How elastic is your brand?

3rd Nov 2016
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Most companies die of paralysis. They choke, and without knowing any better, continue to follow the same habits, routines, and tendencies in the face of the changing world. Unless they are lucky, they die, and therefore, the answer is as easy as it is cliché: change or die. But it’s not that simple; the real answer is how much elasticity is built in the foundation of your company to adapt to change and be agile in the face of adversity.

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Agility must be present in all aspects of a company’s functioning. It allows the company to prosper even in the face of changing customer expectations, social structures, technological advancements, environmental changes, and political ambiguity. Its ability to identify, understand, and change needs to be from top to bottom and across the length and breadth of the company, and in the broader sense, since consumer perceptions and expectations make or break a company, this flexibility needs to be built into the brand positioning of the company, allowing the corresponding brand messages to change with changing environments.

The positioning of a company plays a crucial role in how consumers see the brand, how employees see the company, where the brand places itself in the industry, and how leadership spearheads the brand into the future. Understanding how responsive or adaptive the brand is to changes in its environment, the consumer and the world is its elasticity of positioning.

Focused agility: finding the optimum balance of elasticity

Positioning is not about one statement, but much more than that. It’s the ethos the company believes in, its market focus, and the problem it looks to solve for its customers. In today’s environment, startups are often thinking of their next pivot before establishing their feet in their current focus. While this is not the most efficient method of approaching business, it does make a case for how quickly environments, consumers, and behaviours are changing today.

Effective positioning is an approach that represents a point of difference on the basis of a need-gap analysis of the market, and as market environments keep changing regularly, this insights-based approach should be integrated as a regular process to ensure the business can continuously stay relevant. The great legendary brands such as J&J, Coca-Cola, and General Electric all share this philosophy as even through changing times and various different business environments they have still managed to be successful through every decade. The biggest responsibility of business leaders and brand and communication teams today is to carve a positioning that is as focused as it is agile — the elasticity of its positioning.

When the elastic snaps!

If we study large mega brands which turned into just mere pages of marketing books, one of the biggest reasons for their failure was their inability to change: inelastic brands. Blockbuster, which at one point was at the top of its game, died due to inelasticity of demand; the company was so inelastic it passed up an offer to buy Netflix for a bargain offer before slowing crawling into bankruptcy.

Sometimes, a brand sits on two extremes of elasticity, as is the case with Kodak. While it was slow to get into the digital environment, being stubborn on its analog business, it bought Sterling Drug to enter into the pharmaceutical business. Both businesses failed — one due to lack of elasticity and one due to such a gigantic step that the ‘elastic’ broke, and the company, which used to control 90 percent of the film market and 85 percent of the camera market in the late ’80s, is now hardly alive. There needs to be

While it was slow to get into the digital environment, being stubborn on its analog business, it bought Sterling Drug to enter into the pharmaceutical business. Both businesses failed — one due to lack of elasticity and one due to such a gigantic step that the ‘elastic’ broke, and the company, which used to control 90 percent of the film market and 85 percent of the camera market in the late ’80s, is now hardly alive. There needs to be a balance of elasticity; it cannot be so rigid that it affects agility, but cannot be so loose that it’s ambiguous.

Today, as branding and communications play much larger and deeper roles in the success of a business, this is an important responsibility that the industry takes while creating the positioning of a brand. The positioning needs to not only be relevant in the short term but should be adaptive enough to absorb a critical pivot in the future. The rapidly changing consumer expectations, demands, and behaviours make elasticity even more crucial.

Many brands have done this right, whether it is Bajaj moving from scooters to bikes in 1986 to Zomato moving from a listing platform to food-ordering service more recently. Of all the negative things mentioned about Kingfisher recently, its positioning as the ‘King of Good Times’ allowed it to pivot into many different products and properties, including some (read: one) they obviously shouldn’t have been in, easily. A good elasticity of positioning allows the company to stay young and vigorous whether it is a startup, one-year-old or a 100-year-old legacy brand. Age has always been in the mind and great elasticity can have a brand looking and feeling young and relevant. So, how elastic is your brand?

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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