Have you noticed how life’s timeline has been segmented into ‘before the pandemic’ and ‘since the pandemic’? Some aspects of our lives have completely returned to normal while others have been irrevocably changed forever.
It may be premature to say that business trends fall into the latter category. But over the last 6–12 months, many businesses have experienced a huge shift in their labour force as swathes of staff have moved on and new people – sometimes whole teams – have moved in.
As an agency, this shift is most noticeable in the types of new business calls we are now fielding. In some cases, it’s clear that newly hired people are seeking to put their own stamp on things. Requests for ‘marketing reviews’ and ‘brand strategy’ are coming in the agency door at a fast and furious pace. These new people are bringing with them a fresh perspective and putting strategy back on the agenda.
From a conceptual perspective, this is great. Strategy is something brands should invest in at the best and worst of times, but never more so than when life is at a crossroads. And that’s where a lot of society is at right now. The pandemic has changed how people think – and by extension, consumer thinking has also changed.
So your audience is not who they once were. Just like your employees, some of your buyers have decided to move on and others are wondering whether you are the right fit for them. And this change in behaviour deserves a seismic shift in thinking on behalf of brand teams.
Strategic thinking has never been more relevant or more critical to the success of brands. But unfortunately, it’s an investment that marketers typically have to fight for. So, if this is you right now – brand new in an organisation and raring to do the hard work your brand needs – here are three key points you can make to your higher-ups to get that strategy budget across the line.
Calculate how much money your company currently invests in brand and marketing activities across the calendar year. If your brand requires an agency, this budget is likely to be significant. It makes sense that you would invest a proportion of this spend on nutting out a strategic approach to brand building that will set your comms program up for success.
As a general rule of thumb for annual marketing spend, a business will typically invest around 5% of total revenue if seeking to maintain its current position in the market. However, if the business is looking to grow or gain greater market share, the budget will usually sit higher, e.g. around 10%. Note, however, that companies in highly competitive industries – such as retail, consumer products, and pharmaceuticals – often spend 20–50% of their net revenue on marketing, particularly if they are launching a new product.
Beyond the net revenue approach, if looking to market a new product or service, a budget that sits at 10% of the business’s gross sales for the year is a common guestimate. An alternative approach is to use your forecasting and invest 20% of the new product or service’s sales and revenue target for the year.
Strategy is not something you invest in when a brand first launches and then never again (or at least it shouldn’t be).
People think it’s funny when I talk about strategy as ‘good brand hygiene’ but that’s really what strategic thinking is – a chance to empty your drawers of any messy bits that have crept in, to reorganise materials and activities that are no longer working for your brand, and to polish your approach to audience communications based on the knowledge/insights you have acquired since your last planning session. The annual spring clean works just as well for your brands as it does for your home.
All the various forms of brand expression you put out into the world – visual or otherwise – add up to create an image of your brand. Thus, it’s incredibly important to regularly review, then validate or reset your intentions for the brand, e.g. ‘Do we still want to be seen as a fun and playful brand or do the times we live in now demand a lesser sense of levity?’
This will ensure that the manner in which you are presenting your brand to market is creating the right perceptions for your brand, is aligned with the times, and is getting you known for all the right reasons.