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Building Your Brand Experience for Hard Times (Part 1)

Posted on Saturday, May 16th 2009

By guest authors Charles W. Bush and Kathy Hwang of 3Strand, a brand and business strategy consultancy.

Designing a top-notch brand is nice to talk about and all, but when the economy tanks and we’re facing grim business decisions, is it even relevant to today’s conversation? Looking back through history, many of the most effective brands were actually developed and came to be successful on the market during the depths of recession years. [1] BMW emerged as “The Ultimate Driving Machine” in the mid-1970s, Southwest Airlines captured the shaky airline market in the wake of 9/11, and we eagerly await to see which brands will strike a chord in customers and emerge as market leaders in 2009. Let’s explore what goes into building a brand experience that rises to the top of the recession.

Understand how your customers’ needs have been changing and will continue to transform. The value proposition that was working so well for you nine months ago may not be connecting with your customers anymore.


In the wake of the exposure of the greed surrounding the Wall Street and housing bust, more customers are going through a process of serious value reassessment. That means it’s even more critical for you to understand how your customers are redefining value and responding to economic challenges. Customers are looking towards organizations that manage anxiety and take the lead. [2] More than ever, they connect with those who can show they share the same values and offer care, empathy, and generosity. [3]

While you might think that everyone is just rushing to buy the cheapest version of things these days, regardless of brand, when it comes to large-ticket items (such as plane tickets or electronics), most customers are putting these purchases off, rather than trading for cheaper alternatives. Companies like Apple, Sony and MAC Cosmetics, which have built more personal brand loyalty amongst their customer bases, have an easier time enduring economic fluctuations. [4] As money gets tight, your customers will naturally seek more validation for their purchase decisions. It comes down to building a compelling case for your company’s value proposition, uniqueness, and relevance to your customers’ current needs.

Don’t be afraid to try out new ideas centered on creating value. John Quelch wrote in The Financial Times of London, “it is well documented that brands that increase advertising during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times.”

All these changes in social values, roles and expectations means that, more than ever, it’s important for your company to start identifying:

(1) critical trends have been emerging from the recession,

(2) how they will specifically affect your sector, and

(3) key opportunities for you to refine or create a new value proposition that meets these needs.

References:

[1] http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_39/b4101052097769.htm
[2] http://www.cyberzoo.co.za/?p=99
[3] Trendwatching
[4] Consumer Spending in a Recession, Interbrand

This segment is part 1 in the series : Building Your Brand Experience for Hard Times
1 2 3

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Do you think customer trust will grow during economic hard times or continue to wain? Why?

Charley Bush and Kathy Hwang Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 7:48 AM PT

Customer trust will gravitate toward brands that have inherent “trust” in them. “Cool” may be out, “trust” in.

Sramana Mitra Monday, May 18, 2009 at 4:19 PM PT