Keeping abreast of market trends is vital to survival. As far back as the 1960s and 70s, once a brand was established, it could confidently predict its position in the market was assured. That’s not to say the work was complete, but rather once the foundations of a loyal customer base were established, it continued in the same vein to replicate success. However, the business landscape is very different now. We’ve seen more changes thanks to the digital and global revolution in the last 20-30 years than ever before. Messages are being diluted and competition is fiercer than ever, at both home and abroad. Whether you’re a one-man-entrepreneur, a niche manufacturer or a global conglomerate – it’s vital to have your finger on the pulse and be constantly prepared for, and able to change.
When iconic brands like Kodak and Woolworths disappear from the high street, it’s a perfect example of how nobody is immune – not even the oldest or biggest brands. Although there were various underlying factors involved in these high profile failings, in each case, the demise was ultimately a failure to evolve brought about from complacency and a slow response to market conditions. What then, are the most successful brands doing to keep abreast of the evolving needs of today’s ever demanding consumer?
Ultimately – if you are not evolving or communicating – you are failing to stay relevant. The market and your customers will move on. One company that ‘got’ this concept whole-heartedly was Yellow Pages. Launched in 1883, the core of their business was huge, heavy, telephone directories (printed of course, on Yellow paper). The brand is so engrained in the national psyche, that even now when referring to a huge volume of information, a generation still coin the phrase “you could fill a yellow pages…”. Despite this strong branding, which was reinforced with the famous slogan ‘Let Your Fingers Do The Walking’, it was not enough to retain customers. As the internet made greater strides, the business was rapidly becoming redundant. So, rather than lay down and die, they took the core of their business (contacts/communications), put the directory online, installed a powerful search engine and offered advertising and pay per click options onsite too. Burger King is an example of a global brand that recognised the need to change based on alternate personas. When they realised they were losing their core market of 18 – 35 year old males, they decided to rethink their slogan and fast! Out went the ‘better quality burger’, and in came a more rebellious, less PC stand, which appealed to that particular generation. Ultimately, the message was an unashamedly honest and subtly challenging ‘OK – it’s red meat. It’s fast food. We’re not saying it’s good for you, but you like big greasy burgers, so here they are. Don’t’ let anyone tell you what you want’. Burger King’s re-positioning saw 13 consecutive quarterly growths after that ‘adjustment’.
‘Brand storytelling’ is a vital tool that emerged from the pool of brand journalism, content marketing and article writing that proliferates in today’s marketing mix. Top brands consistently tell their story over several platforms and media, building an awareness and relationship with the consumer through their products and values. The brand story isn’t just what you tell people – it’s what they come to believe about you, based on what signals your brand sends out. The ‘story’ is a complete picture including facts, feelings and interpretations which are shared about your business by you, your customers, your community and the public in general. No wonder so many companies protect their brand so vigorously! In 2014, Brand storytelling agency Aesop rated Apple as a market leader in this category, followed by Cadbury and McDonalds.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ to creating and maintaining a successful brand, but the following nuggets of advice will stand you in good stead:
1) Monitor your competition and market conditions.
2) Be prepared to evolve, don’t be complacent.
3) Drop what isn’t working, embrace what is.
4) Invent/create new products, services and incentives.
5) Streamline, or expand where feasible.
6) Know your story, tell it well.
Don’t be Woolworths, be Apple!