Fair Exchange: Choices for building brands is one of the keys to success
by Erna George (@edgeo23) In a world of endless choices, some marketers are falling into the ‘spray-and-pray’ approach. You can’t have it all and you can’t cover all the bases — attempting to try to be everything to everyone is unnecessary (and daft). Developing great brands is dependent on making good choices, rooted in understanding your consumer, the market and while keeping your brand guidelines at the heart.
Marketers: focus and direction are your job and, if you’re unable to make tough and relevant choices vs being led by various subjective opinions, consider what role you’re actually fulfilling. After making the decisions on segmentation, whether it’s positioning or pricing, make a brand-driven choice about where to play and ensure you stay true to this.
Whom are you targeting?
In the recent workshop which inspired this column, many struggled or were confused around the target market. There were longstanding marketers who wanted the brand in question to target ‘all mothers in South Africa’; however, these same marketers couldn’t articulate how we would bring meaning to everyone in this group. Consider that there are moms who’re very strict about nutrition or free-from options; those who are more pragmatic and believe in moderation; and those who are indulgence-seekers. Choosing a ‘middle-of-the-road’ compromise won’t appeal to any of these moms in a truly relevant way. In fact, trying to appeal to all will result in mediocrity at best and brand schizophrenia at worst.
Consider Nando’s. There’s nothing middle of the road in its communication. It either appeals to you or not. If Nando’s presented something not polarising or eyebrow-raising-worthy, true advocates would probably question their beloved brand. Taking this a step further, we know that those who love the communication aren’t the only ones eating at Nando’s. This is why we differentiate between the consumption target market and the media target audience.
When you narrow your focus on the media target audience, who have the mindset you target at centre of gravity; you protect your brand proposition. The result is a message with real resonance — direct resonance to the core target and aspirational value or appeal to a broader audience. Don’t worry that this narrow focus means fewer converted consumers. When people understand what you stand for, they think of you when the right occasion presents itself.
What’s your golden thread and your GO/NO-GO areas?
Determine and be clear on what allows you to stretch the brand feasibly ie what gives you credibility to grow and in which areas, if any. Coca-Cola’s golden thread is a dark carbonated liquid that has been long-standing (since inception in 1886). Its ‘stretch’ is into health derivatives (sugar-free or green) and flavours of dark carbonated liquid (vanilla, cherry etc). [Yes, there is some appearance of White Cola — let’s see if this golden thread remains or how it evolves]. To extend into other segments, the Coco-Cola Company uses other brands in its portfolio (Fanta, Bonaqua, Stoney) that are best-placed to capitalise on the opportunities.
So, what about your brand is critical to stay true to if you want to stretch to new variants or new categories? It’s almost more important to decide where you will never go to ensure you stay true to the brand persona and ensure brand credentials stay strong.
To help stay on track:
- Pretend you have half your budget.
I found that I was most-focused when my budget was tiny. There was no space for silly “what ifs” or making decisions based on “maybes”. I had to be 100% focused on staying true to the brand. This doesn’t mean that there’s no room to trial new approaches; it simply means being well-considered and ensuring you’re clear on how a platform or channel will build your total brand message or meaning. If you’re unsure, imagine you have half the budget and sense-check that the execution of an idea is on point.
- Capture your brand
Where have all the Brand Guard Books and Brand Bibles gone? I am showing my age but record-keeping in my day feels like it was a lot better than it is today. While not very efficient [anyone remember the A3-sized flip files we used to keep copies of brand activity and comms elements (one for each year) with copies of competitor activity, including disks with TVCs (!)?], we made up for it in rigour. Facilitate your choices with a deep understanding of history and context. Guessing isn’t permitted when you’re a caretaker of a brand that’s older and bigger than you. A proper history in this technological age should be easier but how many brand teams are tasking someone with this? Or is the excuse and/or reality of time pressures impacting this? The adage of “short-term pain for long-term gain” seems to ring true here.
- Partner with the right agencies to craft and execute this focused journey.
Consider that often agencies work on brands longer than single brand team members. Ensure all partner agencies truly understand the brand, what it stands for and where it’s going. Make sure the record-keeping is good on all sides. Lastly, ensure all of you aren’t distracted by bright shiny and new things — stay true to the brand roots and strategy.
In trying to do and be everything to everyone, you’ll end up meaning nothing to anyone. Focus is critical. The irony is that being focused and streamlined makes your appeal broader, more meaningful and better able to offer relevance to a wider audience. Make the choices — you’ll find that, if it’s on brand, it’s easier than you think.
After starting at Unilever in a classical marketing role, Erna George (@) explored the agency side of life, first as a partner at Fountainhead Design, followed by the manic and inspiring world of consultancy at Added Value. She has returned to client-side, leading the marketing team in the Cereals, Accompaniments & Baking Division at Pioneer Foods. Her monthly “Fair Exchange” column on MarkLives concerns business relationships and partnerships in marketing and brandland.