Your company’s leadership is clamoring for growth. So your marketing team proposes an endless array of “fixes” — you tweak your social media strategy, try a new online advertising campaign, and chase after a new audience of potential customers.
Your team’s wheels are spinning and you’re trying a bunch of “cool new stuff,” but it’s not really driving the sales spike that executives are seeking. You’re not sure that it’s working yourself. No one can agree on what smart growth looks like, so your organization lacks a real strategy to get there.
Marketing teams are usually bullish on initiatives like outreach on Instagram and Facebook; these projects deliver an infusion of creative energy and a sense of checking off the to-do list. But without clarity and connection back to the core brand strategy, incremental projects like these are bound to deliver only incremental results. And without a solid strategy in place, you risk getting noticed for the wrong reasons, as when a social campaign tries to be clever and strays off-brand.
6 Brand Signals That It’s Time to Embrace Big Change
Is your brand ready for a change? A change that’s more impactful than being clever on Facebook? How do you know?
Here are six signs your brand is ready for a foundational change:
1) Your sales team is not in alignment on how to sell your brand in to retailers. On a small- to medium-sized sales team, everybody has hacked the sales toolkit to fit their individual preferences. One rep may be most interested in showing up with the lowest price, while another is personally vested in building relationships with retail buyers. When they try to cross-pollinate, they fight and as a result don’t collaborate unless they have to go to a sales meeting.
One of our favorite exercises when we consult with a brand that’s struggling to grow is to bring the sales team into brand strategy sessions with the C-suite. The sales team grumbles, “What does branding have to do with sales? Why are we here?” As we talk about the brand vision, the salespeople start to open up about what they’re hearing from the market, what the brand means, and how to clarify its expression. They want to help create the solution, and by the end of the meeting they won’t shut up.
2) Your leadership team is demanding new growth and new opportunities. You may try to fix what’s ailing the brand yourself, relying on your internal team’s overconfidence and institutional biases. Doing what you know feels safe and predictable. But if you’re aiming to generate big gains, you have to recognize that what got you here won’t get you to the next level. More of the same thinking won’t solve your business problem.
Real growth comes from building a brand strategy that changes the conversation your brand is having with your employees, your buyers, and your consumers. (Hint: It needs to be about them and how you fit in to their lives, not about how great you are.)
3) You are losing shelf space and/or feeling pressure to play on price. Velocity is important to retailers; they don’t make money if your products are just sitting there on shelf. And if they can drive more volume and make more money by developing a private-label knockoff of your product, they will.
If your brand doesn’t represent something meaningfully different than cheaper competitors, you’ll lose the pricing game. You have to create a brand that’s believable to the whole organization, including your retail partners.
4) Consumer preferences have changed. Diet trends, health and wellness preferences, sustainability concerns, etc., have swept a whole new group of products into your space, and you haven’t kept up. You may be tempted to quickly develop a new product to hit the latest trend, infusing your energy bar with chia, for example. But understand that your brand must stand for more than an ingredient or nutritional attribute.
Our client Russell Stover risked becoming obsolete as consumers started to value artisan-made, fair-trade, dark chocolate. This beloved brand didn’t recognize that these attributes aren’t just trends but actually long-term attitudinal changes. We reframed their brand position to focus on a little-known aspect: Russell Stover chocolates are all handmade and always have been. We helped them re-establish their connection with consumers.
If you’re playing in a category that’s seeing radical shifts due to rapidly changing consumer tastes, resist the urge to tweak your product formulation and instead pursue strategic innovation that’s founded on your core brand principles.
5) You were first to market with something lovely and unique. But now there are many competing products and brands. Consumers who love you don’t buy you with as much frequency.
Look at a subset of the snack category: puffs. Frito-Lay owned the puff segment, and then a few small better-for-you brands entered the market with paleo and vegan and alternative grain varieties. Seeing this explosion of BFY puffs, Frito-Lay jumped on the opportunity with Simply Cheetos. So now there are a ton of BFY brands plus a behemoth brand in the category.
You have to stand for something and taste amazing and compete on the shelf against a well-funded major player. Otherwise you’ll go from being a category of one to being in someone’s consideration set to … not being different in any meaningful way.
6) Your team has been s-l-o-w to respond to modern life and now your brand looks and sounds geriatric. Perhaps your sales, marketing, and executive teams include people who’ve been with the company for a decade-plus and who say to themselves, “We check all the boxes, why aren’t consumers listening?”
At the same time, you’re dealing with retail buyers who have mandates of their own, and even though you’ve been on the shelf for 10 years, your brand is now at risk of being discontinued because you’re not keeping up. Armed with tons of data, today’s retail managers have brands on a short leash. It’s time to change or face obsolescence.
3 Questions to Ask if Change is Inevitable
If one or more of the above change-indicator lights are flashing for your brand, here are three questions to ask yourself to inform the next steps:
What is your assessment of the internal team?
Are they ready to do what’s necessary to evolve the brand, or are you going to have to make staffing changes?
How bad is it?
When do you need to have a solution in place? Six months? A year? Can you wait for results? With the right help, you can rush to get a brand relaunched in six to eight months, but it takes up to two years to see traction.
Have you budgeted for this?
Understand that you’ll need to allocate funding to develop the new brand plan and then to execute it. We generally advise clients to expect a multiplier of at least 1X and up to 6X in the first year to roll out the rebrand, particularly when the initiative expands beyond marketing and into product development or operations.
Renovating an existing brand — so that it retains loyalists and attracts new fans — takes more than a clever social media campaign. Are the signs pointing you toward significant change for your brand? Let us guide you to growth.