If You Build It…
We’re changing course a bit this week and going with a different post than we had actually planned. There’s some debate over whether or not we’re actually in a recession, but we’re not going to join in that part of the argument. Let’s be real. Whether the definition of our economic climate falls under “recession” or not, we’re all feeling the effects on our businesses. Whether you market to other businesses or directly to the consumer, you’re more than likely seeing the customer’s reticence to spend. Believe it or not, this is the perfect time to not only build your brand and market, but also to build major customer loyalty.
Many companies are making short-sighted decisions that have long-term effects on their business. More often than not, the first budget cut made is in their marketing. They don’t realize they’re shooting themselves in the foot until there’s a big bloody mess all over the floor. Typically, if your customer finds value in your brand, they will remain loyal through tough times. However, during economic hardship, that relationship between the business and the consumer is strained and tested. That emotional connection you’ve worked so hard to achieve has to be maintained by a dedication to build your brand in the midst of financial crisis.
So, what are we saying exactly? Right now, customers are concerned about spending their money anywhere – even with brands they trust. If you pull all your marketing and advertising and essentially disappear from the marketplace only to show up again when finances improve, there’s a good chance you’ve lost your audience. Consumers are looking for someone to be there through it all with them. If you continue to maintain your brand and visibility, continue to offer the highest quality product or service and maintain that brand awareness you’ve been working so hard for, chances are your customer is going to see that. They will recognize that you’re here to stay, see that you aren’t changing and feel more comfortable spending money with you NOW – not 6 months, 18 months or 2 years from now.
Warren Baxter sums this all up with 5 brand guidelines (Building Your Brand In A Recession, white paper, Summer 2009):
1. Stick to your long-term goals. Deviating from your brand strategy by running “urgency” campaigns designed to create quick sales may help short-term cash flow, but loyal customers may view it as cheapening your company’s offer to the market. Look to other ways to address cash flow in slower markets.
2. Maintain or increase your marketing budget. When the market goes quiet, successful brands typically increase their presence with strong, considered branding activities. Moreover, research suggests that these brands position themselves to bounce back better than other brands when the market cycles up.
3. Be authentic. Focus your company’s efforts on maintaining or increasing its brand presence in an authentic manner that is consistent with its promise to your consumer. If your brand is about luxury and exclusivity, offering low-end products to attract more buyers will only decrease consumers’ perceived value of your brand.
4. Think beyond advertising. Branding covers all the touch points between your business and your customer, from your direct mail to website to office/retail environment … even your invoices and warranty. Every touch point is part of your brand — consider how changes in your company’s activities and structure may affect your customers.
5. Deliver on your brand promise. A recession is an emotional time — consumers need reassurance they are making the right choices. If your marketing activities create mistrust by under-delivering on their expectations of your brand, consumers may quickly switch to a safer (a.k.a less expensive) alternative.
Remaining focused on your brand and brand promise will help you to maintain customer loyalty and inevitably drive your market position higher when the economy recovers. Think about all of your marketing activities. Make sure you’re maintaining that visual value we talked about in our last post. Remember that in tough economic times, What Your Brand Says About You is more important than ever.
Think About It:
Are you remaining focused on your building your brand? What are the financial challenges in your business? How can you continue to focus on your brand and customer loyalty? Would finding a marketing agency or consultant ultimately help you reduce overhead and allow you to dominate in market share?
Leave us your comments! We want to know what you think, so let’s get the conversation started. Next week, we’ll continue with our scheduled posts.