Honed in on plans


What do you need to do to be a recession breakaway brand marketer and maintain upward momentum? Plan and position your brand to be around for the recovery. Standing still on marketing strategy in a downward trajectory means decline and a long hard crawl back, if ever. So the emphasis has to be on being a breakaway brand marketer.

Global, Euro and local analysis and market studies concludes that the new context is the new normal for a while. Some say until 2020. The fearful consumer anxious about job cuts, debt management and life-stage shifts is the mindset of today’s mass consumer. Anyone 50 years of age and over will be working for longer and 18-24 year olds will be lifestyle curbing.

The Gini index on inequality between income groups suggests that the mobility of wealth to the next generation will be curbed and that the new reference of many of the traditional aspirational cohorts is down, not up. Debt is a now a better measure of spend, not income.
But the mass market has new needs that brands must tap into and new profitable segments are emerging for brands to innovate in on all areas of marketing. Procter & Gamble global strategy is a prime example of this. In many developed markets, marketers are abandoning the squeezed middle and turning to those aged 50 and over, as well as millennial.

A good maxim is that a marketer’s role is to be the custodian of the brand and to leave it in better health than when it was found. What marketers must do not do is what you always do and think it will work; it is delusional. Consumers have new priorities and expectations from brands. Consumers are becoming more considered purchasers. Greater consideration means they are selecting brands through a closer evaluation – that is only if they need or miss them.

Brands are fast being down-traded for lower cost options, often by retailer or other ‘brands’. An estimated 71 per cent of US consumers claim to have made changes in brand buying, with many moving to buy less brands and instead going for promotional items or store brands in the belief that the quality was just as good. The number of people believing that a brand does not mean better quality has increased to 64 per cent, implying that brands in some categories have lost their pulling power with consumers (Source: Pew Research Centre in the US).

In the UK, as in Ireland, the volume sold on promotional prices and on smaller unit buys is on the increase as consumers want to purchase lower price units. Yet the evidence is that they buy more when on deal: some 74 per cent of consumers avail of ‘buy one, get one free’ (BOGOF) when shopping for groceries; while 67 per cent avail of ‘extra free deals’ and 56 per cent take advantage of ‘three-for-two’ deals’ (Source: justaskMCCP 2012).

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Kay McCarthy is managing director and founder of MCCP The Planning Agency. A native of Skibbereen, Co Cork, she completed a masters in economic at TCD at the end of the 1980s. Her first job was working at NatWest in London where she spent two years. She returned to Ireland in 1991 and began working in marketing with Guinness Group, now Diageo.
From there, she moved into advertising with McCann-Erickson where she headed up the agency’s planning department. It was during her time at McCann’s that she realised the value of planning and how it ties the advertising to consumer needs. McCann’s London used her skills to plan for brands like Coca-Cola, Xbox and Goodyear at a European level.
In 2007, she left McCann’s to become an independent planner and worked on her own. After working for Heineken, 02 and Coca-Cola, she realised it would be worth her while to staff up Now MCCP has 12 employees, including some heavy hitters recruited from leading research agencies. Turnover is around €1.5 million. Last year, they added An Post and Kepak.
McCarthy says consumer behaviour will not return to the way it was, regardless of economic recovery. Her aim now is to build on the agency’s success and make the growth sustainable. She takes comfort in the fact consumer confidence in Ireland grew last year and is rising slowly in the longer term, at 63.8 per cent in November, up from 56.6 per cent in January.

A global study by Landor indicates consumer needs from brands are evolving from ‘symbols of meaning’ to ‘pathways of experiences’. What consumers want from brands is for them to be trusted entities that make life easier through connection, convenience and confidence. For example, Skype gives a human face to a social need and experience. The convenience of Amazon gives clear and easy to navigate choice. Brand confidence means giving people a deep sense of feeling that they can get on with enjoying their life on day-to-day basis.
All of this has huge implications for how marketers think and plan to win. They must surround themselves with the right talent. The solution? Strategies that work. For a start, clear out what does not work anymore and change how you spend your budget and with whom you plan to work. Core to leading the strategic shift requires marketers to have a different mind-set. They need to be hungry to make the difference in their business and change how they understand their brands relationship with the consumer. They must be up for change.

The rules for brands and marketers are being rewritten. It is an opportunity to get rid of what does not work and start operating in new ways. It means being faster, more nimble and more focused in how budgets are spent and the modus operandi. Base line option: marketers can either compete to grow share of the pie, or simply change the pie.

Increasing share of pie is a traditional method yet essential marketing best practice – investing in staying top of mind (share of voice, media/channel spend), strong propositions and creative that really punches above its weight. Marketers must compete by attacking weak rivals and staying in the game can increase share by a few percentage points.

Sharp focus on newly identified market segments, refined and rebalanced positioning and innovative product and channel propositions, fresh communication strategies that focus on new consumer journeys all result in unlocking brands to game change. Stepping back means challenging the old ways. It requires smarter research techniques, better collaboration between client agencies and interventions to challenge old thinking and to bring consumer-led planning and strategy that is real, sharp and insightful to the table.
Craft strategies that meet consumer segment needs and that does not simply mean limiting it to competitors. Not all consumers are in decline, so segment to understand how they have been affected by the recession and their new priorities. It is important to find new areas of innovation. Position, innovate and fine-tune product portfolios to new needs and seek to create value in niche yet profitable segments.

There is the rise of smart convenience, with 44 per cent of consumers buying a smartphone in the past year, while 32 per cent have upgraded their broadband provider (Source: justaskMCCP online survey of 1,087 people). Increase inHomeTopia Trend spend: 54 per cent of consumers have held a house party in the past 12 months (same MCCP source).
Micro luxury: 72 per cent of consumers are in agreement with the statement that “luxury is taking time out to relax” while 70 per cent agree with the statement “luxury is little treats and rewards”. (MCCP Trendstream™). Healthier options: 43 per cent of women “avoid fats” and 46 per cent eat diet/low calorie products (Source: Mintel 2011), while Bord Bia research from 2011 uncovered the fact that usage of deep fat fryers decreased 16 per cent since 2003; while steamer use was up by 11 per cent and wok by seven per cent over the same period.

The bigger play and game changing option: Game change through higher levels of strategically applied creativity and innovation. Game change by changing the pie is innovating to create new value for both the brand and for the consumer; it is a necessary new frontier. Innovation is the new creativity. Marketers should offer something new or different so as to attract a new segment or position the brand in an entirely new and relevant way.

Big ideas are harder to leverage and resource in a low to zero growth market, so micro innovation that is continuous or a new approach works best. Small changes to the product or service that offer simplified relevance and creates disproportionately higher value for the user and the product owner (pack, format, channel, functionality, innovative marketing) that can be delivered at affordable prices can make the difference.

At MCCP, we set up an innovation planning lab to help clients to game change for success. Planning should be an on-going concept, not a ‘think and pause’ one. While long range vision planning is necessary to set down a North Star, but this needs to be coupled with more regular micro planning so as to constantly adapt and shift to meet consumer needs.
In summary, this is the time for transformational thinking for marketers to really up their game. Find the best team or teams, identify segment/consumer needs that you can find single-minded unrivalled focus, leverage best process in strategic, creative (to include innovation) thinking and skills and commit to a continuous planning and focus cycle. That will allow you game change your way as a breakaway brand to find a new market growth.


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