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The 7p's of Branding: Prepare for the Upswing

By now, like most people, you are feeling pretty battered by the constant drumbeat of bad economic news. The impact of recent economic events on small business marketing has been huge. Recent survey’s state most small businesses have either cut their marketing budgets, or are busily re-appropriating them. Many companies are reducing their marketing spend on traditional brand building activities and focusing on immediate revenue generation and lower cost, measurable marketing methods like online marketing.

So what are the implications of these sort of short-term tactics? How does it impact on the positioning of your brand in the marketplace? There is a lot of historical data out there that demonstrates companies often do irreparable harm to their brand identity by focusing only on short term gains. A study by the Buchen Agency of marketing activities across six different recessions found that drastically cutting brand-led advertising and promotion during a recession led to an overall decline in sales. The study also showed that these companies were subsequently unable to benefit from the economic recovery due to their loss of market traction and brand positioning.

The big brands like HP, Apple, Google or P& G don’t just survive in recessions, they thrive by following the 7p’s of branding. They know that by staying the course and following these principles, they will be positioned to benefit from the inevitable end of the recession and the ensuing economic upswing.

1. Profit
You can profit from this recession by taking advantage of the reduced marketing noise in the marketplace. Because many companies have pulled back on marketing activities, you can profit from their loss and drive home your brand’s unique value. Capturing enemy territory now will make it much harder for your competitors to take it back during the upswing.

2. Persistence
Resist cutting back on the core initiatives that will keep your brand positioned against competitors. Be persistent in your efforts to stay top-of-mind. Persistence will be rewarded with greater customer loyalty. If you stay with them in the tough times, they will stay with you when times get better.

3. Planning
During a recession companies are tempted to put all their brain-power into developing strategies for short-term revenue generating activities at the expense of the bigger picture. Remember that this recession is going to end, maybe soon. Do you have a long-term plan for your brand to take advantage of the upswing? Start planning now, and be sure that whatever actions you take to increase revenues right now should dovetail into your longer term plans for riding the wave of prosperity that is coming with the upswing.

4. Performance

Simply cutting costs and competing on price alone is not going to do your brand any favors. You must remember that while price is important, value is too. If you want to keep customer loyalty strong for the recovery ahead, you have to reinforce the value and performance of your brand.

5. Positioning
During this recessionary period, it may be necessary to adjust brand messaging to fit shifting consumer needs, but not at the expense of the brands core values. Keep working on quality, innovation and product development to build a strong relationship with your customer. Recessions come and go, like price cuts and sales. But it is your brand’s unique positioning that will win and retain customer loyalty.

6. People
Your competitors may be cutting staff without understanding the need to retain the talent that contributes to the strength of their brand. Take advantage of this mistake by hiring and retaining the best people, those that help you build your brand. Big brands like Microsoft, Apple, Proctor & Gamble and Google are busily searching for and hiring the talent that can help them maintain and grow their market leadership positions.

7. Principles
It is impossible to build customer loyalty if you are not true to your brand’s principles. Company leaders should work with staff to ensure that everyone knows and understands the basic brand principles on which you business is being built. To be authentic, it is vital that your team understands and lives by these principles for as long as they are with your company.

When Ronald Reagan signed his $750 billion stimulus plan into law in 1981, it pulled the U.S. out of a deep recession and ignited an economic revolution that turned smart small businesses that built their brands properly during tough times into massive successes almost overnight. Now President Obama's stimulus plan is even bigger, laying the groundwork for another epic economic boom. How will your brand be positioned? 


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