The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
One of my favorite questions when a brand leader tells me how much they intend to grow over the next 12 months is to ask them how much they think the market itself will grow. In other words, how much organic growth can they expect the market to give them just for participating versus how much do they think they’re going to have to “find” somewhere else?
If a sector is growing at 3 percent and the brand intends to grow at 20 percent, that 17 percent difference is going to have to come from somewhere, probably a competitor. How, I ask, do you intend to win that 17 percent and who do you intend taking it from?
Some back-reading from McKinsey turns up some interesting findings:
- Top-line growth is vital for survival. A company whose revenue increased more slowly than GDP was five times more likely to succumb to acquisition than a company that expanded more rapidly.
- Timing is everything. The companies that compete in the right places at the right times achieved strong revenue growth and high shareholder returns and are more likely to be active acquirers of other businesses.
- Company growth is driven largely by market growth in the industry segments where it competes and by the revenues gained through mergers and acquisitions. Together, they account for nearly 80 percent of the growth differences among large companies.
- Market share fluctuations by contrast account for only around 20 percent of growth differences among large companies.
“Seeking growth is rarely about changing industries – a risky proposition at best for most companies,” the authors conclude. “It is more about focusing time and resources on faster-growing segments where companies have the capabilities, assets, and market insights needed for profitable growth.”Read More
My colleague, Brad VanAuken made this excellent observation about rebrands. “Identity systems are designed to encode and decode brand information to and from people’s brains,” he said. “If you change the system, the associations may be lost and will take a long time to rebuild.”
Always that dichotomy. People like what they know. And we live in a changing world. While brand managers often struggle with the timing and implementation of an identity change, I’m far more interested in the specific motivations behind why brands choose to change how they visually express who they are – because that’s where I believe things can really go askew.
If the motivation is wrong, then the rebranding will be wrong. By way of proof, a great article from Business Insider examines recent rebrands that have hit the wall at speed. Two clear principles emerge:
- Be clear about who you are and stay true to that. The very essence of identity I would have thought but it’s amazing how many companies still think they can convince people they’re something they’re not by changing their brand identity. No amount of focus-grouping with the youth-set (or anyone else for that matter) is going to make your brand something it just isn’t. Same goes for changing the name to make it more street. If you’re not a street brand, you’ll just ring hollow.
- Don’t cover up. An identity that seeks to hide the truth isn’t a rebrand, it’s a revisionist attempt to hoodwink investors and consumers. Might have worked before we were all connected and had digital memories. Doesn’t work anywhere near as well now.
So how should brands go about choosing to rework their identities? My cardinal rule: before you make any changes, think about the consumer. Change your branding only if it will make the identity more fascinating and relevant for them (not because the marketing team is bored or a competitor has changed so it’s time to follow suit).
10 reasons why you would change a brand identity:Read More
Strategic thinking is a natural inclination – something I think you’re born with. In many business schools you can learn principles of strategic thinking, but like learning to play the piano, you won’t be very good at it unless you have the innate talent to see things strategically. Are you a strategic thinker?
I spend most of my time consulting with marketers on brand strategy – helping them to see useful patterns across the competitive landscape where everyone else sees complexity. In my experience, most marketers and brand managers just want to know HOW to get to their goal as fast and efficiently as possible. That’s tactics not strategy.
Strategic thinking requires you know WHY you are intent on pursuing any particular course of action. When you are clear about your why, the how to get there seemingly takes care of itself. Like gravity I don’t know how this principle works, I just know it does.
Interestingly enough, those with the gift of strategic thinking hardly see it as such. Like all natural systems – like breathing – your gifts operate effortlessly mostly under your awareness. You may be a brilliant strategic thinker but because it’s so natural to you, you may not acknowledge it and self apply it to your conscious behavior.
To help you connect with your gift for strategic thinking and the power it has to strengthen your resolve to achieve your marketing goals, here are several attributes and themes that may seem familiar to you and are shared by all strategic thinkers.Read More
There’s clearly excitement in the research and advertising world when it comes to the social media power of online co-creation. In fact, over the past decade online crowdsourcing and communities have become an important concept in social media marketing. They’ve given consumers a direct voice into decision-making and have increased their engagement with the brand. In a world where advertising is now a “one-to-one-to-many” proposition, this is an important contribution.
Yet, there’s something fundamentally missing with today’s crowdsourcing and online communities.
There’s an artificial barrier that exists that’s similar to the way a two-way mirror separates consumers and clients in a focus group setting. There’s no real intimacy, no real sharing, no real listening. You view and study and interact from a distance. As a result, true collaboration is lacking — the kind of collaboration that’s only possible when people get together, in-person, and work together to create something of value that works for everyone.
Co-creation workshops open both hearts and minds to new possibilities
There is a very real, personal interaction that takes place in a co-creation workshop setting.
People begin to see the world through a different lens. The shared understanding that develops energizes the room. Trust is created. Customers openly share their problems and ideas as brand managers and brand designers enthusiastically look for solutions they know will work. This new found trust adds speed, power and precision to the process. People feel like they’re being listened to and taken seriously as equal partners.
Microsoft openly points to the eye-opening success they have had with in-person co-creation workshops. “Some of the most effective marketing solutions originate from real conversations with consumers” notes Andy Hart, Microsoft’s Vice President for advertising and online Europe.
What companies like Microsoft and others are finding is that collaborating with customers in a face-to-face environment makes great things happen, quickly.Read More
There’s been some suggestion that the global “downturn” is upturning. However, for the most part, we’re still being challenged and nothing in the economic news – America’s debt, China’s slowdown, the flat-footed European economy, Britain’s economic woes, commodity trends – suggests a sudden and universal change of fortunes.
Austerity is the new normal. It’s not a market trend. It is the market.
And yet so many businesses say that they’re holding on and waiting for things to change for the better. Once the economy improves, we hear, they’ll be able to start growing again. That implies they do not see adaptation as their responsibility. They continue to apply the same models and mindsets that they have been applying. They are literally waiting for light to show its face at the end of the tunnel.
A better strategy would be to adjust to the tone of the times we now face. Too many brands are trying to sell to a market sentiment they hope for rather than one that realistically prevails. Setting aside the more obvious market strategies of bargain brands and luxury manufacturers, how do middle-market brands attract buyers and gain preference today?
Start by recognizing the human factors:
Everyone still loves to be inspired. Excitement is a timeless sentiment especially in times of perceived bleakness. But the adrenalin rush of naked materialism is perhaps less appropriate today than the powerful sentiments of empowerment, hope and resilience. Materialism is increasingly seen as pre Global Financial Crisis. People still want to believe. Human nature is to look forward. The key for brands will be how they tap into that in order to tie momentum and a realistic sense of progress to what they’re offering.Read More