By Gayle Carpenter, Director of creative agency, Sparkloop
The Christmas ads are now a distant memory but what we learned from the 2020 line up was that brands were, more than ever, vying for consumer attention at the end of what was a brutal year for business.
What was clear in all of these campaigns, however, was a real shift in tone and messaging. The ads were stripped down to basics, focussing on messages of comfort, hope and simplicity, backing up a quote from Marketing Week that “Purpose will be central to rebuilding brands, post Covid” and how “brands should recognise that purpose creates distinctiveness and will be key to future growth.”
The 2020 Guinness advert sent a clear message of resilience and assurance by taking pieces of footage from previous adverts over the years, piecing them together, and showing how they have endured the test of time – the core message from this advert wasn’t about the calibre of the product but the ethos of the brand. As cited in the Harvard Business Review, “The nuances of brand voice are more delicate than ever’ whilst data from YouGov suggests that ‘brands which put people first have surged in popularity.’
Consumer behaviour has changed during the course of the pandemic and as more have been forced to shop online, brands really do need to look at ways to differentiate themselves from the competition, to win over consumers and to build trust in their audience.
Many businesses have reacted to this shift by panicking and jumping straight to the more obvious technical solutions, but solutions need solid foundations to last. So now really is the time to, first and foremost, understand your brand, strip it back to basics and embark on a brand re-set.
Getting your branding right and delivering a consistent and clear strategy is what will nurture consumer trust and loyalty, so it’s time to do the things that you must do as opposed to those that it is nice to have.
Ask yourself this question: Do you really understand who you are? The most basic steps to take are as follows:
- Audit yourself
- Understand what you stand for
- Asses what your impact is
- Ask yourself what you need to do to re-set
The three key areas to focus on are your brand purpose, brand strategy and brand identity
This is really what you stand for and consumers are becoming more and more switched on to.
A really effective example of this is the brand ‘Who Gives a Crap’, which sells toilet roll to build toilets. This brand is bold, it knows what it stands for, it has a social mission, 50% of its profits go to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world – it works because it such a simple idea and a simple story to understand immediately but for some businesses, it is far more complex.
When thinking about your strategy, ask yourself these questions:
Why should your customers care? Why do you/does your product/service, make their life better and/or easier?
What impact do you want to make in the wider world?
You have to remember that that purpose is for the long-term good of your business and being disingenuous will have a negative impact on your brand.
As a positive example, take Tony Chocolonely. This brand has campaigned for many years to make 100% slave-free (chocolate) the law, supported equality and continue to be campaigning for this. So when many jumped on the bandwagon for the Black Lives Matter movement, Tony’s purpose really had gravitas and the advert they brought out at the time had real meaning. It is something they were already doing and will continue to do as part of their ethos – it’s not a fad – consumers see through fads.
Customers can see through the bulls**t. They want to be able to see your ‘soul’. exactly what it is you offer and now more than ever, who you are and what you stand for. They want to be able to connect with you and feel that you are connecting with them.
It is essential to consider the following when drilling down to see who and what you are:
-Be clear on your vision and mission
-Look closely at your competitors – don’t be tempted to copy but always keep a close eye on what they are doing.
-Dig deep under the skin of your customers and find out exactly who they are and what they stand for
-Analyse if your proposition fits with your purpose and your customers – all elements need to align for the strategy to succeed.
So many businesses have no idea what their identity is, hence, the need for a branding re-set. You need to think about your visual identity, the language you use and your tone of voice and ask yourself if it really reflects your brand and if it is still relevant.
You have to remember that a brand is not just a logo and a website is not a digital presence.
Be consistent, EVERYWHERE! Look at everything you are currently doing and expose every nook and cranny where your brand appears and where your customers might see it. Reviewing it in the way your customers do will provide really context and highlight gaps and inconsistencies.
Consumers are fickle. They can be your best friends yet your harshest critics and the competition to entice and keep them has never been stronger as more and more brands have had to shift online. Now is the time to have that re-set; go back to basics, evaluate who and what you are and keep your message simple.