And breathe. We finally made it to Spring: the season of rebirth and growth – of life reaching to the light after a long winter. And all that fertile symbolism seems even more significant this year, as equinox in the UK marks our way out of the darkest, dreariest lockdown.
We’re finally permitted to shiver in one another’s gardens once more. And, from the 12th, hairdressers across the country will be swarmed by shaggy hoards as retail flings its doors open for the first time since December.
Whether Spring this year is a time for rebirth or growth for your industry, one thing is clear: the world is still reeling from the events of the last year. The landscape has changed. Your audience has new needs. And there’s never been a better time to re-strategise.
That’s why, for this month’s Bluepaper, we’ve put together some tips for setting your brand up for success in this brave new world.
Give your brand purpose a bit more…purpose
‘Change’ has been Covid’s operative word (is there a more dreaded phrase in the English language right now than ‘the new normal’?). But when it comes to setting out a new strategy, sometimes it’s worth remembering that some things haven’t, won’t or shouldn’t change.
Jeff Bezos has often cited the ability to focus on the universal and unchangeable as the secret to Amazon’s success. It doesn’t matter how many E-readers or passive-aggressive robotic assistants you launch – if your purpose is to be the earth’s ‘most customer-centric company’, that doesn’t need to evolve much. Seasons change; our desire to get things really, really quickly stays the same. As the billionaire behemoth puts it: “these things are so big and fundamental, you just know it.” Seems to have worked out ok for him.
So, let’s talk about your brand purpose – the central, fundamental reason you exist. Covid forced industries to adapt overnight, but no matter how swiftly you had to pivot your offerings or services, if you’re looking for sustained success you should only be pivoting around the very reason you were founded. If your purpose is no longer relevant to what you offer, it wasn’t the right one in the first place.
Brands are increasingly clamouring to be ‘purpose-driven’, but as McKinsey & Company point out, bridging the gap between purpose and action – shifting from why to how – is the tricky part. So, ask yourself the question: is there a clear, authentic link between my purpose and the things I do best as a business? There’s a very obvious link between Amazon’s desire to be customer-centric and its peerless delivery and warehouse infrastructure. By looking at what matters the most across your value chain and identifying hard metrics that connect your business ‘superpower’ with your core values, you’ll soon find that purpose doesn’t distract from value creation, it facilitates it.
And remember, your brand purpose isn’t a thing that marketing creates; marketing exists to tell stories about your brand purpose. This is what the rest of your strategy should flow from, so it’s worth reminding yourself why you get up in the morning and do the things you do.
“Outcomes don’t arise magically because a company decides to be purpose-driven. They take shape most effectively when purpose connects with a company’s ‘superpower’.”
McKinsey & Company Corporate Purpose: Shifting from why to how
Your audience has changed. Your behaviour should too
We’ve read and heard so much about the pandemic accelerating change. And it’s true: your customers aren’t the same as they were in the Spring of 2020. They have different needs, different expectations, and the urgency to deliver targeted, localised messaging has never been greater. But you’re not going to know what to say to them in your big Summer 2021 campaign if you don’t know what they’re up to.
If the hyperreality of social media has taught us one thing, it’s that there tends to be a gap between what people say and what they do. To get insights you can trust, you need to observe people’s behaviour. And that’s where data science comes in.
Covid weakened the messaging of global brands and one-size-fits all strategies don’t cut it anymore. Your customer personas from this time last year have faded like memories of sticky club dance-floors. You should be using current and relevant data to create new ones.
And there’s never been a better time. The past year has accelerated the already remarkable velocity of digital transformation. We now have an unprecedented collection of tools to capture insights and target audiences on a more granular level. But winning isn’t as simple as deciding that starting from tomorrow, you’re going to run a ‘data-driven’ company that churns out hundreds of fancy graphs every quarter. Be clear on what outcomes you want to achieve and outline exactly what metrics you need to measure to get there. Science is a great foundation for art, so let the data fuel your creativity.
As Cindy Gallop puts it:
“Don’t be a data-driven company. Be a data-informed company.”
Your brand is a buoy in the sea of sameness
E-commerce sales soared over 74% during lockdown. Naturally, the juggernaut of Amazon had quite a year, but there were also new players in town: struggling brick & mortar stores. Restaurants, off-licenses, florists – within weeks the shuttered shops on our highstreets were flogging wares from abruptly pitched online stores.
The mighty internet has kept businesses afloat when they otherwise would have been cast adrift. But there’s a catch. Sure, the web keeps us connected and levels the playing field – but it has also lowered the barrier for entry so much that you’re not just competing with the local stationary company. You’re competing with lone whizzes churning out Instagram ads from their room and drop-shipping staplers from China.
How do you compete? How do you stand out? Your brand. Whether it’s the trusted voice that shines through in your copy, the cut-through of your positioning or the genuine connections you make on social, your brand lifts you above the tacky ads and tatty knockoffs. So, make yourself a recognisable, reliable presence in a chaotic world. Have the guts to stand for something, discover your singular powers and ensure everything you put out is always uniquely, compellingly you.
“At a high level, it’s just brand distinction, brand familiarity…during a pandemic consumers just had so many things going on in their lives. There’s a flock to the familiar.”
Deloitte: Brand Power in Covid-19 times
It’s time to walk the walk
Your brand isn’t that shiny new logo, or the snappy strapline – it’s a strategy, a story, an identity. At every touchpoint it’s communicating a certain idea or a promise to your target audience, influencing how they think about your products or services.
Remember: the pandemic has made customers even more risk-averse. Loyalty and trust aren’t easily earned. It’s not enough to make a compelling brand promise – you need to be confident you can keep it.
Because in business, as in life, sticking to a promise pays off. According to Gallup, the highest-performing companies deliver on brand promise at least 75% of the time. They have greater levels of customer engagement, which enables them to “surpass their competitors in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship group.” Basically, if you don’t break your word, you’ll smash your targets.
We’ve delivered winning strategies for some of the world’s most iconic brands, so if you want to build a brand that lasts the distance, get in touch to arrange your bespoke brand sprint.