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How can brands ensure they stay relevant in a challenging market?

by uma
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By Carlo D’Alanno, executive creative director at design and technology agency Rufus Leonard

One of the biggest ongoing challenges for brands and business leaders is staying relevant, future-proofed and profitable.  A challenge further emphasised during times of uncertainty – such as the lingering aftermath of a global pandemic, and the biggest UK cost of living crisis in a century. 

Against this backdrop, knowing how to interact your customers can feel like a minefield at times. Between fighting off competition from industry disruptors, encouraging loyalty, keeping on top of emerging technology, and avoiding a leap onto cultural bandwagons, there are many hurdles to overcome when trying to stay relevant to anxious consumers. 

But even amongst the most difficult of challenges, there are opportunities to stay relevant in the market:

  1. Building empathy with customers

We’ve all learned the importance of empathetic experiences over the last two years – recognising the need for brands to put aside hollow and inauthentic experiences, in favour of genuine human connections with customers. Those same people are now facing climate anxiety, severe cost-of-living challenges, and an overwhelming bad news cycle. To successfully deliver genuine value to your worried customers, and in turn boost your reputation, you need to listen to and learn from their behaviours in real-time.

Pooling business data from across marketing and the experience will provide a wealth of usable information without spending your limited budget on research, to understand what people think and feel about your brand. This progressive approach will help you create genuinely customer-centred products and services that are responsive to changing behaviours and emerging needs. 

Start by finding out your audience’s pain points. How do your products solve them? Communicate that clearly. This method of embracing empathy will also empower you to unlock powerful stories that amplify the best of your brand experience.

Delivering value to your customers in this way also encourages long-term loyalty and should be at the heart of your sustainable growth plan. 

  1. Improving customer insights through your employees

Frontline employees are not just the human face of your brand, they are a powerful source of insight into what your brand should stand for. 

Employee perspective complements consumer research to paint the full picture of the customer experience. While brand managers have an increasingly sophisticated set of tools to monitor satisfaction and engagement, employees can shed light on the real-life experiences driving those metrics. This group of people within easy reach, who would highly value you seeking their perspectives (for free), can share their own challenges and needs – insight that can be applied directly to your customer experiences.

They also understand the competitive landscape, especially at a local level where employees may be more attuned to changes in competitors’ offerings and shifts in consumer preference that could indicate bigger, upcoming trends.

  1. Making necessary changes to keep the brand feeling fresh

A brand refresh can help increase engagement and maintain your brand’s relevance, but before jumping to this solution, review your customer profile – regularly. Who are your customers now? Does your current brand already represent them well? Who do you want to attract? If your most loyal customers (and therefore most likely advocates) are aged 60+, is it sensible to create an identity that resonates most with young families?

If it is right, and you have consulted branding experts to find an identity that feels authentic – go for it. And be brave.

No matter the size of your business, giving your brand a makeover is a great way to stay relevant and maintain a strong presence. That does not mean throwing it out completely – it has worked hard to build brand awareness so far – but the appropriate adjustments can tell your customers you are evolving with them.

Assess your creative across all touchpoints. Is it consistent? Is it making a connection? Is the customer experience authentic? Is your ecosystem of digital communications on-brand in delivering comprehensive, easy-to-understand support for your customers who are time poor and often seeking reassurance in today’s uncertain times. 

Do not be afraid to show the more vulnerable side of your brand. It can improve the strength of your identity to share the faces and stories of the people who work for your company; the people your customers will be speaking to. Stay proactive; but beware of jumping on trends without substance. The key is to always come back to who your customers are. If most of them are not on TikTok, why are you?

The world is changing at a rapid pace, and consumers are especially flighty, but there are plenty of inexpensive ways to stay relevant. Use data at your fingertips to communicate how you can help customers, reach out to your people to understand everyday struggles, and share vulnerability to show you are not just another “big business” machine. Most importantly: stay true to your brand, and you will stay relevant to your customers.


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