High-profile recalls have led consumers to pose important questions about how various consumer products affect their lifestyle patterns and health. Today’s multi-channel consumers want products that support their values, consume fewer resources, and deliver the highest quality at a given price. They also care about the impact of products on individuals, society, and the environment. Slowly and steadily, customers are becoming less motivated by brand name alone – if quality, functionality, and responsibility levels are comparable – and are becoming more concerned about each segment of the supply chain, including the consumer products (CP) manufacturers, retailers, and suppliers that ultimately bring products to their doorstep.
These swiftly changing dynamics represent a major challenge for many traditional CP companies. For consumers, it’s an incredibly fruitful time, with the power of voice swaying brand perception and positioning like never before. Social media has made brandjacking easier than ever, and it’s also enabled consumers to publish, curate, advise, recommend, and comment on brands and reach an audience like never before. Brands’ massive social marketing campaigns can be outweighed by opposing individuals or groups conveying the completely opposite message. Furthermore, these “brand assassins” may assume brands’ viral hashtags to camouflage their intended meanings with the general public.
Today’s always on, always connected, digitally savvy consumers have different expectations and demands than CP companies have seen before. These challenge retailers to engage with customers in ever more innovative ways, whether it be facial recognition, digital screens, or augmented reality, and create opportunities for them to deliver personalized experiences – whether via bricks or clicks – for their customers.
The question, then, is how can brands make the most of these new marketing opportunities and still maintain (or regain) control of their public image? A strong brand needs a strong narrative. Start by imagining the type of role model you’d like to see and the stories you would like to tell people about who you are and what you stand for. What kind of mind-maps would you like to generate about your brand? What kind of parity patterns would you like to promote, and how can you differentiate yourself? What do you do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, and distinctive value? What are the tangibles you offer that make you proud?
Measuring brand health (contrary to conventional wisdom, it can be measured) requires obtaining a 360-degree view of a brand in its marketplace, its consumers, and its competitors. By breaking down underlying elements that matter into standalone business elements and measuring them, you can link them to business performance and growth.
A brand’s positioning is tied directly to brand benefits, perceptions, and associations. You can ask whether your brand is:
- Relevant to the needs of the individual and their business?
- Clear and distinct from the associations with competitor brands?
- Credible and consistent across all touchpoints and experiences of the brand?
Among all the messages consumers receive, make yours the one that is crystal clear, quick to understand, and repeated upon every touch point. Questions that can help you diagnose your brand’s health include:
- Are you growing, merging, revising your strategic plan, changing your name, or moving from being a local to a regional or national brand?
- Are there behavioral changes in the marketplace that impact your products or services?
- Do you have different clients/constituents than you did when your current brand system was developed?
If your brand promise is clear, effective, and delivered optimally, consistency will leave an indelible mark on your rising brand equity. Brands live in the minds of consumers, and only brands at the peak of health have the strength to push through and sustain at the top.