Brand quarantine is a term to describe a situation where a business finds itself in a state of isolation due to rapidly changing circumstances around them.
While health concern and hibernation behaviors are impacting all of us, your brand is different. David Ogilvy defines a brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.”
Times can influence a brand’s development. But, because of its “intangible sum,” in a crisis, now is the time to hunker down on your brand’s real value and meaning to customers.
To avoid brand quarantine on your business, here are 10 timely tips from top experts.
Research and track changing customer behavior
Research the customer. “Instead of cutting the market research budget, you need to know how consumers are redefining value. Consumers take more time searching for durable goods and negotiate harder at the point of sale. They are more willing to postpone purchases, trade down, or buy less. Must-have features of yesterday are today’s can-live-without. Trusted brands are especially valued. They can still launch new products successfully but interest in new brands and new categories fades. Conspicuous consumption becomes less prevalent.” – John Quelch, Harvard Business Review
Improve real-time listening. “Maintaining customer-centricity is of utmost importance during times of stress, greater needs and quickly changing expectations. Marketing leaders should improve real-time listening to detect shifting customer sentiment so they can react immediately. As marketing leaders make decisions, they must carefully weigh short-term interests versus the value of sustaining and nurturing longer-term customer relationships during this time.” – Augie Ray, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner
Love your existing customers even more than usual. “Countless studies have shown that it’s cheaper and more profitable to retain your existing customers than to acquire new ones. That’s especially true during a budget-squeezing recession. Prioritize campaigns which stimulate repeat purchases, up-sell or cross-sell across your business lines. A buyer propensity study – analyzing purchase histories to predict the offerings most likely to be attractive to each customer. Ramping up your loyalty program, and rewarding customers who recommend your business to others may also pay dividends.” – Greg Ellevsen, the Brandthropologist
Double down on the competition during a brand quarantine
Double down versus the competition: “When you see your competitors closing down or slowing down on their marketing, the goal is to double down. You may not see the biggest return right away, but in the long term, you will. What I’ve learned from going through two crashes (the dotcom crash in 2000 and the real estate crash in 2008) is that the best time to double down is when others are not. During an economic downturn, you’ll find that you will have less competition, which means it is easier and faster to get results.” – Neil Patel, Co-Founder at Neil Patel Digital and Crazy Egg
Stress market share. “In all but a few technology categories where growth prospects are strong, companies are in a battle for market share and, in some cases, survival. Knowing your cost structure can ensure that any cuts or consolidation initiatives will save the most money with minimum customer impact. Companies such as Wal-Mart and Southwest Airlines, with strong positions and the most productive cost structures in their industries, can expect to gain market share. Other companies with healthy balance sheets can do so by acquiring weak competitors.” – John Quelch, Harvard Business Review
Know the relationship between the share of market and share of voice. “The connection between share of market (SOM) and share of voice (SOV) has been proven. The higher your share of voice compared to your actual market share. The more likely your brand is to grow its market share in the subsequent year. So, if you increase your marketing investment at a time when competitors are reducing theirs, you should substantially increase the saliency of your brand. This could help you establish an advantage that could be maintained for many years.” – Nigel Hollis, Chief Global Analyst, Millward Brown
Message to customer values
Identify what your customer value in uncertain times: General Mills announced they are maintaining their sales forecast and boosting marketing spending. But, messaging will change to meet the needs of its consumers during trying times. “The change of pace on consumer habits and the spread of the virus has been the likes of which we have never seen. It’s a unique time and we need to make sure, whether we’re talking about our brands on social media or we’re doing it through broadscale like TV. First of all, our messages have to be appropriate for the time. Ads should not talk about ‘stocking up’ or that kind of messaging. People look for things they know in times like these. Our brands tend to do fairly well because it offers comfort,” – Jeff Harmening, CEO, General Mills
Brands belong to a community as much as a company. “For generations, there was only one answer: A brand belonged to the company that invested in shaping, growing and monetizing it. Today, the question is no longer rhetorical. Brands are community property. Shareholders own a stake, as they always have, but so do employees who bring the brand to life. And then there are the customers who sustain it through their purchases and shape it with their demands.” – Rachel Barton, Managing Director, Accenture
Near term is essential, but don’t lose focus on the long term in a brand quarantine
Re-focus your marketing investments on the areas of highest ROI and growth. “Objectively examine where you’re currently investing – offerings, locations, media mix, etc – and the return on investment being achieved in each. Redirect more investment to the highest-earning areas, and also, where there’s the highest propensity for growth.” – Greg Ellevsen, the Brandthropologist
Don’t pursue a brand plan with an unclear ending. “An immediate and effective response is, of course, vital. But on many of these workstreams, the longer-term dimensions are even more critical. Recession may set in. The disruption of the current outbreak is shifting industry structures. Credit markets may seize up, in spite of stimulus. Supply-chain resilience will be at a premium. It may sound impossible for management teams that are already working 18-hour days, but too few are dedicating the needed time and effort to responses focused on the longer term.” – Matt Craven, Linda Liu, Mihir Mysore, and Matt Wilson – McKinsey
Are these tips helpful for your business to avoid a brand quarantine? Let us know and let us know if you might have any others.