by Marc Cloosterman. Wish I had written it.
Solving Brand Crisis By Breaking Patterns
Not a good look to “attack” Greenpeace but this case study makes a smart point about doing the unexpected.
Yum! Brands CMO on why brand purpose is not marketing
Agree that purpose is not marketing. But sometimes it’s fine to leverage your purpose in your marketing.
Strategy For A New Era In Retail
Every retailer should ask themselves where they fit on this grid.
What Brands Can Learn About Music Through Film and Television
Sound is still underrated in branding. Everyone remembers your jingle but almost no one can draw your logo.
Christian Siriano’s debut furniture collection is a revelation
Showing us again that a brand’s success in one market opens the door to the next.
How Brands Are Built With Cultural Credibility
Society needs gatekeepers. Render one obsolete. Another one magically appears.