Brands On The Run

By Jeff McClellan, MMT,

The economy has companies spooked. They’ve been like cattle on a stampede, running wildly through the streets of Dodge City, and customers are running for cover. As they careen headlong into the hottest digital tactic or the social media du jour, they trample over brand equity that has taken years to build.

To badly paraphrase Dickens, this is the best of times to be marketing a brand. And it’s the worst of times.  We have lots of tactics to use, and too many tactics to use.

Based on my highly scientific, anecdotal evidence, I think companies that are struggling haven’t found their focus. They can’t tell you what the one thing is that differentiates them from the herd. (Warning: rant ahead)  They say “yes” to every tactic that comes down the pike.  They can’t resist the urge to chase down every lead, or participate in every new business pitch. And they claim to be experts in social media just because they can create Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.

A lot of companies are embracing all things digital, just because, it’s there. They haven’t stopped to consider what problem they’re trying to solve. And are they really hoping the 55- 70 demo will friend them on Facebook?

A bad economy can be a friend to marketers. If you keep your head, it will force you to focus on what you do best. Often this means doing less, better. So just say no. 

This may be a perfect time to look at how your brand is articulated. When times were good, companies, particularly in the business-to-business world, could get away with pushing features before benefits. Creating any kind of emotional connection with customers be damned.

What is that you really want to stand for? Can you look at your website, your collateral, your ads, your channel marketing, your email blasts and yes, your Facebook page, as an accurate representation of what your brand stands for? 

Now’s the time to work on developing a digital footprint in ways that makes sense for your target audiences. Sure this is Marketing 101, but we all get caught up in dealing with day-to-day business stuff, and put off until another day more user friendly communications that are integrated with your messaging.

If you’re still climbing out of the economic rut we’ve been in, you may have better luck by scaling back, not so much on budget, but on the number of things your doing. We have a client in the custom corrugated packaging industry. They’ve focused on working fewer business leads and positioning themselves as a key vendor for their customer.

Another local manufacturer of metal products has found that they’ve been getting better service by reducing the number of their vendors.

In advertising, the natural inclination is to pull back on everything when budgets are tight. The answer could be to pick a tactic and go all in on it, and then look for ways to leverage tactics cost-effectively. Couple an event with public relations. Develop a highly targeted email blast or direct mail effort that drives people to a microsite. Use social media in a way that generates feedback. We’re working in a one-to-one marketing environment. Make the best of it.

Above all, make sure that whatever tactic you decide to pursue, keep a tight rein on your brand message so that it’s consistent, differentiating and on target.


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