Brand development will save you from the storm

Playing it safe is perhaps the most popular way to navigate choppy waters and there is certainly comfort and reassurance in turning to tried and trusted solutions. Just ask football managers Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, who last week turned to semi-retired legends of the past to boost their playing squads for the challenges ahead.

The football bosses are not alone in taking their safe approach. As marketers, we have been busy managing the comebacks of retro brands and advertising slogans. Famously, Cadbury brought Wispa out of retirement, though how long it takes for the initial hullabaloo to fade and sales to return to levels that forced its initial withdrawal is anyone’s guess. I suspect Wispa is a long way off a second retirement, but there are many lesser candidates whose second shot at fame will unsurprisingly last little longer than an X Factor finalist’s music career.

Despite the somewhat inevitable outcomes, we continue to meet tough times with an even safer response. The record companies churn out short-term pop stars and invest little in creating the next truly talented super-group.

What was the last band that made a string of big selling albums that kept retailers’ tills ringing? If you are not being sold the latest manufactured pop star you are most likely being tempted by yet another revival album from someone who has been around longer than you. There’s no real investment in product innovation.

The same is happening in supermarkets. The gondola ends are full of the old brands with deeper discounts than ever before. Some retailers now find that many shoppers no longer bother to go down the aisles: they simply shop the gondola-end offers. One could conclude that they are uninspired by what they see in the aisles. Some supermarkets are now trying to solve the problem by putting more promotional and price offers in the aisles themselves. Not that much of a creative leap but perhaps the best we can hope for in this climate when the four Ps of marketing are price, price, price and price.

But consumers are easily bored and the more you discount, the less that product becomes valued. My money is on those brands that do the necessary streetfighting to survive the storm while investing in brand development. Customers will soon be chomping at the bit.

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