All views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and are not endorsed by or reflective of SUCCESS. As a reader-supported publication, we may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.
In today’s economy, the pressure is on for brands. Not only are they competing against other companies in the market, but they are also competing against customers’ attention spans and pocketbooks. Due to economic uncertainties and rapid inflation, consumers are reducing their spending, especially on restaurants and nonessential goods. To weather the changes in consumer spending, here are three common pitfalls all brands should avoid.
1. Abandoning brand strategy
According to Flint Finlinson, co-founder and CEO of Propaganda Inc., a fully integrated brand and marketing communications firm, periods of economic hardship are challenging for branding, as businesses may be tempted to walk away from their brand strategy and marketing plans to chase the almighty dollar.
Abandoning the brand strategy to bring in immediate revenue may not seem significant at first, but it can have detrimental effects down the road. If a business loses its brand identity due to heavy discounting, competitors, who may have more solid branding, can come in and take away market share, siphon off the consumer base and eat into profits. This is especially common when the competitors are newcomers to the market, leveraging the “shiny new penny” effect.
Finlinson says that Propaganda Inc. has worked with many brands that have experienced this and agrees that chasing short-term revenue over staying true to brand strategy has a painful long-term effect. Nonetheless, this can be avoided or lessened when the brand has a robust and proactive brand strategy and is focused on building a stronger relationship with their customer by adding value to their lives. He says that businesses with the fortitude and the discipline to stick to brand building are usually able to weather challenges.
The second common pitfall is for a business to rest on its laurels once it has achieved a major triumph or milestone. When a business has reached a certain level of success or recognition in the market, complacency can creep in.
“We’ve seen many examples where organizations have operated in a certain way for so long,” Finlinson says, “they’re often not as hungry and aggressive as they once were in keeping up with their consumers’ changing needs and behaviors. And, then, one day, they realize that they have strayed from the core brand proposition that drove their original success, and results are no longer what they once were. Branding requires continual investment in research, resources, people, technology and systems to remain competitive.”
“To overcome this pitfall, brands need to continually conduct competitive analysis and industry reviews and identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It’s very important to closely monitor your consumer and competitors’ actions and reactions,” says Paul Jarvis, co-founder and executive creative director of Propaganda.
3. Lack of clarity
The final pitfall is having a lack of clarity on the destination for the brand. Clarity is foundational to your brand identity, which guides all decisions and actions. This is why brand strategy involves defining a North Star. “The North Star serves as a guide and a focused destination. It’s always there as a landmark that keeps you moving in the right direction. We believe the whole concept of branding is about moving toward a destination because the market, economics and culture are constantly changing. You have to be flexible with how you adapt while remaining true to your brand,” says Kathleen Johans, account director at Propaganda.
“It’s hard work that takes visionary and disciplined leadership,” Finlinson says. “Branding is not just marketing, operations or product development. It’s everything you do and involves challenging every aspect of the organization and internalizing it according to your brand vision.”
A real-world example
An example of one of Propaganda’s clients was a high-end restaurant that had been suffering declining sales and guest traffic. Due to this, they implemented a discount program and quickly became too reliant on this method of attracting new customers or encouraging existing customers to return. Eventually this began to erode the value of the experience for their core guests.
“We were brought in to look at their proposition and identify a clear North Star for the brand,” Finlinson says. “Armed with consumer insights that defined the higher purpose brand benefit and impacted the marketing direction, we then aligned the guest experience, the menu and the hospitality model to deliver according to that proposition. Over time, they improved the value of the experience and traffic started to shift in a positive direction. Since then, they’ve enjoyed a five-year upswing in guest counts with positive year-over-year sales growth.”
In conclusion, Propaganda cautions businesses from looking for a magic fix to their business challenges. Branding is a long game that requires staying focused on building long-term value for your consumer, which leads to loyalty and brand advocacy.