How to be a resilient brand in a crisis
Innovate in a meaningfully different, responsible way
Dr Nicki Morley
Lead Innovation Consultant, UK Insight Division
In a crowded marketplace, meaningfully different innovations are most likely to deliver incremental growth for a brand.
Take Halo Top as an example. They developed a product that was meaningfully different by resolving a long-established tension – wanting to eat delicious ice cream, but not wanting to indulge in copious amounts of calories. Instead of churning out another flavour of the month (think salted caramel, ruby chocolate, etc.) they solved a real consumer tension.
This resulted in 3 million units being sold in the UK in the first month alone, and a +5,400 percent value share growth in US take-home ice cream between 2015 and 2018. These sorts of opportunities, however, aren’t just for newer and more disruptive brands. Danone, competing in an overcrowded category (if you were to try one a day of every yoghurt SKU available in the UK it would take you 65 years!), resolved a similar tension around indulgence with their “Two Good” product range.
BrandZ tells us that brands that are perceived as both innovative and meaningfully different are those most likely to grow, and grow significantly more.
The key to unlocking growth, therefore, is to develop innovations that are tangibly differentiated from those of their competitors, and that resolve real consumer tensions. They add value to our lives. Not only is the core product meaningfully different, but its meaning is amplified through marketing messages that create strong emotional associations with the brand. These associations set up strong expectations of an anticipated meaningful experience, which must be delivered by the innovation.
This is what Method did. They disrupted homecare by offering consumers a concrete way to behave sustainably at home. They busted the myth that more gentle chemicals are less effective and don’t give the same sensory experiences. This is baked in kind, positive messaging and imagery alongside gorgeous sensorials.
If we look to the anatomy of how consumers choose, we can understand why this is the case. Kantar’s proprietary model of decision making, based around Type 1 and Type 2 processing (an extension of the old System 1 and 2 thinking), tells us that preferred choices are those that are drawn from habitual behaviours and have strong mental availability but also create a strong “feeling of rightness”. Resilient brands create a frictionless choice, not only because they evoke a strong feeling of rightness, but also because they are less affected by more reflective challenges such as a change in price.
Resilient brands don’t take their eye off the ball. In times of crisis, resilient brands evaluate their innovations against the prevailing context to identify behaviours that are most likely to be meaningfully different to consumers in the medium to long term. In the short term, resilient brands have the agility to pivot existing innovations and pipelines to be meaningful different rapidly.
During the last global recession, Surf carried on producing meaningfully different innovations, adding products with environmental benefits and essential oils to the mix. As a result, they increased their Brand Power (the BrandZ measure of propensity to buy) from 78 to 114 over 10 years.
Whilst a focus on producing meaningfully different innovation is valuable, brands must take it a step further and pay attention to meaningfully different innovations that encourage positive and sustainable behaviours.
BrandZ informs us that corporate responsibility, which leads to trust, is an important success metric.
Unilever, for example, reported 46 percent faster growth among its sustainable brands than others in its portfolio. Consumers are demanding that brands take more responsibility, and Kantar has found that 37 percent of consumers have actively stopped buying products and services due to their impact on the environment.
In conclusion, resilient brands are those that create meaningfully different innovations and amplify their meaning through complimentary messaging that builds strong and positive mental associations. They build anticipation around great experiences through strong feelings of rightness and deliver on these experiences to ensure that they are the frictionless choice. Resilient brands stay close to their consumers in times of crisis and focus on doing this in a responsible way.