Three things that brands can do to stay alive in the new world

 

Over the past seventeen years I have had the privilege to work with major brands from Cincinnati to Hong Kong and it’s amazing how some of them even survived.  Many were so big that they could coast along simply because of their name and some were the small guys looking to steal market share while the leaders were sleeping behind the wheel.  Others were nameless, virgin children to the branding jungle and looking to be noticed and make a lasting impression.

 Regardless of the size or marketing budget, each brand had one clear objective – to grow sales.  Sales generate money and money generates excitement and bigger budgets.  In this quest to be big, brands overlook the most basic element that got them there in the first place, their consumer.  They forget about the core values and reasons that made their brand or product successful.  They basically forget about themselves.  They get distracted by the everyday and become the yesterday.

 To avoid falling into the same trap and become part of the land of forgotten brands here are three things you can do to survive:

Listen – so often companies are so consumed by cutting costs, increasing market share and making profits that they forget the most important reason on why they became successful in the first place, their consumers.  You can have the most amazing product in the world, but if you don’t have a need or a consumer base, it’s worthless.   I get that the number one objective in a capitalistic society is to sell more stuff, generate profits and increase shareholder equity, but you need to understand your consumer and change with the world around you in order to survive.  With thousands of branding messages crossing our eyes and ears each day, it’s hard not be left in the dust by the newer, sleeker, sexier products that are looking to eat your lunch.

In today’s social media driven society and with so many outlets to listen to your consumer it is amazing that so many companies still haven’t opened their ears.  When sales become the only objective motivating you to grow and cost cutting a company mantra, it is clear why some brands die alongside their consumer base.  So wake up, open your ears and pay attention, because consumers will tell you what they are looking for with their mouths to their friends, their blogs to their followers and with their wallets.

Engage – With so many choices you cannot simply be a brand on the shelf these days.  You need to interact with and excite their followers.  Brands are like a badge, they say something about the person who buys them.  As product choices continue to grow and messages continue to blur you need to connect and engage with your consumer. 

Step it up.  Talk to them in their own language, find them in their own environment and provide them a reason to believe that you have something to offer that goes beyond simply fulfilling the obvious need.  Let them know what you stand for.  Be transparent and share your vision and goals.  Let them know that you are there for them, when they need you and more importantly when they don’t know they need you.  Be real.  Establish your voice and don’t stop shouting, because when you do you are forgotten.  Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Evolve – Unfortunately, we only have a certain number of years to live on this planet and until science figures out something different we will all eventually die.  The same goes for brands.  Brands today cannot rely on what they did ten years ago, because the world dramatically recreates itself with each new decade.  Technology is changing so rapidly that what a College freshman is learning about today will be obsolete by the time they graduate.  If this is true, brands can no longer stay the same and rely on their heritage. 

The rapidly changing demographics in this country in conjunction with the technology boom have created an environment for a constantly evolving consumer landscape.  What was popular last week is so “yesterday’s news” in the blogosphere.  We have become a country where the news channels worry more about how the spin with increase ratings versus reporting the truth.  So let’s face it, there is no hope for brands to remain the same these days.

If there is one thing certain beyond taxes in this world it is, change.  As a brand, change needs to be embraced, not fought.  By understanding your consumer and enjoying this change a brand should feel energized that it has the ability to recreate itself and align with the evolving needs of its consumers.  Brands should be on the endless pursuit to amaze thier followers with countless things they didn’t know they needed to make their lives better.

So as uplifting as this post is, just remember one thing, we do live in a great country.  We love to buy stuff we don’t need.  We love the way a new Gucci bag makes us feel amongst our friends and we definitely will pay 100 times the cost to get one.  So keep up the capitalism, especially on this upcoming Black Friday, and help to keep brands alive, our jobs are depending on it.

Photo credit: http://cloud.decryptedmatrix.com/live/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/The_Ten_Major_Food_Companies.jpg

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