In this month’s guest blog, we’d like to welcome back Jonathan Alder of Alder and Alder. You may not know that Jonathan is the creator of my brand image! When I made the decision to rebrand a couple of years ago there was no question about who I was going to ask to help me. This time around, Jonathan talks to us about the importance of a strong brand, particularly in difficult times such as those we are going through right now!
How your brand can drive your business success, through the recession and into recovery.
As the UK emerges from lockdown, it will step into recession. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has said it is “very likely” the UK is in a “significant recession”. The UK economy shrank by 2% in the first three months of 2020. But in June the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andrew Haldane, suggested the recession could be V-shaped – the sharp decline followed by a swift recovery. The truth is that no-one can be sure. But whichever letter of the alphabet we are faced with, as we bounce back from the impact of coronavirus, it will be a challenge.
In this situation businesses will need to use every asset at their disposal. One asset which is available to every business is their brand. Your brand is simply the image your business projects. There are two elements that influence that image: how you look and how you behave. It’s these two things that will determine the opinion people have of your business. That can be positive. That can be negative. But your brand is the opinion people have of your business.
So the better you understand your brand – and the different elements of it – the more efficiently you can use it. Because if you understand how your brand works, you can manage the image your business projects. That creates the opportunity for you to influence what people think about your business, and give them reasons to buy from you, not your competitors.
In a recession – when there is more uncertainty – your ability to influence what people think about your business is really important. So I want to share three tips on how you can use your brand to influence what people think about your business.
1. Be active
In a recession it’s important to remain active. You need to keep using your brand, through marketing and advertising activity. This will help you to reach new customers, and also show existing customers that you are still here.
In a recession many businesses cut their marketing budget, to reduce costs. A survey in April found that 50% of UK companies were reducing their spending on marketing, in response to coronavirus.
But research shows that companies that maintain their marketing activity are more successful, as the economy emerges from recession. There has been lots of research done, over the past 100 years, looking at marketing activity during recessions. The research has measured a number of different factors, but it all reveals the same thing: maintaining your marketing spend during a recession builds long-term success.
“Research shows that companies that maintain their marketing activity are more successful, as the economy emerges from recession”
Kellogg’s are one example of this. In the late 1920’s two companies, Kellogg’s and Post, dominated the breakfast cereal market in the US. But when the Great Depression hit the economy in 1929, they followed two different strategies. Post focused on cutting costs and reduced their advertising. Kellogg’s, by contrast, increased their advertising spend, and moved into radio advertising. By 1933, when the US economy was at its lowest point, Kellogg’s profits had risen almost 30%. Kellogg’s willingness to remain active and maintain their marketing budget, established them as market leaders. And it laid the foundation for their position as a global brand today.
The reason this strategy works – remaining active and maintaining your marketing spend – is that your competitors will stop spending. It’s what happens in recessions. What that does is create more space for you to fill with your marketing and advertising.
2. Be consistent
In an environment where so much is changing, consistency in the image you project is really important. As I mentioned at the beginning, there are two elements to your image: How you look and how you behave, so I want to look at consistency in each of them.
Consistency with your brand identity – how you look, the visual elements of your brand – is really important. It will help you to raise your profile, and make it easier for people to recognise you. Whether you’re communicating online, in print or in person, your ability to stand out, in an increasingly crowded marketplace, is really valuable.
Coca-Cola is a good example of a consistent brand identity. Their logo has remained unchanged for almost 130 years. This logo, which is now probably one of the most recognisable in the world, was actually created by their bookkeeper – Frank M Robinson. But it’s not just their logo that Coca-Cola use really well. It’s also colour. Their use of red makes their packaging and their advertising easy to recognise. So consistent use of your brand identity will help you to get noticed.
The other aspect of consistency you need to consider is how you behave. Now, consistency in your behaviour, as a business, is determined by your values. Your values are a set of guiding principle that influence how you do business. They are really important for you, because it’s how you do business – the way you behave – that builds trust with your customers. At a time when there is so much uncertainty, trust is really important. It will help you to maintain a good relationship with your existing customers, but it will also help you to reach new customers.
“Consistent use of your brand identity will help you to get noticed”
3. Be relevant
Your customers – whether they are businesses or consumers – are adapting to new ways of living and new ways of working. In this situation, it’s quite likely that their needs and expectations have changed. So you might need to change as well – to remain relevant.
To do this, you need to take the time to understand your customers, and the situation they are in. Ask yourself two questions: What are the problems they are facing? And how will your products or services solve those problems? When you answer these questions, you will understand what the image is you need to project – through your brand – to demonstrate that you have the solution to that problem.
Amazon are a great example of a company that understands the problem they are solving for customers. Amazon describe their purpose as “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company”. If you look at the services and products they have created – from when they launched as an e-commerce website, through to the technology business they are today – that’s exactly what they have done. Each of those services and products solve problems for their customers. That’s why 90% of adults in the UK – that’s about 40 million people – have used Amazon. They provide services and products that are relevant to their customers.
“90% of adults in the UK – that’s about 40 million people – have used Amazon”
Now, these examples I have shared are all huge, global companies. But the lessons are relevant to businesses of any size. The next 12 months are certainly going to be challenging. For ambitious businesses that want to bounce back from the initial impact of coronavirus, my advice is to harness the power of your brand. Use it to influence your customers.
- Be active
- Be consistent
- Be relevant
If you’d like to read the blog that Jonathan wrote about my rebrand, you can read that here.
Jonathan launched Alder and Alder in 2005 to help organisations to make an impact. He has worked with many organisations – businesses, charities, social enterprises and local authorities, designing logos, creating brochures, developing brand identities, building websites, planning strategies and delivering campaigns. Working in the design industry since 1989, Jonathan has worked with clients such as AXA, Ernst & Young, The British Library, The Early Learning Centre and HSBC.