UK brands urged to drive ‘meaningful innovation’ to arrest declining value

UK brands are encouraged to dial up their innovation and creativity, responding at pace to the trends caused by Covid-19, or risk diminishing value.

Communicating creatively, innovating meaningfully, building brands responsibly and creating unique experiences should be the four key targets for UK brands if they want to halt their decline in value.

That’s according to Kantar BrandZ, which in September warned that UK brands could disappear from its list of the top 100 global brands within three years, having lost 13% in brand value over a 12 month period.

Kantar BrandZ head of research Martin Guerrieria, speaking today (5 May) on a panel discussion hosted by The Marketing Society and Kantar, pointed out that strong brands not only “survived” during the global pandemic, but also “thrived”.

“We see clearly that they [strong brands] delivered better returns for shareholders and are more resilient in times of crisis. We saw these rates in the financial crisis in 2008 and we’re seeing it again during the course of the current pandemic,” he explained.

“But there’s even more than that, strong brands are recovering more quickly. The recovery rates of strong brands was much faster than in 2008 in both the S&P 500 and MSCI. In Q4 last year they’ve recovered at an even faster rate so strong brands are now far exceeding their starting point prior to the pandemic.”

Kantar UK’s chief growth officer, Jane Bloomfield, explained that in order to grow UK brands will need to understand which key trends have been accelerated during the pandemic and are here to stay.

To be creative, you’ve got to unleash the talent and they’ve got to create their own way of operating.

Pamela Brown, Vodafone Smart Tech

“What’s definitely true is that some consumers will have revaluated their brand choices just through changes in their circumstances. So we are going to see some entirely new behaviours. That provides a really unique opportunity for UK brands to form a greater share in minds and wallets,” said Bloomfield.

She claimed big brands with declining values were “victims of their own success” and were not able to shift their established operations and practices under lockdown, emphasising the importance of diversifying how products and brands are promoted.

Of these emerging trends, Unilever UK and Ireland foods director Fik Woldegiorgis pointed to ecommerce as one of many “seismic shifts” that will play a vital role in keeping brands relevant and connected to customers.

“Ecommerce as you know has been [on the] up for the last 10 years or so, but in the last 18 months, Covid put rocket fuel underneath it. It’s grown incredibly fast and it is here to last,” said Woldegiorgis.

“It doesn’t matter whatever industry you’re in, it’s here to last because consumers who never have tried it, tried it, liked it and they want it to stick around.”

Meaningful innovation

Fellow panellist Metro Bank brand and marketing director, Jessica Myers, explained how the bank has used customer data during the Covid crisis to ensure it offered customers products tailored to them. She believes this approach has helped the brand stand out from its rivals.

“Some brands, I probably put the big banks into this category, are now becoming these sorts of recessive necessities in terms of what they’re offering. They aren’t creating this idea of meaningful difference for their customers,” said Myers.

“This is not rocket science, there’s no big secret in here. If you innovate meaningfully for your customers and build things based on deep customer insight in a way that exceeds their needs growth will come.”

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Vodafone Smart Tech CMO Pamela Brown argued that driving innovation starts with the working culture. The subsidiary of global operator Vodafone experimented with practices such as writing down rules created by staff to enhance the workplace and make it a desired destination.

“To be creative, you’ve got to unleash the talent and they’ve got to create their own way of operating,” said Brown.

“And the spirit then helps you build innovation, whether it’s an innovation to the way you want to research, or innovation in product design, or software design whatever it might be. Really I think it all starts with the people, the talent and the culture.”



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