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Agility alone is not enough

Agility alone is not enough

Long-term growth requires holistic brand guidance

Dr. Peter Ludwig

Domain Lead, Brand & Brand Guidance

In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for brands to grow. On the one hand, digitization and the near-universal penetration of smartphones have fundamentally changed buying behavior, advertising consumption and customer journeys; while on the other are the growing numbers of private labels and small, digital challenger brands in many sectors. These new brands are often achieving a high standard of quality at low prices and offering new and innovative business models. Unsurprisingly, long-established brands are finding it difficult to maintain their market share advantage.

This is evident in the results of Kantar's recent "Mastering Momentum" study. As part of this analysis, Kantar examined the global BrandZ database to see what’s driving growing brands. We found that only 6 percent of all brands have grown substantially over a three-year period. And only four percent have managed to grow continuously, i.e. to have improved every year compared to the previous year. However, the few brands that have achieved this have shown impressive growth. Their growth was 46 percent higher than average.

Three points distinguish growing brands from average brands: First, they consistently provide consumers with an outstanding brand experience. Second, growing brands are visible and attractive to both customers and non-customers (we call this having "exposure"). They achieve this through a strong brand presence, paired with meaningful and differentiating brand messages. Third, growing brands make it easy for all current and potential customers to buy their products at the point of sale (this, we call "activation").

Growing brands are mastering these three dimensions of success, despite the current challenges posed by digitization and the associated changes in consumer behavior.

With regards to the "customer experience" dimension, unsatisfactory customer experiences need to be identified immediately and responded to quickly. The challenge here is the necessary speed and high complexity of incoming data. To quickly identify negative customer experiences, data must be integrated and condensed into automated actions. However, companies today usually have a great deal of data that is often not (sufficiently) integrated to trigger actions quickly. Growing brands, however, continuously integrate their data, and thus ensure a consistently positive brand experience.

With regards to the second success factor, “exposure”, marketeers face the challenge of managing more and more touchpoints for their brand. Thanks to smartphones, people can now consume content and buy brands online at anytime, anywhere and in any environment. Every person is a potential buyer, for every brand, anytime and anywhere. To deliver effective brand messages to people at the right moment, growing brands continuously identify the most relevant touchpoints and optimize their messages at these touchpoints.

Finally, growing brands make the buying process as attractive and simple as possible for their customers, by requiring less time, less money and/or less effort ("activation"). In order to achieve this, the entire purchase process (path to purchase) needs to be monitored. In particular, the relationship between online/offline search and online/offline purchase behavior must be understood and optimized (such as by setting up "one-click buttons" or "buy online - pick up offline" offers).

To generate sustained growth through outstanding performance in the "experience", "exposure" and "activation" dimensions, brands need to ensure their data meets five requirements of what we term “holistic brand guidance”. All data should:

1) be available quickly

2) be continuously monitored and updated

3) flow into a common data platform

4) be analyzed holistically (considering all synergies with other data)

5) be analyzed intelligently (via artificial intelligence) and automatically trigger action

Agility alone (a term so often invoked by the market research industry) is no longer enough. In addition to agility, brands also need a holistic perspective on all data, a continuous data platform and artificial intelligence that quickly evaluates all data and converts it into action. In short, future growth belongs to those who practice holistic brand guidance.