Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Invest in your brand during a recession

The obvious response in a recession is to cut-back on all unnecessary expenditure, trade-down and look for better value. This could also mean that you’re standing still, playing a waiting game, not venturing into anything new or investing. How insecure might this make your staff and clients feel about your business?

Brands should use this period of insecurity to make assurances of quality as well as making reassuring signs that help the consumer go through an uneasy period with greater confidence. The moral support that is provided by a brand at this time could go a long way towards building enduring bonds with the consumer in the future.

There are huge opportunities for those prepared to swim against the tide. Be an organisation that builds people’s confidence (‘we’re doing fine’) and wins people’s trust (‘we’re not going anywhere’). Dare to be different, be bold, offer something that you haven’t offered before. Motivate people out of their inertia by proving that
you can be innovative, positive and trustworthy. Apple, during the dotcom downturn, increased R&D budgets, invented iTunes and continues to dominate the category.

Recessions call for a greater focus on value, this is no bad thing and probably long overdue. Brands need to rationalise and assess what’s unnecessary and wasteful.
This focus on value helps identify better processes and/or lower costs which in turn helps the consumer get better value. Recession is the real mother of invention.

The best way to go through a recession is with the knowledge that it will not last and that it is important not to overreact and back-off if even if at times it may feel like it is going to go on forever. Always remember, the recession will go away but your brand won’t. It’s important to not make decisions that will affect the long term standing of your brand. Stay in the game and you’ll come out of this stronger.

Thinking long term is important for brands. Brands with a strong strategy come out of recessions stronger and the weaker brands fall by the wayside – the ability to display character and focus on value provides the difference between success and failure. Tough times don’t last but tough brands do.

So, here are some things to ask of your brand:

Are you confident? And do your employees share that
confidence? To keep the good ones, and keep them
upbeat, involve them in building your brand. Confident
employees breed confident customers.

Are you clear what you stand for?
Now’s a great time
to simplify your brand structure, strip out complexity,
cut out sub-brands. A brand rationalisation could cut
costs too.

Do people trust you? The only way to build trust is
to do what you say. Is what you say you stand for the
same as what customers actually experience? And
ensure you improve on that experience – you’ll get a
much better return than just spending on marketing.

Are you projecting your difference? Be absolutely
clear what makes you special, and why customers will
want to pay a little extra for it. Identify the one
biggest thing that makes you different, and increase
that difference.

Are you inventing your way out of recession?
Use your brand to inspire new services, new products,
even new businesses that can stimulate demand, wake
people up, get them out and spending.