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Uncertain times require
a powerful brand

How to build resilience and prepare to thrive in times of crisis

All economies are facing major challenges at the moment. The energy crisis and high inflation rates are slowly leading us into a recession.

At Kunde & Co, we have more than 30 years of experience as an advertising agency, strategic brand and marketing partner for Danish and international companies. We’ve helped our customers through three crises, and with the prospect of a new crisis knocking at our door, we prepared a list of the things we believe are essential for a company to get a handle on.

Your brand and your ability to communicate with the most important and valuable customer groups will give you a boost in times of challenging market conditions. There are five areas in particular where its important for your brand to be as strong as possible.

  1. Do you know who your most valuable customers are?
  2. Do you have a strong brand narrative that is easy to understand and differentiates you from the competition?
  3. Do you have a clear plan for how to communicate your brand story - also digitally?
  4. Do you have a plan and narrative in place in regards to sustainability?
  5. Is the story of your core products told well enough? And does it reach those in the market likely to buy them?

THE FIVE MAIN AREAS ARE:

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1. YOUR MOST VALUABLE CUSTOMERS

When the economy is good, most companies develop new products and services, and expand to new customer segments in pursuit of growth. And while this process does usually lead to growth, it also leads to the focus being placed on new activities, new customers and increased turnover.

Ultimately, not all new initiatives catch on - and while you’re expanding more and more, you forget about yourcore products and core segments youve built up over time, and which carry the company and the brand. 

The economy has been on the rise since the last major financial crisis in 2008. We’ve seen a number of companies expanding so quickly that they lost focus on their core business. This created major challenges later when the economy went into recession.

When crisis hits and growth is reversed, its the company's core products and customers that are able to carryit through the tough times. This is where most of the sales also take place, while new and more volatile customers quickly disperse. Since many companies expand their focus and communication to the market with new initiatives, its important to understand who the most valuable customers are as quickly as possible.

Typically, we see between 20-30% of a company’s total customer base account for 70-80% of the turnover. Therefore, it is incredibly important to find out who these customers are, which products and services they buy into, and the core value the company delivers to them. It might sound like common sense, but the reality is usually different. This was the case during the crisis in 2008, when many companies had expanded in search of growth, which lead to an unclear brand position.

2. A POWERFUL BRAND STORY

During longer periods of economic growth, companies usually expand to new customer segments and create new products, which can leave them with an unclear brand positioning.

When preparing for a crisis, it’s important to understand the company's brand positioning and make sure it fits the company's core products and customers. In our experience, the company often has to ”get back to the basics, relying on its positioning to weather the storm.

In times of challenging market conditions, bringing the brand narrative closer to the value the company delivers to the market is important. This will often mean that communication turns more rational. When timesare good, communication tends to be more conceptual, because companies dare to challenge the market.

Many companies will usually cut back on their marketing budget to save money during a crisis, which is dangerous. While they often forget to communicate with their core customers when the economy is good,they are now faced with a need to roll out a new, tighter narrative aimed at the most valuable customers.

3. THE DIGITAL BRAND STORY

With the digital transformation on the rise, communicating to the market and customers through digital channels has become increasingly important. Today, you have to be able to communicate your brand through these channels.

The brand story often faces difficult conditions in the digital space, where the focus on clicks and conversions comes at the expense of communicating a meaningful and valuable brand story to the market. Traffic can result in compelling numbers, but it is worthless if customers do not understand, have the ability or desire to pay for what your company has to offer.

Getting the bigger unified brand story across to customers and other external stakeholders is not easy. As a result, many companies refrain from it.

We believe, however, that it is important to communicate your brand story to your most valuable customers, especially during a crisis. To achieve this, you need to develop a system that guides the right potential customers to websites, blogs and other valuable content such as whitepapers or eBooks, where you can properly tell your story.

Rolling out the brand story to a website in a powerful way is often a challenge in itself. Prioritizing clicks and webshop optimization often means never getting the chance to build the brand story. One of the main reasons for this is that digital and technical agencies in charge of developing companies’ websites focus too much on clicks, and most often don’t understand the importance of communicating the brand through the digital channels.

4. THE SUSTAINABILITY PROFILE OF THE FUTURE

During the last major crisis in 2008, the sustainability was already gaining traction as a topic of concern. Unfortunately, the crisis put a halt on a lot of exciting new initiatives at the time. As we stand on the threshold of a new economic crisis, the circumstances are different; This time everyone is aware that something MUST be done about the climate. So it’s important that sustainability is part of the company's brand narrative, even if it’s challenged on other fronts.

Most companies have already learned that it’s incredibly difficult to find the right way to communicate the sustainability challenge. Many prefer not to communicate too much and expose themselves to "greenwashing", while many refrain from communicating anything at all. But remaining quiet is not the solution, because customers and external stakeholders expect companies to take a stand and act.

You can communicate effectively about your sustainability agenda even if you haven't been in business for very long. This is done by developing what we call a "sustainability intent". It is a document, or other form of communication, which contains the company’s intentions and strategies for how it will work towards becoming a sustainable company.

THE GOAL OF A SUSTAINABILITY INTENT IS:

  • To map out where the company stands in relation to sustainability.
  • To map out where to invest and how to become more sustainable. This may take time because it may require you to redefine your business.
  • To ensure that communication does not come to a standstill. This is done by merging what you are already doing with the goals you are setting for the future. When integrated, they become a sustainability intent.

With a sustainability intent as a point of departure, you can easily communicate the company's intentions in the area of ​​sustainability without making any promises you can’t keep in the short term.

5. COMMUNICATING YOUR CORE CONCEPTS TO THE MARKET

During a crisis focus must be placed on the company's core products, which are, as previously mentioned, the products that the most valuable customers continue to buy. Therefore, communicating their unique intrinsic value to customers is key. It sounds like common sense, but, it isn’t common practice.

Companies use a lot of resources on product development, and not enough on developing the concept. Focusing on the latter means the products can be positioned in a more valuable and convincing way towards the customers who buy them.  

B2B companies may find it particularly difficult to bridge the gap between product development, business development and marketing. It requires a considerable amount of empathy and concept development to create the optimal communication for the company's core products. And it doesn’t stop there. The next step involves creating the right communication system to reach direct and indirect stakeholders and customers throughout the entire go-to-market journey.

When times are good corporate branding and communication of the core products tend to diverge. Conversely, in a crisis, there is value in linking the most important products, which are desired by the valuable customers, with the company's brand. Those that do it well will thrive in times of crisis, while others struggle to survive.

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Want to know more?

Christian Brandstrup

Partner
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Uncertain times require a powerful brand

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