Michael Meade once said, “A false sense of security is the only kind there is.”
If you’re in a market or industry that’s seeing a lot of growth, it’s easy to buy into the belief that when it comes to your brand’s longevity, the sky’s the limit. Strategy be damned; your brand is invincible.
The reality is that your brand’s long-term viability cannot be reliant on market or industry performance, world-class packaging, or even competitive pricing. There’s some security in those things, but it’s always temporary.
To survive the ebbs and flows of the global marketplace, your lifestyle brand has to be well positioned — even (and maybe especially) during periods of economic growth.
Price Isn’t Everything
When consumers are spending money left and right, brands don’t really have to compete on anything. Almost any brand can thrive in a booming economy. But as soon as the economy starts going downhill, the center of the store becomes too crowded. There are simply too many options and not enough customers to buy them.
There’s a dichotomy we’ve talked about before called the Walmart-Tiffany Effect, which is this idea that the most successful brands survive on either end of the value spectrum. Walmart brands are the ones that compete on price; Tiffany brands, on prestige.
The Walmart and Tiffany extremes become much more clearly delineated during an economic downturn. This is when the brands that live in the middle (which is most brands) are faced with the reality that they can no longer ride solely on the coattails of their market or their industry.
These undifferentiated brands are typically the first to go when economic crisis hits.
Good Design Isn’t Everything
Too many lifestyle brands equate hip, well-designed packaging or even a slick website with brand legitimacy. And when the economy is thriving and people are buying your product, why would you not?
Unfortunately, good design can lead to a false sense of security during these periods of economic growth. When shelf appeal plays such a big role in your brand’s marketing strategy, it’s easy for design to trump actual strategy.
But brands that rely on design at the expense of strategy are rarely successful in the long run. Under the guise of, “Look what we can do for you!” they hide behind pretty packaging and empty promises of product features and benefits.
While these brands look beautiful, they don’t stand for anything.
Figure Out Your Brand Strategy Now, Before It’s Too Late
If your lifestyle brand wants a fighting chance at surviving a market correction, good design or competitive pricing is not the answer. The key to weathering (and even taking advantage of) an economic downturn is to start focusing on brand strategy now. Don’t let the market necessitate a change in how you market your product or who you’re marketing to.
Because brand strategy is an exercise that requires a considerable investment, a Hail Mary attempt to fix whatever is broken with your brand simply won’t work. By the time a solution is in place or the economy is on the upswing, it’s likely too late.
Know Where Your Brand is Going & How to Get There
We like to think about brand strategy like a flight plan. A flight plan will only work if:
- Everyone who’s involved in getting that plane from point A to point B knows exactly what’s happening, when it’s happening, and who needs to be involved in the process at various points along the way. Even if the pilot is the one drafting the flight plan, dissemination is crucial.
- The plan is constructed when the plane is safely on the ground. Trying to figure out where your plane is going once it’s already up in the air is like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted; the intention is there, but it’s too late to be effective.
Brand strategy is no different.
When it comes to strategic brand development, timing is everything. The right time to build your brand strategy is not when crisis hits. The right time is always now, even if the market is trending in your favor.
What’s more, brand strategy isn’t just for your marketing team. It’s for your entire company. It’s cultural strategy, sales strategy, design strategy — it’s everything, all together.
Everyone from your C-Suite to your sales department to your internal operations team should know your brand strategy inside and out. Being on the same page about that strategy ensures you’re all heading in the same direction, in good times and in bad.