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UK Insights

Why brands must be brave in order to grow

Brands 13.11.2017 / 14:00

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The perennial priority of any business is growth. But today that challenge is harder than ever and with a smaller margin for error.

In the five years to 2017, profits among the top 700 FTSE companies dropped by an average of 25%. ‘Disruption’ is the word of the moment: everywhere and in everything, it is digital, generational, political, cultural, and environmental.

Achieving growth in this environment is harder than ever, and it is only going to get harder. Incremental adjustments and old ways of working will not be enough to win. Growth has migrated beyond the comfort zone of incumbent companies and brands.

To grow, brands will need to be brave – genuinely brave; beyond removing a headphone jack from a smartphone, or giving a nod to a taboo subject. Being brave in today’s world means deeply trusting the power of your brand. It means standing up for what your brand believes in, and sometimes taking difficult decisions in the name of your brand.

Being brave means making investment in your brand a priority. Brand strength is instrumental to achieving not only growth but also resilience. As Kantar BrandZ research shows, strong brands generate superior shareholder return – brand building is an investment in the future.

How do you build a strong brand? It isn’t easy, but it is possible – and it’s imperative if you want to grow.

Kantar believes there are four things you can do that will make a visible difference to your brand’s strength and differentiation: look to the future to identify growth opportunities, connect to the culture of your consumers, organise your business for growth, and embrace digital channels.

1. Brave brands embrace futures thinking

Only brave strategies are likely to succeed in the business world of 2018 and beyond.

As technology and consumer expectations change, businesses must ask: Where will the boundaries of my category move to in the future? What pain points will new entrants exploit? What new skills and capabilities will my future competitors bring to the sector? What different opportunities should I be exploring and testing now?

Futures thinking represents a way to answer these questions. Brands must:

- look more broadly at the changes beyond your category that are likely to impact the way customers think about it

- take a longer view to identify patterns of change and the shifts in customer values that create new types of demand

- structure your approach to the world to help you to make new connections and identify new opportunities.

Unilever applied this approach to redefine the boundaries of the personal care market in Asia – through identifying a critical need for air purity.

2. Brave brands connect with culture

Brands must create a more profound connection with consumers, focusing on securing a share of life as opposed to simply a share of market.

How? By harnessing aspects of culture that reflect the passions of their audience, by championing the things they care about and believe in, and by making a difference to their lives and the world they live in. This will help your brand bring its purpose to life.

In a survey of more than 100 senior brand leaders in the US, UK and France, they found that a presence in culture was crucial to their business, with more than 80% identifying connecting with culture as key to future growth.

More specifically, 71% said they will seek to contribute to culture and deliver value beyond their products and services, and 73% said their marketing department should behave like a ‘cultural radar’, connecting consumers with what is relevant to them in the moment.

3. Brave brands organise for growth

Disruptive forces are making brands braver in how they go to market, but many are still organised in traditional ways. Only one in five companies truly have a culture of agility and experimentation – the ingredients widely agreed to lead to success.

We believe that brands must fundamentally rethink the operating model, with bravery as the key ingredient, and that you must excel in three key areas. Brands must:

- put consumer demand moments at the heart of portfolio management and be relentlessly customer-centric, something Pernod Ricard is well on its way to achieving.

- adopt agile ways of working, bringing together teams of specialists to increase speed in decision-making and activation, as Tommy Hilfiger has discovered

- establish a purpose as a business, and use it as a moral compass across EVERYTHING you do – something 80% of overperfomers have done (and just 40% of underperformers).

It takes bravery to transform an organisation, experiment in new ways of working, and place trust in your employees – but it is imperative for success.

4. Brave brands dive into digital

Brands that are committed to finding ways to enter their consumers’ always-on worlds have a special sort of bravery.

They use new technologies and digital media as a call to step away from the familiarity of ‘channelled’ messaging and media strategies, and to experiment with strategies that empower connected consumers to become more effective shoppers, in a channel-agnostic marketplace.

Using the latest advances in touchpoint analysis, they can shine a light on when, where and how they engage consumers – and use consumer-driven content and shopper-driven algorithms to connect and convert their target audience.

Brave brands focus on social commerce, moving beyond influencing to actual conversion objectives. They explore ‘direct to consumer’ platforms, not just for incremental revenue but for insights on their consumers.

They are finding their voice, with smart speakers and virtual assistants offering a totally new form of consumer interaction.

And they are stepping up their mobile-first commitment, following the massive increase in mobile commerce.

Summary

All of these have one thing in common – the willingness to be bold, to take risks, to embrace future ways of thinking.

To be brave.

How you respond to a changing, increasingly fragmented world will determine our capacity to grow – organisationally, culturally, through technology, and with the future always in mind.

Being brave is not sufficient all by itself, but it is necessary for those brands that are going to succeed in this new world order.

Source : Kantar Added Value, Kantar Futures, Kantar Retail, Kantar Vermeer

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