Back to Basics

Over the past three months, the list of brands that have either disappeared completely or exhibited their weaknesses in the marketplace (by firing employees and reducing marketing activity) is a lengthy one. With stock prices falling, jobs being cut, and salaries being renegotiated, even some of the world’s most-recognized brands are struggling.

In this atmosphere of insecurity, we need to see secure values expressed. Just two years ago, values such as innovation and progress were mandatory parts of every brand platform. Old-fashioned values — tradition, solidity, being classic — were abandoned in favor of pioneering originality.

Now the brand-building picture has flipped 180 degrees. Brands need to communicate every possible signal of solidity. Brands must be here to stay; they must be able to offer consumers familiarity and permanence. In a world where everything changes minute by minute, often monstrously, humans need to be able to identify solid reference points. For the consumer, the more solidity the better.

And it’s clear that more and more companies are recognizing this fact and are in the midst of reconsidering their brands’ existing platforms. So how will we see brand builders filling the security vacuum that consumers need to see filled?

Well, first, it’s interesting to note that media plans have been slowly changing direction, away from a more-and-more online approach toward a more-and-more offline approach. Why? Because, instinctively, consumers trust older, traditional media more than they trust new media channels. A recent survey conducted by ACNielsen shows that consumers trust the newspaper as a medium four times more than they trust the Web. The Web, according to a CNN/Time survey, is the least-trusted medium of all.

In addition to the qualities of solidity and permanence, consistency is going to be an important trend in all marketing activities. When brand builders use the same well-known signals, symbols, terms, and illustrations to communicate their brands’ values, year after year, consumer trust in brands is built. Most of us don’t have the patience for careful attention to consistency — and this, unfortunately, partly explains why campaigns and brand images change more frequently than they should.

Consistency and the reflection of solid values, solid opinions, and solid views on life are qualities that help brands establish trust. In short, it’s time for brand builders to get back to basics. Just as we had to force ourselves to be innovative a year ago, we now have to force the quality of patience into brand building. In many ways, you could say, the trend marks the resurgence of bricks and mortar — the solid side of brands, the side that’s here to stay.

So how is this trend going to affect your brand? You’ll find the answer by asking your customers. Ask them whether they feel your brand stands for something solid, something that can survive crises. Their responses are likely to give you some serious food for thought. And their responses should trigger discussion about what direction you believe your brand should take over the next couple of years. Your brand may well have difficult times to weather.

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