Companies should find out the true impact of their brands on customer behavior. That’s a key takeaway from a new study by research firm Gartner, “Brand Survey 2019: Marketers Believe in the Power of Brand but Struggle to Respond to Disruption” [free, registration required].
Companies are certainly aware of the value of brands. Gartner’s survey found that 91 percent of marketers are reviewing their brands annually, and 83 percent refresh their brands each year. Fifty-eight percent understand that a brand is a “critical driver of buyer behavior for prospects,” while 65 said it acted in a similar role for existing customers.
The survey, conducted online by an external partner in the spring and summer, questioned 393 decision-making marketing respondents in the US, Canada and the UK.
Aligning with company values
But only 19 percent of surveyed marketers said the actions, positioning and messaging of their brand were fully aligned with their company’s values. This is dangerous, since modern consumers are sensitive to discrepancies between what a brand says it provides, and what it actually does.
“Brands are no longer static collections of messages,” the report said, adding that “they are living organisms that must continuously adapt to remain relevant.”
It’s not just that brands themselves are constantly in change, Gartner said, but that the impact is changing. Marketers are now considering brand value not just in the sense of acquiring new customers, but as a way of keeping customers around – and therefore increasing their lifetime value to the company.
Of course, marketers’ challenges for maintaining a living brand are constantly evolving. Currently, the top issues include managing a brand globally, keeping the brand relevant and measuring the impact of investments, closely followed by creating a compelling brand vision, integrating the brand into all communications and communicating the brand’s value to all shareholders.
An example of brand relevancy, for instance, is reducing the use of plastics in packaging or creating gluten-free versions, but it is a constantly-evolving task to continue being relevant.
In the midst of this rapidly changing but essential environment, Gartner makes several recommendations, including:
- Watch for competitors to your brand from anywhere, even if your brand lacks a significant global presence. A similar brand in the UK could eventually launch in the US, for instance.
- Monitor how your brand can remain relevant, given the changing trends.
- Recognize that some investments related to branding cannot be assessed as precisely as, say, a campaign that tracks sales, even though it may create a lot of value for the company.
- Recognize when your brand needs to change, possibly by redefining your company’s position down to its essence in order to maintain a strong position in a new environment. Business models can change quickly in a given product category, for instance, requiring a shift in the brand positioning. That also means that your brand could be the leader that drives the category disruption, instead of simply reacting.
- Understand how a brand aligns – or not – with the values delivered by your product or service.
As the report noted:
“The big drivers of modern brand change are completely new business models and transformation of industries, not typical ongoing marketplace concerns. Consider how technology has changed the financial services industry, creating completely new financial instruments and virtual institutions, or the impact of rideshare services on transportation.”