The best-laid strategies have to be amenable to change. In the long term, market forces, cultural changes and technological innovation can all shift the foundations you’ve built on. And as Darwin explained: it’s not the strongest that survive, but the ones most adaptable to change.
As a strategic communications agency, it’s our job to spy these trends from far off; enabling our clients not just to react when it’s critical, but to steal a march on change.
Here’s how we addressed two such trends over the past 18 months:
Increasingly transactional consumer categories
It’s much harder today than in the past for brands to maintain a valued relationship with their customers. Economic pressures and the increasing difficulty for brands to differentiate themselves through innovation have seen the customer relationship in some categories slide downward into a loveless, transactional, price-driven affair.
This was the challenge facing premium travel operator Brittany Ferries. The sector has become a price-driven category and we needed to reframe the customer’s perception of the brand in order to differentiate it; making people fall in love with ferry travel again. Our proposition? Travel with limitless opportunities.
This ad was part of an integrated campaign that hardly featured ferries at all; what it did instead was reflect the positive feelings that memories of holidays in Northern France can evoke.
In cases where customer relationships have become price-driven, differentiating your brand and lifting it above the generic can require you to reframe the customer’s way of thinking. Consumers don’t love brands that merely do the job or deliver a standard service.
Brands can move people from ‘like’ to ‘love’ by reflecting the experiences people cherish, whether that’s success, security, togetherness or nostalgia. We can transform brands from an acceptable solution into a preferred (and premium-priced) partner. And it’s done by selling customers the chance to pursue their aspirations or to recapture something precious.
The growth of transparency
Digital and social media can no longer just be viewed as channels. They make up a key part of the way people live. Businesses trying to portray values and principles they don’t actually live by can’t expect to get away with this duplicity for very long - digital communication can reveal hypocrisy or double standards to audiences of millions in seconds.
This means the values a business wants to portray to the outside world have to be reflected back internally among its own people. The importance of ‘employer brand’ has therefore grown in importance.
Castrol, which operates a huge international workforce, understood this. We helped them devise a huge internal drive to help their people understand and appreciate the technical brilliance and innovation the business is built on. We began by creating a virtual training academy for Castrol’s people, developing a sales environment that helped energise employees globally.
This was supported by a creative internal campaign that featured x-rays of complex inner workings, supported by solid engineering facts, emphasising Castrol’s quality, innovation and expertise. Engaging their workforce in the technical details translated to better customer service and ultimately an improved brand experience.
The point is that your employees can be the most effective evangelists your brand has, and many of our clients have found that the infectiousness of employee enthusiasm can do more to influence people’s perception of their brand than the cleverest slogan.
What we delivered for Castrol leveraged the power of their people, and can be true of any business; excitement within translates to excitement without, and it stems from pride. Pride in innovation or technological excellence, or pride in a unique culture can be harnessed to energise a company – and enhance the brand experience it delivers.