It is absolutely, positively, unequivocally true that the speed with which our business is changing has accelerated unmercilessly in this recession. And the crescendoing client roar cresting the hilltops is both Wonderful and Terrifying:
T: We don’t need no stinking branding!
W: Let’s sell product!
T: Sell! Sell! Sell!
W: We’ll go digital!
T: Digital is cheap!
W: And measurable!
T: And fast!
T: And transactional!
T: Digital is the answer!
Digital is only part of the answer in this difficult economy. Much more important is the message. We preach it every day to our clients, who range from local retailers to major healthcare systems to national B-to-B companies. One client, in particular, has maintained a comprehensive, layered marketing program with significant dollars invested in what we used to call (way, way back. . .oh, last summer?) branding. Would you be surprised to hear this client is in the financial services industry?
Here is the truth our client understands:
When people are fearful and times are uncertain, nothing is more important than knowing what you stand for. Clarity of purpose gives your employees a reason to come to work in the morning, your managers a destination toward which to steer and your customers a light in the darkness. Give them all a beacon they can see.
Re-articulate your purpose internally. For many organizations, a focus on mere survival has redirected energy toward goals that are extremely short-term. Unless you are an organization that’s purpose is to “sell whatever we can to anybody we can,” you must remind internal stakeholders every day why you provide the services or products that you do. What human need are you meeting in the marketplace? What difference does their work make in the world? Don’t let this important message disappear from your internal communications program. It is food for the employee soul.
Be sure your purpose is clear in every bit of external messaging you do. I’m here to prophesy there will be a big fat swing back to “branding” in the months ahead because transaction-based relationships simply cannot last long term. Of course branding will take new forms that are more relevant in this new world, particularly from a media consumption standpoint. But purpose messaging will once again take the lead in the most successful marketing programs.
Stand for something your customers can believe in. Be sure your purpose is aligned with a real customer need in this new economy. (We offer lots of examples in other articles in this blog.) Our banking client promises “you don’t have to go it alone” and backs it up with the offer of a no-cost, no-obligation Business Review—which includes debt restructuring counsel—whether you are a current customer or not.
It’s a vital question that needs to be answered in conference rooms and board rooms, and in break rooms, across the country. Why are we in business? How do we make life better for our customers? Then get out there and shine that light brightly enough for your customers, and potential customers, to follow it straight to you—be the path virtual or physical.