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Brand Preview 2017: Part 2 – Flexibility

The past 12 months have been unpredictable, and if there’s one thing we can be confident about, 2017 will offer more of the same. We wanted to provide some answers to the questions we think you might have in the next 12 months, so we’ve take a look at the two key brand issues you need to consider. In this second post we explain how flexibility in your brand will give you a competitive advantage in 2017.

When circumstances change, your organisation needs to be able to adapt. Your brand provides a framework which allows you to react quickly, but consistently. Whether the changing circumstances are presenting a new opportunity or an unexpected challenge, your brand enables you to communicate the right message, to the right audience.

Successful branding is all about consistency, consistency in how your organization looks and what your organization says. But what’s often overlooked is the importance of flexibility – the ability to adapt your brand to new circumstances, while maintaining that consistency. We believe this is the big challenge, or opportunity, that organizations will face in 2017.

We have identified three aspects of brand communication where we think flexibility is going to be vital for success (or possibly survival) in the next 12 months.


Audience

Understanding who will buy your products or services is fundamental to success, but recognizing that your audience might change is the key to future success. This change might come from your audience (your existing customers), or it might come from your organization.

In an atmosphere of uncertainty the way your audience behaves can be unpredictable, and may trigger a situation that you need to react to. Their attitude towards your product or service is influenced by lots of factors: need, price, desire, opportunity, competition. A change to any one of these could alter their buying behaviour. In this situation you will need to consider how you respond. What do you need to change, to change their attitude?

Change also brings opportunity. New circumstances can introduce new audiences for your existing product or service. But to reach this new audience you might need to adapt – say something different, do something new. You need to be ready to react, but also willing to change. So you need to consider how they’re different and go back to the basics: What’s the benefit you bring to them? What’s the problem you’re solving?

Whether your trying to nurture your relationship with existing customers, or a build a relationship with new ones, your success will depend on your ability to communicate with them. Your brand, with all the tools it offers, gives you the flexibility you need. You just need to consider what and how to adapt… which is what we’re going to look at next.


Visual identity
Your visual identity is the toolkit you need to communicate your message to your audience. It provides everything you need to be distinctive and memorable. But when circumstances change, it might be time for your visual identity to change as well.

There are six elements to your visual identity: Your logo, your colour palette, your typeface, the imagery you use, the language you use and your design style that pulls all of those elements together. Whether you’re communicating in print or online, your visual identity provides everything you need to be consistent, in how you look and what you say.

But when you need to change – to adapt to new circumstances – it also provides a framework to manage that change. If you need to say something new or something different, what needs to change? To make an impact you don’t need to change everything. You just need to change the right thing. Do you need to introduce new colours to make an impact? Will a different typeface be more effective? If you change the style of imagery you use will that help you to stand out? Can you reach new customers if you update your strapline?

By being able to break your visual identity down in to its constituent elements it’s a lot easier to see what needs to change, and how. With that clarity you can avoid wasting time and money, by investing your resources in making the ‘right’ change.


Channels

If your audience is changing, so are your opportunities to communicate with them. As their attention moves to new communication channels, you need to be able to move with them, if you want to maintain your relationship with them.

In an age of ever-increasing opportunities for digital communication, it’s easy to think that the future is digital, and only digital. But we believe that by ignoring ‘traditional’ communication methods you could be missing an opportunity.

When your email inbox fills up faster than you can empty it, sending somebody a letter could be a far more effective way to get their attention. Being able to download a brochure is convenient, but the opportunity to put one in a customer’s hand at the end of a meeting could have a much bigger impact. Sending a potential customer a creatively packaged product sample has far more impact than a 30 second YouTube video. A physical object – a letter, a brochure, a package – creates a physical experience for the recipient, which can be much more memorable than a digital experience (and harder to throw away or ignore).

Mobile communication allows us to be in almost constant contact with our customers, but taking the time to meet people face-to-face can be an enormous benefit. Whether you drop in to their office, meet them for a coffee or talk to them in your shop, a conversation in the physical world can be much more valuable than an email. It’s by talking to customers that you can hear something that might lead to a new opportunity or uncover a potential problem before it has an impact on them. You won’t be able talk to every customer, but every conversation you do have will be valuable.

Although we’ve been talking about alternatives, digital communication is a fantastic asset when it comes to engaging customers. Social media presents a great opportunity, but for many businesses the scale of the opportunity is overwhelming. Where do you start? And where do you stop? What’s important to remember is that social media isn’t one thing. It’s one name to describe lots of different platforms, and each platform has a different type of user. Just because Facebook doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t work for you. Maybe you’ll find your audience on Instagram. When it comes to social media you need to find the right channel for your audience, and as technology evolves, be ready to move with them.

 

Whatever the next 12 months brings, flexibility will allow you to adapt and create a competitive advantage for your organization in 2017.


To talk about bringing flexibility to your brand, drop Jonathan an email.


 

Photo: Flickr – Eric Lynch © Creative Commons