Before banks discovered the true value of toxic assets, companies were all signing up to the need to embrace the ‘new values’ of sustainability and corporate social responsibility.It was essential to show your positive green credentials and ethics as a responsible brand.
Branding is ultimately about differentiating an added value offer and we were just getting used to adding the new moral values to the more traditional emotional and perceived unique selling points as ‘added added values’ when the new ‘survival of the fittest’ era arrived post September 08.Now we must add another level of ‘value’ – ‘real value’.
Real value was previously discussed as a cost/quality ratio – not the cheapest, but a best value perception in terms of product, service, process, environment, experience.However anyone arguing that price is not now the main driver for most people must face a new reality in these tough times.It seems everyone is cutting back whether measured in less sales of Bentley’s in Russia or increased Value own brand purchases in Tesco’s.We now face balancing our previously ‘nice to have’ green values and ‘feel good’ conscience-added -value purchase triggers with a simple need to satisfy basic survival needs – forget social and ethical aspirations.What we say and what we actually do are even more under test.Sod status and image if it does the same job.
Those involved with brand development are getting a sharp lesson in achieving perceived ‘added values’ whether product, service, or destination brands.Suddenly the need to achieve more for less by the organisation is now a first priority in terms of survival and adaptation.Marketing budgets get slashed, new designs get shelved.
Branding must now prove its role as an essential management principle and ethos – the driving force, the DNA, the glue that coordinates the organisation.The result should be, by definition, true synergy and therefore real value creation, vital in today’s market.
It certainly puts the old but still prevalent view of branding as simply a visual media manifestation exercise in the bin – or I hope it does, otherwise companies selling branding as cosmetic packaging exercise will be in for some tough times – who needs a new letterhead when you have no one to write to.Or more basically, if price is the real added value, who cares about nice packaging.
Of course, its not as simple as this.We are all human and hearts as well as heads must be satisfied.However, a back to basics ethos is now an essential modus operandi i.e. getting
best value out of given resources.A good brand strategy should facilitate a clever value engineered approach by providing a focus to everything a company does to be a customers’ preferred choice. A classic brand audit exercise must now encompass a clear evaluation of the real worth of every investment – people, product, service, environment, technology, etc in terms of the effective contribution to creating the first choice brand experience for all audiences – external and internal.
Difficult times force adaptation and new ways of being – lets hope real brand development can now be recognised as a vital survival corporate added value gene – allowing real value creation for all concerned – the ultra added-added value proposition.