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5 key tips for improving your brand strategy in 2021

In 2021, it’s important for B2B marketers to have a clear understanding of their brand and its purpose in society. Kavita Singh spoke to PwC brand strategy lead Stefan Doering on how brands can improve, reaffirm or transform their brand this year.

Define your brand purpose

In 2021, it might be time to re-evaluate your brand strategy. Perhaps your company doesn’t have a clear definition of its brand purpose, or maybe your purpose needs to be communicated more overtly to your customers. In any case, it’s critical for marketers to have absolute clarity about their brand purpose and ask themselves: “Why do we exist?”

Stefan says: “If you’re perhaps not so clear on that, then the key is to really define your brand purpose. Brand purpose acts like the guiding light for an organisation. It should inform all decision-making and engagements. A simple and effective framework to help shape your purpose is to clearly define your ‘why’, your ‘how’, and your ‘what’.”

Some questions to ask your team internally include:

  • Why do we exist?
  • How do we engage with our clients?
  • How do we operate?
  • What do we do?
  • What is the value and impact that we can deliver?

Reaffirm what your brand stands for

If your brand is already clearly established and you’re confident in your brand purpose, then the goal for 2021 revolves around reaffirming that and making sure it’s front and centre of everything you do. Essentially, you just need to position it firmly in the market, as well as in the hearts and minds of your people and clients.

Stefan advises there are two things marketers can do to achieve this. The first is to start with ensuring your purpose is deeply embedded and rooted throughout your organisation. That includes everything from your people, processes and technology, principally establishing how all these elements can work together to be fully aligned to that brand purpose. Ultimately, it starts from within. Once your purpose is fully understood and embedded internally, then it’s time to start building that perception and recognition externally in the market. You will need to start building your brand and your communications around that strong, clear purpose.

He says: “Make sure that your purpose is clearly communicated, perceived and understood amongst your clients and targets. Once that purpose is established, it’s critical to make sure you live and breathe it, truly delivering on your purpose in everything you do.”

Consistency is key

Stefan maintains there are three areas that make a great brand: consistency, relevancy, and distinctiveness. In 2021, brand consistency will be more essential than ever, as your clients and people expect seamless experiences delivered consistently, regardless of channel, touchpoint, or geographic location.

He advises: “Consistency is absolutely crucial to delivering a high-quality brand experience. Once you’ve defined what you stand for in your purpose, and communicated it to your customers, then you have to go out and deliver against that expectation and promise you’ve set out. Consistency is that thread that has to run throughout any brand building activity – and this in turn builds trust, loyalty and repeat custom.”

Merkle B2B’s latest research looked at the four brand essentials for optimal customer experience. The research found that the ability of a supplier to demonstrate that their offer will help the customer achieve tangible productivity gains is an extremely important purchase driver across many categories. Consistency creates a sense of reliability. Keeping this consistency is how you start building and improving your brand equity over time.

Earn trust with customers

Trust for your brand continues to be imperative as we look ahead this year. Throughout 2020, brands realised that they had an important role to play to bridge the gap between macro social issues and their own organisations. Customers expect brands to take a stand for what they believe in and advocate for their shared values – for example on diversity and inclusion initiatives, sustainability, fairness and equality.

When the Black Lives Matter Movement reignited, brands had to recognise their part to play in driving real change against racism. And of course, in the context of the pandemic, the increasingly blurred lines between people’s working lives and personal lives only accelerated, while many were adjusting to remote work.

All of this constant change in an increasingly uncertain world means that people want and need to be able to trust the brands they use. Brands have to both respond to wider societal issues, but also provide stability and reassurance that they will be there for their people and clients – and always strive to do the right thing. While your brand purpose doesn’t have to revolve around societal issues, it’s important to respond accordingly so that your customers know where you stand on a human level

Stefan says: “With so much access and information constantly at our fingertips the need for trust, transparency and integrity is paramount. How brands behave, react and operate when dealing with both challenges or issues will determine whether customers are happy to associate with a company, or not. And the most important thing with trust is that you can’t simply ‘claim’ it. You have to earn it. That trust you’ve earned for your brand will determine your legacy – are you improving or detracting your brand’s impact on your clients, people and society as a whole.”

Focus on content first, and channels second

Talking with Stefan, he asserts: “Everyone knows there are a huge number of different channels and ways to reach people, and they all have their own purpose and place in the marketing world. However, what I think is most important is to focus on your message first. Develop your content with creativity and imagination at its heart, and make sure your message comes to life in a compelling and engaging way across whatever channels you use. All too often, we perhaps focus too much on channels and delivery, rather than creating truly inspiring and exciting creative. For me, creativity and imagination is so important and says so much about who you are as a brand – so it has to come first.”

Naturally, evaluating what channels work for you and will deliver the best results for your objectives is important, but it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of trying to ‘fill’ channels or jump to executions, without actually developing a great creative idea first. In the often-quoted words of copywriter Dave Abott, he remarks: "S**t that arrives at the speed of light is still s**t.”

Stefan concludes: “You have to make sure that your content is the best content it can possibly be, and then translate it to work in the optimum channels. Creative and media should always work hand-in-hand. To build your brand successfully this year: set out clear objectives; develop your brand strategy; craft imaginative, inspiring content and creative; and then bring it to life effectively using the best channels to tell your story and reach your audiences.”

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