Scenario planning: What is your brand’s relevance in the Alps?
Bram van Schaik
CEO Insights Division
In our frantic lives, my family and I always look forward to our summer holidays, which allow us to recharge our batteries and spend some quality time together. My two lovely daughters are becoming young adults, so as good parents, we asked what they would like. Good Wi-Fi, they said. Also: someplace close to nice beaches, shopping, and a famous entertainment park. And someplace not so hot as last year. We booked a nice summer house near the beach in Denmark, an hour’s drive from Legoland and Copenhagen. All family members were happy, and we very much looked forward to our trip.
Like many people’s this year, HOWEVER, our holiday did not go as planned. We never actually got to Denmark. In the meantime, however, we have learned a lot about scenario-planning – which is useful, because we need to apply this concept to our brands as well.
This year has been a rollercoaster, and the journey continues. Yet in our BrandZ™ reports, we have found that there is a lot less volatility in who the world’s (and the Netherlands’) leading brands are, than there was 10 years ago. Our analysts predict that this will remain the case for the foreseeable future, as top brands are most strongly positioned to continue to flourish in the years ahead.
This does not mean, however, that the strongest brands responded flawlessly to the emergence of COVID-19. Yes, brands are more agile than they were in the past. But the ability to change course quickly only helps if you know where you want to go. We all covered scenario planning somewhere in our university studies - but it has become blatantly clear that we only apply it after unexpected scenarios emerge.
When COVID-19 arrived, campaign planning was heavily impacted. No Olympics, no Euro football tournament, no Eurovision - and many other events and activations were cancelled besides. Initially, brands paused all marketing activities, despite the opportunity to reach an enormous share of voice at very low costs. Why? Essentially, because we were not ready.
In a few weeks’ time, brands who could afford to re-activate ultimately had the agility to respond quite quickly, and worked out alternative plans. And then many came back on air. But even then, most brands went with the same campaign (#staysafe). For some brands, those campaigns were very relevant and part of a bigger picture. For many, however, they went completely out of strategy, and diluted their brand. If you would have made those campaigns without the pressure of the moment, would you have opted for the same messaging?
There are, of course, exceptions who did extremely well, and achieved huge positive impacts. But I think that many of the brand builders of the Netherlands (and the world) missed an opportunity here. Going forward, I think it’s fair to expect that volatility and uncertainty will stay with us for a while. If there is one thing that we should learn from this year’s crisis, is that we can and should prepare in a better way.
Despite very few cases, Denmark was the first country to go in lockdown after Italy. For us, of course, health and safety came above summer holidays in our priority list. But still, assuming they could be done safely, holidays did remain quite high on our list. So quite quickly, we started discussing alternate scenarios. What would be our criteria to decide whether we still would want to go? Would we be allowed to go? If not, what would we do? What would be the financial impact? What would be a safe alternative?
To cut a long story short, we ended up having a very different, but lovely and safe, holiday on a mountain in the Swiss Alps. Dare I ask what your brands’ relevance on the Swiss Alps is?